For Indians and millions across the globe Switzerland is the dream vacation destination. As an Indian, I grew up watching many of the Bollywood movies shot in beautiful Swiss Alps. Indian cinema’s evergreen hero Dev Anand’s song “Phoolon Ke Rang Se” was my 1st introduction to this paradise on earth. There was one more big occasion for me and my wife; which is 9th marriage anniversary. We decided to do 10 days long trip in this country. Below are the learnings,findings & tips which will help you in optimizing itinerary.
What to do, how to plan, where to start ?
We started with clean slate almost 2 months before trip date, with just one info that Swiss is super costly. Googling has shown thousands of options to explore, to-do in Swiss and looking at tripadvisor has added to our confusion.
One thing was confirmed that we wanted to do all the panoramic trains in Swiss. ( Apologies for using word Swiss instead of Switzerland; as it’s actually currency name and not country name but with Indians; Swiss word is everything chocolate, country, currency, bollywood songs shot in majestic landscape )
As our entry and exit point was Zürich, we started planning itinerary accordingly. As train journey was on main focus, we found the link about grand train tour of Switzerland & from there our itinerary planning had started. Also thanks to active members on tripadvisor; we started getting good pointers ( but you need to be patient to go through hundreds of posts to fetch necessary info ). 2 prominent places stood out namely Luzern and Interlaken.
Next question was how many days to spend at each place, again we took help from tripadvisor forums posts and decided 2 days in Luzern, 4 days in Interlaken, remaining 4 days for Panoramic trains journey.
We’ve observed that majority of tourists do nature related activities like mountain, forest hiking, biking, lake ride and other sports like paragliding etc hardly anyone wastes time in visiting town or cities. We decided to do more nature seeing activities as well.
Below are the categorizes to find related info quickly
- Panoramic Trains
- Lake Tours
- Day Trips
- Useful Links
Not to be missed are Glacier Express, Bernina Express
3) If you’ve more time do GoldenPass Line, Voralpen Express
( Please mark tripadvisor posts as helpful if you like it )
Except Glacier & Bernina express, other trains you can get down at any random station to take best shots of sweet alpine villages, old style bungalows, cows, green and snow clad mountains.
During GoldenPass Line train tour, we could visit a typical swiss farm. There we met a farmer who gave tons of info about alps farming, cows going to alps in summer months, significance of different sizes of cow bells, organic farming importance, affect of global warming during winter, how he is much happier there and wants young generation to stay close to nature etc.
Swiss has got plenty of must see mountains but you should only visit if there is Blue sky. Otherwise you end up wasting time and money.
We met an Indian family who went to Jungfraunjoch even when there was heavy snow and fog. You can’t enjoy majestic views from top of mountain if weather is bad. No point going on top even though it’s popular & everyone suggest to do.
During our 10 days of stay, we also had 2 days of bad weather. We had experienced bad weather during Mt. Rigi and partial good weather during Mt. Pilatus visits.
Mountains near to Luzern
- Mt. Rigi, Mt. Pilatus ( 1 day both or each 1 day with hiking, biking activities )
- Mt. Titlis
( Please mark tripadvisor posts as helpful if you like it )
Mountains near to Interlaken
- Jungfraujoch ( http://www.myswissalps.com/jungfraujoch/gettingthere )
Check the weather before going , no need to book in advance
Refer to 08.28.2016 day plan
Our recommendation is that lake tour is must to-do, get down in between villages to take picture, enjoy nature or take cable car in that particular stop.
Lake tour is preferable to be done when weather is good but also when there is bad weather ( like we had for couple of days ) jump onto a boat and enjoy scenic blue water journey, alps mountains, swiss houses.
– Lake Brienz Cruise –
– Lake Thun Cruise
– Zug villeage, Engelberg, Küssnacht am Rigi
– https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g188064-i573-k10211553-A_couple_days_in_Switzerland_Lucerne_End_of_March-Lucerne.html ( Refer to Top questions about Lucerne )
– http://www.luzern.com/en/excursions-and-resorts/excursions ( Excusions near Lucerne )
– http://www.luzern.com/en/mountain-dairy-farm-aschwanden ( Mountain Cheese Factory near Lucerne )
– Beatenberg + Niederhorn
– steam train Brienz–Rothorn
– Schynige Platte , Harderkulm , Heimwehflue,
- From above info you can notice Interlaken has got more options to explore and enjoy nature if you make it as base.
- Either do Interlaken or Luzern as base and explore nearby regions. Otherwise you end up in train journey in between these 2 cities, which is almost 2 hrs one way.
- Swiss Travel Pass ( https://www.swiss-pass.ch/ )
– STP is best option if you’ve planned lots of train journey and region exploration.
– It will save money for sure. You need to do per day travel cost calculation and find out how many days STP you want to buy.
– e.g. In our case it was 10 days tour, we bought 15 days STP. We used it extensively for Panoramic trains, boat tours, mountain, multiple journeys, open air museum visit
- https://www.raileurope.com/promotions/grand-train-tour-of-switzerland-itinerary-1.html ( this was our starting point to plan itinerary )
- www.myswitzerland.com ( Swiss tourism website – to check for cow farm )
- http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/swiss-chocolate-train.html ( Montreaux )
- http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html ( Train Search )
Install sbb app on your mobile, it helps a lot to get realtime train data
- https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g188045-i336-Switzerland.html ( Top Questions About Swiss )
Refer to most scenic train routes
- https://www.raileurope.com/en/activities/switzerland/interlaken/ ( various activities ideas )
( Swiss Travel pass and other info related to special trains )
1. Do not waste time in cities, they look same like any other European city.
2. As you’ve spent lots of money to visit Swiss, do as much nature exploration tours as possible
3. If you’re on budget or short of time don’t waste time going to restaurant. Buy nice & fresh fruits, sandwiches, other healthy snack items from super market like Coop. This has saved lots of money & time for us.
4. Refill water from fountains
5. Keep alternate plans ready for bad weather day if any
6. Check google map for cheaper hostels which are not listed with booking.com
7. Last couple of tips, choosing places to visit in Swiss is like going to a chocolate shop or toy shop for a kid. You will surely get lost & super confused.
8. From our experience we would suggest to visit central swiss than French or Italian speaking southern part ( except for Glacier, Bernina Express tours ) which is less beautiful compared to Luzern and Interlaken regions. Landscape is simply awesome & breathtaking in central and northern part.