Switzerland for 8 days - please help with itinerary

Hello, We are a group of 5 ( my husband and I, our 3-year-old, and my 70-year-old parents). We are visiting Switzerland for the first time. We will reach Zurich (from Amsterdam) on the 20th, and leave on the 28th morning. We will have a lot of luggage and so plan to deposit our luggage in Zurich Airport, and leave for whatever our first destination is (maybe Lucerne?). We love gorgeous scenery - both mountains and lakes. We would love to go on part or all of the Glacier Express (if it makes sense), and the Bernina Express if possible (my little one loves trains). From reading these forums, it seems like for a 7-8 day-trip, it would be best to have two bases - one mountain, and the other by a lake, and then make day trips from these 2 places. The list of places we have identified so far from the guide books is below, but I would love to know if these are the right things to see for what is a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip for us. I really welcome your advice and help with creating the right itinerary. - Matterhorn - Aletsch Glacier in the Aletsch region - Jungfrau (I believe we have time to do both Matterhorn and Jungfrau) - Swiss National Park (worth it?) - Chillon Castle (?) - Glaciers in Ticino? - Lake Geneva? Thank you so much for any help/advice.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

Priya, I'd recommend that you delete one of your Threads, so that you keep all replies in the same place.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9097 posts

You did't say which month, which has a big influence on what's possible. If by "the 20th" you mean September, then have fun, it's a great month for what you want to accomplish. If you mean "November" or "April 20th", these are both lousy months for the mountains. The only advice I'll offer is to keep your plans flexible, and don't try to lock too much into certain dates. The reason is because much of what you listed is very weather-dependent. You can hope for bright sunny days for the duration of your trip, but you need alternatives for when mother nature doesn't coorperate. I like Zermatt for hiking better than the Jungfrau area, but in your ambitious schedule, it might be better to stay in the latter. Zermatt's pretty isolated. If you have a bad weather day, your daytrip options are limited. In the Jungfrau area, though, you could use a rainy day for shopping in Interlaken, or a visit to Thun or Bern.

Posted by Priya
palatine, IL, United States
5 posts

Tom, Thanks for the insight - that makes sense. What about the list itself? Would you add or suggest removing anything? I would welcome your input, especially on the places noted with question marks. Thanks,
Priya

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

Do you mean the 20th of this month, September, like 12 days from now, Priya? A fair bit of editing of the list may depend on where you are able to get hotels at this extremely late date.

Posted by Priya
palatine, IL, United States
5 posts

Yes, I mean the 20th of this month. We are flexible on accommodation, and based on quick research it seems like that should not be a gating factor. Thanks!

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
549 posts

I would bundle Lake Geneva, Chillon Castle, and the Matterhorn into two consecutive days. They are in the same region and you can easily do all three. I recommend staying in Vevey, right on Lake Geneva. It is a beautiful old town with a nice old city and spectacular promenade along the lake. There are lots of benches facing the lake that your parents can sit on and enjoy watching the old steamers and sailboats go by! Chillon Castle is in the next town east of there, Montreux. I would take a cab from Vevey as parking at the castle can be challenging - limited parking spaces and you'll likely have to park far away and walk if it's busy. Zermatt is about 60 - 90 minutes east of Lake Geneva through the valley of Valais. Beautiful route! It's very easy to get there from Lake Geneva via Swiss Rail or, if you're driving, you'll park in the garage at Tasch and take the train the rest of the way. Zermatt is definitely a full-day affair but well worth the time and $$$$. If you take the cable car up to Furi you'll be as close as you can be to the Matterhorn without hiking. There is even a restaurant/outdoor deck at the lodge at the top so that you can enjoy the view for a while if the weather is clear. If you want a real adventure, take the cable car past Furi all the way to the top, Zermatt Glacier Paradise - it's one of the highest cable cars in Europe and the view is well worth the hefty ticket price. There is a viewing platform from the tippy top with one of the most stunning views in Europe. They have dug ice tunnels into the glacier that you can walk through (included in the price of the lift ticket) and there is a great little buffet restaurant with great views. If you do this you have a better chance of getting good views if you go up in the morning rather than the afternoon, when clouds start building up.

Posted by Shikha
North Easton, Massachuse
1 posts

We were in Lucerne and Interlaken - it is the place to take the Train to jungfrau glacier beautiful scenery lucerne is a beautiful picturesque town in itself . you can easily spend a day or 2 there Zurich is nothing much to speak about , so dont wast your time unless you want to go shopping
-Shikha

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Hi Priya, we have made several two-week trips to Switzerland and still haven't seen everything on your list. It is too much for eight days. But you could do a nice loop that would include the first three, and the Glacier Express. I am not sure what you mean by depositing your luggage at the Zurich airport. They will not hold luggage at the airport. If you want to leave large bags behind while you travel in Switzerland, you might be able to deposit them at the left-luggage service at the Zurich train station. Check to be sure they will hold them for a week. The loop I suggest goes from Luzern to Chur to pick up the Glacier Express, then back up ( via Brig) to the Berner Oberland, and back to Zurich. Spend two nights in Luzern and spend a day doing oneofour the lake boat-cogwheel train- cable car trips to a mountaintop, either Rigi ( my choice) or Pilatus. Then ride the Glacier Express as far as Brig. Here you have several choices. You could backtrack ten minutes by train to Betten and ride a cablecars up 4000 feet to the village of Bettmeralp to spend the night. This is a great viewing point for the Aletschgletscher. Then you would continue on to Zermatt the next day, spend a night or two there, then take the train to the Lauterbrunnen Valley and spend several nights. Or, if you want less time around Lauterbrunnen, you could continue west from Zermatt to Lac Leman and spend a night around Montreux to see the Chateau de Chillon. Then you would train over the Golden Pass route to the Berner Oberland. Or if you don't care to change hotels so many times, you could base in Kandersteg, a pretty village an hour past Brig, and travel to the Aletsch viewpoint and Zermatt/Matterhorn on daytrips from there. That way you would be spending a lot more time on trains, but moving luggage only once.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
549 posts

The last suggestion, Kandersteg to Zermatt, is a great idea. The train from Kandersteg is one in which you put your car on the train. It's only 22 francs and it lets you out on the other side of the mountains about 30 - 40 minutes from Zermatt. We did this over the summer and it was very easy and fun! Then you can go south from there to Lake Geneva.

Posted by Les
Divide, Colorado, USA
78 posts

We really enjoyed the village of Gruyere. With the Alps for a backdrop, this cheese making village is jewel!

Posted by Les
Divide, Colorado, USA
78 posts

We really enjoyed the village of Gruyere. With the Alps for a backdrop, this cheese making village is jewel!

Posted by Anne Vallotton
Hanover
1 posts

We found Lake Geneva a great base. Lausanne a great place to visit. Trains are great as well as the boats to take around to small towns on both French and Swiss sides. If you do not visit any castles, deChillion is interesting but not a must see. We really loved Grindevald (must visit the Fondue at a local restaurant great fun and great fondue)and Lake Lugano for your consideration. Altitude is something to consider for your parents and their respiratory health when going up to highest peaks. Pulmonary issues are not to be taken lightly at those heights. Several in our group were in great shape in 50's and found going up to the Jungfrau a very difficult thing for heart and lungs.
We loved Lucern and did a walking tour of local churches especially moving with local guide, the tribute carving of the Lion in remembrance to Swiss Guard killed defending the Pope. Great weinersnitsel. Matterhorn was great and scenery going up great. Cog railway was nice. Glacier express is nice and scenery was very nice. But as Steve Ricks says our best times were in the smaller towns and trips on the boats to small towns on Lakes a great time and great food.