I will be making my first overseas trip summer '16 and want to visit Switzerland and/or Austria. I'm seeking recommendations. Should I focus on just one country at a time? Is it too much to take in 2 countries? Switzerland vs Austria? I am planning 12-14 days (including the travel days). I want to not feel too rushed or be constantly moving night to night. I would be traveling by train and would like to do alot of hiking and other outdoor activities. The plan would be to return to Europe in 5-7 years.
I'd see them both if possible but I have lived in Austria (in Vienna and in Salzburg) and have to admit, I favor it. We love trains and you can use the trains here. There are all sorts of outdoor activities and hiking in Austria. To be fair, I would include Switzerland too because the outdoor activities and hiking are good here. If you choose one, I think Austria would be the best. www.austria.info/us/vacation-in-austria
Here are some links about hiking and the outdoors in Austria:
These are my 2 favorite countries, so I cannot choose. However, I will say that traveling in Austria was quite a bit cheaper than traveling in Switzerland. The prices are high in Switzerland, and the exchange rate is not as good as it used to be. (It used to be a Swiss franc was worth less than the dollar, not it is worth a little more). Last time I was there (2008), a simple meal was 40-50 dollars. We had an apartment, so we were able to just eat one meal out and that helped. With the Euro getting cheaper, I would make it Austria if I could only see one. It is a beautiful country with stunning scenery and wonderful small towns and larger cities. There is good hiking in many areas. Switzerland is also beautiful with excellent hiking as well, so you really cannot go wrong with either one.
With 12-14 days available there is plenty of time to see interesting parts of both countries without a lot of travel time, but I was pondering your statement of what you are interested in - "would like to do a lot of hiking and other outdoor activities".
I admit I don't have much experience with Austrian Alps, but during last years trip that included Switzerland and Salzburg (we drove from Interlaken to Salzburg over the course of a week) we saw quite of lot of the Alps in both countries and frankly an Alp is an Alp :-)
We did very different things in Salzburg than we did in Switzerland.
In Switzerland is was all about the Alps, visiting the Lauterbrunnen valley and it's sights, cable cars up to Mürren and the Schilthorn, Grindelwald and Jungfraujoch, etc.
In Salzburg it was the history, the music, the museums, etc.
So on the one hand you could focus on one country for the entire time if you really are going to be outside the cities the entire time (an Alp is an Alp concept), but on the other hand you could travel all the way from Bern to Innsbruck very quickly (they are closer together than Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for example) and see the Alps in both!
Just a thought.