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Berner Oberland Region and Zermatt

My daughter and I will be in Switzerland for a full 12 days in mid September. We expect to hike 75% and sightsee 25% of the time. Please help us out here:
1.) Which route we should take to see both places since they are so far apart. Should we?
Fly into Geneva from the US, 9/10 1 day,
Zermatt, 9/11-9/12 2 days,
Berner Oberland, 9/13-9/20 8 days,
Zurich 9/21 1 day,
Fly home 9/22 or vice a versa or is there a better route?

2.)In the Berner Oberland region we plan on staying in Murren. Should I make reservations now for the 8 days or spread it out few days there, Gimmewald and Wengen?

3.)Also, I read that there are the Swiss pass, the Swiss Flexi pass, and the Swiss Saver pass; which should we get?

Thank you, Sammee

Posted by
213 posts

Sammee, If I were doing this trip, I'd do Zermatt first because the main attraction there is the Matterhorn and the hiking that leads to it. Also, I'd do it first because, once you are in the Berner Oberland, you may not want to leave. As for lodging in the Berner Oberland, if you like quaint, check out Walter's Mittaghorn Hotel in Gimmelwald. It's a Rick Steves favorite. Gimmelwald has lots of charm but your daughter, depending on her age, may prefer Murren because it has shopping and restaruants. I'd say do a few days on the Murren side of the vallen and a few days on the Wengen side of the valley. That way when in Murren or Gimmelwald, you can hike the trails in that area; and when you are in Wengen, you can hike the trails in that area thus eliminating going back and forth across the valley which takes time.

Do keep this in mind--although September weather is usually good in the Alps, there is always the possibility of encountering some rainy, even snowy, weather. I personally would not do more than two days in Zermatt (three at most), but that is a narrow window in case of bad weather. You might want to consider skipping Zermatt. And since you will use Zurich as an arrival or departure city, why not do an overnight or two in Lucerne, which is between the BO and Zurich. It is one of Switzerland's more charming cities. I can't offer advice on which Swiss pass because off the top of my head I do not recall the differences.

Posted by
2023 posts

We really liked Zermatt but we were there in mid May when there were few tourists. The Matterhorn was a must see for us--Zermatt is, as Rick says, a one mountain town. That being said, after spending the following week in the Berner Oberland (Wengen), the Matterhorn would be underwhelming. The alps in BO are magnificent. We got the Swiss rail pass that covered most everything with a discount on the trip up to the Jungrau. Our pass covered our train fare as soon as we left Italy--maybe when we reached Domodossala in Italy--well worth it.

Posted by
430 posts

1) Agreed with other answers. Your order makes sense -- Zermatt first, you may not want to ever leave the Oberland...

2) Pick one town and stay put. The area is easily navigated, so you can spend time in another town without having to change accomodations. Use the length of your stay to try to get a better rate. You called out the three locations I recommend -- for the hiking lifestyle probably choose between Gimmelwald (super quiet) and Murren (chance to do something 'city-ish' as a break from being in the countryside -- more 'stuff').

3) I started to answer this one... then started to confuse myself... I'll try to refresh my memory and get back to you. EDIT: It looks like this has changed some since I was there. Here is the link to what Rick Steves has on this site comparing them: http://www.ricksteves.com/rail/switzerland.cfm.

EDIT #2... I found another website comparing the Swiss Pass options within www.myswissalps.com

Posted by
12911 posts

A couple of thoughts.

If you are interested in saving money on your accommodations, consider taking an apartment for a full week in Mürren (or possibly Wengen). Chalet Bobs is highly recommended, although we've not stayed there ourselves. Apartments usually rent from Saturday to Saturday, although September may be off-season enough that they will make an exception. If not, you could adjust to that by going to the BO first, staying 9/11 to 9/18, then heading to Zermatt.

