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Switzerland in September!

Me and 2 friends (in our mid 20's) are heading to Switzerland for the first time this coming September for almost 3 weeks! We're very active, big into hiking / mtn biking / etc. We'd like our trip to contain a good mix of difficult hiking trails and outdoor activities along with some general sightseeing and touristy aspects. We'll be flying into Geneva in early September and heading East, as we'll be flying out of Munich 3 weeks later (we'll be hitting Oktoberfest for a day or two to end the trip).

Given our active and outdoorsy nature, after Geneva, what are must see areas on our way up to Munich? I've heard great things about Interlaken, Mt Blanc, Grinderwald, Zermatt, etc.

What areas/hiking trails should we 100% have on our list? I know everyone is different but just to give you some context, we love tough hikes similar to what Grand Teton NP offers, Yosemite, Zion, 14's in Colorado, etc...

Also, should we rent a car or use the rail system?

We plan on doing a mix of tent camping/hostel stays. Really appreciate any and all insight!

Posted by
16711 posts

Zermatt and the Grindelwald/Mürrem/Wengen area of the Berner Oberland offer great hiking with lots of elevation gain and loss. The hiking we found at Chamonix was more of a level circuit hike on the "balconies", not summits or major ascents.

Zermatt has a number of huts you can reach by hiking, including tough hikes such as the Hornlihütte:

http://www.zermatt.ch/en/Media/List-Tours/Summer-hiking-trails

Or you can do a 50-mile circuit above the valley,mstaying in whichever Hutson mountain inns you choose:

http://www.zermatt.ch/en/Media/Planning-hikes-tours/Hoehenweg

I will start with those and come back with Berner Oberland hikes later, if others do not weigh in.

Other possible areas are the Valais (we like the Aletschgletscher area around Bettmeralp) and the Engadine in Graubunden.

Posted by
11449 posts

Great advice from Lola, as usual. I would add that you should invest in a good guidebook such as Rick Steves Switzerland. There is no substitute for a book to provide answers to questions you didnàt even know you had.

The rail system is fantastic and I can see no advantage to having a car in Switzerland as it will sit parked most of the time. Hostels are plentiful and nice so you should not need to haul camping gear.

Posted by
6 posts

I appreciate all the advice, thank you so much!

I've also heard great things about the hiking/beautiful nature in Lauterbrunnen Valley, Oeschinensee, Gimmelwald, Jungfrau. Are these areas that are all worth visiting as well?

Posted by
679 posts

We loved hiking above Lauterbrunnen; it mightn't be the most strenuous hike you would take, but it was stunning and compares to many hikes I have taken in the Grand Tetons or Yosemite (but then, I don't go straight up mountains). You mention Gimmelwald -- we walked through it at the end of our hike to get to the gondola to descend to the valley. It's quaint, but be aware you can walk through it in 5-10 minutes.

Posted by
16711 posts

Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen and Mürren are villages all very close to one another in the heart of the Berner Oberland. Pick one. There is a campsite in Lauterbrunnen if you are interested, and also one in Grindelwald. There is easily a week's worth of hiking in this area, including tough ones like to the top of the Schilthorn ( where you will be met by people who rode the cablecar up).

Oeschinensee is one of our favorites and worth a stop between Zermatt and .the Berner Oberland. There are two lovely dayhikes to alpine huts there. You can overnight in the Matratzenlager ( dorms) at the mountain inn:

Www.oeschinensee.ch

Posted by
7209 posts

If you're "very active, big into hiking / mtn biking / etc" then I'm wondering about your plans in Geneva. I would head straight for the Berner Oberland which is spectacularly beautiful and packed with hiking of all degrees.

Most definitely use the rail system which is second to none, clean, punctual and is the only method to access places like Zermatt and the high alpine villages of Murren, Gimmelwald, Wengen, etc.

In Murren you should also seriously inquire with Denise about availability at the Chalet Fontana. Denise is a British expat who is incredibly knowledgeable of the hikes around the area.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks Tim - Our thought process when we choose to fly into Geneva was so we can start all the way West of the country, and work our way East without backtracking (as we would have done if we flew into Zurich ya know).

Geneva lake looks beautiful but you're saying it's not that outdoor-centric? I keep hearing great things about Berner Oberland so I'm sure we'll spend a great deal of our time there!

Posted by
11449 posts

I've also heard great things about the hiking/beautiful nature in Lauterbrunnen Valley, Oeschinensee, Gimmelwald, Jungfrau. Are these areas that are all worth visiting as well?

Yes, it is fabulous. We've been there 4 times and my husband is aching to go back. But get the Rick Steves guide to Switzerland as he outlines many hikes.

Posted by
6 posts

I know most say to "do the math" when calculating what rail pass is most practical, but our trip will be much less of a plan and more of "take each day as it comes." The only dead set plans are flying into Geneva, heading to Chamonix for a couple nights, heading back East towards Interlaken/Bernese Oberland, spend a decent chunk of time there, then head East towards Zurich. We will then be spending the final nights in Munich. This trip will include a lot of backpacking/hiking/mtn biking.

What do you guys think? Does it make more sense to get a Swiss Travel Pass then just pay for our transportation out of pocket to and from France/Germany? Or does it make more sense to obtain a 3 country Select Eurail pass?

Posted by
219 posts

Sounds to me like you'd be most comfortable with a Swiss Travel Pass, so you can just hop on -- hop off any time, any where in Switzerland at whim. It includes the trains, ships on the lakes, buses, and cable cars, except only a discount on the train between Wengen, Kleine Scheidegg, Jungfraujoch, and Grindelwald (although Grindelwald's included from the Zweilütchinen direction), and on some of the cable cars.

Posted by
196 posts

Hike the Schilthorn! I did this years ago in the first week of October from the Mountain Hostel (www.mountainhostel.com) in Gimmelwald (outside Murren) & it was a great experience. The weather was perfect that day; clouds coming & going but bright sun at the top. About 5 1/2 hours with stops for the views. We crossed a rocky plain about 200m from the summit & hiked through the only snow we ran into (no worse than calf high) the rest of the way. No big deal. There is a restaurant (Piz Gloria) at the top that guides you. I stayed many times at the Mountain Hostel & it is good spending a night or two there first to get acclimated (the Schilthorn is at 2,970m). The hostel has gone all modern (they serve food at their restaurant & it has WiFi; dorm style sleeping). You can still bring your own food & cook in the large kitchen. Petra & Walter run the place & you will meet people from all over the world. I think it is 45 CHF/night. If you don't want to hike down, there is a cable car back to Gimmelwald that a Swiss Travel Pass will give you a discount on.

Posted by
360 posts

I don't know if I'm too late to this party, but you have the exact itinerary that we had last September. Since others have captured Switzerland, I'm going to add Fussen in Bavaria to the list. It's home to the "fairly tale" castles that are pretty interesting to see, and the town of Fussen is great with shops/restaurants, yet it doesn't feel that touristy. Have fun at Oktoberfest -- we had a great time last year! But, one thing to note is that you can't bring in any bags, which was new last year, and cost us 45 min. to stand in line to check bags with a locker. Also, my husband loved the BMW museum in Munich, if you're a car fan.