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Switzerland Itinerary for 13 days late August on a tight budget- Comments welcomed

Here's my planned solo Swiss trip after MUCH research. I welcome any advice. I'm the type of person who likes to travel fast seeing lots of various sites. I haven't been to Switzerland in 25 yrs when I broke my ankle hiking in Grindelwald the 2nd day that I was there. So this trip to hike the Alps has been a long time coming!

15 DAY SWISS PASS $428 (July 25% off special). I will only use 11 full days and short 1 hr. Train trip day 1 on arrival going to Rhein am Stein and day 13 going from Lucern to airport. Solo travel of 66 yr. old adventurous lady photographer on a budget. Mainly interested in photographing quaint villages & scenic views in Alps and doing gentle hiking. I’ve had extensive independent European travel and save costs by staying in hostels and eating from food bought in markets mostly. I don’t check luggage on a plane & have mastered the art of a backpack weighing about 18-20 lbs.. I have NEVER regretted packing light!
Arrive Zurich airport from California 5:30 pm then train from airport skipping Zurich city
Rhein am Stein village -arrive from Zurich via train about 9pm;
Aug 23rd & 24th (sleep 2 nights in hostel)
24th- Rhine Falls, explore Schaffhausen, Rhine am Stein picturesque villages
Pontresina- Aug 25th & 26th (sleep 2 nights in hostel)
25th- 7 am, 2 hr. train to Appenzell village, (picturesque), mountain Ebernalp train/cable from Wasseurman to see Ascher cliffside restaurant / view/ short hike
25th- leave Appenzell at 2 or 3 pm train about 4 hrs to Pontresina along the Bernina Express route (regular train) via Chur & St. Moritz.
26th- train exploring small parts of Bernina Express route getting off around Filisur and Al Grum to hike; cable car or mtn train in Pontresina, maybe travel as far as Poshiavo or Tirano or go 1 hr east of Pontresina to quaint village of Guarda.
Zermatt- Aug 27th & 28th (sleep 2 nights in hostel)
27th All day on Glacier express regular train from Pontresina near St. Moritz. Might stop and explore Andermatt briefly arriving in Zermatt in evening.
28th- Gornergrat mountain train to view Matterhorn - weather dependent -hike a bit. Explore Zermatt old town
Montreux- Aug 29th arrive late morning (sleep 1 night in hostel). If weather is poor in Zermatt, may only stay 1 night there if I can cancel hostel and head towards Montreux early or go to quaint Grimentz village or Gyrures.
29th- explore Montreux area- vineyards, boat ride, Chillon Castle?
30th, 31st, 1st- Gimmelwald (sleep 3 nights) private room / shared bath in pension air bnb
30th- Golden Pass scenic regular train from Montreux to Interlaken with possible side trips to Gryures, Spiez, or boat on Lake Thun arriving in Gimmelwald late afternoon or evening.
31st & 1st- Shilthorn mountain top weather dependent or explore Grindelwald, Lauterbraunen, Wengen. and hiking on 31st & 1st. Mannlican hike or First hike. Possibly a boat trip on Lake Brienz/museum
2nd & 3rd- Lucern (sleep 2 nights in hostel)
2nd -explore Lucern bridge area, 3rd- Mt Rigi mountain hike with boat ride on Lake Lucern or Stanshorn or Mt Titilus if weather wasn’t good in Zermatt or Gimmelwald for top of mountain views.
4th- early a.m. train direct to Zurich Airport - fly home to California
I welcome any advice.

Posted by
181 posts

I haven't been to most of these places, but this is an awesome itinerary.
Going to put it in my Wishlist.
Have a wonderful, safe trip! (I'm so envious :)

Posted by
6821 posts

I am here in Wengen Switzerland now. I went to Gimmelwald today and found it mediocre nothing picturesque. The feel in Murren which is a 5 minute ride up is much better. When I arrived yesterday in Zürich I took train to Appenzell. I wish I had skipped it and gone straight to Wasseraun to the lift up to Ebenalp.
Appenzell looked kind of fake wannabe picturesque, touristy nothing unique. I am just trying to save you some energy. You are going to need it hiking to Ascher restaurant is not easy. Also you might find the Swiss Half Fare Card a better deal if you price all your trips out.

Posted by
2071 posts

This is very fast paced but you tell us that's what you want, so I won't dwell any further on that.

A few comments on your chosen route:

  • There is nothing too special about the Rhine Falls, and while Stein am Rhein is pretty, it is out of the way. I would rather spend those 2 nights in Appenzell, which deserves more than 6 hours.

  • on the 26th, definitely prioritize the Bernina route towards Alp Grüm or Poschiavo. Filisur is in the other direction and you will have passed by already. As for Guarda: looks stunning, so why not if you have time (but I don't think you will).

  • on the 27th, no need to stop in Andermatt

  • one day in Zermatt is a weather risk, but the town is worth exploring for a few hours regardless. Grimentz is really out of the way and fell victim to overdevelopment in the past 5 years, so I would not recommend it. Great skiing, though.

  • one night in Montreux means you need to choose between Chillon and vineyards, but you can still see the vineyards from the lake if you take a boat tour.

  • Gruyeres is not on the Golden Pass route. Spiez is, so yes, you can stop there if you want. Not sure you need a boat ride on Lake Thun the day after one on Lake Leman.

  • First is quite far from a Mürren / Gimmlwald base

  • haven't done Stanserhorn so can't compare it to Rigi (which is fun!)

Posted by
12130 posts

You are spending a lot of time on trains, especially on the 29th-30th to go to Montreux and spend one night there. You will be riding the Golden Pass the wrong direction when you depart on the 30th—-the best views appear as you head downhill into Montreux from the high points. The rest of the scenery on the route does not equal what you have already experienced on the Bernina Pass and Glacier Express routes, or simply duplicates it.

I suggest you shorten your train travel on these days by omitting Montreux and going from Zermatt to Brig to Kandersteg, walking through the village and riding the gondola up to Oeschinensee, a beautiful glacial lake unlike others you will have seen to this point.

You can leave your luggage in a locker at the train station overnight if you do not wish to take it up to the lake.

The Matratzenlager at the lakeside Berghotel is apparently not open for overnight stays, but there are very inexpensive single rooms at another mountain inn on the website, the Arve (84 CHF).

There is a nice lakeside path that takes you past carved wooden sculptures to a waterfall, or a somewhat adventurous hike up to the Freuendenhuette alpine hut.

The next day you would return to Kandersteg and continue by train to Spiez on your journey to Gimmelwald.