Yes, this would change your plan to 7 nights BO and 3 for Zermatt, but I have a higher opinion of Zermatt then others have expressed here, especially if you are hiking. With 3 nights there, you have 2 full days to explore the hiking. One of my favorite hikes in Switzerland (and we've hiked all over there, both in the Valais and the BO) is the one to a mountain restaurant called Fluhalp, past the Stellissee (lake) which is famous for the reflections of the Matterhorn across the valley. Gornergrat is also a fantastic spot, with views comparable to the Jungfraujoch, but you can hike all the way up there if you like (or take the train up and hike down (as most people do).

As far as your flights, you can fly into and out of Zürich. The train trip to or from Zermatt is shorter from Zürich (3:19) than from Geneva (3:45).

For your train pass, you have to "do the math", but I have found the best option for a hiker staying in 2 different places is the 3-day Flex Pass, Saver version. A "saver" pass is just a pass for 2 or more people traveling together, with a 15% discount for each. The Flex-pass functions as a half-fare pass on the days between first and last use. So use your first day for Zürich to BO or Zermatt, second covered day to travel between BO and Zermatt, and third day to head back to Zürich. All other travel (which won't be long trips, just short hops for hiking or sightseeing) will be at half fare.

Posted by
83 posts

Thank you, for all your wonderful suggestions. Guess we'll fly in/out of Zurich, heading to Zermatt first. I know the BO is magnificient, that is why I have saved it for the 2nd part of our trip and the longest time, hoping we have good weather in those 8 days. Good idea about the apartment renting and staying put; have heard more of Hotel Fontana and Chalet Bob's, so I'll check out their prices. I'll also click on the rail and passes websites to find out more info. Gimmewald might be too quiet for my 28 yr. old daughter, so I am looking to Murren, being still smaller than Wengen. Again, thank you all for your help. Anymore suggestions send them through.

Posted by
12911 posts

Chalet Fontana is where we always stay in Mürren (4 times now). There is an apartment on the ground floor that would be spacious but is also very cost-effective, even for two It rents by the day, not by the week, so your arrival day doesn't matter. Or you could take one of the larger double rooms upstairs in the B&B.

Posted by
83 posts

If I stay in Murren or Gimmewald for the 8 days, will it be costly to do sightseeing to the other places that encompasses the BO area: Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen Valley, Lake Thun, Grindewald, etc. since both places are "above the clouds"?

Posted by
430 posts

Maybe a little more costly, but those locations are very worth it compared to staying at the bottom in Interlaken. Not that I have anything against Interlaken, I've stayed there before and will again, but for WHY you are going... stay up the hill...

Do investigate the Swiss Pass more thoroughly. I posted some links before, as they've changed the rules a little since I was last there (1992, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, twice 2003...).

You can get 50% off most ferniculars / gondolas if you hold a Swiss Pass -- and (I think) that holds true even if you are holding a Flexi-Pass, aren't validated for the current date, but the current date is between your first validated and last eligible day of travel. Check me on that last statement.

Posted by
12911 posts

To confirm the post above, yes, there is a "half-fare" feature with the FlexPass, which I explained above.

The round-trip fare from Mürren to Interlaken Ost, using the half-fare feature with the FlexPass, is only 17.20 CHF. (You can find fares on the Swiss rail site, sbb.ch or ww.railch for English).

Adding extra days to your 3-day FlexPass will cost $45 to $50 each, so you'd have to travel pretty far from Mürren to justify that. And a full-on 15-day consecutive day Swiss pass, to cover your whole trip, would be $395 each. So you'll have to estimate how many excursions you will do from Mürren (or Gimmelwald), and extimate to cost of each (using the half-far cost for the FlexPass side of the comparison) to see if you are better off with the $217 3-day pass or the full Swiss Pass. Either one is only going to cover the high-mountain lifts and trains at 50%, so you don't need to add those in for the comparison.

