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10 days to experience the Alps

Planning a 10 day trip to explore the Alps in Aug 2010. We're flying in/out of Frankfurt. Considering traveling to Munich, Salzburg, Innsbruck area, then into Switzerland. We're interested in primarily the natural/scenic (day hikers) experiences with a 'touch' of historical/cultural experiences. Looking for local knowledge on "must sees" and "don't bother", and suggested itineraries would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
354 posts

I agree with the idea of spending the time in the Berner Oberland. We spent a week there in 2008 and it was marvelous. In 2009 we went to Germany and to Salzburg and Innsbruck area (just drove through Munich). Even though I liked southern Germany and Austria - Switzerland and especially the Berner Oberland area was much more spectacular.
I know I am not in the majority on this site, but I wasn't blown away by Gimmelwald. We stayed in Lauterbrunnen and loved it. If we were to return, I would likely go for Murren or Wengen - just to have the spectacular views of the mountains.
Lastly, the last time I checked flying into Zurich was even less expensive than Frankfurt - and getting from Zurich to the Berner Oberland is a breeze on the train.

Posted by
296 posts

Agree totally. We were in this area for 3 days in May. Fantastic weather and the rivers were flowing in a raging fashion into the towns due to the spring thaw. Beautiful place but the food is kind of bland. But then again, I didn't go there to eat.

Posted by
17 posts

Keep the suggestions coming! I really appreciate reading about others experiences/suggestions.

Would prefer to fly into/out of Munich, however, we're using frequent flyer miles and the best option (and lowest 'milage cost') was Frankfurt.

Posted by
31303 posts

Louise,

I'd also recommend the Berner-Oberland area for both great scenery and great hiking. There are a lot of towns and a lot of attractions in that area, including of course Gimmelwald, Murren and Lauterbrunnen. Grindelwald is close but is more "touristy" IMO.

One hike that I really enjoyed was taking a trip up the hill in the Allmend-Hubel Funicular and then hiking back to Murren. The hike was under two hours as I recall, and very pleasant on a fall afternoon. Walking through alpine meadows with cows grazing was wonderful! There's a Hotel & Bar part way down, so hikers can stop for a "cool beverage" if needed! THIS is a view of the Hotel & Bar.

Murren is a "classic" alpine village and a great spot for photos. While there you could also take the Gondolas (four in total from the valley bottom at Stechelberg) to visit the Schilthorn and Piz Gloria, where the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service was partially filmed (NO, it didn't blow up!).

Happy travels!

Posted by
2703 posts

Hi Louise,

If you're goal is the Alps, Fly to Munich not Frankfurt.

My personal opinion... with 10 days and a preference for flying into/out of Munich, I'd skip the Switzerland idea and focus on Bavaria and Austria (and maybe the Italian Dolomites). The Alps (Zugspitze area, Innsbruck area, Berchtesgaden area) are less than 2 hours from Munich airport.

Alternatively, for a Swiss trip, I'd fly into/out of Zurich and spend 10 days just exploring Switzerland.

Paul

Posted by
837 posts

Hi Louise, I would agree with Berner Oberland for the Swiss part of the visit. However, in contrast with many on this board, I would not choose Gimmelwald. Read Rick's entry and it will give a pretty accurate view. In my view, there is "no there, there". I would definitely recommend Muerren, Wengen, or Lauterbrunnen over Gimmelwald. We chose Lauterbrunnen largely because it is between the Wengen and the Muerren sides of the area. Gimmelwald apparently has its charm, if it is the type of charm you are seeking. However, if you want a bit more substantial settlement, it takes a bit of effort to "drop in" elsewhere for a drink or dinner.

Posted by
1801 posts

Hi Louise, Wow, 10 days in the Alps will be awesome! I agree with the others that the Berner-Oberland is your best bet. Let me put it this way. The Berner-Oberland is like Yosemite on steroids! Hands down one of the most beautiful places in the world. My wife and I rented a place with Ollie, and if you can get his apartment you won't be sorry.They have a outdoor seating area that overlooks the valley below. A very clean apartment that has everything you need.

