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WHAT TO DO IN 5 DAYS IN SWITZERLAND

MOST EPIC 5-DAY SWITZERLAND ITINERARY

Switzerland might be small, but there are many stunning places in Switzerland. If you are looking for the best things to do in 5 days in Switzerland or the perfect 5-day Switzerland itinerary, this post is for you.

5 days in Switzerland is the absolute minimum to spend in this country in my opinion! I consider myself a “Switzerland travel expert” and having spent and actively explored the country for about 18 months, I still see new places every time I visit. However, I understand that some of you might only have five or four days in Switzerland, so you can adjust this itinerary to 4 days in Switzerland (but also for 6 days in Switzerland). 

Be prepared to sacrifice those extra hours in bed to see the best Switzerland has to offer. But believe me when I say: it will be worth it! While 5 days in Switzerland isn’t enough to see all the highlights, it’s definitely possible to see some of its top places.

In this 5-day Switzerland itinerary post, you will find out:

  • How to get around + more travel tips
  • Places to visit in 5 days in Switzerland + things to do in Switzerland in 5 days
  • If you want to find out about the 25 very best things to do in Switzerland, read my awesome post here.

Travel Tips for a 5-Day Switzerland Itinerary

Before talking about the actual 5 days Switzerland itinerary, here are some important travel tips.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my link (at no extra cost to you). More about it here.

Where to Stay in Switzerland For 5 Days

If you stay in Switzerland for five days, I recommend not having a base but instead changing your hotels/locations a few times. This might be a bit more stressful than just doing a few day trips – from Zurich, e.g. – but this way, you do not spend too much of your precious time traveling back and forth.

How to Get Around Switzerland in 5 Days

I have been to Switzerland numerous times, and I have road-tripped and traveled by train. Both are amazing ways to discover Switzerland in 5 days and I am not sure what I prefer overall. However, for this itinerary, I have a favorite mode of transport.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION / SWISS TRAVEL PASS

For this Switzerland itinerary, I strongly recommend that you use the Swiss Travel Pass.

  • There are different Swiss Travel Passes available regarding flexibility and duration. Flexible passes allow you to use the pass for a certain amount of days within one month or the regular, more affordable option, which means you have to use the pass on consecutive days of travel.
  • Yes, the Swiss Travel Pass is quite expensive but it will pay off.
  • You can use buses and trains without any extra costs.
  • Also, most boat cruises and some mountain excursions are included.
  • The Swiss Travel Pass also covers most museums and entrances to castles.
  • The great thing about it is that you never have to worry about finding parking spaces and instead use buses and trains. 

Review Swiss Travel Pass
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Okay, I have some bad news to deliver:

  • The Swiss Travel Pass is valid for 3, 4, 6, 8, or 15 days – and there is none for 5 days exactly.
  • So my tip is to get the 4-day pass and for the first day in Zurich, you can get the Zurich Card. You can buy the card in advance and actually also use it as a ticket to get from Zurich airport to the city center. In Zurich, free public transportation in the city center is included as well as a short cruise, entrances to several museums and more.
  • Click here to find the rates for a Swiss Travel Pass.

ROAD-TRIPPING SWITZERLAND FOR 5 DAYS

Switzerland is also great for road tripping. I actually love driving there. However, if I only had five days, I would probably leave my car and instead take the train because it is often easier and gives you more time to enjoy the scenery. If you still want to drive, check out my Switzerland road trip itinerary or my post on driving tips for Switzerland. I have road-tripped Switzerland about 12-13 times but I have always driven my own car (and now my van). If you want to rent a car, check out this company for your rental car.

Visa Regulations

  • Switzerland is not part of the European Union.
  • People from the European Union do not need a visa.
  • If you are coming from elsewhere, please check visa regulations.

Language

Switzerland is small and has only a bit more than 8,5 million inhabitants. However, it has four official languages! Yep, 4 languages. 

