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8-Night Swiss Itinerary - Help Needed - Oct. 2019 via JFK>GVA>ZRH>JFK

8-Night Swiss Itinerary - Help Needed - Oct. 2019 via JFK>GVA>ZRH>JFK

Old Feb 27, 19, 7:57 pm
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Post 8-Night Swiss Itinerary - Help Needed - Oct. 2019 via JFK>GVA>ZRH>JFK

So as the title suggests I'm here looking for some help, suggestions and past experiences for a very special 10th Anniversary trip to Switzerland later this year (Oct. 2019). First time for us, and only second time traveling to Europe in general (AMS was our first in 2010) so mass transit, logistics and Swiss destination experts will be GREATLY appreciated.

Things have started off pretty good so far, as I was able to snag direct flights in Swiss Business Class for my wife and I, booked with United miles from JFK to GVA, and returning ZRH to JFK. I redeemed 280K miles for the flights which are currently pricing out at about $5800! As with all reward travel, piecing together a solid set of flights, non-stop AND in business class is not usually an easy task for anything besides last minute travel, and it took a few hours of trial, error and calendar surfing for sure!

Now onto the next challenge....an itinerary to make the best of our 8-nights in a foreign land.

So to start, I've put in more than a few hours (probably pushing 12+) reading comments, itineraries, travel blogs and watching YouTube videos of attractions while compiling our own "must-see" Swiss list. We are leaning towards a diverse cross-county experience full of mountain adventures, quaint Swiss villages, castles, lakes and culture, while trying to eliminate excessive train travel, route backtracking, typical tourist traps or out of the way sights (like Chamonix via Geneva ). I'm also starting to favor an extended base in Zermatt over splitting our time between Zermatt and the Jungfraujoch region.... because, well.... if you are going to see mountains go big or go home right?

Draft Base/Train Itinerary:
  • First Day: Arrive Geneva (GVA) Airport (~9am) - Stay 1-Night in Geneva to relax, explore the city, museums, and Lake Geneva area.
  • Base 1: Depart Geneva for Montreux - Stay 2-Nights - Explore with day trips to the Chateau de Chillon, Castle of Gruyeres, La Maison du Gruyere, Maison Cailler Chocolaterie
  • Base 2: Depart Montreux for Zermatt - Stay 3-Nights - Explore the village with day trips to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and Mt. Gornergrat (extra buffer time in case of bad weather)
  • Base 3: Depart Zermatt for Lucerne (via partial Golden Pass Line) - Stay 2-Nights - Explore with day trips to Mount Pilatus OR Mt Rigi, Chapel Bridge, Swiss Museum of Transport, Lake Lucerne area.
  • Last Day: Depart Lucerne for Zurich (ZRH) Airport early AM (~1pm flight back home).
Current Itinerary Questions:
  1. Is it worth giving up the first night in Geneva for an extra one in another base listed or on the way?
  2. Should the Montreux/Zermatt "home base" order be switched to accommodate a full Golden Pass trip from Montreux to Lucerne or not missing much?
  3. Any "Must-See" Swiss sights that would help round out our trip?
  4. How am I doing? I feel like I'm getting somewhere...just not sure if it's good or bad yet, but I'm kinda OCD so this will continue for some time I'm sure haha
Always open to comments/suggestions..... Thank You all in advance!

Last edited by Tony300S; Feb 28, 19 at 6:31 am Reason: Typo Corrections
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Old Feb 27, 19, 11:17 pm
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The most important thing to factor into your itns is WEATHER. The Swiss trains are punctual and frequent, so interchanging days/trips if bad weather occurs should be considered.
I vote for the FULL GP route: Montreux to Zweisimmen to Interlaken Ost to Luzern. A few of the trains on the M-Z section have VIP seats (extra price and a reservation is required) but the motorman sits above the front seats and you see the (spectacular scenery!) up front.
The boat* from Luzern to Vitznau to take the Cog Railway to Rigi Kulm, but return via Arth-Goldau; take (non-tunnel) route south to Goschenen spiraling around the (famous!) Wassen Church is nice, especially if you just observed the model railway of that route in the Transport Museum in Luzern.
Zermat as well as Interlaken are super touristy, but the scenery in Zermat is worth a day.
Don't try to do too much, jet lag + general city exploring can be exhausting. Assuming you will return to Switz. in the future, if you have good weather make the most of it, you can always see "indoor stuff" when its raining.
*The boat from Luzern makes a stop at the Transport Museum on the way to Vitznau.
Have a spectacular trip.
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Old Feb 28, 19, 7:06 am
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Originally Posted by nrr View Post
The most important thing to factor into your itns is WEATHER. The Swiss trains are punctual and frequent, so interchanging days/trips if bad weather occurs should be considered.
I vote for the FULL GP route: Montreux to Zweisimmen to Interlaken Ost to Luzern. A few of the trains on the M-Z section have VIP seats (extra price and a reservation is required) but the motorman sits above the front seats and you see the (spectacular scenery!) up front.
The boat* from Luzern to Vitznau to take the Cog Railway to Rigi Kulm, but return via Arth-Goldau; take (non-tunnel) route south to Goschenen spiraling around the (famous!) Wassen Church is nice, especially if you just observed the model railway of that route in the Transport Museum in Luzern.
Zermat as well as Interlaken are super touristy, but the scenery in Zermat is worth a day.
Don't try to do too much, jet lag + general city exploring can be exhausting. Assuming you will return to Switz. in the future, if you have good weather make the most of it, you can always see "indoor stuff" when its raining.
*The boat from Luzern makes a stop at the Transport Museum on the way to Vitznau.
Have a spectacular trip.
Thanks for the response @nrr !

