Travel Filter: Switzerland and Sardinia
June 26, 2019 8:21 AM   Subscribe

My spouse and I are going on our delayed honeymoon this August. We will be spending time in the Interlaken / Lauterbrunnen region of Switzerland and on the Italian island of Sardinia. Hit me with your advice inside!

The trip is two weeks, beginning in early August. We are Americans visiting from America.

Flying into Zurich and leaving pmuch immediately, planning to take the scenic GoldenPass railroad to Interlaken. We won't be spending much time in Interlaken (1 night) as I've read it's a bit touristy and packed - we're using it as a jumping off point. Currently planning to spend most of our time in Lauterbrunnen, though we're open to ideas for nearby areas e.g. Grindlewald. We have 5 days to spend exploring this region of Switzerland. Definitely want to hit alpine coasters, some hikes, scenic railroad trips, stuff like that.

Next is 5.5 days on the island of Sardinia. We are flying into Olbia, renting a car, and leaving immediately as Olbia also seems like a packed / touristy / not so great place to spend time. Currently planning to drive counter-clockwise around the island, spending a night or two on the way to spending the majority of our time in Cala Cogone.

Looking for recommendations on stuff to do in both areas, general advice on which tourist traps to avoid, etc. We love bars / restaurants and wine / cider and waterfalls and animals and reading books on the beach. We are not wealthy but are splurging because honeymoon.

Also welcome are logistical recommendations for both regions. We are definitely planning on renting a car in Sardinia, but on the fence for Switzerland as it seems like the region we will be in is well-served by rail. We are open to persuasion on that point for sure.

Thank you!
posted by lazaruslong to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Take the boat from Interlaken Ost to Brienz, do some shopping at the woodcrafters, and then take the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn (which still uses mostly steam engines). One of my favorite things I've ever done.

Harder Kulm is an easy hike in Interlaken, even easier if you take the tram up and hike back down.

Unterseen is just across the bridge from downtown Interlaken. It's got the more traditional German altstadt, but far fewer tourists.

No need to rent a car in Interlaken/Lauterbrunnen. The train (BOB) is awesome, and your hotel might include free passes (ours did).

Your hotel will also have a hiking map, and they'll be able to recommend a route based on your skill and desired length.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:10 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

I was just in Switzerland for work last month, mostly in Bern but did briefly make it down to Interlaken on my day off. Harder Kulm is worthwhile if you're in the area - the tram/trailhead is only a 5 min walk from Interlaken Ost train station and the restaurant+lookout at the top has stunning views. If you plan to take the tram, note that the lines can get quite long so I'd go early in the day.

I went to Grindelwald on a previous Switzerland trip several years ago, both the town and the train ride in is beautiful. Can't speak to hikes in the area unfortunately since I was there in the middle of winter, but it's supposed to have plenty of options nearby. If you're looking for a unique train ride way up into the mountains, the Jungfraubahn departs from Grindelwald.

Probably don't need a car unless you're planning to go somewhere far off the beaten track, train service in most of Switzerland is quite good and reasonably frequent.
posted by photo guy at 9:40 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Look into Murren and Gimmelwald, although I've only been there in the off season. Also, Trummelbach Falls, while touristy even in the off season, was pretty neat.

If you're going to be bopping around on "normal" Swiss trains, consider getting the SBB app as it's quite useful for planning.

Do not rent a car in Switzerland unless you really enjoy driving AND you are a huge stickler for rules -- going even slightly over the speed limit can get you a surprisingly large fine. This is Switzerland; the rules are RULES and not guidelines. Besides, if the train doesn't get you where you want to go the postbus will.
posted by aramaic at 10:17 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Regarding trains, we are considering the Regional Pass for the Bernese Oberland. Looks like it won't cover Zurich - Interlaken, but covers the rest of the region we are interested in.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:31 AM on June 26

I spent time in Switzerland a couple years ago in the summer and it was a wonderful experience.

