10 Reasons why Bern makes the perfect hub when traveling to Switzerland

Being originally from Switzerland it is only natural that I feel very passionate about this topic. Not only do I help many clients with their trip to this mountainous country but I also return home on a regular basis.

switzerland, matterhorn, cervin, alps, suisse, aavexplorations, aavtravel

Image credit: swiss-image.ch//Max Schmid

When asked what they would like to see in Switzerland, most of my clients start with Interlaken, Lucerne, Zurich and Zermatt. What they don’t understand, is that despite the small size of Switzerland, it is not necessarily easy and fast to get from one point to the next. The Alps pretty much split Switzerland in half and many times you have to travel around the mountains before you can get to a specific place. This is why I always recommend having a hub. Not only does it mean you don’t have to pack and unpack all the time, but it also allows you to adjust your itinerary depending on weather. Personally I also think it is very important that you get to experience Switzerland versus simply taking as many pictures as possible.

fondue, switzerland, cheese, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Christian Perret

Bern is the underdog when it comes to the list of destinations promoted by the Swiss Tourism Board. However, I think it actually deserves to be on top because of its central location.

Here are 10 reasons why Bern makes an excellent hub when traveling to Switzerland:

  • Bern is the Gateway to the Bernese Alps
    Granted, many say it is Interlaken and it is true, Interlaken is closer, depending on where exactly you want to go that is. Wherever you want to go in the Bernese Alps, you will either have to go through Spiez or Interlaken. Both destinations are reached in approximately 1 hour scenic train ride from Bern.

Bern, Switzerland, alps, junfrau, eiger, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Christof Sonderegger

  • Bern is the gateway to the French part of Switzerland
    Whether you want to visit one of the cities like Lausanne or Montreux, or visit the Gruyeres cheese dairy or Cailler chocolate factory, explore the vineyards of the Lavaux, a comfortable train ride of approximately an hour will take you there.
  • Bern is the gateway to Zermatt and the Matterhorn
    Without doubt, the Matterhorn is one of Switzerland’s most famous mountains. Zermatt is a charming mountain village to explore. In 2006 the Lötschberg Base Tunnel opened and cut the travel time from Bern to Zermatt in half. Instead of having to travel around the mountain range, you can now cross via one of the longest tunnels, approximately 35km/22 miles. It takes approximately 2 hours to travel from Bern to Zermatt via train.
  • Bern is a UNESCO Heritage town
    Founded in 1191 (almost 100 years before Switzerland was founded) the medieval town was developed over several centuries. The Old Town dates back to the 15th and 16th century and retains much of its original character. Not only does it offer wonderful sights like Bern’s Clock Tower or the Muenster but it also boasts numerous medieval fountains, all spouting potable drinking water.

bern, altstadt, old town, medieval, aare, switzerland, aavtravelImage credit: ST/swiss-image.ch/Terence du Fresne

  • Bern is perfect for rainy days
    Why you might ask? Bern’s Old Town is lined with 6 km/4 miles of arcades which are not only beautiful and unique, but make shopping on a rainy day a breeze.
  • Bern is very pedestrian friendly
    Cars can only drive in the heart of the Old Town with a special permit. The locals travel around either via the public tram and bus system, ride their bikes, or walk. It is a pleasure to stroll through Bern on foot. When you get tired you hop on a tram. It is as simple as that.

bern, switzerland, zytglogge, cobble stone street, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Jan Geerk

  • Bern is perfect for a workout
    The Old Town of Bern sits on an elevated peninsula surrounded by the River Aare. Throughout hundreds of years, the river has carved out the valley surrounding the Old Town. Today, many staircases connect the lower river level with the upper Old Town. A perfect way to burn calories whilst sightseeing. Oh, and you can always climb the Muenster tower, the 222 stone steps should do the trick.
  • Bern is home to the Paul Klee museum
    The Zentrum Paul Klee features about 40% of all of Paul Klee’s pictorial oeuvre. Apart from the large collection of excellent artwork it is also an architectural masterpiece by Renzo Piano. Three undulations perfectly blend into the green countryside.

bern, market, switzerland, flowers, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Stephan Engler

  • Die Berner – The Locals
    When traveling Switzerland you will quickly understand that despite the small size of the country, there are quite a few differences between the cities and areas. Many Swiss say that the Bernese are slow. I will argue that this is inaccurate. The Bernese are simply less driven than, let’s say people from Zurich. Not because they are lazy, but because they want to enjoy life. They strive to find a balance between career and happiness. Why is that good for you? No matter what you wear, you will get by in Bern. People here are casual and relaxed. No need to fret over a not so fancy wardrobe.

bern, switzerland, dinner, restaurant, aavtravelImage credit: ST/swiss-image.ch

  • Bern’s Outdoor Spaces
    Whether it is a stroll along the river Aare, a pic-nic on the Bundesterrasse, or an ice cream in the beautiful Rosengarten overlooking the Old Town, Bern is an outdoor town and people enjoy the fresh air. You will find them sitting outside at restaurants, you will find them sitting on the lawn enjoying the sun. You will even find kids playing in the 26 fountain display (representing the 26 Swiss cantons) located right in front of Switzerland’s Parliament. Bern is absolutely fantastic for anyone who loves to be outside.

bern, switzerland, muensterplatform, aare, aavtravelImage credit: ST/swiss-image.ch

Have you been to Bern? Want to go? Have a question? Feel free to comment below, I would love to hear your feedback!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Stefanie Pichonnat has been creating customized vacations to Switzerland for 8 years. She is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com





AAV Romance’s Honeymoon Planning Tips or How to Plan the Perfect Honeymoon

Each year, about 1.4 million US couples take a honeymoon. The average spends close to $4,500 for their vacation. 15% of those couples take a “luxury honeymoon” which averages at close to $10,000 for 11 days. No matter where your honeymoon falls, I think we all agree, you deserve the perfect honeymoon. After all, you have a one time shot to get it right.
oahu, hawaii, honeymoon, infinity pool, aavtravelYour honeymoon is meant to celebrate your love and marriage. Every couple I meet has different expectations when it comes to their vacation. Personally, I believe it is super important that those are met. If you are anything like me, you want everything to be perfect.

