With inspiration from Miss Jemima and Mr. Bewes, I have laid out a trip in one of my favorite countries and all lodging is at altitude (mountain hotels) or off the beaten path. Be forewarned, the hotels are pricy.
NYC to Zurich: 8 hours non-stop flight
Zurich to Luzern: 50 minutes 0 changes
Lucern to Lake Brienz: 90 minutes 0 changes
Interlaken Ost to Kandersteg: 70 minutes 1 change at Spiez
Leukerbad to Zermatt: 30 minute bus ride to Leuk, 11 minutes Leuk to Visp, 70 minutes Visp to Zermatt
Zermat to Chur: 5 hours 0 change via the shortened Glacier Express.
Chur to Zurich Airport: 1 hour 40 minutes change at Zurich Main Station
While the price of the above legs may be less than the cost of a Swiss Pass, the Swiss Pass can be used on all trains, buses and boats in the System and also provides discounted travel on most Mountain conveyances and provides free access to over 400 museums. Biggest savings by buying a Swiss Pass is time and worry, no waiting for a ticket or wondering which ticket to get, get on a mode of transportation and off you go. Reservations are required for some travel.
Zurich Largest City in Switzerland, on a lake, lots of museums to chose from
- Swiss National Museum, next to the Main Train Station
- Succulent collection, [English version] on the lake, free entry
- Beyer Watch Museum & shop
- University of Zurich Botanical Garden
- Moulagen Museum, wax molds of diseased body parts
Luzern on Lake Luzern
- Glacier Garden, nearby is the famous Lion Statue.
- Swiss Museum of Transport
- Richard Wagner Museum
- Mount Pilatus, accessible via a cable car from Kriens or the steepest cog railway from Alpnachstad which runs May to November. A Silver Round trip ticket takes you from Luzern up to the top and back using both modes of transportation. The order you choose is up to you.
- Mount Rigi 1798m, more built up than Mt. Pilatus.
Brienz A pretty Swiss town on Lake Brienz
- Brienz Rothorn Mountain railway
- Wood carving Museum
- Giessbach Falls (11 minute boat ride from Brienz)
If the Rothorn Mountain Lodge is not to your liking, the Grand Hotel Giessbach [official site] might be the ticket. Don't expect to share a toilet here and while it is not really at altitude, I'm sure it has plenty of attitude. Rooms start at $210US per person per night, breakfast buffet included. Accessible by boat from Brienz, just 11 minutes and while you are here, you can also see the falls.
After visiting the Geissbach falls take the boat to Interlaken Ost and then the funicular to Harder Kulm (1322m/4337feet) for lunch at the Harder Kulm Panorama restaurant. The funicular is a short walk from the Interlaken Ost stations.
Another Mountain Hotel in the area, The Hotel Schynige Platte at 2076m/6811 feet is $250US a night for a double and includes 5 course dinner and breakfast buffet. There is also a restaurant and an Alpine Garden. Access to the hotel is from the Interlaken Ost station, using the Bernese Oberland Railway, changing at Wilderswil to the Schynige Platte Railway.
Kandersteg Lots of outdoorsy things to do around here.
This will not be the easiest day. After arriving in Kandersteg you could walk 20 minutes or take a bus to the Sunnbuel cable car. This takes you up to the pass. There is a restaurant there (Sunnbuel Mountain Restaurant) and our destination is an hour and a half walk from the top station of the cable car. The hotel is in the pass not on a mountain top but is still at 2061 meters/6761 feet. The Hotel Schwarenbach is $120US per person for a double which includes a 4 course dinner and breakfast. The next morning you need to walk about an hour and a half towards the Gemmipass Cable car. You will pass the Daubensee, a mountain lake in the pass and there is a cable car near the lake that will take you up to the cable car that will take you down to Leukerbad. There is a yet another restaurant and the Wildstrubel Mountain Hotel at the Gemmi-Leuker cable car top station. The village of Leukerbad at the lower station is the largest thermal spa resort in the alps. If you're a bit sore, you could take a soak there.
Zermatt Another outdoor paradise and Home of the Matterhorn
- Matterhorn Museum
- Gorner Gorge, 30 minute walk from the train station, signposted
- Main mountain areas
- Gornergrat 3089m
- Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, highest cable car station in Europe at 3883m
- Rothorn 3103m
- Sunnegga 2288m, the funicular up is inside the mountain, swimming in summer at Leisee
Riffelalp [site] 5 Star Hotel at 2222m/7290ft. Accessed via the Gornergrat Railway. Rooms start at $460US per night including breakfast
Riffelhaus [site] Located at 2500m/8202ft. Double Room rate of $315US includes 4 course dinner and breakfast. Access also via the Gornergrat Railway.
Gornergrat Hotel [site] Located at the top terminus of the Gornergrat railway at 3100m/10170ft. Rooms come with 4 course dinner and breakfast starting at $480US.
The Glacier Express continues on from here to St. Moritz arriving in 2 hours and there are even more bridges and aqueducts to cross if you were to continue. The city of Chur has many magnificent buildings and churches and a few museums.
- Chur's local mountain Brambruesch is a easy cable car ride from the city. There are mountain restaurants on top and some offer rooms.
- The railway to the Mountain village of Arosa at 1800m on the Rhaetian Railway takes an hour.
Swiss Army knives
Watches with complications