Self-guided Founder’s Tour: Grindelwald, Zermatt, Pontresina

Switzerland Village-based

Our recommendation for how to experience three of Switzerland’s best alpine regions, the classic Jungfrau, iconic Zermatt and traditional Engadine

Self-Guided Tour

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  • Length
  • 8 days, 7 nights
  • Departure Dates
  • May 15 – Oct 15, 2020
  • Tour Cost
  • 8-day:
    $850 single room
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When tourists first started coming to the Alps in the 1700 and 1800’s, their travels, often call “the Grand Tour” were always first class and included stops in Europe’s most majestic destinations. We’ve recreated that experience here in our Founder’s Tour.  This is our recommendation for how to experience three of Switzerland’s best alpine regions, the classic Jungfrau region, iconic Zermatt and traditional Engadine.  In Grand Tour style, you’ll stay in absolute comfort in distinctive, luxurious hotels, including the newly renovated 5-star Riffelalp Resort in Zermatt and acclaimed 5-star Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina – some of the best accommodations each area has to offer.  Travel by 1st class rail along the Glacier Express between Zermatt and Pontresina.  World-class hotels, scenic train rides, and stunning mountains make this a memorable intro to Switzerland for hikers and non-hikers alike!  As always, custom changes are always possible, so please ask if you prefer a variation on this trip.

Your tour starts in Grindelwald, a gorgeous mountain village nestled dramatically below the towering Eiger North Face.  You then continue on to Zermatt, a mountain paradise, nestled beneath the incomparable Matterhorn. Finally, the famous Glacier Express train takes you on a scenic cross-country journey to Pontresina, the serene jewel of the St. Moritz lakes area of Switzerland’s Engadine region.  All three areas contain numerous unforgettable hikes and scenic local train rides that make this and unforgettable tour.

Your typical day starts with a delicious buffet breakfast at our hotel – a feast of freshly baked bread and croissants, local meats and cheeses, cereal, fruit, eggs made to order, coffee and freshly squeezed juice – which gives you the energy needed for the day ahead.  Then it’s off to explore!  Each day, you can decide on a hike or one of the local attractions such as Jungfraujoch, Gornergrat or Bernina Express.  We’ll give you easier and harder options for hikers, and describe some of our favorite local viewpoints, if you choose to do your sightseeing by train, funicular, or cable car!

After a full day out, be sure to leave time to relax at the hotel, visit the pool and spa, or perhaps do a bit of shopping in town. All of our hotels on this tour have great views and gorgeous pool and spa areas, so you should look forward to having time each day to enjoy those.  Later, enjoy dinner at your hotel or another nearby restaurant. These are true gourmet, multi-course feasts, sometimes centered on local specialties, prepared by some of the finest chefs in the Alps. Our hotels all serve fabulous food, and our dinners will be exquisite, memorable affairs.  We include one dinner at each stop, and have left several of your dinner nights free, so you will have a chance to explore on your own.

Map of Self-guided Founder’s Tour: Grindelwald, Zermatt, Pontresina


Day 1

Grindelwald – The Grand Tour starts with arrival in Zürich and a train ride to Grindelwald, the glacier village, in the heart of Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland.  The trip takes just over 3 hours. 

Grindelwald sits at the base of the majestic Eiger North Face, one of the most famous mountain walls in the Alps, and is surrounded by flowering meadows and scenic viewpoints.  This is postcard Switzerland, with waterfalls, flowers, happy cows and huge mountains. Take some time to explore the village and enjoy the views and fresh air before settling in to your elegant 4-star Hotel Aspen, and enjoy a gourmet meal for your first night in the Alps.

  • Hotel Aspen (or similar)
  • D

Day 2

Grindelwald – One of our favorite hikes right from your hotel, with a mellow walk down to the Mannlichen gondola.  Take a quick ride high above the meadows to Mannlichen, the scenic ridge separating Grindelwald and Wengen.  From here, you’ll walk on one of the most scenic trails in the Alps, heading directly toward the Eiger and the bustling train stop at Kleine Scheidegg.   You’ll have your choice of the high rugged Eiger trail or an easier direct train down the the rustic Alpliglen restaurant, where you can enjoy lunch or refreshments before the easy descent back to your hotel. 

If you’re not hiking today, you might instead opt for the stunning train ride up to Jungfraujoch.  Start with a quick shuttle from your hotel to the train station, and then enjoy the every changing views as your trains winds up and up into the mountains.  Changing trains at Kleine Scheidegg, the Jungfraujoch train then tunnels into the mountains bringing you up the gigantic Aletsch glacier at over 11,000 ft!  Dinner will be on your own tonight.

