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Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

Commerce, Texas
Level Contributor
10 posts
Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

My husband and I are arriving in Zurich in the morning of 14 May for a 20 day stay. I have been reading the forum for several months now and understand that we will not be in country at an ideal time to see the high alps and ski towns. I would appreciate any help with planning an itinerary that would still allow us to see the beauty and experience the flavors that are unique to Switzerland. We are interested in the people and culture, especilly wine and cheese production, and the consumption of both. We also enjoy castles and historical sites. Naturally, the scenery is a major consideration as well. We would enjoy some easy hikes, but nothing too rugged since we are flatlanders.

We are condidering 4 or 5 bases staying at B and B's in different regions, using public transportaion to see the areas and travel from one to another.

I would appreciate some advice on areas we should not miss and areas we should avoid due to our dates of travel.

Thank you to all of those who give their time and expertise to assist fellow travelers.

Beck

Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage, Zermatt
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18,254 posts
9 reviews
1. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

Hi, you might want to spend some time reading on the Swiss Tourist Board website (in English)

www.myswitzerland.com

to get some ideas about the various regions of the country. I love the Valais (or Wallis in German) and the wines from there are fantastic. You might think about flying into Geneva, spending some days along the lake between Geneva and Montreux, visiting the wineries along the lake and between the lake and Visp. There is a terrific castle (Chillon) near Montreux as well. You could headquarter in Lausanne or Montreux and make day trips.

You might think about moving from there to Bern or that area and doing some day trips from Bern and then possbily to Lucerne or the area for a few days. Basel is a terrific small city and an easy day trip from Bern as well. Then move to Zurich for the last couple of days. I love Zurich and the food opportunities there are fantastic!

It will be easier to make day trips if you headquarter in the cities. You should think about a 30 day 1/2 fare card as it will save you a lot but give you flexibiility as well. There are good descriptions on www.ricksteves.com as to the passes and 1/2 fare cards. Several of us on here usually find the 1/2 fare card to be the least expensive way to travel in Switzerland - it's about 100 francs (I hear it's going up to 110 for2011) and then you get all your transportation for 1/2.

Hope ths helps you to get started and I'm sure others will post with more ideas! Have fun planning!

Commerce, Texas
Level Contributor
10 posts
2. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

Thanks for your input. I have explored the rail/fare options and am wavering between the half fare card and the full on Swiss Pass depending on our ultimate itinerary and the premium we might place on the convenience of not having to stop at a ticket machine for each jaunt.

I have explored the Swiss Travel site, which has some good information. Do you or your helpful comrades have any hints on specific cheese makers and vineyards? Any castles off the beaten path? We intend to see Chillion/Montreaux, but I do not want to spend a great deal of time there as my husband has been there many times before. This is my first visit to Switzerland, so we are trying to compromise on the sites.

I should mention that we are not necessarily interested in seeing the typical tourist sites. We would much prefer to get a good view of this beautiful country and do not mind spending time on a train with a picnic watching the scenery. Train travel is such a unique experience for us, that we do not mind letting someone else do the driving ;-)

St. Moritz...
Destination Expert
for St. Moritz, Engadin St. Moritz
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4,878 posts
444 reviews
3. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

The lower parts or the Engadin valley as well as the collateral valleys have some very good local cheeses, mainly alp cheeses, produced during summer when the cows are on the alps and have been feeding on the healthy variety of alpine plants. The cheese then matures and is sold during the year. Each grocery store here has a vaste choice of this locally produced cheese, but probably the largest is the cheese shop in Pontresina. There is also an alp cheese factory, but unfortunately it opens only in July. Otherwise, June is a nice and calm time in the Engadin valley, not crowded and with the start of the colorful summer flora, but not everythink open for the season.

As for very good wine have a look at the "Bündner Herrschaft", rather off-the-beaten track as most people pass through on their way to the mountains. There are small villages like Malans and Maienfeld and you can visit the wineries and stay in the traditiobnal old hotels - basic but perfectly additing to the mood of the area and mostly with good restaurants with local fare. In May/June, this is the time of the asparagus harvest. Some restaurants have their own production and harvest just what they serve that day, you could not get it more fresh and believe me, it makes a difference. Try it with the local dried ham (Bündner Rohschinken) and a good glass of Federweiser or Blauburgunder. Those wineries are mostly family affairs with a small production and they care for their wines as if it where family members. It's called "Der erste Wein am Rhein", thus the first wine along the river Rhine. The area gets warm winds called Foehn during the time the grapes are maturing and this - together with the special soil in the area and the sun-exposed wineyards along the hillside - gives the special strong wine. May is a perfect time in this lovely area.