For sure we will be watching the weather closely before venturing up for any of the mountain adventures, and hopefully having the few extra days in Zermatt and Lucerne will help us out in regard to that. Any weather app or website you recommend?

By the way there was a typo between my base 2/3 routes (now corrected), but I see you prefer the later option to get the most out of the GP route. So Base 1 would be Zermatt and Base 2: Montreux, Base 3: Lucern. 2 to 3 via full GP route.

I'll also look into the VIP seat option on those GP sections as well... How soon ahead of the trip would that be available to me? Would I be reserving a seat at the same time as my full STP purchase?

And thanks for the Lake Lucerne tips/trips as well... Rigi over Pilatus in your opinion? Worth doing both if time allows?
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Old Feb 28, 19, 7:29 am
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Originally Posted by Tony300S View Post
Thanks for the response @nrr !

For sure we will be watching the weather closely before venturing up for any of the mountain adventures, and hopefully having the few extra days in Zermatt and Lucerne will help us out in regard to that. Any weather app or website you recommend?

By the way there was a typo between my base 2/3 routes (now corrected), but I see you prefer the later option to get the most out of the GP route. So Base 1 would be Zermatt and Base 2: Montreux, Base 3: Lucern. 2 to 3 via full GP route.

I'll also look into the VIP seat option on those GP sections as well... How soon ahead of the trip would that be available to me? Would I be reserving a seat at the same time as my full STP purchase?

And thanks for the Lake Lucerne tips/trips as well... Rigi over Pilatus in your opinion? Worth doing both if time allows?
The STP is purchased from SBB or another agency. To reserve VIP, you would use MOB at GoldenPass two trains/day have them, I'm not sure of how far in advance, go to that site "experiment"!
Another option: if you go to Goshenen you can take a train to Andermatt and then to Brig, but going north via Lotschberg Pass instead of the tunnel, very nice scenery.
Re weather, I go to Switz. often and any of the weather sites NEVER seem to be accurate.
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Old Feb 28, 19, 3:25 pm
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Pilatus is more 'mountainous'; Rigi has more green. Both are gorgeous if the weather is clear. Personally I like Rigi for walks/hiking (not steep mountain paths). Don't miss the Rigi Kulm-Rigi Kaltbad-Rigi First-Felsenweg path which is amazing.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 2:13 am
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Originally Posted by Tony300S View Post
Now onto the next challenge....an itinerary to make the best of our 8-nights in a foreign land.
Just a few suggestions to consider. Switzerland is so awesome that an 8 night trip really isn't enough to see everything.

I did a 9-night trip from Geneva --> Zermatt --> Jungfrau (and like 1/2 a day in Zurich before flying home).
- At Geneva I did a day trip to Annecy before moving on to the mountains. It was nice, and did provide a little variety to the trip other than just peaks and snow.
- Day tripping to Chamonix is also fun. Also has an ice cave to walk around in if you don't plan to go Jungfrau.
- If I had to choose between Zermatt and Jungfrau I would probably choose Jungfrau (even though you have to give up the iconic Matterhorn). Jungfraujoch is an amazingly polished tourist experience, and if the weather doesn't co-operate you can easily daytrip to Bern, etc.
- At the risk of sounding like a broken record, weather forecasts (even as up to date as the night before) are worthless in the mountains, you really have to just open your window and look up in the morning.

Anyway shameless plug to my own youtube video

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Old Mar 1, 19, 7:02 am
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Originally Posted by shuigao View Post
Just a few suggestions to consider. Switzerland is so awesome that an 8 night trip really isn't enough to see everything.

