Does anyone know how long it would take to drive from Lauterbrunnen to Lugano? We will have a rental car, and some websites I've looked at say the trip is 2 hours, others say 4. I just wanted to get some clarification, thanks!
Viamichelin.com shows 3 hrs 12 min. They are the most accurate I have found but like everything else it depends a lot on the conditions at the time and how fast you drive and how often you might make comfort stops.
Perfect. Good to know about Viamichelin.com, thanks!
It depends also on traffic. As only a limited number of vehicles per hour is admitted in the Gotthard tunnel, on a bad day it would not be impossible to spend in queue one or two extra hours.
If I were driving from Lauterbrunnen to Lugano, between May and November when the passes are open, I would go "over the top" via the Grimsel Pass and the Nufenen Pass. This is the most spectacular driving you will find anywhere in Europe. You have probably seen pictures and films, but I assure you, it is better in reality. Not so much for the driver, who has to concentrate on the road, but better for the passengers. Just search for "Grimselpass" or "Nufenen Pass" in Google Images or YouTube.
Between November and May you have to go via the Gotthard tunnel (or the San Bernadino tunnel, but that is much further east) all the passes over the Alps are blocked by snow.
Chris F, that sounds amazing! We live in the Rocky mountains so we have no problem driving through steep canyons. Is this route faster than the other route?
Sorry, it's Grimsel Pass and Nufenen Pass. I was getting my passes mixed up.
It's about the same distance, but slower because you are doing it by the original route, not an Autobahn in tunnels. But you will want to stop. There is a car park and restaurant at the top of both passes, with spectacular views.
The central Alps, in Switzerland, is roughly two parallel ridges running east to west, sort of M-shaped in cross section. Hence two passes and drop into a valley in between.
You will see glaciers from the road. As you drop down from the Grimselpass you see the Rhone glacier, which is the start of the river Rhone.
ww.viamichelin.com will give you the quickest route by default, which is the Gotthard tunnel:
Time: 03h12 with 01h07 on motorways
Distance: 197 km with 101 km on motorways
You need to add two "via": Grimselpass and Nufenenpass (click on "add a destination"). Then you get the pass route:
Time: 03h42 with 00h50 on motorways
Distance: 209 km with 79 km on motorways
Based on my research, I would definitely second Chris F's suggestion. The switchbacks descending into Airolo south/west of Gotthard appear great on the map as well as on Youtube. Too bad it won't work for us - my research tells me that buses start plying on the pass on 06/20, which is too late for us (tell me I am wrong on this, Chris F, that would be great). And we are definitely not renting a car.
Depending on time, I am planning for us to spend some time in the Bellinzona-Wassen area watching the trains - I wonder how fast the trains can take the loops in the Wassen area.
PS: I am sorry I have not posted much on Rick Steves' forums lately - this site is blocked at my workplace :-(