Day 1 - Geneva to Kandersteg
We arrived in Geneva via a connection through Montreal. We read about cows with bells when reading about Switzerland. We were so excited to be greeted by some as soon as we got off the plane!
We kept hearing that the Swiss Rail system is the best way to see Switzerland so we forgo a car, and instead bought first class rail passes. It was so easy! There were signs to the train all over the airport. We took a 2.5 hour train trip to Brig, had a 4 minute connection, and then took the train to Kandersteg - our home for the next five days. Trains run like clockwork!
Finally made it to Kandersteg. Time for a drink and lunch and then a nap! It was a long travel day.
Our home for the next five days.
Day 2 - Kandersteg and Allmenalp Hike
I slept until 8am! I can’t remember the last time I slept in so late Today we tackled our first hike. We decided to do start easy so we did a 13.5km hike that was mostly on a paved path.
So this is the Allmenalp cable car. There is only one. It is a 2km hike from the village. The car can hold 8 people. We got lucky that it was just about to go up when we got to it so we didn’t have to wait. It was about a 5 minute ride to the top. I wish I had taken pictures, but I was standing and had to hold on to keep my balance. It goes up by scaling the mountain so at times it’s almost perpendicular to the rock. It’s pretty intense.
This is at the top just after we got off. There is no operator at the top. You just open the door to get out. We hiked back down, so we didn’t experience the ride in reverse. It is self operated though. When you’re ready to go down, you wait for someone to come up, go back into the gondola and then push a button to start the descent.
We were greeted with cows with bells as soon as we got off the Allmenalp gondola!
The Swiss Alps are a hikers' paradise. Not only are the mountains challenging, the vistas beautiful, but all the trails are so well marked that you are never worried about getting lost.
The views are magnificent. I couldn’t take enough pictures. That’s Kandersteg at the bottom. Our hike took us around the mountain and back down to the village.
After an exhilarating first day, we unwound and enjoyed the view from our hotel balcony before heading to the village for dinner. Kandersteg is exactly how I imagined a Swiss village. It is full of adorable houses, wonderful restaurants specializing in local cuisines and cute little stores and is totally enveloped by the mountains. Our first day ended watching the sunset from our balcony.
Day 3 - Kandersteg / Oeschinensee
Kandersteg is in the middle of a mountain range. To get here, the train travels 14 kms through the mountain in a tunnel.
Today’s hike, although not much longer than yesterday’s, was much tougher, though not as hard as ones we have done in Lake Louise, AB or Whistler, BC. As much as I love the Canadian Rockies, the mountains here are even more awe inspiring.
We took a gondola up the mountain and did a very long and steep climb to get an overhead view of Lake Oeschinensee. Then we hiked down to the lake, had lunch lakeside before hiking down the mountain to the village and then to our hotel.
The Lake area at the top of the mountain is so beautiful that we decided to spend the afternoon there tomorrow after a morning hike.
Today’s step count: 32,745
Unlike yesterday’s gondola, this is a much bigger operation.
The Gondola took us about a third of the way to the top. Our hike took us almost to the peak, before coming back down to the lake which is about about 1.5 km from where the gondola drops you off at the top. There is a more direct and flat route to the lake, as well as a shuttle between the lake and the gondola, but we took the very long and at times challenging scenic route.
This is our first full view of the lake.
The terrain during the hike changed frequently from lush and green to stark and steep.
We of course found lots of cows with bells along the way.
One of the fun things about all these hikes in Switzerland is that most have at least one little restaurant somewhere along the way that sells snacks and drinks.
After about 90 minutes of going downhill we made it back to the lake and time for a late lunch.
After lunch we decided to skip the gondola and instead hiked back down to Kandersteg for a quick rest before heading out to dinner.
Day 4 - Kandersteg / Blausee / Oeschinensee
Today was a slower paced day. We started the day with a 5.4km walk to Blausee Nature Park. The walk was pleasant, but not overly exciting. We were on a paved path the whole way with the occasional descent. We were told Blausee was very picturesque. It was ok. It’s essentially a small organic trout farm with a pretty pond. We stayed about 45 minutes and then took a bus back to Kandersteg. We could have walked, but we were looking forward to spending a few hours at Oeschinensee Lake.
After a pit stop at our hotel to change out of our hiking gear (which in the end, we really didn’t need for today’s walk), we walked back to the same gondola we took yesterday and went back up the mountain.
It is just under 2kms from where the gondola drops you off to the lake.
Today’s steps: 26,888
We really love it up here.
We enjoyed a few hours by the lake. We rented paddle boats, played in the water and pet some cows before having lunch in yesterday's restaurant with a lake view.
What better way to end our day than eating fondue on an outdoor patio with the view of mountains.