I did a 9-night trip from Geneva --> Zermatt --> Jungfrau (and like 1/2 a day in Zurich before flying home).
- At Geneva I did a day trip to Annecy before moving on to the mountains. It was nice, and did provide a little variety to the trip other than just peaks and snow.
- Day tripping to Chamonix is also fun. Also has an ice cave to walk around in if you don't plan to go Jungfrau.
- If I had to choose between Zermatt and Jungfrau I would probably choose Jungfrau (even though you have to give up the iconic Matterhorn). Jungfraujoch is an amazingly polished tourist experience, and if the weather doesn't co-operate you can easily daytrip to Bern, etc.
- At the risk of sounding like a broken record, weather forecasts (even as up to date as the night before) are worthless in the mountains, you really have to just open your window and look up in the morning.

Anyway shameless plug to my own youtube video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otXOMWfHFEg
Thanks for the reply @shuigao

Oh I realize 8-Nights will never be enough, but like any trip I guess we can only make the best of it! Your video is great by the way... it's something to consider doing for sure.

Couple of questions for you...
  1. So when did you travel exactly in the Summer of 18'? Weather looked like an ideal mix of green and warm enough down low while nice and wintry in the peaks.
  2. How many different bases did you spend nights at? Looks like you did a lot more stops than we're considering.
  3. Did you do a guided tour to Chamonix from Geneva? If so would you recommend them? Still considering this trip for a little different culture and variety. Problem being that all of the tours I have see leave early morning from Geneva which mean it would have to be Day-2 for us since we come in later than they leave and then transfer to our next base late in the day.
  4. The Zermatt and Jungfrau option is a tough one and if you read 100 reviews they seem to be split passionately 50/50... I think I'm sticking with "go BIG or go home" Zermatt on this one, but not set on how many nights especially IF we do Chamonix prior.
  5. Any stop or sight you regret spending the time on or maybe one you wish you spent more time?
Thanks!
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Old Mar 1, 19, 7:38 pm
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I did a very similar trip this past summer but slightly longer (GVA for 2 nights, Montreux for 3 nights, Zermatt for 5 nights). Whether Zermatt is as enjoyable as you hope is really going to come down to weather. We got lucky and had only 1 really rainy day the entire time we were there. Montreux is gorgeous but I also found it to be a bit of a sleepy town. I wouldn't have minded more time in Geneva, but it was definitely the right place to start out and get the jetlag done with.
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Old Mar 2, 19, 8:06 am
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Originally Posted by Tony300S View Post
Couple of questions for you...
  1. So when did you travel exactly in the Summer of 18'? Weather looked like an ideal mix of green and warm enough down low while nice and wintry in the peaks.
  2. How many different bases did you spend nights at? Looks like you did a lot more stops than we're considering.
  3. Did you do a guided tour to Chamonix from Geneva? If so would you recommend them? Still considering this trip for a little different culture and variety. Problem being that all of the tours I have see leave early morning from Geneva which mean it would have to be Day-2 for us since we come in later than they leave and then transfer to our next base late in the day.
  4. The Zermatt and Jungfrau option is a tough one and if you read 100 reviews they seem to be split passionately 50/50... I think I'm sticking with "go BIG or go home" Zermatt on this one, but not set on how many nights especially IF we do Chamonix prior.
  5. Any stop or sight you regret spending the time on or maybe one you wish you spent more time?
1. 15-25 August. It really was quite warm in Geneva and Annecy, but cool and pleasant everywhere else (especially in the mountains).
2. I did 3 nights Geneva (day trips to Annecy and Chamonix), 1 night Zermatt (in hindsight I should have spent more nights here), 4 nights Wengen, 1 night Mt Rigi)
3. No, I just DIY'ed. Took Alpybus shared transfer from Geneva to Chamonix, then just explored Chamonix on my own.
5. If I could go back in time, I would have cut Chamonix from the itinerary, and spent maybe an extra day in Zermatt.
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Old Mar 2, 19, 3:41 pm
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Update #1
  1. First, due to a few of the longer train rides proposed, (per route update below) I'm now leaning towards only 3 overnight/base locations to make hotel switches less stressful as well as adding the extra night saved in Geneva to our time in Lucerne (or nearby) to explore in more depth.
  2. Next, proposing the Montreux stay between Zermatt and Lucerne to break up the mountain adventures and also because it would be the starting point of the planned full GP route to Lucern.
  3. Lastly, cutting Chamonix from this trip due to location, time of year/closures and forum recommendations.
Base/Train Itinerary:
  • Base/Day 1: Depart Geneva (GVA) Airport approx. 9am for Zermatt - Stay 3-Nights - Relax & Unwind, explore the village with day trips to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and Mt. Gornergrat + possible Helicopter Tour.
  • Base 2: Depart Zermatt for Montreux - Stay 2-Nights - Explore with day trips to the Chateau de Chillon, Castle of Gruyeres, La Maison du Gruyere, Maison Cailler Chocolaterie + possible Geneva sights.
  • Base 3: Depart Montreux via MOB Full Golden Pass Line route for Lucerne - Stay 3-Nights - Explore Mt. Pilatus via round-trip route (Alpnachstad>Pilatus>Kriens) , Mt. Rigi via round trip (Vitznau>Rigi Kulm>Arth Goldau), possible mountain trail hikes, Chapel Bridge, Swiss Museum of Transport, Swiss Knife Valley, Fort Vitznau.
  • Last Day: Depart Lucerne for Zurich (ZRH) Airport approx. 9am for our 1pm flight back home.
HELP w/ Train Passes: So just surfing the SBB train timetables and costs, I don't see how our proposed trips could ever add up to near the cost of the STP 8-Day. With the super-saver option on some of these routes I'm not even adding up to half the STP.
  1. Am I missing something here?
  2. Could the 50% off the mountain passes/trams be that valuable?
  3. I do understand that not needing a ticket for each trip is convenient with the STP, but at twice the cost?
  4. Can anyone advise based on our proposed itinerary would would work best?
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Old Mar 3, 19, 3:34 am
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Originally Posted by Tony300S View Post
So just surfing the SBB train timetables and costs, I don't see how our proposed trips could ever add up to near the cost of the STP 8-Day. With the super-saver option on some of these routes I'm not even adding up to half the STP.
It's not an uncommon conclusion that the STP isn't worth it from a costs perspective. For my trip I reached the same conclusion and therefore went for the half-fare card instead. My math:


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Old Mar 3, 19, 12:28 pm
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Based on your 398.00 (it has gone up slightly for 2019) you will be riding in 2nd class. SBB sells 2nd class SAVER DAY CARDS for as little as 29.00 (valid for most of Switz.--but not expensive mountain railways like Jungfrau, Gornergrat), these can be purchased as early as 2 months before your travel date, you must be in possession of a half fare card on the day of travel (not day of purchase), the price varies but usually is < 49.00. https://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-an...-day-pass.html see more details here.
PS: Saver Day Cards are valid for most local transportation throughout Switz.
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Old Mar 4, 19, 9:17 am
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Originally Posted by shuigao View Post
It's not an uncommon conclusion that the STP isn't worth it from a costs perspective. For my trip I reached the same conclusion and therefore went for the half-fare card instead. My math:

Started my own itinerary calculations (now with better understanding of the SBB 1/2 fare pricing) and I'm in about the same situation as you were, give or take approx. 100-110 CHF LESS with the Half-Fare Card vs. 8-Day STP.
  1. For the STP premium you basically get to hop on/off ANY regular train/boat/bus at ANY time included, FREE museums, and 50% off on the mountain pass routes/lifts (except 25% at Jungfrau) so you just show your STP and pay the difference, correct?
  2. The STP seems to be a printed "hard copy" only, correct? No digital/app version available?
  3. If you did it again, would the STP premium be worth it vs. the hassle of ticketing each route and segment?
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Old Mar 4, 19, 10:55 am
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> Fort Vitznau.

YES!!! Dress warm.

You may already know this, but the tour is offered only Fridays at 5pm unless you book a private tour.
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Old Mar 4, 19, 11:20 am
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Originally Posted by Tony300S View Post
Started my own itinerary calculations (now with better understanding of the SBB 1/2 fare pricing) and I'm in about the same situation as you were, give or take approx. 100-110 CHF LESS with the Half-Fare Card vs. 8-Day STP.
  1. For the STP premium you basically get to hop on/off ANY regular train/boat/bus at ANY time included, FREE museums, and 50% off on the mountain pass routes/lifts (except 25% at Jungfrau) so you just show your STP and pay the difference, correct?
  2. The STP seems to be a printed "hard copy" only, correct? No digital/app version available?
  3. If you did it again, would the STP premium be worth it vs. the hassle of ticketing each route and segment?
With DAY CARDS, STP and similar items the ability to make changes at the last minute is a super + for them: you planned to take a trip from A to B, your hotel shuttle was delayed (or you overslept) and you arrive at the train station to find that the A-B train left (next one is 30 minutes later) but the very scenic route A-C is just about to depart--with a pass, you just board and GO.
PS: Not often, but even SBB cancels trains, with point to point tickets you would take the next train (possibly) an hour later...
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