My husband and I are planning a trip through Europe in January. We are staying in Paris for a week, ending in Italy for about 6 days (Florence & Rome), and wanted to spend about three days in Switzerland in between. I have friends in Morges (on Lac Leman) and originally was hoping to stop and see them for a day or evening, and then to spend two days in the Alps. We are not skiers, but would just be going to see the scenery. Most of what I have seen in Rick Steve’s books and shows on Switzerland is focused on summertime, and I’m not sure what the best places in wintertime. Is it practical to divide our 3 day visit to Switzerland between Morges and a more mountainous region? Is there enough to do in and around Morges /Lac Leman to keep us busy for three days? Or should we extend our stay in Switzerland to get more time to see the Alps? Thanks!
Katie: As you probably already know, unfortunately mountain weather is often cloudy (mountains push air up and moisture condenses into clouds). The Alps are at least as tall as our tallest mountains (some are taller) and it's an entire range, not just an isolated mountain like Mt Rainier. Don't think you could count on seeing views, but that is a problem any time of the year. You may get lucky, or not. And you're correct about the temps, will be cold in January! But spectacular, you should be able to see something.
Do you have a pretty good idea of what kind of weather and winter conditions to expect in the mountainous regions of Switzerland in January?
We once stayed in St. Sulpice, a tiny village very close to Morges, for 4 weeks. We did French classes for 3 weeks, but in the off times here are the trips we took:
Chateau de Chillon, Lausanne, Geneva, Martigny (Fondation Pierre Giannada), Fribourg (Espace Jean Tinguely), Gruyere, and the Route de Vin.
If you check a guidebook or google these places, you can find out the particulars; but I can tell you that all were very enjoyable and interesting to visit. In short, there is plenty to do around Morges.
To Kent: Perhaps I don't have as clear an understanding of the weather in the Alps as I thought :) I'm guessing that the temperature would be around freezing if we were high up in the Alps (possibly colder??). I'm not sure of the cloud/fog/precipitation, though. Would this have a liklihood of obscuring the views that we would be hoping to see?
I would suggest anywhere on the Bruenig line of the red train. Meiringen for example. Easily accessible by train and the town is in a valley so you can walk around town without difficulty. They also have a gondola up to Planplatten that you can ride in both directions (or rent skis and ski down). If it is a clear day, the view is gorgeous. There is Reichenbach Falls, the Aareschlucht and other sights in walking distance from the main hotel in town. If you have good hiking boots and warm clothing, there is nothing to keep you from doing these things that I am aware of. I have hiked around the Source de Lison in France at that time of year and was fine. It is also in the mountains, not too far from the Swiss border. Follow the weather in Switzerland on www.weather.com to know what to pack.
Thanks everyone! This is very helpful--I'll start researching your recommendations. If you have any further ideas, please be sure to let me know!
Try looking at the webcams occasionally to see what the mountains are like. Quite often mornings will be foggy in the valleys but clear blue skies at higher altitude.
Theres a webcam page on http://muerren.ch/start-e.htm for Murren, and others at http://www.swisspanorama.com/ for the region. (have a look at the tourist videos on that site for some idea about what it looks like on a good day (obviously geared to skiers/snowboarders, but still a good overview)
Great! Thanks for the tip, Frank!
Katie: I spent many summers and a few Christmas Holidays in Switzerland. The one thing you can count on is that the weather will be variable, within a few km's, a few 100 m's in altitude, or from one valley to the next. In the winter time, many of the small narrow valleys, especially the north facing ones, never get direct sunlight for a long enough period of time to burn off the fog that can settle in for days sometimes. On the other hand, you can ascend a short distance up the surrounding hills or mountains and get above the fog for some spectacular views. One Christmas we went hiking in shirtsleeves along a ridge line and could see forever in the clear blue sky, no snow yet that year, and then down into the fog, past icicles on branches--a beautiful day.
I would suggest the town of Zug, between Luzern and Zurich. It has a nice festive feeling for the holidays and easy access to going up Rigi for spectacular views of the Alps. It is a stop on the main train line to Italy.