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Need help with finetuning my 20 day Swiss+Italy itinerary

Good people on the forum,

I and my wife are landing in Zurich on 11th August and plan to take up the following itinerary. Needed your suggestions on the feasibility of doing this?

11th - reach Zurich in the late afternoon and relax overnight in Zurich

12-13 Paris (Fri-sat)- Leave for Paris on the 12th morning and spend the night in Paris. Leave back for Zurich on the 13th Afternoon

13th- come back from Paris and overnight in Zurich

14th is a Sunday that can be spent with family in Zurich doing local Zurich things and overnight in Zurich

15-Leave for Milan from Zurich. Stay Overnight in Milan

16th- Leave for Cinque Terre from Milan in the morning. Explore Cinque Terre and spend the night in Vernazza

17th- Explore all the 5 villages of Cinque Terre and maybe head to Porto Venere. Return back to Vernazza and overnight in Vernazza

18th- Cinque Terre- Zurich in train. Overnight in Zurich

19th- Leave Zurich and go to the Appenzell region. Take the ebenalp gondola and hike to Schafler/Aescher. Overnight stay in Aescher.

20th- Leave for Wengen from Appenzell. Spend the night in Wengen.

21-23- Spend 3 days in Wengen exploring the area and going on multiple hikes.

24th- Check out from Wengen and head to Zermatt. Overnight stay in Zermatt.

25-- Explore Zermatt. Take multiple hikes and stay overnight in Zermatt.

26th- Check out from the hotel in Zermatt and Spend the day exploring Zermatt. Take a train back to Zurich in the evening and spend the night in Zurich.

27-28th - Lugano+Morcote for 1n 2d

29th - Flight back home at night. So spend the day in Zurich, pack, and leave for the airport

My main concerns are:

1) Is the route that we have taken proper or does it need any change? I saw and figured that Appenzell to Wengen can be quite time-consuming and will require multiple changes of trains(we are planning to take a 15-day flex swiss travel pass). Same thing from wengen- zermatt?

2) Would you guys suggest a swiss travel pass or any other passes? We plan to take a few excursions like gornegratt, glacier 3000, Grindelwald first,schilthorn,Eiger trail etc

3) The reason for going back to Zurich after every base change is because my sister lives there so we save a lot on accommodation and food costs like that

Please help. I am a little anxious now.

Posted by
447 posts

Here are some thoughts on the Appenzell - Wengen journey:

You rightly state that this is a long journey with multiple stages, and indeed it is. I have gone from Appenzell to Thun many times and like it, but I like train travel in general.

If you decide to go with this choice, these things might ease your mind a bit:

Depending on the time of day you choose, you can have as few as four changes. This is what they would be like:

Appenzell - Grossau SG
Around half an hour on a small, regional train. Easy on and off and good luggage storage on these trains

Grossau SG - Bern
Just over two hours on a larger, faster train (the one I am looking at goes all the way to Geneva, this is a big train)

Bern - Interlaken Ost
Many journeys transfer here, so even if you went to Wengen another way, you might end up going through here anyway

Interlaken Ost - Lauterbrunnen
Again a small, regional train and the only way I know of that you can get to Wengen, so you will pass through here no matter what your previous journey is

Lauterbrunnen - Wengen
Super easy transfer, just cross the platform. Only way to get to Wengen

The amount of travel time is long, but I think that the transfers, etc. would not be difficult.

Posted by
3 posts

Yeah. I guess even if I go from Zurich, the whole Bern-Interlaken-Lauterbrunnen-Wengen route will be have to be taken regardless of anything which is why I thought to include apenzell in the itinerary. Thanks for the detailed response though.

And as per you, does the remaining itinerary seem ok to you? Or would you suggest any changes?

Posted by
15819 posts

I would put Lugano and Morcote in the same southbound trip as Cinque Terre—-either on the way down or the way back. For example, on the 18th, instead of going all the way from Cinque Terre to Zurich, you take the train from Cinque Terre to Milan to Lugan, a short distance beyond Milan. Then after your time there, continues to Zurich on the train from Lugano.

Posted by
8329 posts

My concern would be that you are spending so much time in transit that you're not actually being anywhere. Like your first three days are mostly traveling not seeing much - an evening and a morning in Paris while dead tired from travel is nothing. Saving money on lodging by staying in Zurich is fine, but its costing you much more in your transportation costs. And your precious vacation time.

Posted by
3 posts

So based on suggestions, we are now planning to skip Paris all together(really had to convince my wife for this:p) and maybe base our selves in Milan for the first few days and explore nearby areas and then head off to Switzerland and continue with the above mentioned itinerary. And maybe skip Lugano altogether. How does that sound now?

Posted by
4482 posts

I agree with the Other posters, you are spending too much of your vacation on trains and transiting. How about starting by taking out Zermatt, as you'll actually be in the Alps in the Berner Oberland. Slow down. Also, the Paris segment should probably also be saved for the next trip. August is hot in Europe, so why deal with Paris in the heat, when you can spend more time in the mountains?
Good luck and safe travels!

Posted by
72 posts

As I told you on TripAdvisor, radically skip certain bases, to reduce complexity and costs. Skip Appenzell & Aescher, skip Paris, focus on Switzerland and Italy with two bases each at max.

If you have family in Zurich, there is always the possibility to come back to Switzerland; next time you may be combine France & Switzerland.

Posted by
15819 posts

Tell your wife that August is the worst time to see Paris—too hot, many of the locals are away on vacation. It will be more enjoyable at another time.

Milan will also be hot, and expensive. Instead of “basing” there, why not spend 2-3 nights on a nearby lake (Lake Como), then move down to Cinque Terre. On your way back to Switzerland, break up the journey with an overnight in or 2 in Lugano or Morcote. There are direct trains from Lugano to Zurich, making the journey in under 2 hours. Spend your time with family there, then move on to Appenzell, etc.

The timing of the Italy part would probably work out to have you back in Zurich on the 20th, so you could spend Sunday the 21st exploring Zurich with your family.

Posted by
4482 posts

If you're in Milan, would you consider going to Lake Como for a few nights, then to Tirana, where you can catch the Bernini Express scenic regional trains ( regional trains are covered by the STP, and no reservations needed), thru to Pontressina ( more scenic than nearby St. Moritz.)
This allows you to experience the beauty of Switzerland while transiting.
Safe travels!

Posted by
768 posts

I agree with Stan and Pat. Zermatt can be fun IF you can allocate enough time to be there, as often the Matterhorn is covered in clouds. You'd hate to spend all that time getting there, and then not see the Matterhorn. As for Paris, if you are persuaded to go there, you have to reserve seats on the bullet trains between Zurich and Paris. (All other Swiss trains, no worries about reservations.) See www.seat61.com for THE definitive resource on trains in Europe.

Also, before you get to Wengen, check out the hikes at https://lauterbrunnenhiking.wordpress.com/ That will help you decide if you want to get a pass or not. (General rule of thumb, if you see you'll be taking a LOT of cable cars and trains, it's probably worth it. Also don't purchase a pass way ahead of time--you may later find it is raining that whole week. Buy it first day you'll use it.) In any case, the MUST do trail for you is to take the cable car from Wengen up to Mannlichen then take the 90 min hike down to Kleine Scheidegg. It is our favorite.