  • Hotel Aspen
  • B

Day 3

Grindelwald – The northern side of Grindelwald is also worth exploring.  Another fantastic hike starts with a bus ride up the the Grosse Scheidegg pass.  From here, an easy trail winds around the valley, mountains constantly in view to the upper station of the First cable car.  Continue a short way to the Bachalpsee, a small alpine lake reflecting majestic views before descending to another cable car station and back to town.

Non-hikers can also enjoy First and Bachalpsee, one of Grindelwald’s most popular viewpoints.  Taking the cable car from town, you’ll reach amazing views at the top where there are a variety of fun activities, scenic walkways and adrenaline-filled zip lines.  Plus, there is the easy 45 minute walk to the lake.  To vary your return, you may choose to rent a “Trotti” bike at the mid-station and coast back to Grindelwald that way.  Dinner is on your own in town.

  • Hotel Aspen
  • B

Day 4

Zermatt – Take the train in the morning, 3.5 hrs to Zermatt, the car-free mountain village at the base of the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, and many other 4000 meter peaks.

Once in Zermatt, you’ll have time to check out the village, or go straight to the hotel to enjoy the spa and wonderful views of the Matterhorn before settling in for dinner at the luxurious 5-star Riffelalp Resort, high above town.

  • Riffelalp Resort (or similar)
  • B / D

Day 5

Zermatt – Taking quiet trails through alpine meadows, you have a range of choices up to the wide ridge of Gornergrat, past marmots and small glacial lakes, to what has to be one of the finest viewpoints in Europe.  The jumbled mass of the Gorner Glacier stretches out below, and behind that, Monte Rosa, Lyskamm, the Breithorn, and the Matterhorn form a spectacular backdrop.  

If a hike is not your style, the train to Gornergrat leaves right from your hotel.  Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and leave whenever you are ready to take this historic cogwheel train to the top station.  Return to the Riffelalp in the afternoon.   Dinner is on your own tonight, the Riffelalp has a number of ala carte options, or you may choose to spend the evening in Zermatt and return by train after dinner.

  • Riffelalp Resort
  • B

Day 6

Pontresina – After breakfast, you’ll say good-bye to the Matterhorn and board the famous Glacier Express train for Pontresina, a mellow and pretty resort town in the Engadine region on the eastern edge of Switzerland.  The Engadine has a mellower, more traditional vibe, marked by beautiful architecture, scenic lakes and abundant wildlife.  

Our home in Pontresina is the friendly and classy 5-star Hotel Kronenhof, with a great pool and spa and wonderful food.  The Glacier Express takes the full day, so you will arrive in the evening.  Enjoy a short walk through the village or relax at the pool and extensive hotel spa.  We’ll include lunch on the Glacier Express, and dinner will be on your own in Pontresina tonight.

  • Grand Hotel Kronenhof (or similar)
  • B / L

Day 7

Pontresina – From Pontresina, one of our favorite hikes anywhere is the panoramic Muragl traverse above Pontresina.  Ascending through a quiet back valley, you’ll hike up to the gorgeous views from Segantini hut. Traversing from here, pass small alpine lakes on a scenic descent back to Pontresina. Boasting quiet wooded stretches, abundant wildlife, and surprising views of the giant Piz Bernina and the paternoster lakes of St. Moritz, this hike provides a wonderful farewell to the Engadine region.

The Bernina Express train is also a great option for today.  Hop on the train in Pontresina (ask us to make reservations when booking your trip), then sit back and enjoy the scenery as you wind down, down, down, past the glistening glaciers of the Bernina mountains to the warm Italian village of Tirano.  After a short break for lunch in Tirano, reboard the train for the return journey to Pontresina.  Return to the hotel for a final gourmet dinner.

  • Grand Hotel Kronenhof
  • B / D

Day 8

depart – After breakfast at our hotel, say good-bye to the Engadine region and depart for your post-trip destinations.  Your included rail pass will give you free travel to Zurich (or to any other point in Switzerland).

  • B
Included 3 nights 4-star hotel Grindelwald
2 nights 5-star Riffelalp Resort
2 nights 5-star hotel Pontresina
7 breakfasts, 3 dinners
1st class 4-day Swiss Flex rail pass
prepaid Glacier Express reservations

also includes:
topo maps
detailed route descriptions
sightseeing suggestions
train schedules
optional scenic train reservations
local contact for questions

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