Day 5 - Kandersteg / The Gasterntal & The Kanderfirn Glacier
Reinders 3 - Switzerland 1
Today’s hike kicked our butts.
To get to the Gasterntal Valley we took a crazy bus ride up a mountain with twist and turns that were insane. I tried to capture it on video but it doesn’t do the tightness of the road - which is be the way a two-way road with rock on one side a sudden death on the other - justice. The bus driver does this 26 minute drive back and forth between Kandersteg and Selden every hour between 8am and 6pm.
The hike started relatively easy and the views of the enclosing mountains were spectacular. At about the 3.5km mark we had to start making our way across boulders. After about 1km, we started the steep part of the ascent. This was by far the hardest ascent we have ever tackled. Some parts required climbing with metal rods bolted into the stone to hold and hoist yourself up, other parts had metal chains along the sides to help you keep your footing as your are climbing loose stones and there were also sections with metal ladders bolted into the rock. I made it to the 6km mark, past the ladder and then started panicking about how on the hell i was going to get back down. Going up was physically challenging, but going down was very scary. We over a km to get to the glacier but I couldn’t do it. I found a boulder in the shade at gave up. Frank kept going about 30 minutes then came back. He said the difficulty kept increasing and he couldn’t tell how far there was left to go. We had to turn back because if we missed our reserved bus, we would have to walk back to Kandersteg which was another 8kms downhill past the start of the hike.
The descent was terrifying until I got to the boulders. I actually did a fair chunk on my bum inching my way down. Once we got to boulders it was still a descent, but nowhere as steep.
This was shorter than our other two hikes, but this mountain beat us. Well me anyway. At least it beat me because I was scared, not because I physically couldn’t do it. Frank thinks if we didn’t have to worry about making the bus, he could have made it to the glacier.
We will need a return trip to Kandersteg one day to make it to the glacier lol
This is was our last night in the village. We had an amazing time. Now onto the , but we were looking forward to the next part of our Swiss adventure.
Day 6 - Bye Bye Kandersteg, Hello Luzern and Mount Pilatus
Sadly we checked out of our hotel in Kandersteg, but we were excited for the next part of our adventure! We took the train to Luzern with a 30 minute connection in Bern. After experiencing our 4 minute connection on the way to Kandersteg, we didn’t know what to do with a 30 minute connection. So much time! Well, when we got to Bern Frank found what to do. To his great joy he found a Dunkin’ Donuts. So we walked by the cute Swiss coffee shop and instead Frank got a coffee and donut from Dunkin’. He was very sad to discover that when you order a regular coffee, even at Dunkin’ Donuts, you still get a tiny espresso and not the Tim Hortons large we get back home. Well, it actually comes in a large cup, but still an espresso. ￼
We left the train station and boarded a boat on Lake Luzern that would take us to Alpnachstad where we would begin our journey up Mount Pilatus. We had lunch and drinks on the boat while enjoying beautiful scenery.
It really is amazing how things are timed in Switzerland. Our arrival in Alpnachstad allowed for a four minute connection to board the world’s steepest Cogswheel train. This train scales the side of the mountain on a 30 minute trip to the top of Mount Pilatus at a gradient that sometime reaches 48% with over 4000m of track. This was quite an experience!
The views on the ascent were incredible, but nothing compared to the views at the top. Since our room wasn’t ready until 4pm (even hotel check-ins are exact times), we explored the mountain top. We weren’t dressed for hiking so we did the tourist walk around the viewing platforms.
The hotel had under 100 guests staying. The last train and cable car descend from the top at 5:45pm. This means the entire mountain becomes a private playground for hotel guests only.
When our room was ready, we got quite the welcome! I booked a romance package, and while some of the decor was over the top, the views from our room were incredible!
After an incredible dinner we put on some warm clothes and climbed a lot of stairs to get to the recommended viewing spot for the 9:20pm sunset. To say this was magnificent, does not even come close.
Day 7 - Mount Pilatus to St. Moritz
This was our busiest, most exhausting day but still so much fun.
We woke up early and climbed up to a lookout (different than last night’s) to watch the sunrise at 5:40am. We thought the sunset was breathtaking, but the sunrise was even more spectacular.
We decided to do one of the shorter hikes on the mountain. It was only 4km round trip, but boy was it steep. You’ll see in my pictures the zigzag path down from the hotel and up to one of the peaks across from it. It was loose rocks and boulders pretty much the whole way.
