Uncategorized

Holidays to Switzerland Travel Podcast Episode 78 Transcript

May 18, 2024 Last Updated on May 18, 2024

Top short breaks and day tours from Zurich

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.

Good morning, Amanda. Thank you so much for joining me today and coming back onto the podcast. I’m really excited about having a chat to you again today.

Hi, Carolyn. Thank you very much for having me. It’s such an honour to be featured in yet another episode about Best of Switzerland Tours, really. I’m very excited to have a chat with you today about our company and services.

Wonderful. Well, on that note, how about you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, about the company, and also about what you actually do at Best of Switzerland Tours?

Yes, of course. My name is Amanda Wee, and I have been with Best of Switzerland Tours since 2019, first as a tour coordinator and now as the lead of the operations team.

At Best of Switzerland Tours, we offer a wide selection of excursions from city tours, full day mountain excursions, premium small group tours, to pre set multi day tours with an overnight accommodation. So the choice is really yours. We welcome over 800 guests per day during high season, and with that, we are the leading sightseeing operator in the German speaking part of Switzerland and proud to welcome guests from all over the world on our tours.

Wow, 800 guests a day in high season. Now, that would take some coordinating.

And I guess as the operations manager or operations team lead, you obviously know every tour really, really well. So I’m excited to hear about what some of the most popular day trips are from Zurich. How about we start with mountain excursions? Because I know they’re probably the number one thing that anyone going to Switzerland wants to do. They want to see a mountain and go up to the summit. What are the most popular mountain day trips that you offer?

So when it comes to tours that operate all year round, there are really two mountain excursions that stand out from the crowd. And one of the tours is going to central Switzerland and up to Mount Titlis. The tour is called Titlis -Eternal snow and glacier, because that’s one of the big pluses of this tour is that all year round you can go up and experience snow and ice, which is something very new for very many guests that travel with us. This tour departs from Zurich and Lucerne. If guests depart from Zurich, then we take a scenic route along Lake Lucerne into Lucerne, where guests have about 45 to 60 minutes at leisure to explore the all of town.

Then we continue all the way to Engelberg, where we ascent to Mount Titlis by different cable cars. Now, many guests are a bit afraid of the cable cars because there are such high altitude, but I can assure you they are very safe and not operating in case of any issues. Mount Titlis is very popular for the snow, but also for this combination of Lucerne and a mountain. This tour operates all year round.

In summer, it’s very popular because the snow is only there and not on all the other mountains. In winter, it’s fantastic because you can go snow tubing and you can really have a lot of fun activities in the snow, which is very popular also for families traveling with kids.

Then we have another tour that is very popular all year round. That is the tour to the Jungfraujoch Top of Europe, the highest train station we have in Europe. This tour is also a full day tour with departure from Zurich and Lucerne. Here we continue to Interlaken, where the guests first have a stop of about 45 to 60 minutes to stretch their legs after a long journey or to have a bite to eat. Then we continue to Grindelwald, where we board the Eiger Express cable car. State of the art, a fantastic experience, as you know. This one brings us up to the middle station, Eiger Glacier. There our guests change to the cogwheel train that is carved through the tunnels and brings them all the way up to the Jungfraujoch, where they have about two to two and a half hours of time at leisure.

There are various attractions available where they can learn more about the history of the railway. There are restaurants, shops available. But the real highlight is then the descent. There we take another cogwheel train down by to Kleine Scheidegg to Lauterbrunnen. I know the Lauterbrunnen Valley is very famous and most people are really yearning for this experience to go down. From the trains you have beautiful views of the waterfalls and so on. Then in the evening, we return back to Lucerne and continue to Zurich, where the tour ends.

So that’s just such a perfect combination, isn’t it? Because as you said, you go up from Grindelwald on the Eiger Express, which really is an amazing cable car, even for someone like me who’s not really a cable car fan. That just blew me away when I was on that. But then with the tour, you also then come back down the other way on the cogwheel train all the way to Lauterbrunnen and get to see the beautiful views over the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the waterfalls. That tour really offers the complete Jungfraujoch experience.

Yeah, it’s a fantastic combination. I think people sometimes underestimate how different valleys can be that are just close to one mountain, but you really wouldn’t get the full picture if you would just ascend and descend the same way. I think that’s a very nice plus of joining our tours.

