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Winter vacation for non skier


We are family of 5 with 3 teenager (16,18,20 yo) plan to holiday in Switzerland :

23 Dec 12.45 arrive in Geneva : explore Geneva (sleep Geneva)

24 Dec visit Annecy by bus (we vaccinatted with sinovac can we go inside France?) (sleep Geneva)

25 Dec Bernese Oberland by train (sleep Lautterbrunnen/Grindewald)??

26 Dec explore B Oberland & Jungfaujoch (sleep Lautterbrunnen/Grindewald)??

27 Dec explore B Oberland (sleep Lautterbrunnen/Grindewald)??

28 Dec explore Bern (sleep Bern)

29 Dec visit Lausanne, Montreux (sleep Vevey)

30 Dec visit Gruyere, Maison Caillere (sleep Vevey)

31 Dec Matterhorn, Zermatt (sleep Zermatt)??
But cannot find hotel in Zermatt :(
1 Jan Glacier Express to St Moritz (sleep St Moritz)

2 Jan Lucerne

3 Jan Appenzel

4 Jan Zurich

5 Jan go back to Jakarta

Do we miss another place/ city that worth to visit?

We plan only use public transportation, how long swiss pass should we buy?

Your comments & suggestions are highly appreciated

Thank you in advance

Posted by
4656 posts

we vaccinatted with sinovac can we go inside France?

France only recognizes EMA-approved vaccines, so no.

Posted by
287 posts

I would carefully check and confirm the rules regarding Sinovac. While vaccination with Sinovac is valid for entry into Switzerland, I believe you would not able to obtain a Covid certificate with it since it is not approved by the EMA - there are some exceptions for diplomats, NGO employees, Swiss citizens abroad, students, etc but I am not sure if any of these apply to you.
Without a Swiss/EU or other recognized vaccination certificate, everyone in your family over 16 would therefore have to do a Covid test every few days in order to be able to eat indoors, visit museums, ride Glacier Express, etc. (assuming the certificate is still being used of course). This would be both expensive and logistically inconvenient.

Posted by
7745 posts

Thats a lot of time spent on the train or in a train station. Almost half your whole time in Switzerland. Too many places.

You are proposing a lot of traveling on and around the major holidays: Christmas and New Years. Someone should address whether closures and limited transportation are a problem.

Posted by
5638 posts

You are trying to cover a lot of ground, and it will be winter so the days will be short and the cities could be unpleasantly wet and dark.
I would remove Geneva, Zürich, Bern and Appenzell from the route: they are not at their best in December.

- after landing in Geneva, I would go directly to Vevey, and spend 3 nights there. Winter is not the best time there, but there is still plenty to see and do.
- Then on to Grindelwald (or Wengen, or Mürren, or Lauterbrunnen), 4 nights.
- Then Zermatt, 2 nights. Even if you do not see the Matterhorn, it has a nice atmosphere in winter.
- Glacier Express to Pontresina, 2 nights
- Train to Luzern, 2 nights
- Flight out of Zürich, no need to stay there unless the flight is super early.

Accommodation for just 2 nights at this very busy time of the year could be impossible to find in Zermatt, so you might have to skip it. If you skip it, then you can spend another night in Grindelwald and another night around Pontresina.
You do not ski, but in winter you might want to try tobogganing / sledding. If you do, be careful: it is fun, but dangerous! Make sure that your travel insurance covers it.

And the obvious: Switzerland is often cold in December, and there will be snow in the mountains (or so I hope; I just booked a ski holiday :-)). You need appropriate footwear: warm (but not too warm) boots with a grippy sole. And warm clothing of course!

Posted by
1253 posts

Suggest you consider Wengen or Murren for your lodging in the B Oberland because they're up in the mountains rather than the valley. Bern, Montreux, Gruyeres and Lucerne are all good for day trips. Might want to trim your itinerary some because it looks like you'll spend a lot of time in transit rather than enjoying the places you want to visit.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you so much for your advice, really appreciated..
I still have questions :
1. What is the best scenic train that we should not missed?
2. Better stay in Vevey or Montreux?
3. We bring luggages and choose hotel near train station, but not sure in Bernese Oberland.
Tried to find in Wengen, Lauterbrunnen but either sold out or they want 6 days minimum, and the available is Berghof Amaranth
4. Cannot find hotel also in Zermatt, found in Brig? Is it good or better change place/plan?

Thank you for your attention..

Posted by
17970 posts

Might as well get the 15-day Swiss Travel Pass. Kids will get the discounted Youth version.

Both the Berner Oberland and Zermatt are major ski destinations and the week between Christmas and New Years is their busiest season as nearly everyone in Europe gets the week off and a family ski vacation is part of their regular routine. Interlaken is an option if you cannot find accommodations closer in the Berner Oberland. Trains every 30 minutes will take you into the mountains in 20 minutes.