  • Most of the country speaks Swiss-German. The places I mention here are mostly located in the German-speaking part of the country (which is the north and east of Switzerland) as well as Central Switzerland. If you learn German at school etc. you will not understand that dialect, though. It is not the German that is spoken in the news, movies or so. But most Swiss people will try to speak High German if they realize you do not speak the Swiss dialect.
  • Italian is spoken in some parts of South Switzerland – especially in the canton of Ticino.
  • French is another main language that people in the west and south speak. This includes Zermatt (where also German is spoken) but also places around Lake Geneva.
  • Romansh is a minor, yet still official, language spoken by very few (about 37,000 people) in the southeast.
  • English is not an official language but many people – especially in the tourism sector – speak at least some basic language. 

Money

  • The official currency in Switzerland is Swiss France (CHF).
  • Most Swiss shops accept payment in dollars or euros. I still recommend changing money and having some Swiss Francs with you, as it gets more expensive if you pay in euros or even in dollars.
  • Also, you can often pay with your credit card, at least in bigger stores.
  • Switzerland is expensive – so here are a few tips on how to save money during your trip.

Best Switzerland Itinerary – How to Spend 5 Days in Switzerland

So, lets get started with the places to visit in 5 days in Switzerland.

Day 1 of 5 Days in Switzerland

Of course, this itinerary is not set in stone. It depends on whether you arrive in Zurich or begin your trip somewhere else in Switzerland. So, you can change the itinerary depending on where you are starting from.

Zurich

Depending on the time of your arrival, you can spend your first day in Zurich – whether the full days or just a few hours.

Zurich is my favorite city in Switzerland – mostly because there is so much to do and see and it feels like home to me. It has a city feel though it is not a huge one (about 420,000 inhabitants) it is still the biggest in the country. As with any other city in Switzerland, there is a lot of natural beauty even in the city center, yet it is not overwhelming as it sometimes is in a metropolis.

Places to see in Switzerland in 5 days
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  • In Zurich, I definitely recommend taking a stroll from the train station to Lake Zurich. Walking all the way to Lake Zurich, you will pass the Bahnhofstrasse, which is one of the world’s most expensive shopping streets.
  • Explore the old town with cute, colorful buildings.
  • There are also cafés and restaurants here.
  • Then head to Lake Zurich. Personally, I would recommend sitting in a café with a view of Lake Zurich.
  • You can also make a boat trip on a pedalo or take some time to relax at the lake.
  • The water is so clean that you can even swim in the lake.
  • This is also a great way to end your day. Especially in the summertime, there are many street artists by the lake, often playing beautiful music, so it’s great to sit there and chill.
  • Click here to find a more detailed post on things to do in Zurich.
  • If you arrive early in the morning and also love waterfalls, you can see the Rhine Falls which are located near the German border in the northern part of Switzerland. You can visit them on a (half) day trip from Zurich. They are the biggest waterfalls in Europe. They are only 23 meters high but with a width of over 150 meters, and up to 700’000 liters of water that fall over the rocks every second. Click here to read more about the Rhine Falls.

WHERE TO STAY IN ZURICH

  • Zurich has some great luxury hotels which are amazing to get spoiled and enjoy life. Baur au Lac is one of the best-rated luxury hotels close to the city center.
  • Warning, there are not many budget hotels in Zurich. This is a good-rated hostel in Zurich. I stayed here once and for a hostel it actually was quite good for a hostel – especially because of its great location.
  • Check out my guide on the best places to stay in Zurich.

Day 2 of Your 5-Day Switzerland Itinerary

  • After a busy but great first day, it is time to head to Switzerland’s next beautiful destination: Lucerne and the Alps. 
  • Distance: Zurich – Lucerne: By car, it takes about one hour (52km), by train it also takes about one hour.

Lucerne / Mount Rigi or Mount Pilatus

Lucerne and one mountain excursion in the area are must-do activities in five days in Switzerland. In the region of Lucerne, you could choose from several mountain excursions: I recommend Mount Rigi or Mount Pilatus.

SWITZERLAND DAY 2 – MORNING

Mount Rigi- at 1,798 meters above sea level – is one of the most popular mountain excursions in Switzerland. The Rigi is a mountain massif of the Alps –  the whole massif is almost entirely surrounded by the water of three different bodies of water: Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug, and Lake Lauerz.

