As the snow slowly begins to melt, spring descends on the beautiful countryside of Switzerland creating stunning vistas of rolling mountains, fields of flowers and quaint villages. Come summer, the adventure season is in full swing here, with cycling, hiking and walking tours abounding. Of course Switzerland's cities are also a great attraction from the lakeside tranquility of Geneva to the medieval majesty of the Swiss capital Bern a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Zurich has incredible shopping and nightlife and Basel is the cultural and arts center. There's chocolate to be eaten, fondues to dip and three languages to learn so why not discover all that the Swiss have to offer this year.
1800 Fly Europe (tel. 800/359-3876; www.1800flyeurope.com) has discounted round-trip airfares to Zurich this spring starting from an affordable $349 plus taxes and fuel surcharges from New York. Other sample fares to Zurich include:
- Boston: $366
- Washington, D.C.: $377
- Atlanta: $423
- Miami: $444
- Los Angeles: $568
These fares are for midweek departures from April 1 to May 28, 2006.
They also have spring airfare and hotel packages that include round-trip flights and three-nights' accommodations in three-star downtown hotels. Prices start from $488 from New York, $505 from Boston, $583 from Chicago or $698 from San Francisco.
As expected airfares rise quite significantly as the temperature does, so summer departure dates (from May 29 to August 31, 2006) see the following prices:
- New York: $636
- Chicago: $756
- Detroit: $780
- San Francisco: $874
- Denver: $892
Fuel surcharges of up to $110 may apply.
For those looking to see a little more of the country, the Gate1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) "Seven-day Switzerland by Rail" may be just the ticket. The package includes airfare from New York to Zurich and returning from Geneva to New York, fuel surcharges, five-nights' accommodation (two at the three-star Best Western Astoria in Geneva and three at the three-star NH Luzern Hotel in Lucerne), daily breakfast and standard class rail tickets between the cities. This package is priced from $1,299 per person based on double occupancy for departures on April 3, 10, 17 and 24, 2006. May departures start from $1,349 and the price goes up to $1769 on certain dates in July and August 2006.
Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.gotoday.com) has a "Switzerland Fly and Drive" package available throughout the year. Their spring prices from March 31 until May 25, 2006 start from $619 per person based on double occupancy or even less if there are more people traveling together. The package includes round-trip airfares from New York to Zurich and seven-days unlimited mileage car rental of a two-door manual Mini. Prices go up to $939 for summer departures. Add $20 from Boston, $120 from Chicago, $150 from Detroit and $270 from Los Angeles. Their "Zurich Getaway" starts from $709 per person and includes round-trip airfare to Zurich from New York and three-nights accommodation at the Hotel Montana. This price is valid for travel from March 26 to May 25, 2006 with later spring and summer departures ranging up to $1,029. Purchase deadline for both these deals is March 16, 2006.
Pack and Pedal Europe (tel. 877/965.2064; www.tripsite.com) has a selection of five different Switzerland cycling and accommodation packages for travelers on a budget. These independent packages allow you to take a trip at your own pace, following their detailing maps and itineraries and with luggage transportation so you needn't lug everything with you. The "Aare Trail" takes you on a five-day journey through Swiss alpine regions, visiting the towns of Meiringen and Interlaken, Jungfrau the highest railway station in Europe (11,333 feet), the Ice Palace, vineyards and castles of the Aare Valley, the city of Bern, the Wohlensee and Lake of Biel, Altreu, the towers of the Solothurn Cathedral, and the Aarau Valley. Cycling 20 to 30 miles per day, this is an easy riding adventures that includes four-nights' hotel accommodation with buffet breakfast daily and use of a 21-speed hybrid bicycle. The tour departs daily from Meiringen from April 15 to October 15, 2006 approximately a three hour train trip from Zurich. It is priced from $592, or for those on a tighter budget they can arrange youth hostel accommodation for the same trip from $419.
Their four-day "Rhine Trail" is a scenic journey along the famous Rhine River through picturesque fishing villages and scenic fruit and wine plantations to beautiful Lake Constance and the mediaeval town of Stein am Rhein. Cycling north from Chur to Buchs, the trail will follow along the Liechtenstein border with a stop in Vaduz, its capital. With daily departures from Disentis (a three hour train ride from Zurich) between April 15 and October 15, 2006, the trip includes three-nights hotel accommodation, buffet breakfast, use of a 21-speed hybrid bicycle, luggage transportation and detailed maps. It is priced from $452 per person or $345 staying in hostels.
For a very different accommodation experience that puts you in the heart of Swiss country life, consider the Schlaf in Stroh (literally Sleep in Straw) program (tel. + 41/416-781-286; www.abenteuer-stroh.ch/en). Over 240 farms though out Switzerland participate in this alternative to a home stay which includes accommodation in barns with delicious home-cooked country breakfasts. As their website points up -- "Straw is not Hay" but even so many farms cater for people with allergies by offering dormitories with mattresses, camping facilities or guest rooms. Learn about Swiss farm life with additional activities like milking cows and riding horses. Prices range between $16 and $24 per adult and $8 to $16 per child per night, and you must bring your own sleeping bag. Showers cost an additional $1.32. The site features listings by geographical region, with some farms located on major city outskirts. Bookings are recommended and are done by telephone directly with the farm owner.
To help you plan your Switzerland vacation, visit www.frommers.com/destinations/switzerland and www.myswitzerland.com, the Switzerland Tourism official website, which features listings of events, travel tips, information on regions, webcams and even an IgoUgo community with personal journals, reviews and photos of people's Swiss favorites.
Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers on our Switzerland Message Boards today.