Commerce, Texas
Level Contributor
10 posts
4. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

This information is a big help! I did not know if the Engadin was an area to avoid in May, so your suggestions have persuaded me to include it on our visit. Thank you.

St. Moritz...
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for St. Moritz, Engadin St. Moritz
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4,878 posts
444 reviews
5. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

While the Bündner Herrschaft is perfect in May, beginning June, for the Engadin valley it is certainly not ideal in May, specially first half, if you look for entertainment, going out, night life etc, as most hotels, restaurants, cablecars, museums and shops close after the winter season, which is long this year with a late Easter, then reopen for the summer season only. Means also the people living there are mostly gone during the school holidays. But there is always something open (there is a list with everything open available usually) and it's quiet and not hurried this time of year and prizes are very good then. And the nature End of May is awakening for the summer. June is the best you can get re alpine flora. You could e.g. also include a trip on the Bernina train - if you want interrupting at Bernina Diavolezza for a side-trip up to Diavolezza for the splendid panorama (it's open in May as well) or a short walk towards the glacier at Morteratsch - and travel down to Poschiavo, the Italian speaking and influenced alpine valley. Poschiavo is a nice place in spring, with street coffees and with some important wine cellars. Poschiavo families are among the producers in the Valtellina valley in Italy and their cellars are open to public, some of them only upon appointment. It's a wine you should taste with the local, alpine specialities here, it adapts very well with them. Poschiavo has a good choice of cheeses as well. If you choose a hotel participating in the Public Transport included package, this would be a great value even in May, as the Bernina train would be included as far as Alp Grüm, so should you consider the Engadin valley, make sure you check this opportunity.

Commerce, Texas
Level Contributor
10 posts
6. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

Thanks for the clarification on the Bunder Herrschaft and the Endagin Valley. We do want to take the train to Poschiavo and maybe overnight there, but I will look into spending several nights in the Bunder Herrschaft.

St. Moritz...
Destination Expert
for St. Moritz, Engadin St. Moritz
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4,878 posts
444 reviews
7. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

The website for Poschiavo is www.valposchiavo.ch. When selecting a hotel, make sure it's in Poschiavo, as the site covers the whole valley and some of the accomodations are far from the center. If you want an ancient palazzo from the 17th century, have a look at the Albrici. Central hotels with a good comfort are also Croce Bianca and Suisse. As for wineries, you will find them walking through the village or plan to visit the La Gatta winery in Bianzone (owner is Triacca www.triacca.ch)

For hotels with an own wine production in the Bündner Herrschaft or the Heidiland area, have a look at Hotel Gräppland, situated in a wineyard, or the traditional, romantic Hotel Krone in Malans with an excellent menu together with thei own wine (try the Federweiser there). For a special meal, have a look at the Schloss Brandis in Maienfeld, either in the garden when it's warm enough, otherwise in the hall of knights in the castle. It's some years that I have been there, but I heard it's still special. As a winery, visit Schloss Salenegg, another old castle in Maienfeld.

London
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8,329 posts
98 reviews
8. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

20 days is a lovely long trip! Although I'm not much of a wine person, I do love the famous Lavaux vineyards above Lake Geneva. There are many nice walks to be done and beautiful views across the lake to the mountains.

Sadly in May, some of my favourite mountain cafes won't be open to sample cheese, but Spring should be well under way in the prealps above Lake Geneva and there is lots of lovely walking and picnicking opportunities (up to an altitude of 2000m so ideal for less experienced hikers). Let me know if you end up choosing to spend any time in this part of Switzerland and I'll point you in the direction of some non-touristy walks. An ideal base for vineyards and access up into the local mountains would be Vevey by Lake Geneva. There is plenty of good public transport you can sample in the area (narrow gauge, cog railways, funiculars, cable car, mountain buses).

Of course, year round, you can enjoy the demonstration cheese dairy in Gruyeres - touristy, yes, but still interesting and you get a free packet of Gruyeres at the end.

Commerce, Texas
Level Contributor
10 posts
9. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

Thank you to Kileysmom, Engadiner and NWL for your thoughts. We have decided on the following itin based on your recommendations and the train routes.

Arrival Zurich- directly to Montreux Area for 3 nights

Bern Area- 5 nights

Luzern Area 3 nights

Appenzell Area-3 nights

Bad Ragaz Area- 3 nights

Poschiavo- 2 nights

Zurich- 1 night

We are now looking for accommodation using B and B Switzerland.

Cheers,

Beck

Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage, Zermatt
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9 reviews
10. Re: Please help w/ itinerary in Switzerland 14 May to 3 June

Your trip sounds wonderful! Have a great time and if we can help between now and then, please let us know.