The views from Mount Rigi are nothing but amazing. And…it is quite easily accessible from Lucerne, though it takes about one hour by boat (free with a Swiss Travel Pass) from central Lucerne.

Views of Lake Zug from Mount Rigi, Switzerland, Arzo Travels
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  • With the Swiss Travel Pass, the Mount Rigi excursion is included in 2022. Thus, there is no extra cost for you.
  • If you enjoy hiking (or want to save money because you do not have a Swiss Travel Pass), you can also hike one way or even both. It is also possible to just hike some parts and take the funicular for the rest.

Mount Rigi takes less time than visiting Mount Pilatus and is perfect if you do not want to spend too much money (since it is included in the Swiss Travel Pass) or too many hours on the mountain peak.

MOUNT PILATUS

Alternatively, I recommend visiting Mount Pilatus, at 2,128 meters above sea level, which also offers incredible views. However, it does take more time to get up than Mount Rigi and the whole trip will probably take up to 8 hours.

There are many options for outdoor activities at Mount Pilatus, like paragliding or hiking. So, if you plan to visit Mount Pilatus, you will not have much time to do many activities in Lucerne that day.

Mount Pilatus with the Swiss Travel Pass
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  • With a Swiss Travel Pass, you have a 50% discount on the ride up. You can get there by boat or bus  – both are free with a Swiss Travel Pass.

So, I highly, highly suggest doing one of the mountain trips. With only 5 days in Switzerland, I would probably pick Mount Rigi because it is free with a Swiss Travel Pass in 2022, and it takes less time to visit. Then you still have a couple of hours for the town center of Lucerne in the afternoon/evening. 

SWITZERLAND DAY 2 – AFTERNOON / EVENING

After your mountain excursion, I recommend exploring the charming town of Lucerne which itself is quite cute and small, so you can reduce your activities in the town itself.

Lucerne is also the capital of the canton (state) of Lucern and is known for its preserved medieval architecture, its colorful old Town, the Museggmauer (Musegg Wall) –  a 14-century rampart, and the war memorial of a crying lion. But the most famous sight is the covered Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge).

Chapel Bridge 2016 in Lucerne - Can you spot me and Puppygak on th bridge?
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  • Walk along stunning Lake Lucerne.
  • Cross the famous wooden bridge – the Chapel Bridge. It is very picturesque and contains several paintings on the roof dating back to the 17th century.
  • Choose one of the cafes/restaurants with a view of Lake Lucerne to end your day (there are many to choose from).
  • Read my detailed Lucerne guide with more info on Lucerne and the mountain excursion.
  • If you visit Switzerland and Lucerne in winter, check out my Lucerne in winter travel post.

WHERE TO STAY IN LUCERNE

Day 3 of 5 Days in Switzerland

From Lucerne, I recommend visiting Interlaken. Personally, I think visiting this region is a must for any 5-day Switzerland itinerary. Interlaken is a small town. It is located in between two stunning lakes – Lake Brienz and Lake Thun which are some of the most stunning lakes in the country. However, the name also encompasses the whole region of Interlaken and for this itinerary, I also included the area of Jungfrau.

  • Distance: Lucerne to Interlaken is about one hour by car (70km) or about 2 hours by train. Take the scenic Luzern – Interlaken Express train if you use public transportation. This guarantees amazing window views!
Luzern Interlaken Express window view
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Luzern – Interlaken Express window view

While we focus on the region of Interlaken, we will not focus that much on Interlaken itself but rather on places in the area.

Jungfraujoch OR

For the third day in Switzerland, I have a couple of suggestions. Choose the one that suits your taste and budget.

SWITZERLAND DAY 3 – JUNGFRAUJOCH (FULL DAY)

The most popular day trip in Switzerland is a trip to Jungfraujoch. “The top of Europe” has the highest train station in Europe.

View of the Sphinx Observatory on Jungfraujoch, one of the highest observatories in the world located at the Jungfrau railway station, Bernese Overland, Switzerland. @shutterstock
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@shutterstock

The train journey up Jungfraujoch + discovering the summit will take quite a while. From Interlaken, you will need at least 7-9 hours for the whole trip.  