Hope this helps!

All the best, Monte

Posted by
1147 posts

Two of my favorite hikes in the Berner Oberland are the hike to Obersteinberg and the hike between Schyngie Platte and First. They are both described in the RS book, they are both "all day hikes..not strolls", they both have wonderful mountain huts where you can eat lunch, and they are both absolutely wonderful. We usually stay in Lauterbrunnen because we like the great access to both sides of the valley. (When we did the First hike, we caught the first train up so we would have plenty of time to get to First before they closed the lift for the day. It is easier to do that kind of thing from Lauterbrunnen versus Muerren)

There are some great day hikes in the Salzburg-Hallstatt area as well. I have not had the opportunity to hike around Innsbruck, but previous posters have talked about it and loved it. The town of Innsbruck was not my favorite-not much to do, but the area is beautiful and you might look into staying outside of Innsbruck. Mittenwald gets a lot of good press 0n this site..have not been there myself. The area is very beautiful and some of the scenery in Austria contrasts well with the scenery in Switzerland. (Switzerland is "in your face" mountain peaks and Austria is beautiful peaks surrounded by rolling countryside.)

Posted by
7996 posts

I agree with others, Berner-Oberland absolutely, positively hands down. The unbelievably amazing beauty will blow you away. We loved staying in Murren so much we returned again last year. Loved it as much the 2nd time as the first.

Posted by
2703 posts

Hi again,

Personally Louise, I don't think everyone is reading the original post. Flying into and out of Frankfurt, possibly including Munich, Salzburg, Innsbruck AND Switzerland (the Berner Oberland) in a total of 10 days.

I just don't see it.

Paul

Posted by
2023 posts

We spent a week in Wengen last May and it was absolutely perfect. It is a great location for lots of interesting hikes. Had a perfect view of the Jungfrau from our window. Murren would be an option but Gimmelwald is just too small--we hiked through it and it is charming but you have to consider where to have your meals. Wengen and Murren have small grocery markets called COOP which are handy for buying sandwiches, water, fruit, etc for your hikes. Lauterbrunen is a fine little town but is down in the valley so alpine views most likely are not going to be great. The hotel we stayed at in Wengen was the Alpenrose and the half board plan is available. Their meals are very good for about 25 euros pp. The breakfast is included and is wonderful. We got a Christmas card from the lovely owners. When we return to Switzerland we will stay in Wengen again.The Berner Oberland area is exactly what comes to mind when you think of Switzerland--it is gorgeous!

Posted by
17 posts

Paul,

Thank you for your candor. What are your concerns...we have 10 days (excluding travel to/from FRA) to experience the Alps. Our intent is to 'major' in day hikes in the valleys & mountains and 'minor' in town/village walks .

Is there any significant difference between a clockwise route: Munich, Salzburg, west thru Innsbruck then into Switzerland verses a counter-clockwise loop: dropping south into Switzerland then heading east into Austria, Salzburg and Munich.

Again, any insight is greatly appreciated - Louise

Posted by
3580 posts

Louise, your proposed itineraries sound more like three weeks than 10 days. IMO, Focus on Switzerland and save the rest for later.

Posted by
2703 posts

Hi Louise,

You didn't mention how you are traveling... car or train?

I was including travel to/from Frankfurt in your 10 days... leaving 8 days. Even with 10 full days, I don't think you're going to experience a lot (except traveling from one place to the next) including all of these places:
Munich, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Switzerland

When will you have the time to do day hikes and visit the towns and cities on your list? You have at least 4 days of travel in 10 days. Figure getting up, breakfast, getting stuff together, travel to the next place, finding the next place, checking in, getting settled. It's time consuming to keep going from one place to the next. I'd concentrate on a particular area or two in this time frame. 2 or 3 "home bases" at the most. That's just my opinion and the way we travel. Everyone has their own "stlye" of traveling.