First off, you need to be aware that many things can go wrong during a honeymoon and I bet you have at least one couple in your circle that doesn’t have the best memory when it comes to their vacation. There are a lot of potential traps, like for example:

  • Arriving in a country where no one speaks English, and you realize you forgot to pre-arrange your transfer to the resort.
  • Booking that cheap flight with a 45 minute layover in Chicago. Chances are, you are not making that connection and might get to your destination a day late.
  • Booking an oceanfront room not realizing that this not necessarily means you will see the ocean as the view can be obstructed.
  • Wishing for a wonderful, peaceful stretch of beach not realizing that your resort sits on a public beach.
  • Being deceived by a resort’s marketing. Trust me, even the biggest and best are guilty of altering their photos.
  • And there are many more.

merida, mexico, honeymoon, aavtravelThese are some of my tips on how to make sure you have the best honeymoon possible:

  1. Decide whether or not you want to work with a honeymoon specialist
    Planning the perfect honeymoon takes a lot of time and research. Some people prefer to do it on their own and that is fine. But if you choose to do so, your research must go way beyond TripAdvisor and a couple of reviews from strangers you don’t know. Personally, I love working with experts. I have long learned that the time they can save is priceless. After all, they know the ins and outs which can save you countless hours of research. If you want to make your honeymoon planning easy and stress-free, I suggest you contact a honeymoon specialist. Not every travel agent will do, you need someone that cares and specializes in honeymoons. That being said, do your due diligence:- How many honeymoons have they planned?- Have you heard of them before?- Do they travel regularly and know what they are talking about?

    – Do they have good reviews?

    A great honeymoon planner gets to know you, learns what it is you are looking for and works with your budget.

  2. Create your honeymoon dream!
    Cuddle up and talk about your honeymoon. These are a few topics you should discuss:- What does your perfect honeymoon day look like?- What do your surroundings look like?

    – Do you want to be very active or are you looking to mainly relax?

    – Any fun things or new things you would absolutely like to try?

    – What kind of romantic experiences are you looking for?

    The clearer your vision becomes, the easier it will be to find your perfect place!
    honeymoon dream sunrise hawaii

  3. Should you stay or should you go?
    Many couples want to leave for their honeymoon the day after their wedding. The idea is most certainly very romantic but in reality you should consider this:- Many flights leave very early in the morning, meaning you are likely not going to get much sleep, if any at all.- It also means that you have to be ready for your trip before you get married. And what if, in all the hustle and bustle, you actually forgot something important, e.g. your passport, or who will be feeding your fish?- It is always nice to check-in 24 hours prior to the flight. Chances are, you won’t have the time to do so on your wedding day.All this being said and done, doesn’t sleeping in the day after your wedding, enjoying each other for a bit, sound much better? I suggest to wait a day or two as your honeymoon departure will be much less stressful. You will have some extra time to take care of things and you will get to your destination relaxed and ready. Extra perk, you will be much calmer should something go wrong on your day of departure.
    beach, oahu, waimanalo, aavtravel
  4. Surprise, surprise!
    Who doesn’t like to be surprised? When talking about your honeymoon, listen to what your significant other reveals. The more you know, the easier it will be to come up with a surprise. Something unexpected. Maybe it is deep sea fishing, maybe it is chartering a private yacht, maybe it is a romantic, secluded pic-nic on the beach. Whatever it is, plan it in secret. It will be extra special and truly show how much you care. You will both treasure that memory forever!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Stefanie Pichonnat has been specializing in planning honeymoons for over 8 years. She is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Visit Hawaii: Which Hawaiian Island should you go to?

Hawaii is unique. Especially for a malihini (newcomer) it can be hard to determine which island to visit.

The first thing to do is asking yourself: What do I imagine my Hawaiian vacation to be like? What kind of pictures do I see in my mind?

  • Have you always wanted to see a live volcano?
  • Do you picture hula dancers on the beach?
  • Have you always wanted to play on one of the many phenomenal golf courses?
  • Or, are you a history buff and Pearl Harbor is a must?big island hawaii, kohala coast, dining, oceanfront, beach, hawaii Image credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Once you have a good idea of what it is you are looking for, check out the grid we created. This check-list allows you to determine what experiences are available on which island. Check the ones you are looking for, see on which island/s they are available. The island that offers the highest amount of experiences you are looking for should be your top pick.
aavtravel, hawaii, which island to go to, where to travel toYou should leave enough time to properly experience an island. The Island of Hawaii for example does not only have a lot to offer but is also quite big. Travel times are longer and you need a couple of days, if you want to experience most of what the island has to offer. If you only have a week, I would suggest sticking to one island. If you have 10 days or more, a combination of 2 islands is a great option. If you have limited time but want to see them all, you might be interested in one of the cruises.

hana, waterfall, maui, hawaii, hikingImage credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Every island is distinct in what it offers (from urban to rural and private), which makes choosing the right one a little difficult. Hopefully our grid makes finding the one that suits you best a little easier. No matter which moku (island) you decide to visit (or if you choose to island hop!) you will have an experience of a lifetime.

Written by AAV Travel’s Hawaii Expert

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Hawaii Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. Having personally travelled to Hawaii she can help you create a wonderful experience. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com