  • There is so much to do and see up there (snow guaranteed throughout the year) – from an Ice Palace to absolutely stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the biggest glacier in the Alps (the Aletsch Glacier) – there is a lot to see.
  • Be warned, it is quite touristy and also quite expensive.
  • You get a 25% discount with the Swiss Travel Pass. Check out prices and tours here (without or with a Swiss Travel Pass).
  • Here is my more detailed post on the Jungfraujoch.

View from Eismeer Station on the way to Jungfraujoch
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Is it really a must-see in 5 days in Switzerland? To be honest, Jungfraujoch is a great place. It was impressive. I was awestruck – especially the view of the Aletsch Glacier left me speechless. But is it a must-see if you are short on time or money? I am not sure. The Interlaken region is so rich in breathtaking places that do not cost a fortune, so I have a few more suggestions for you.

Lake Brienz / St. Beatus Caves / Thun

If the Jungfraujoch doesn’t take your fancy, here is an alternative day three itinerary. Explore Lake Brienz and the Giessbach Waterfalls, then head to Lake Thun, see St. Beatus Caves, and spend your evening in Thun.

SWITZERLAND DAY 3 – MORNING: LAKE BRIENZ & GIESSBACH WATERFALLS

Get to Interlaken Ost boat station, which is within a few minutes from the heart of Interlaken, to start your day 3 in Switzerland. There, take a boat tour on Lake Brienz, and get off the boat at Giessbach Waterfalls to see the waterfalls up close.

View from the boat - get to Grandhotel Giessbach by boat
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View from the boat – get to Grandhotel Giessbach by boat

Giessbach waterfall - with a view of Grandhotel Giessbach
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  • Get out at the Giessbach Waterfall boat station and do a 20-minute hike up to walk behind the waterfall. It is worth it!
  • Enjoy the views of and from the waterfalls.
  • There is a beautiful hotel and restaurant open in summer here, too. I really recommend having a drink on the terrace of this gorgeous hotel (it is closed in winter) before heading to your next destination. 
  • Lake Brienz boat tours are only available during the month of mid-April to mid-October, so this is the perfect activity in the main travel months.
  • The boat cruise on Lake Brienz is free with a Swiss Travel Pass. Check out my guide on stunning Lake Brienz.

SWITZERLAND DAY 3 – MIDDAY: ST. BEATUS CAVES

After this, you can then catch the boat again to head back to Interlaken. The boats run every 1-2 hours, so plan accordingly. As mentioned previously, 1-2 kilometers south of Interlaken is another fantastic lake: Lake Thun. 

In Interlaken, take a bus and head to the St. Beatus Caves. Alternatively, you can also do a boat cruise on Lake Thun to get to this amazing place.  

St. Beatus Höhle in Interlaken
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  • The St. Beatus Caves are quite impressive – especially on a hot summer day it cools you down and refreshes you (yes, it is quite chilly inside).
  • But to be honest, the best view is from just standing in front and looking at Lake Thun, which is an extremely pretty greenish color. 
  • If you can’t tear yourself away from there right away, you have the option to dine at the panorama restaurant.
  • The Swiss Travel Pass allows you to also do a boat tour on Lake Thun without any extra costs.

View from the panorama restaurant in St Beatus Caves
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SWITZERLAND DAY 3 – EVENING: THUN

Alternatively, you can also finish your day by going to another town close by – the pretty town of Thun which is located on the southern/western shores of Lake Thun.

Surfing in Thun Arzo Travels
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  • Thun is a perfect little town where you will have plenty of options to dine.
  • Not only this, but Thun also has a charming town center – perfect for nice strolls.
  • And there are a couple of castles to visit in Thun.
  • Check out my Thun travel guide for more info.
  • Either way, a Lake Thun sunset boat cruise as well as a dinner in Thun would be a great way to finish day three in Switzerland. 

Find my 50 recommendations for Interlaken activities here.

WHERE TO STAY IN INTERLAKEN:

For day 3 and 4 of your itinerary, I suggest staying in Interlaken because its central location allows to you get around easily.

