We have six days post our RS Best of Switzerland 12 day tour (arriving 2 nights early for extra time in Zermatt). Considering northern Italy as have not been to Milan and Venice, or more time in Switzerland. Open to suggestions and possible itinerary ideas. Flights in and out of Zurich, late June 2020.
We did this tour this past June. Loved it. When the tour ended in Bern, we took the train and headed back to the Berner Oberland and stayed 2 more nights in Mürren and then 3 nights in Lauterbrunnen. There is so much beautiful scenery in this area that we didn’t feel that the 2 nights on the tour would be enough for us. We are very happy we did this. Our free day in Mürren on the tour was rainy, which was a bummer. When we returned at the end of the tour we had better weather.
We purchased the BO travel pass in Bern which covered train from Bern and most travel we wanted to do in the area. We we able to explore Mürren hikes better (no rain), Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Grindelwald First, Mannlichen, and Schynige Platte.
This was a good choice for us. For us it was all about the mountains! Our tour mates all wished they could have had more time in the area. We took the train back to Zurich to catch our flight home.
Have a great time!
If you enjoy hiking you could return for more time in the Berner Oberland as suggested above.
Another possibility would be to head from Bern to Chur to Pontresina in the Engadine for 2 nights, then ride the train over Bernina Pass to Tirano (either the named Bernina Express or a regular regional train, which runs more frequently), changing there for the train to Varenna on Lake Como. Spend 2 nights there, then one in Milan ( an hour away from Varenna) and take the direct train back to Zurich (or Luzern if you prefer) the night before your flight home.
Thank you for your suggestions! Will lodging accommodations be scarce if we wait and develop our plan while on ou RS Switzerland tour, and determine where we want to spend more time and revisit? Any experience staying in Hostels? On a side note, my husband is leaning towards mostly time in Northern Italy, Venice, but my thoughts are to see the most of Switzerland then see Northern Italy another time. Thoughts?
I took this tour last summer. You will love it!
My tour mates and I were pretty much unanimous in wishing we could have spent more time in Murren or Lauterbrunnen. I'd go there. You will have an opportunity to go to Milan for the day (if you want) during your free day in Lugano. Two adventurous members of my group actually went to Lake Como on that day.
The one place we pretty much felt we could have skipped was Zermatt.
Late June is high season, so availability in the best accomodation will be limited if you decide "on the go". But if you are flexible with budget (anyway, in Switzerland, you better be) and/or quality, you'll find spare rooms pretty much wherever.
But with 12 + 2 days in Switzerland, I would move on to Italy. Lake Como, Milan, Venice will fill six days perfectly.
Thank you for your suggestions, they have helped us further develop our plan. Focusing on hiking and mountains, will visit Northern Italy next adventure.
Day 1 arrive Zürich morning 9 am, train (need to research) to Zermatt , night 1 Sunstar Hotel Zermatt
Day 2 Zermatt , night 2 Sunstar Hotel Zermatt
Day 3 Zermatt , train (need to research) to Luzern arriving before 5 pm to start 12 day RS Tour. (with lodging night 3-13 in Luzern 2 nights, Engelberg 2 nights, Lugano 2 nights, Mürren 2 nights, Lausanne2 nights, Bern 1 night).
Day 14 potentially add a second night 14 in Bern, same hotel we are booked our last tour evening (Kreisler Bern Modern City Hotel) (Need to research if Bern warrants extra time)
Day 15 leave Bern early for Gimmelwald (need to research train route) night 15 Esthers Guesthouse
Day 16 Gimmelwald and surrounding area, hiking, night 16 Esthers Guesthouse
Day 17 leave Gimmelwald for more time in Luzern, night 17 maybe same hotel as RS tour (Hôtel De Alpes)
Day 18 leave Luzern by train (need to research) for Zurich 11:45 am flight to USA
Open to comments, suggestions, especially about train transport Zurich to Zermatt, Zermatt to Luzern. Then Bern to Gimmelwald, Gimmelwald to Luzern. Then Luzern to Zurich. As well as thoughts on the extra day in Bern and extra day in Luzern. Lots of traveling, will be packing light!
If you decide to spend all your time in Switzerland...
I would personally not add an extra day in Bern. Bern is nice, but you will have seen the highlights on your tour. I also would reconsider spending that much time in Gimmelwald. It is a nice little village, but it has been highly overrated and has very limited access to restaurants, grocery, etc. As a base I would suggest Murren or Wengen to stay and just a half day visit or so to Gimmelwald.
As far as adding a day in Lucerne, I am not sure what your tour covers in Lucerne or if you have some free time to explore on your own. If you didn't get to see much of Lucerne, then perhaps an extra day is warranted. You also plan on Leaving Lucerne in the morning for your flight in Zurich at 11:45am. I would very much reconsider. Even though Lucerne is close to Zurich I always advise people to be in their flight city the night before. Too many things can happen the day of to delay your arrival in Zurich.
Finally, even though in your last post you said you would leave Italy for another trip, I would mull this around a little. Since you will see a lot of Switzerland on your tour, I consider taking a train from Bern as soon as your tour ends in the morning to Zurich. Reserve an afternoon round trip flight from Zurich to Venice. It is a very cheap flight and only takes a little over an hour. This would give you a solid 3 days in Venice to enjoy a really great city of Italy and you could fly to Zurich the day before your flight back home.
Either way enjoy your trip.
We did this tour in the fall of 2018. I agree with previous posters that Zermatt is the only part of the tour we could have done without. It is a major tourist trap, and I imagine in June it will be even worse. IMHO there are so many more beautiful locations in Switzerland.
Arriving two nights before the tour I would suggest Lucerne, booking extra nights at the tour hotel. It is nice to recover from travel and get settled in prior to the tour. That would give you time to some of the lifts/hiking/boat rides that are so weather-dependent in Switzerland. Your time in Lucerne on the tour is very limited.
At the end of the tour I agree that returning to the Murren area would be excellent. Since we had already been to Murren and the BO, when we did this tour we arrived a week early and spent some time on the Rhine and Lake Constance. Regardless of your itinerary, I would not recommend traveling any distance to the Zurich airport on the actual day of travel. There are too many potential interruptions/delays/cancellations with public transport that could prevent you from making your flight home.
We enjoyed the Switzerland tour with leader Yorick. The itinerary really does allow you to experience the unique multi-cultural nature of the various Swiss regions.
I like your revised plan and the idea to save Italy for later. You won't regret more time in the mountains. I felt there was enough time in Bern. I arrived in Luzern a day early and did Mt. Pilatus Golden Ticket which I enjoyed. That might be an option for your day at the end.
I also suggest thinking about Murren over Gimmelwald. One thing that I didn't know before the tour (and wished that I had) was that while you are on the Rick Steves Tour, they give you a pass that is good for unlimited travel between Stechelberg, Gimmelwald, and Murren on the cableway for the days that you are in Murren. This makes it pretty easy to explore Gimmelwald and the valley while you are on tour.
The other item of note was that there was an option to have breakfast up at the Schilthorn instead of the hotel for just 55 CHF including the cableway. Those of us who went were quite glad that we did. The view from the rotating restaurant was fabulous as was the view from the cable car. Even when the clouds came in a little bit later, it was still amazing. The breakfast was also quite a bit above the quality at the hotel, although the hotel was a fine basic breakfast.
If you plan on hiking, take a look at our dozen favorite hikes in the area, with maps and pics. Just click on my name to find the link.