If hiking in Switzerland is the priority, I'd head to the BO for say 5 nights and see Innsbruck and Munich on the way back to Frankfurt. Salzburg can be done as a day trip from Munich.

While I agree there's nothing quite like the Berner Oberland (we loved our stay in Wengen!), the Bavarian and Austrian Alps are fantastic also.

Now, with a car, I might suggest heading straight to the Italian Dolomites instead!

I don't know if this helps, but it's simply my opinion.

Paul

Posted by
2 posts

Paul is spot on. I've been lucky to live in Europe for the last two years, which means a lot of weekend "fly by" trips. Its ok but not optimal. Best is to base yourself, as Paul says, somewhere for two or three days and see things in the area, particularly if you plan on a lot of hiking. Bavaria is beautiful with lots to see. For hiking, tho, Switzerland gets my vote. If the miles matter, then go to Frankfurt, and focus on Germany, the Rhine, Rothenberg, and Bavaria. If you can fly in closer to Switzerland, you will be very happy with Wengen.

Posted by
1357 posts

I'm agreeing with Paul and the idea of having a couple of home bases. If you're wanting hiking and small towns, I'd skip Munich. I'd focus on an area or 2, such as Bavarian alps, Salzkammergut region in Austria, or Bernese Oberland.

If you want to go to Austria, you could use Salzburg as a home base and do day trips into the Salzkammergut. If you don't have a car, they do have buses that run in the area.

Posted by
4 posts

On Gimmelwald, I think the point some are dancing around, is that Gimmelwald is for budget concious hikers. I loved Gimmelwald (July 2009) and would love to go back. My wife and I would hike 10+ miles per day (GPS watch). We did meet another couple that didn't like hiking and they hated Gimmelwald.

Basically, we woke up, ate with Tim @ Walter's, hiked, ate dinner at Walters, and then shared a bottle of wine on Walters patio (fantastic veiws) until it was too dark to see.

Dinner for us, was for calories, not taste. So a 15 Frank bland dinner at Walters was just perfect.

You just have to know what you want. If you want to have nice meals, don't stay in Gimmelwald. If you want to stay cheap with cheap (but ample) food, Walters is a great choice.

Posted by
18 posts

Dear Louise 10 days is pushing it for those destinations. If you are flying into to Frankfurt, I would suggest either spending a night in Rothen burg or Alsac Loraine, Ribiquier, 300 people completely preseverd. I would skip Munich and go to Salzburg.very walkable small and close to the mountains. If you are limited on time, consider staying 3 days in Zermatt and the rest of the days in Wengen. There is great cable car hiking in both of these places. The best hikes are from the Manlicheen Chairlift in Wengen to Klein Scheidig and return to Wengen on foot. The chair lifts in Grindelwald- First to the glacier, 2 1/2 hours 300 fot rise but great restaurant, and then hiking to Bachlpsee from Pfinsteing cable care- 90 minutes or longer if you wish. I have never found Innsbruck too exciting. We love Salzburg and it has great hiking with the Bavarian Alps next door. Also if you like history, you can catch a limo to Cezney Krumlov in Czech from Salzburg or about a 2-3 hour drive. This place is a wonderful , cheap preserved Castle town that is great for two or three days. If you want to do this Itinierary , please note there are often traffic jams coming out of Frankfurt.Consider spending a night in Rothenburg-2 hours from FRankfurt, it is wonderful if you like walled preseved towns. Alsace Lorraine is wonderful if you like presevered wine towns. YOu could then drive to Chamonix which has incredible hiking. Good luck. Bring a hiking stick or nordic walking pole you will need it. If you do drive to Innsbruck consider hiking in Obsergurgal and Vent in Austria. Highest hiking in Austria. A lot cheaper to stay in than in Switzerland.