When it comes to more seasonal tours, there are two more tours, mountain excursions that I’d like to mention that are particularly attractive in summer. One is also in central Switzerland and it’s called Pilatus, the Golden Round trip. This tour usually operates from May when the snow is gone on the tracks all the way through to mid or end of October, depending on the year. Mount Pilatus is a beautiful tour because in just one day you can combine so many different modes of transport.

This tour will depart from Zurich and Lucerne as well. After time at leisure in Lucerne, we take a bus ride to Kriens, which is a small town outside of Lucerne. There we take two different cable cars up to the summit of Mount Pilatus. There are very many different hiking trails available on the top, and of course, also restaurants. Then the guests descend with the world’s steepest cogwheel train, which is absolutely a unique experience and the highlight for many guests.

Then in the end, you have a boat trip that takes you from Alpnachstad all the way back to Lucerne. Really, you get the best of Swiss public transport combined in just one day. That is very popular.

Then if we go back to the Bernese Oberland, there is another excursion that is very popular in summer that is called Grindelwald First. It’s also called the Top of Adventure. We drive through Interlaken and continue then to Grindelwald, and this is where the guests take a cable car up to Mount First. Now, Mount First is not the same altitude as the Jungfraujoch. It’s also suitable for guests that have some medical conditions or are not quite sure whether they will be fine at such a high altitude.

Also, there is no snow in summer, which means that there are beautiful hiking trails. One of them goes up to the famous Bachalpsee that is mentioned in very many pictures in advertising and so on. There are also various adventure activities available. They’re not part of our tour because people have very different perceptions of adventure activities they’d like to do or not, but they will certainly have the time and can opt for these activities if they’d like to.

You can go zip lining. There’s a mountain cart and so called Trotti bike scooters available. This one is very popular in Summer for the young and the young at heart, families, couples, friends alike, and should truly not be missed for adventurous guests.

That tour is great as they all are, but I because that gives you so much flexibility. So for guests that just would like to do the hike to back up, say, like you say, they can do that. Or for those that want to go on the zip line or one of the adventure activities they’ve got that option as well. And of course, at First, there’s the Tissot Cliff Walk, which is free, so they can go out if they’re brave enough and get those views. And I believe there’s a new panoramic viewing platform up there too. So there really is. If people just want to go and appreciate the beautiful scenery, they can, or they can be more active as well.

Definitely. There’s also a very nice restaurant on top. So sometimes we have families, for example, with teenagers that say parents just stay at the restaurant, enjoy all the views, and they meet the kids again all the way down when they finish the adventure activity. So there’s something for everyone on Mount First. And of course, the views of the Jungfraujoch and the triple peaks that come with it are just amazing from this mountain as well.

And maybe just to mention you, and many guests are curious about the group sizes that we operate with. They very much vary depending on the date of the week and the weather and are difficult to predict. But these big tours to the most famous destinations are usually operated with buses that can hold either 48 guests that are accompanied by one tour guide, or then we also have bigger buses that can hold up to 76 guests that are then accompanied by a tour guide and an assistant.

Okay, that’s great to know. All right, so it’s not only day tours to mountain summits that you offer, there’s plenty of variety. So what are some of the other popular day tours that people can experience from Zurich?

One tour that is not precisely a full day tour, but an afternoon excursion that I’d still like to mention is our tour to the Rhein Falls and Stein am Rhein. This tour departs at quarter past one in the afternoon and is a beautiful combination of the Rhein Falls, which are Europe’s biggest waterfall, and the medieval village of Stein am Rhein. So first we would have a stop at the Rhein Falls where guests also have the option to choose a boat ride that brings them all the way close up to the falls.

Then after some time at leisure, we continue to Stein am Rhein, which is a very picturesque medieval town where they will have a guided walk with the tour guide explaining them more about the history behind it. And then also sometimes for in summer ice cream, in winter there’s a beautiful Christmas market. So that is a very popular excursion especially for those maybe that have done a full day tour the day before and they want to go get up that early the next day. That is a nice combination.

And then back to day tours, I would like to mention that we also operate some of them as premium small group tours.