Once I got to Interlaken, I rented a car and drove the Nufenen-Susten-Grimsel-Furka-Gotthard passes. The drive through the Alps makes for some unbeatable views, and the route takes you in a circle back to Interlaken (I love driving, though, so that's something to keep in mind if you don't.) If you're inclined to drive it, don't be scared off by the reviews that say it is death-defying. It isn't, unless you're driving at high speeds, which you're not allowed to do by law anyway. The road is windy, but most people driving on it are safe drivers, and there are plenty of pull outs to use. It took me about 6 hours to drive this route, but only because I kept stopping for the breathtaking panoramic views! Once back in Interlaken, I took the train(s) up to Wengen, which was my home base for 5 days. You're better off staying in Wengen, which is less crowded and touristy than Grindelwald. Wengen also doesn't allow cars, and is much smaller than Grindelwald - so attracts fewer large families. The train from Wengen to Grindelwald runs freqeuntly, so if you can't access a place from Wengen, it's easy to get to Grindelwald.

From Wengen, you can do any number of amazing hikes. I went down to Lauterbrunnen, from where I took the gondola up the mountain. That experience made for great pictures, but it was the least favorite part of my trip (crowded, touristy, expensive.) I also hiked the Wengen-Mannlichen-Kleine Scheidegg trail, a gorgeous trail from where you can see three of the Alpine giants: Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. It's useful to keep in mind that many of the Bernese Oberland hiking trails connect to each other, and to the towns of Grindelwald, Wengen, and Lauterbrunnen, so you can tailor hikes to suit your needs. Please don't neglect the First-Bachalpsee Lake hike, it is a breathtaking sight and you're rewarded with a gorgeous mirror-like lake at the end (if it's overcast, try to wait until the sun comes out, you can take a picnic there.)

The scenic railroads in the area are quaint, but IMO, you'll see many of the same sights if you hike - and it's a lot cheaper. The hikes themselves are not strenouous, many of the trails are gravel and it's more of a strenuous walk. Also, don't miss out on fondue! Have fun!
posted by Everydayville at 11:01 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Very interesting, thank you! We are not yet 100% locked into staying in Lauterbrunnen, though that was the plan so far. Would you recommend staying in Wengen instead, or perhaps splitting the time? I didn't know Lauterbrunnen would be packed with tourists.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:09 AM on June 26

If you really want to avoid tourists, we stayed in Wilderswil. It's away from the main station in Interlaken, so you avoid the intercity travelers, but it's not up in the mountains like Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwad, or Wengen, so you avoid the people who are there for mountain recreation. But it's on the train route, so it's a quick ride to either of those places. The BOB is frequent, nice, and always on time. And I will reiterate that your hotel may give you a free pass for the duration of your stay, so don't commit to buying a rail pass until you know where you're staying.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:46 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

I Mefi-mailed you.
posted by Everydayville at 12:38 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

It's been more than 20 years since I was last on Sardinia, which is just wrong. It's a lovely place and a good choice for your honeymoon. As far as I can tell, you'll be close to Nuoro, which is a lovely place with lots of ancient Sardininian culture. Go and spend some time there. Some of my friends have family with an agroturismo place, it might be interesting to spend a night there, both because it's beautiful and because you'll get the best introduction to the island, they are incredibly friendly and will be full of information. I can't find it where I am now, but I'll look for it in two week's time and return to this post. August is holiday time in Italy and Sardinia is very popular among Italians, so early booking is recommended.
posted by mumimor at 12:52 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Oh wow, thanks mumimor! We are super interested in agroturismo experiences and meeting people / learning about and listening to the culture of the places we go. If you do happen to have the chance to follow-up, that would be super neat.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:02 PM on June 26

Was just in Sardinia last month. Olbia is worth getting out of, but it was fun to drive north and tromp around fancy beaches I could never afford to stay on for an afternoon. Nouro area is great; we stayed in Casa Solotti, which was impressive if not cheap, and extremely helpful with planning. Also loved the island in the SW, San Pietro (often just called Carloforte after the town). Cagliari is interesting, but we wished we'd just stopped by rather than spending nights there. Cala Gonone, if that's what you mean, is kind of an amazing drive down from the high road, and a very pretty coast, but super touristy. I'd head elsewhere, personally. Have a blast.
posted by Mngo at 10:18 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Where would you recommend heading that is beach-y beautiful but not super touristy and worth spending several nights? I thought Cala Gonone was on the low end of super touristy.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:00 AM on June 28

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