  1. The Glacier Express is pretty close to a not-to-be-missed scenic train ride. As an added bonus, you can take the "Golden Pass" route from Montreux to Interlaken.

  2. Brig is a good start point for the Glacier Express, but I would only spend one night there, unless you want to take a day trip to Zermatt on the off chance of getting a glimpse of the Matterhorn.

Posted by
3643 posts

You can find numerous train videos online, the major tourist trains are Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Golden Pass. It sounds like only the Golden would fit into your plans, but it's a very good ride.

As noted you're spending an awful lot of time travelling, at one of the busiest times of the year. Might want to trim it back.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for your input,
I still have several questions :
1. Is there service to send luggage to hotel to hotel, or locker to keep luggage?
2. Which village/city near Zermatt and St Moritz that close to station for Glacier Express?
Your response will be highly appreciated

Posted by
17970 posts
  1. There is luggage forwarding service offered by SBB, but it will be following you by a day or so. Useful if you are renting a holiday location for a week, but not very practical if you are moving around a lot, which it seems you are. Read about it,
    Most stations have coin operated luggage lockers of various sizes.

  2. Brig is probably your best intermediate station to board the Glacier Express going to St Moritz. You can also do day trips from there to Zermatt. You will travel the exact same railway tracks as the Glacier Express.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for your valuable informations.
I will revise the itinerary, and for village/city near St Moritz fo you think Pontresina or do you have another suggestions?

Posted by
5638 posts

Pontresina is very charming ; Samedan is another smaller option.

Posted by
17970 posts

I will propose the following itinerary, which will cover the primary sights you want to see, and is, I think, very sensibly paced.
Dec 23: Arrive from Jakarta and stay in Geneva. It is a very long flight and you will need to rest. Sight see as you see fit.
Dec 24: Train to Vevey/Montreux and stay 2 nights. Extra time to relax, Chocolate Train, Chateau Chillon.
Dec 26: Train to Interlaken/Grindelwald/Lauterbrunnen via Zweisimmen. This is the Golden Pass line. Stay 3 nights to see Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn and the spectacular mountains.
Dec 29: Train to Brig. Stay 2 nights
Dec 30: Train to Zermatt and return in the late afternoon.
Dec 31: Glacier Express to St Moritz/Pontresina. Stay 2 nights
Jan 2: Train to Luzern. Stay 3 nights
Jan 5: Train in the morning to Zurich Airport. It is only 1 hour and 15 minutes on a direct train. Fly home.

Posted by
6 posts

Wow, thank you for your intinerary.. highly appreciated it.
The reason why we go direct from geneva to Bernese Oberland is because we got informations on 25, 26 Dec all shop & tourist attractions & many restaurants are closed, so we think it is better spend those days in mountain.
Surely we will reconsider your advice.
Have a blessed day!

Posted by
62 posts

Lots of great advice by other posters here. A couple of thoughts...

Dec 23: if timing works, you might try to go direct to your Vevey/Montreux lodging on arrival. Saves an extra day checking in/out of hotels, and gives you Dec 24 as a touring day without needing to move locations with your luggage.

We found it difficult to find affordable lodging (for a family of five with teens) in Montreux/Vevey and chose Lausanne instead, which we liked. Not difficult to visit Montreux area from Lausanne on the train.

Castle Chillon is closed on Dec 25 (Christmas Day) but the Chaplin museum appears to be open in the afternoon (in Vevey). Chillon is definitely worth a visit, though, so fit it in if you can (on 24th hopefully).

In the Berner Oberland, try not to stay in Lauterbrunnen or Interlaken unless that is the only place you can get a reservation for your shorter stay. Wengen and Murren are car-free villages in the mountains with great views that are very charming. Grindelwald is a little bigger with great views also and easy accessibility to the area. Interlaken is the transit hub and not as charming. Lauterbrunnen is in a deep valley and will be dark due to the shorter days.

Posted by
17970 posts

Wengen and Murren are car-free villages in the mountains with great views that are very charming.

@ Amy. You do realize this is in the middle of the busiest week of the year at the ski resort towns of Wengen and Muerren. Usually impossible to find anything for less than a one-week minimum stay at the highest prices of the year.

Posted by
13047 posts

Are you sure trains are running around Christmas and New Year's?

Posted by
17970 posts

In the Berner Oberland, the trains are ski lifts. Ski resorts in Switzerland do not shut down between Christmas and New Years. They ring the register at the fastest rate of the year.

Since the semi-annual schedule adjustment takes place on Dec 12, no trains are showing up on the schedule from that date onward, but they will show up as we get closer.