If you plan to move around alot using transport in the BO, you might do as well with the Jungfraubahn 6-day pass + a Transfer Ticket, but then you'd have to pay the fare between Mürren and Zermatt, and this pass doesn't cover lake boats.

http://www.jungfraubahn.ch/en/DesktopDefault.aspx/tabid-20/172_read-696/

Posted by
7205 posts

Swiss Passes, Flexi Passes, Saver Passes ALL cover gondolas, boats, buses, trains, cogwheels, local trams 100%. For the high mountain private lines...Wengen->Junfrau or Mürren->Schilthorn for example, the cost is greatly reduced 25%-50%.

The Half-Fare card is just that 1/2 fare for all of the above normally covered lines. For the high private mountain railways the discount is 25%-50%.

If you have a Swiss Family Card or a Junior Card then your kids < 16 travel with you EVERYWHERE 100% free.

Posted by
83 posts

Appears that the Swiss Saver Pass might be best. I'll be using the lifts frequently to get "down from the clouds" to tour below which can be costly. RS doesn't give lift prices. Can you give me an idea of lift costs at 50%? This may help me decide how many days pass I should purchase.

Thank you!

Posted by
83 posts

After more research, I find that getting up/down from Gimmewald isn't as costly when taking the postal bus. Thank you again everyone!

Posted by
7205 posts

Sammee, Postal Bus goes as far as Stechelberg, but it doesn't go to Gimmelwald. You'll have to either ride the gondola or do some hiking to get to Gimmelwald from Stechelberg.

Posted by
12911 posts

Sammee---a "Saver" pass is just a multi-person version of either the Swiss Pass (consecutive days) or a Flex Pass (choose your days, the rest are 50% off). For 2 or more people, the Saver provides a 15% discount. But you still have to choose between a Swiss Pass (saver) and a Flex Pass (Saver).

Posted by
2023 posts

If you are still including Zermatt I can recommend Hotel Daniela. We had a room with a view of the Matterhorn--and a small balconey. The sister hotel is the Julen which has a pool and workout facility. Breakfast was one of the best ever anywhere and when you arrive at train station they pick you up in their shuttle--I think during the winter they may arrive by horse & sleigh

Posted by
83 posts

Thanks Tim, from Lauterbrunnen on postal bus to Stechelberg is $3.80, from there cable car to Gimmewald $5.40SF, that's a total of $9.20SF. Does any of the passes cover the postal bus and cable car?

Posted by
83 posts

Susan, what's the price of Hotel Daniela? RS does not list it in his book.

Posted by
83 posts

I've decided on the 8 day Swiss Saver Pass. Thanks, Lola.

I think I have accomodations and the passes covered, now getting a reasonable fare ($750-850) for Sept. 9-21, 2010 would be nice.

Thank you everyone for all your kind suggestions.

Posted by
7205 posts

Sammee, the Swiss Pass covers all Postal Buses plus it covers the gondola from Stechelberg to Gimmelwald 100%. It also covers the gondola ride from Gimmelwald on up to Mürren at 100%. Basically you can go as high as Mürren on one side of the valley and as high as Wengen on the other side for 100% free with the Swiss Pass.

Posted by
83 posts

After using the 8 day Swiss Saver Pass:

1 9/10 Zurich to Zermatt AM,

2 9/11 lifts/gondolas in Zermatt,

3 9/12 Zermatt to BO PM,

9/13-9/19 BO,#4,5,6,7,lifts/gondola for hiking trips, sightseeing

8 9/20 BO to Zermatt,

9/21 fly home

I'll spread out the passes during our stay in BO, but I'll have 3 days without passes in Murren. Any suggestions for the non consecutive days there?

Posted by
7205 posts

Sammee, you can also buy a Half Fare card which gives you a 50% discount on all journies for an entire month. Maybe that would be a better option? There is also a Berner Oberland Regional Pass which covers many of your destinations excluding Geneva and Zürich.

http://www.regiopass-berneroberland.ch/engl/geltung.html

Posted by
83 posts

Tim, you wrote earlier that the Swiss Saver covers 100% of the varied transportation that we would be using, so that, I think would save us a lot more than the half saver card. We'll just need to entertain ourselves in Murren for any 3 days while there, but I am sure after we get there, it won't be a problem.

Thanks, though