After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and arranged to have our luggage sent down the mountain. We decided that we would hike down rather than take the cogswheel train or gondola. There are several different paths that lead down the mountain, we took the “easiest” one. Swiss standards of easy, difficult and very difficult are not the same as North American trail ratings. This trail wasn’t difficult, but it certainly wasn’t easy. It’s 100% descending. We took the same zigzag path down from our hotel, but rather than continue straight down, we took a path that circled the mountain. This substantially increased the length of the descent, but it wasn’t as vertical as the other down options. It was a very pretty hike across different types of landscapes. There were steep verticals like the zigzag path from the hotel a few times, sections of loose stones and boulders, but also easy switchbacks through forests. Although not the hardest hike we did, after almost 4 hours of descending, my legs were jelly.
Once at the bottom, we had lunch, grabbed our luggage and started a three connection train trip to St. Moritz. The second train from Zurich was a panoramic train with huge windows that gave us great views of mountains and lakes.
We made it to our hotel around 7:00pm, showered, went to dinner in the hotel and then crashed. It was a very full day, just the way we like them. The picture below is the view of Lake Moritz from our balcony.
This was a down day. We started our morning with an easy and totally flat 5km walk around Lake Moritz. It was a very peaceful way to start the day.
Next we walked along the main square people watching and window gawking. This is not a place the average person can shop. Every high end store you can think of has it spot - from Rolex to Chanel. There are no souvenir stores except for whatever hotels have to offer. The only two stores that I could afford were Tommy and Benetton which I didn’t know still existed.
Next we took the gondola up the mountain for some great views and lunch. To get you to the very top you need to take three gondolas. On the way back down we just took two gondolas and hiked the last 1/3 down. We saw some fabulous homes.
Dinner was recommended by the hotel. It was fabulous.
Day 9 - Glacier Express to Zermatt
No hiking today! We boarded the Glacier Express for an 8 hour panoramic train ride from St Moritz to Zermatt. We booked Excellence Class which included a 7 course meal with wine and champagne pairings.
The views were incredible. The food, wine, seats and service were excellent. Even the washroom was luxurious. They timed the courses so they were spread over the entire trip. We were stuffed by the time we arrived in Zermatt. Most of the scenery pictures are taken through the train window so done have them have extra glare or reflections. I really enjoyed the journey. Frank and I both agreed though that it was a little too long. It must be really spectacular in the winter when everything is snow covered.
We got our first full view of the Matterhorn from our balcony. Our room at Chalet Schönegg was gorgeous and the view was breathtaking. The hotel is built into a mountain. You have to walk through a tunnel to get to an elevator that then goes up in the mountain for about a minute before you get to the lobby floor.
This is the view of the Matterhorn from the balcony in our room.
After we settled in our room, we went for a walk through the village. Zermatt reminded us of Whistler, but with a Swiss flair and not as touristy. We only had one night here which wasn’t enough. This is somewhere we will need to come back for a longer stay.
This is our last full day in Switzerland. How better to end our adventure than with an up-close look at the Matterhorn, one final hike and dinner at a Michelin restaurant with a view of Lake Geneva.
We started our morning watching the sunrise over the Matterhorn. It was surreal. Again, I am at a loss for words and in awe over the beauty of nature.
There are several gondola stops to choose from depending on how high up the mountain you want to go. Roughly 500 hiking trails of all levels of difficulty are available. We decided to go as high as we could to The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. It’s an expensive ride up, but our Swiss Travel Pass got us a 50% discount so we paid $60 CHF per person. Worth every penny. The views are insane! We didn’t realize that you can ski even in the summer. We boarded the first gondola of the day at 6:30 am and rode up with the Swiss Ski Team. I wouldn’t have recognized them, but they were all wearing the same thing, with Swiss Ski Team written on their jackets and all had the same skis and poles. There were a few people asking for autographs.
It takes close to an hour to get to the top. I tried to get a picture of skiers, but I would have had to walk out on the glacier and I didn’t have the correct footwear to do so safely.
We had a hot chocolate in the restaurant and then went to explore the ice palace. It was full of great ice statues and super cold. We brought winter coats with us, but since we hadn’t needed them on any mountaintop we naively believed we wouldn’t need them here either. We were wrong. It was freezing!
We took some pictures from the panoramic viewpoints and then took the gondola back down. The descent from the top would have taken ten hours or more. Not sure we could have handled it, but anyway we had to take a 4 hour train ride to Geneva and would not have had time. So instead we took the gondola down about half way down and did a hike between two gondola points. It took about two hours, it was beautiful.
That's the Matterhorn between us.
Our hotel in Geneva was by the airport, so no amazing view or balcony, but we got a great complimentary upgrade to a suite.
We freshened up and had a fabulous dinner at the Bayview Restaurant. The food wasn’t just delicious, but made up of very unique dishes. We did their six course tasting menu. It was our one big splurge on dinner during our stay and it was a perfect way to end our trip.