  • The most luxurious hotel in Interlaken is Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa. I have not stayed there myself, so I can only repeat what I heard: This hotel is amazing. If you are looking for a fancy place in Interlaken, this is probably the best pick.
  • For your stay in Interlaken, I recommend this hotel which is centrally located and is quite nice. Check out rates for Hotel du Nord here.
  • If you are on a budget, I recommend staying in Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof next to the Höhenmatte. It is not the cheapest hostel but definitely worth the money and one of my all-time favorite hostels. Check out prices here.

There are more gorgeous places to visit in the area. I admit I am in love with Interlaken and Jungfraujoch. I could stay for months without getting bored. So, I have a few suggestions for the area of Interlaken, but also a few suggestions for other places.

Day 4 of 5 Days in Switzerland

Let’s continue your 5-day Switzerland itinerary.

So, there are several options: Extend your stay in Interlaken and choose one of these day trips from Interlaken. A day trip to Lauterbrunnen, Lake Oeschinen (what a stunner!), or Lake Gelmersee (another stunner though it is much less known!) are great options. You then stay in the region of Interlaken for the rest of your trip.

If you are still eager to visit another gorgeous area of Switzerland – leaving the region of Interlaken – then I suggest visiting Zermatt for the last two days of your trip. But let´s first discuss more places to visit near Interlaken.

Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken

  • Distance: Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen about 20 minutes by car (15km) or about 20 minutes by public transportation.

SWITZERLAND DAY 4 – FULL-DAY TRIP: LAUTERBRUNNEN

Lauterbrunnen is indeed a stunning place and out of the world, and getting to this little village is an experience in itself. While Lauterbrunnen is renowned for crazy outdoor sports like base jumping, it is also an incredible place to visit for non-crazy outdoor enthusiasts like me (and probably you).

Lauterbrunnen Staubbach waterfall a top activity in Interlaken with Arzo Travels
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You have one of the most beautiful mountain ranges here. Looking at the famous Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains is mind-blowing (on a clear day). They are also known as the Swiss Skyline.

Murren in summer months
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Murren
  • There is water. Water in terms of waterfalls. Many, many waterfalls.  Lauterbrunnen is the valley of 72 waterfalls. And then you have gorgeous, gorgeous waterfalls like the Staubbachwaterfall. You can also visit the Trümmelbachfälle in the summer months for an entrance fee (when visiting the waterfalls within the mountain, pack some waterproof clothes – especially after a rainy day).
  • Head up to the mountain village of Murren – it is a cute place with even more stunning views of the Swiss Skyline. And the train ride alone is worth it.  Here is more on Mürren.
  • And if you are into James Bond, you might want to get up the “James Bond Mountain” – Schilthorn. You can either hike up or take several cable cars to get up from Lauterbrunnen/Stechelberg. Both ways are fun. Even if you are not an experienced hiker you can do the hikes, because it is not challenging. I promise it is worth it.
  • If you visit Lauterbrunnen, plan a full day and check out hiking options in and around Lauterbrunnen.
  • Check out my Lauterbrunnen guide for more, detailed, information.

SWITZERLAND DAY 4 – EVENING: INTERLAKEN

For the evening, head back to Interlaken. Interlaken is a small town with absolutely amazing scenery.

Interlaken Where to go, Höhenmmatte
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Höhenmatte Park with a view of the Swiss Skyline

It just takes a few minutes to get here from Lauterbrunnen (about 20 minutes), and if you make Interlaken your base, you can explore it in the evenings rather than reserving a full day for it.

  • Buy some snacks from the supermarket at Höheweg street or a take-away meal from one of the numerous restaurants and then head to Höhenmatte park.
  • There are benches and a beautiful meadow – the perfect setting for a dinner picnic.
  • Do not be surprised to see many, many paragliders on a sunny day. This is what Interlaken is known for: Outdoors sports like para- and hang-gliding in the most impressive setting.

Day 5 in Switzerland

If you stay 5 days in Switzerland, I have several suggestions. You could prepare for your departure and spend the rest of the day in Interlaken and get ready to leave for the final destination. Or, if you have another full day (leaving late at night or on day 6), you could head to Zermatt

Zermatt

  • Distances: Interlaken to Zermatt by car is about 2 hours plus 15 minutes by train. Zermatt is car-free, so you cannot get up to Zermatt with your car, and you will need public transportation for the rest of the journey. It takes about 2,5 hours if you travel the whole journey by train.