Particularly, we have two that holds a maximum of 16 guests and they operate from May to October. Unfortunately, not all year round, but when they do go, they are an amazing experience. I think you have been on one of them many, many years ago.

I have, yes. And tell everyone about that one.

They have certainly changed a bit, but in the core, they’re still the same. With only 16 guests, we can, of course, offer an even more personalised experience. One of these tours goes to the area of Appenzell and is called Mountains, Cheese and Chocolate, because it’s certainly the one that combines all these highlights of Switzerland. And we depart from Zurich on this tour. And then we make our way to Appenzell, where we visit an organic dairy farm first, learning all the things about farming in Switzerland. Then we continue to show dairy, where guests can see how this milk that is produced on the farm is then turned into the famous Swiss cheese.

And then we continue to Brülisau to take a cable car up to Hoher Kasten. Now, Hoher Kasten is a mountain that is not quite as high as others. We are only talking about 1,800 meters of altitude, but the location is fantastic. Fantastic, because once you are on the summit, you can see all the way to Germany, to Austria, to the principality of Lichtenstein, and to the Eastern part of Switzerland. It’s not quite as high, but it’s a fantastic view that you get up there.

Usually, guests have lunch in the restaurant on the summit. Then we continue back down by cable car and visit the town of Appenzell, which is again small but very beautiful. People in Appenzell are incredibly innovative. There we go into different shops and guests will get to taste different drinks, chocolate, other products, produce that is from there. And the good thing, they also get to take some things home in a small goodie bag that is filled along the journey. So that is one of the small group tours.

And then the second small group tour that is a full day excursion goes to Bern, also known as the Swiss capital. This tour starts from Zurich, sorry, continues into Lucerne. So guests can also join in Lucerne. And then then we drive onwards towards Bern. Guests will have a stop at the Kambly biscuit factory. So a very good way to start the day with a hot drink and some biscuits to taste. Then we will go into the old town of Bern, where they will have a guided walk with their tour guide and some time at leisure for lunch. And the highlight or the end of the tour would be a visit to a show dairy in the famous region of Emmental that is known for its beautiful green hills.

And there we have a route through the Museum that is called the Kings Way and that teaches guests about the different steps that are included in cheese making. And of course, also their tour would not be complete without the cheese tasting. So these would be two day tours that can be done as premium small group tours. Also a very nice way if you are a single traveler to meet other guests and definitely recommend it if you are here in summer.

And both offer plenty of tasting opportunities for cheese, chocolate, biscuits, anything deliciously Swiss.

Definitely.

Okay. So as well as the day tours that you’ve just mentioned, what are some of the other destinations that you visit?

Most of the tours that we now mentioned, they are fully guided, meaning the tour guide will accompany the guests from the departure in the morning to the return in the evening. And for guests that prefer to explore a destination a bit more independently but still want to have the transportation and tickets and everything arranged, we also offer a selection of partly guided tours. And the destinations for these tours are Mount Rigi, Lucerne, that can be combined either with a lake cruise or a visit to Burgenstock. We also go to Stanserhorn, Engelberg, and then Grindelwald and Interlaken. So that will be some other destinations that are part of our portfolio.

Okay, so that’s a great option for people who think, oh, a day tour is not for me. I like to do my own thing when I get there. But the fact that you transport them and get all the tickets in advance for them just makes it so much easier. And yet they still then have the opportunity to do their own thing at their destination.

Yeah, yes, many people just appreciate starting the day off with a tour guide, having the chance to get rid of any questions that are still open for them. And then, of course, once they are on the tour where they are by themselves, they will be provided with our contact number, with a leaflet that provides all the information. So some people just appreciate to know they have us as a backup. If anything is unclear or goes not according to plan, then we are always there to assist.

Perfect. Okay. So for people that have a little extra time, or perhaps they want to do just a short break from Zurich, if they’re perhaps staying in Zurich for a few days and they just want to do something a little bit different, I noticed that you also offer some multi day tours. So can you tell us a bit about those and what they include?

Absolutely. We offer just a small selection of multi day tours and that include overnight accommodation and they can be a great fit for two very different types of travelers. On the one hand, many guests look for a hassle free way to see as much as possible in a just limited number of days. And here, multi day tours allow the guest to combine our most popular mountain excursions to one package. There’s three I would like to mention.

