We went Camping
Over the years we’ve really fallen in love with camping in Switzerland. Last summer we hit the road to see some of the regions we hadn’t explored yet. I had my eye on following the Grand Tour of Switzerland, but boy oh boy, is that thing a BEAST! We had also seen quite a few places on the tour over the years too, so we decided to head east and work our way around in a big loop for 10 day. There was no specific plans after day two, but that did not matter at all. Unlike other Swiss activities, camping here requires little or no forward planning.
Leaving our comforts of home behind us our first destination was Appenzell. Appenzell is such an underrated region of Switzerland, it’s most famous landmark is probably the Burggasthaus Aescher. But the whole region is rich with cultural history and rolling green hills. Our campsite was only 3 km above the main town Appenzell. (Yes, its called Appenzell, Appenzell, just like New York, New York.) Attached to a fancy pants hotel, the facilities were excellent and there is an established caravan park on site.
On our first day in the region, we decided to head Mt. Santis. At 2502 m, there is so much to see and do on this mountain that one day is really just not enough. We took the cable car to the top and enjoyed a lovely beer on the terrace of the Berggasthaus at the summit, overlooking the views north toward Seealpsee and beyond before our boys were ready to call it a day.
The following day we made tracks to the Berggasthaus Aescher which is nestled into the side of Ebenalp. It is such a unique spot, and definitely worth your time to check out. It does require some hiking to get to though! Even if you take the gondola, you have to hike 20 minutes or so back UP to the station to go back down. We opted instead to hike down to Seealpsee, and with two small kids, it almost killed us! Not for the faint hearted, the hike is rocky, uneven and steep. Not undoable though if you have the right gear (take walking sticks!) Our littles were so done after that portion of the hike, we didn’t make it to Seealpsee in the end, so it’s back on the list to see this year….fingers crossed!
Moving southeast towards the next region we wanted to explore, St. Moritz, we took a detour off of the A13 to visit the real life Heidi’s home. Another check mark on our Grand Tour map. It’s a very cute little tourist trap of a place, but a must to if you’re a fan of the books, tv shows and movies.
Next on the places we had not explored was St. Moritz. That’s right, we went camping in one of the most ritzy alpine villages in all of Switzerland! I have to be honest and say St. Moritz is not really our jam, but it was a really good base to explore the surrounding areas. A good friend recommended a very easy hike from Ospizio Bernina to Alp Grum. Most of the hike ran parallel to the train tracks so we managed to see plenty of happy Rhaetian Rail riders enjoying the views we were quickly becoming one with! The hike is only about 5km long, but with two sets of little feet, what should have been a one hour 15 minute hike turned into a 3.5 hour slog. Once again Mum and Dad had to pack mule the kiddos the final two kilometres or so our end distination. Thankfully white wine spritzers and ice cream greeted us at Alp Grum, caping off a pretty good day! Not to mention the awesome view from the restaurant terrace of the Palü Glacier.
The following day we took a leisurely trip on the Glacier Express from St Moritz to Tiefincastel, this took a little over an hour as we criss crossed over bridges, including the famous Landwasser Viaduct, and in and out of tunnels. I actually did not take any photos this day, opting for video instead. But here is my tip. You do need to book in advance to reserve your spot on the Glacier Express, however, only a few rail cars of each train are solely for the Glacier Express, the rest of the cars are just regular train cars and tickets are the regular price. It’s the same ride, the same view, without all the foo-foo! If you’re on a budget, definitely go that direction!
Onwards to Breinz
Packing up early, we started to make our way west again. We knew we had a big day of driving for the day as we planned on heading over three big alpine passes. The first was heading back out and over the Julierpass between St. Mortiz and Chur. We then made a whistle stop in Flims for lunch and a quick dip at Caumasee before heading up and over the Oberalp Pass. Once again spotting the Glacier Express move through the mountains effortlessly on it’s daily commute. The last pass was the spectacular Susstenpass which we picked up from Wassen near the Gotthard tunnel. This by far was the most spectacular road I had ever driven. I wanted to stop at every vantage point just to take in how vast and grand the Swiss Alps truly are.
For mid summer, the traffic was very light, with most people opting to jump on the freeways to get from point A to B as quickly as possible. The amazing mountain passes in Switzerland only solidified our belief that the journey is just as important as the destination.
Brienz is a wonderful lake in the Bernese Oberland, just east of Interlaken and well connected by both boats and trains. They have two fantastic campsites here, and the Coop and Migros are well equipped with all your camping needs. We chose to stay at the Aaregg Familiancampingplatz, which is about as professional as it comes in terms of campgrounds. Our campsite was only one place back from the beautiful lake front, and when our neighbours moved on the next morning we had uninterrupted views of Lake Brienz.
We’d had the Rothorn mountain train on our to do list for some time, so that was the plan of attack for our time in Brienz. Although Brienz is the perfecting jumping off point for so many activities in that region. From the Ballenberg Museum where Swiss traditions live and breath every day, to the amazing Jungfrau region, it’s all just a hop, skip and jump from Brienz, which does tend to be a little less touristy than it’s closest neighbour, Interlaken. The ride on the historic Rothorn Bahn was truly unique and I highly recommend it for families of all ages.
After 10 days on the road it was time to get the kids back to Basel. There were birthdays happening and playdates to catch up on, plus they were missing their beds and toys. Although it felt as though we were just starting to scratch the surface what there is to see and do in Switzerland. I personally feel Switzerland is a little overlooked when it comes to European travel destinations. I get it though! It’s not cheap to holiday here, even camping costs a pretty penny by the time you add in meals and excursions. But it is worth the effort. Especially if you are living here in Switzerland. Please get out there and see this beautiful country we are so fortunate to call home right now. We plan on doing more camping again this year. There is still so much we haven’t seen and I can’t wait to explore more!!