SWITZERLAND DAY 5 – ALL DAY

Zermatt is a little town famous as a ski destination in winter, but it is also a great place to visit in summer. 

Switzerland in 1 week
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  • You probably know that Zermatt is home to the Matterhorn mountain – the most famous mountain in Switzerland.
  • If you want to, you could get up (via cable cars, etc.) to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at Klein Matterhorn, which is about 4000 meters high. But you should be aware that altitude sickness is a real problem, especially if you get up really quickly.
  • With 5 days in Switzerland, getting up Klein Matterhorn is not really a must-do activity (it is very time-consuming and also expensive). I actually recommend admiring the Matterhorn from below rather than hopping onto a cable car. Alternatively, you can also get up Gornergrat, which is another mountain peak with great views of the glaciers around and the Matterhorn.
  • You can have a really wonderful time simply exploring the cute little town.
  • Take trillions of pictures of the amazing Matterhorn and do some hikes in this beautiful part of the world.
  • Here are more Zermatt tips.

Grand Tour Gornergrat in Zermatt
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SWITZERLAND DAY 5 – EVENING

It is time to plan your departure – I hope you had an amazing 5 days in Switzerland.

So, where do you need to go from there? If you head back to Zurich, plan in 4 hours to get from Zermatt to Zurich, from Interlaken to Zurich it takes about 2 hours.

While trains in Switzerland are pretty amazing and reliable, leave early. Even in Switzerland, the trains might be late one day (though it most likely will not happen). And if you drive, it might always happen that there is traffic.

If you stay 5 nights in Switzerland, you might want to stay overnight in Zermatt.

WHERE TO STAY IN ZERMATT

  • Luxury hotels in Zermatt: Hotel Mont Cervin Palace defines luxury. If you are looking for a 5-star hotel, this might be perfect for you.
  • Mid-range hotels in Zermatt: I enjoyed my stay at the hotel at Sunstar Style Hotel. The prices were very reasonable (summer prices are normally better than the prices in winter), and the location was great. I even had a great room view of the Matterhorn. If you have the budget, I definitely recommend booking a hotel room with a view of Matterhorn as it is with some extra $.
  • Click here to find my accommodation guide for Zermatt.

CONCLUSION: ITINERARY FOR 5 DAYS IN SWITZERLAND

I admit that it is a jam-packed and ambitious Switzerland 5-day itinerary. Still, it is definitely doable, and if you visit Switzerland, you do not want to spend much time sleeping anyway as there is so much to see and do.

If you want to have it a bit more relaxed, I would skip Zermatt and spend one more day in Interlaken, or Lucerne instead. My tip: Spend the last 3 days in Interlaken and visit Lake Oeschinensee.

Stunning Lake Oeschinensee with Arzo Travels
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I am one of the biggest Switzerland fans out there, and this is for many reasons. I am always overwhelmed by its beauty and think that 5 days is the minimum to spend in the country. I hope this 5-day Switzerland itinerary is helpful, and that you know now how to spend 5 days in Switzerland. If you want to stay longer and are looking for more tips, check my other Switzerland posts, which you can find here.

DIGITAL TRAVEL PLANNER FOR SWITZERLAND

I did it! I have created my first digital travel planner…Of course, this first one is for your trip to Switzerland. How could it be any different!?! It is one PDF file with 15 pages for you to download. It is minimalistic, yet helpful and…pretty. Some pages (like the daily planner) you might want to print more than once – which is totally fine. You can print each page as often as you like for your own personal use. Check out the Switzerland travel planner here.
 
E Switzerland travel planner, all files, ArzoTravels
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You find many important travel tips for Switzerland on my site – this planner is for your individual trip. From daily planners to an expensive tracker to your Switzerland bucket list… You can purchase the planner via Gumroad (I have booked a couple of digital products from their site for the last few years and they are great)! So, have a look and feel free to buy the product – and email me with any feedback: arzo@arzotravels.com 
 
You can also buy them on Etsy – here is the link to my newly created Etsy shop :).

Safe Travels, Arzo
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