There’s the package tours of the Alps that is perfect for guests that would like to spend two days and one night in the heart of the Swiss Alps, the Bernese Oberland. This tour combines a visit to Grindelwald or Interlaken on day one, so guests can decide where they would like to spend the night. Then on day two, they will join an excursion to the Jungfraujoch Top of Europe, which is a highlight for many guests visiting Switzerland. Then if we have guests that would like to explore central Switzerland in two days, our package Highlights of Central Switzerland is a great fit. I know the name is not very creative, but it just says what it is.

Here on day one, guests will visit Mount Pilatus and complete the Golden Round trip that we have already quickly talked about. Then they will stay overnight in a hotel in the old town of Lucerne. And on day two, they will make their way up to Mount Titlis, escape into a world of ice and snow before they return to Zurich in the evening.

And last but not least, guests that have three days that they can spend in Switzerland can get the best of both worlds or at least both areas of Switzerland. We have a package that is called Top of Switzerland that combines the excursions to Mount Pilatus, Mount Titlis and the Jüngfraujoch Top of Europe with two overnight stays in Lucerne. With this tour and three days, you can really tick all the highlights of Switzerland off your list.

Yeah, absolutely. Can you just explain a little how those packages actually work? Are they combinations of the different dates added together? Is that how they work?

Yes, that’s true. The ones I’ve just mentioned, they are basically just two of our regular tours that are combined to one package and where overnight accommodation is added. They will have a hotel, either a double or a single room that is included and that comes with breakfast. We also have some overnight packages for guests that feel like a single day is simply not enough to explore one destination and they would rather stay longer there and leave another destination for a next visit. And these packages come with even more extras.

So we have a package called Mountain Wellness, where guests can turn their visit to Mount Rigi into a two day wellness retreat, including transportation by bus, cable car, cogwheel train and boat, as well as an overnight stay at Rigi Kaltbad that comes with dinner, breakfast and access to their mineral baths and spa. So that is more of a weekend escape or of course, also during the week if you’re on holidays. The weekdays don’t really matter that much.

And the same goes for a package at Mount Titlis that is called Alpine Dreams. Also there they spend two days at Mount Titlis and have an overnight stay at a mountain Lodge at the Lake Trubsee included that comes also with dinner, breakfast and then a vast network of hiking trails that is right in front of the doorsteps.

It depends a bit on whether you would like to combine different tours just with the overnight accommodation. Then you just have accommodation, including breakfast with it. Or if you say you want to go a little bit more in-depth in one of the destinations, there are two packages that come also with dinner, breakfast and then activities on site.

Okay, that’s great. I’ve actually, last year, visited the Rigi thermal spa, and it’s wonderful. So I can see why a two day, one night wellness retreat there would be so popular.

Yeah, it’s just a pity to pass by. If you know, you could spend the night there and get these beautiful mountain views from the pools. I think that it’s just a very unique experience.

Yeah. Well, with all those different things, there’s definitely a tour that suits every interest, that’s for sure. So are the tours suitable for children or are there any restrictions on particular tours that aren’t really ideal for children? And what about for people with reduced mobility?

So if we talk about age first, then we have the pleasure to welcome guests, really from all ages on our tours. They’re suitable for individual travelers, for couples, friends and families. There’s really always quite a big mix. In terms of age, there are hardly any restrictions except for some of the adventure activities. So there’s a minimum age for skiing, rafting and canyoning. But I think that’s also understandable because you just need a certain… For rafting, you need to be able to swim and with a four year old, that could prove a bit tricky.

So for the regular tours age is really never an issue. It’s only for the adventure activities. And that looks a bit different when we come to the mobility issue because there we have certain restrictions. On the one hand, our buses are not equipped with a ramp for wheelchairs, so guests would have to have a foldable wheelchair and be able to climb the stairs up into the bus. But if that is not a problem, then that’s not an issue. On the city tours, the challenge is that the old towns of Zurich and Lucerne are not always accessible to motorised vehicles, which is why our groups explored this part of the city on foot.

