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Switzerland and Austria--advice needed

My husband and I are going to Switzerland end of March, I know weather might not be ideal but it is the only time we can go. I am trying to plan out our itinerary and from reading tons of post on this travel forum, I know I definitely want to do Lucerne and possibly Interlaken. We are interested in doing an alpine coaster, hang gliding and hopefully squeezing in a scenic train ride while there, if you have any recommendations we would so appreciate it! Is it too far fetched to try and do Salzburg and Halsttat with this trip? We will have 8 days (not including the two travel days) If it's possible, which would be smarter to do first Austria then Switzerland or vice versa? Flying in and out of Zurich. I have read so many posts about how Austria is just as beautiful as Switzerland and a lot cheaper so it has sparked my interest and I have heard Halstatt is so beautiful. I am struggling with trying to make the two work or just sticking with Switzerland. Any advice, recommendations, sample itineraries are MORE than welcome and VERY appreciated! Thanks travel world!

Posted by
27253 posts

Hallstatt is an 8-hour train ride (or more) from Zurich. It is farther from Lucerne, and farther still from Interlaken. No way I'd make that trip when I had only 8 days available.

Posted by
16894 posts

No, I wouldn't switch countries when you only have 8 days. Switzerland has lots to see.

Upgrade the Interlaken area to "definite" but stay closer to the mountains, such as in Lauterbrunnen (in the valley) or Muerren (halfway up the mountain). That is a paragliding area. If the weather is clear, you'll have mountains in your face from nearly anywhere around the valley. The train ride from Luzern to Interlaken is scenic. Trains continuing west via Spiez and Zweisimmen to Montreux are following the marketed "Golden Pass" route.

Posted by
11386 posts

Arrive Zurich and immediately transfer to Lauterbrunnen. This is about 3 hours by train, but I think it is wise to go to your furthest location first so getting back to the airport for departure doesn't take an extra night. (I like a good train ride upon arrival in Europe as I can take a nap!)

After 4 nights in Lauterbrunnen, take the train to Luzern (very scenic - you can even take the William Tell Express which combines train and scenic boat trip) for 3 nights.

To return to Zurich from Luzern is a train trip of just about an hour, so you should be able to transfer the morning of your flight unless it leaves terribly early.

Austria and Switzerland are close but time consuming to travel between.

Posted by
5412 posts

End of March is still ski season. An alpine coaster and hang gliding will be hard to arrange. I’d suggest flying into Zurich and out of Munich or vice versa.

Posted by
20289 posts

Alpine coasters are summer time activities. A way to make use of the slopes when the snow has all melted and the spring run-off is over. There still will be tandem parapenting in Muerren. Maybe some sledding available.

Posted by
5 posts

Great thank you for the feedback so far. My husband and I usually cram a lot in when traveling but from what I am getting everyone things we should stick to just Switzerland, thanks for the heads up on the activities that will be available during this time.

Posted by
32228 posts

Sara,

I agree with the others in terms of limiting your very short eight day trip to just the Lauterbrunnen Valley and Lucerne. Save Austria (and especially Hallstattt) for a future visit when you can enjoy it properly.

Switzerland has an exceptional transportation system, so that will minimize your time in transit and allow as much time as possible enjoying the sights. You can buy your rail tickets right at the Zürich airport. Many of the train rides are very scenic, but I'm not sure you'll have time for anything like the Bernina Express.

As Laurel suggested, staying in Lauterbrunnen or Mürren rather than Interlaken would be the best idea. While there you may want to take the cable car rides to the Schilthorn for some spectacular views of the mountains while enjoying a fine hot meal in the revolving restaurant. You can also enjoy a "Martini shaken not stirred" in the James Bond bar there (the JB movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was filmed in that area a number of years ago).

Regarding a tandem Paragliding trip, I'd suggest "playing that by ear". Ask your hotel staff when you arrive, as it might be possible to do that. The easiest (and less expensive) trips will be from Mürren, which is about a 20 minute flight. Reaching the edge of the cliff and looking thousands of feet straight down is an experience you won't forget!

Depending on the touring you're planning to do in that area, one of the Swiss Passes may be an advantage. You may find this helpful - https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/switzerland-rail-passes

Posted by
5 posts

Great, thanks so much for all of the responses, I really appreciate the advice!

We booked our flights yesterday and it was cheaper to add 2 more days, so we extended our trip so now we will have 10 days in Switzerland. I am going to stick to what you all suggested and do Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen area.. do you think we should add in Zermatt? We area use to moving around a lot on our trips so is 10 days a lot for just those two areas?

Posted by
11386 posts

We area use to moving around a lot on our trips so is 10 days a lot for just those two areas?

I love long stays so I would go with 2 areas, with the bulk of the time in Lauterbrunnen, maybe 6 nights Lauterbrunnen and 4 in Luzern. If you decide you want to add in Zermatt, give it 3 nights, so you'd be at 4 (Lauterbrunnen), 3 (Zermatt), and 3 (Luzern). If you really have 11 nights, add one where you will, but after many trips in SW we think the Lauterbrunnen Valley offers the most for a long stay.

BTW, I erred above and said you can take the William Tell Express. I meant the Golden Pass.

Posted by
5 posts

Great, thanks!

Also- been reading lots of blogs a lot of people say to stay in Grindelwald or Murren over Lauterbrunnen.... If we are staying at one of these places for 3-4 nights I just want to make sure we pick a good option! Any thoughts?