It’s if people can walk or have a wheelchair, then that’s absolutely not an issue. It’s just something to be aware of. You will not be able to see all of the old town without walking. That’s simply not possible. However, once we are at the destinations, mobility is less of an issue because the walking distance is generally limited to changing between these different modes of transport and the destinations are very well prepared for people with reduced mobility. And also here I have to say, unfortunately, the adventure tours are not recommended for people with reduced mobility.

Okay. Now, one thing that a lot of people perhaps are often wonder about. Switzerland has four official languages. None of them are English. None of the official languages are English. So often I’m asked, will the tour guides speak English, or will they be speaking one of Switzerland’s official languages? Help us out there. Put everyone’s mind at rest.

Well, our tour guides also come from all over the world. We have a lot of Swiss people that work for us, but also tour guides from all over the world that have lived in Switzerland for a very long time. All our tours are operated in English, guaranteed in English, and usually they are operated bilingually in English and either German, Spanish, or Chinese. But English is guaranteed on all of the tours. While it’s not our mother tongue, I think if you got so far to listen to me, the podcast, you will know that you will also be able to listen to your tour guide. We all have our Swiss accent, but we try our best to keep it to a minimum.

Yeah, and you do a wonderful job. I have to say, English is very widely spoken in Switzerland and you all speak it so well. So thank you.

I think it should not be a reason to keep you from visiting Switzerland.

Definitely not. So before we finish, why should our listeners consider taking a tour with Best of Switzerland Tours instead of traveling independently?

This is actually a very common question we get asked always straightforward. Why should I travel with you? I would just like to highlight three main benefits that guests have when they are traveling with us. Number one is definitely our commitment to quality. We have been existing for over 20 years and we’ve gathered a lot of knowledge and have constantly improved our tours to really be able to bring out the best for guests that only have a limited time that they spend in Switzerland. If you want to read the reviews that guests have shared on TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, this can give you an idea of how we work and what quality standards we strive to achieve.

Also our tour guides and our staff in the office is very dedicated in trying everything to go the extra mile every day. And we simply strive to ensure that every guest will experience with hospitality at its finest during their stay.

Benefit number two, that is I think also very highly rated is the flexibility we offer. All reservations with us can be modified or cancelled free of charge up to 24 hours prior to departure, which gives guests great flexibility to adapt their itinerary according to the weather forecast or to any other unexpected circumstances, flights being delayed and so on.

Also, we offer daily departures on our sightseeing tours, so it’s not like you have to wait another week for the tour to happen. But if weather is bad on Wednesday and you are still here on Thursday, you can simply change. And I think that is a big plus. Whereas sometimes, depending on what type of travel pass you buy, you might or if you opt for a special saving ticket, then it’s bound to a certain train you have to take. So that is not something you would have to worry about when traveling with us.

And last but not least, benefit number three is probably the most important. And that is simply the convenience we can offer to our guests. Their only duty, I say so, is to arrive at the meeting point on time in the morning. And then from then on, they are in the hands of a professional tour guide and they don’t have to worry about anything. No train schedules, no tickets that can get lost. And I think that’s just a very relaxing way of exploring a country with the benefit of learning more about our customs and traditions, our history from a tour guide.

In the end, I think our tours are also very attractive in terms of price, especially for guests that don’t hold a Swiss Travel Pass or any other discounted ticket. Then if they check the train tickets, then usually they come back to us because they see that with the tour guide and all the inclusions, that is a very good offer that we can make them.

Yeah, absolutely. And having experienced Best of Switzerland Tours myself now, I totally agree with everything you’ve said. The experience of the tour guide, like the knowledge that you pick up that you wouldn’t find out if you just were wandering around by yourself. There’s so many advantages, and I can absolutely vouch for the quality and the dedication of the team. It’s certainly a great way to do a day trip from Zurich or a sightseeing tour around the city as well. 

Thank you very much, Amanda, for coming back on the podcast today. In the show notes for this episode, I’ll include more details about all the tours that we’ve chatted about and links to where people can book those tours. And of course, I will remind them to visit our previous episode too, where we chatted with yourself and Christian and got a bit more in-depth about the company and the company’s values and so on as well. I’ll include a link to that episode as well.

Thank you very much, Carolyn. It was a pleasure to talk to you again.

Thanks very much, Amanda. Chat again soon. Bye bye.

Bye.

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.