Switzerland: Landscapes and Villages With Cathy & Gordon Illg

Tour Intro

Cathy & Gordon Illg take you to the fascinating and diverse region of Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. The Illgs, along with a local Swiss guide, will take you to places most tour groups never see. South of Bern lays the Alpine heart of Switzerland, the Bernese Oberland, a massively impressive region of classic Swiss scenery, high peaks, sheer valleys, and cool lakes. Traveling to the gorgeous Lauterbrunnen valley, within the Bernese Oberland, allows you to concentrate your time in the quaint village of Mürren and further east in its own valley, Grindelwald.

The Eiger village of Grindelwald lies embedded in a welcoming and green hollow, surrounded by commanding mountains with the Eiger north face and the Wetterhorn, making it one of the most ideal locations to photograph. During the day we will head to the highest village elevations, and amble about shooting village scenes, spectacular snow capped peaks and homes with flower filled window boxes, orchestrated by the sound of cowbells. It really is a photographic heaven and music for the soul and mind. Thanks to its magnificent vista and the glacier, which once reached right into the basin, Grindelwald attracted its first guests, primarily mountain climbers. Road and railway construction made Grindelwald much more accessible towards the end of the nineteenth century. The first cableway in the Alps was built here in 1908 on the Wetterhorn, and in 1912, a railway reached the Jungfraujoch. It still remains Europe’s highest railway station and a world-renowned excursion destination with permanent snow and ice (you may wish to take this as an optional day trip on your own).

Next moving on to charming Mürren, completely cut off from car traffic, you will travel by train and cable car to this remote alpine village. At the end of the 1960’s, the makers of the Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” were immediately taken by the futuristic revolving restaurant (we will enjoy breakfast here one morning) on the Schilthorn; the scenes involving the imaginary ‘Piz Gloria’ were shot here. The magnificent 360° panorama from the summit takes in the world-renowned mountain peaks reaching right to Mont Blanc and into the Black Forest.

Due to the excellent transportation systems (trains, cable-cars, and funiculars) you can roam to your heart’s content, which, with the quality of natural scenery offered, may take a while. Both villages are laden with the spectacular flavor of quaint Swiss communities, and mountain ranges that touch the sky. Explore the hidden valleys, rushing creeks, green meadows, and glaciers just outside your lovely hotel lodges.

“I’ve said for years that the Berner Oberland offers far more high mountain travel thrills than the Zermatt area, and I still stand by that. If you are going to only one alpine hideaway in Switzerland, the Berner Oberland is tops. It’s easier to reach, the scenery is at least as impressive, it’s a larger area, and there’s much more variety.”  ~ Rick Steves

Cathy and Gordon Illg invite you on their return trip to Switzerland. They are freelance photographers specializing in nature and outdoor recreation. For more than twenty years they have been searching outstanding locations for both scenic and wildlife photography. Their work has appeared in nearly all the major nature publications and prominent travel magazines, as well as earning numerous awards in Nature’s Best International Photographic Competitions. In 2003, they earned second place in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, and one of their participants also won an award in that contest with a photo taken on one of their tours.
They are more than just skilled photographers and instructors; they are also Certified International Tour Managers, which ensures that traveling companions will have a great time, regardless of where they are traveling and what they are doing. The job is particularly fulfilling when it involves bringing guests face to face with the great outdoors and the creatures that call it home.

If you are already an accomplished photographer, they will get you to the good locations, at the right times, and set you free. However, if you want help, they will provide as much instruction as you want. On most tours instructional presentations are provided, and participants are always encouraged to bring a sample of their work for a helpful, friendly critique or just to share with the group. While there are specific itineraries, they allow time for "unscheduled" stops for opportunities found along the way. Join tour leaders Cathy & Gordon Illg for this incredible cultural and photographic opportunity. The emphasis of the trip is on photography, yet this is much more, one that non-photographic travelers can enjoy just as well. The pace will provide ample opportunity to wander through alpine villages, it is an amazing journey.
 

Tour Highlights

• Bernese Oberland is the alpine heart of Switzerland.
• Panoramic views of the spectacular mountain trio, Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.
• Four days in Mürren and four days in Grindelwald, providing classic Swiss scenery, high peaks, sheer valleys, chalets, cool lakes, and ‘jangling cows’.
• Evening photo lectures, including discussions on creativity, creating with light and capturing the spirit of the amazing landscape, and architecture.
• Excellent, knowledgeable local guide who joins us on various days throughout the tour.
• Departure limited to 12 participants to optimize your photographic experience.
• This is a very active itinerary, at higher elevations, you will need to be physically fit and be able to carry your camera gear for a few miles each day

Tour Itinerary

September 25: Home – Zurich
Reflections

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Switzerland

Depart on your overnight flight to Zurich. The group tour will begin tomorrow, from the Zurich Airport, morning departure time to be announced. If you wish to spend a few days in Zurich prior to the tour starting, we recommend the Mövenpick Zurich Airport hotel (free shuttle service) www.moevenpick-zurich.com.

September 26: Zurich – Grindewald
Mountains & Wildflowers

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Switzerland

You will arrive in Zurich early this morning, where you will depart via rail (time will be announced) with Cathy & Gordon to the resort town of Grindelwald. It combines a foreground full of country charm, fields planted with fruit trees or maples, and dotted with pretty dwellings, with a grand rocky barrier stretching from the shoulder of the Wetterhorn to the pyramid of the Eiger. Through lush valleys we shall go with the occasional pause for mountain peaks reaching for the heavens, clusters of alpine cabins perched on ledges. (We have included the cost of one checked bag to be transferred from the Zurich rail station to your hotel in Grindelwald and return from Murren. You will need to carry your camera gear and essential items. Any additional checked luggage is at the cost of participant. For those that fly Swiss Air, it is recommended your luggage can be checked from your home departure point – through to the Grindelwald Hotel.)

After checking in to the hotel, there will be time to settle in to our new environs before we meet for a brief meeting and have dinner together at the hotel. Overnight HOTEL GLETSCHERGARTEN (D)

September 27-29: Grindewald

Start early this morning, where we will have cameras pointing at magnificent walls of granite when the first rays of light strike. Return to the hotel for breakfast and meet your local guide to begin your tour of the surrounding area. We begin with incredible alpine rambles in the midst of Switzerland’s deepest valleys, most breathtaking glaciers, and towering peaks.

These three full days we will explore on foot and use the vast cable car system, making our traverse as easy or moderate as desired. The network of cable cars leads us up to numerous short and long distance trails throughout the region and beyond. The massive peaks present a well-defined wall of giants sometimes known as “the North Face of the Alps.” We will take trails leading us through peaceful meadows where tranquil Swiss dairy cows roam with oversized bells around their necks. There is a hike to Bachalpsee Lake, from "First" Station above Grindelwald., with breathtakingly beautiful views.

For anyone wishing to hike further, there is a one-hour walk east of the village leading to a trailhead for a scenic stroll through woodland to the awe-inspiring Oberer Gletscher, a glacier inching its way down the mountainside of Wetterhorn. Nestling under the craggy trio of the Wetterhorn, Mettenberg and Eiger, Grindelwald offers easy access to explore some large glaciers. Overnight HOTEL GLETSCHERGARTEN (B all days, two D)

September 30-3: Mürren

Photo By: Tom & Pat Cory

Photo Location: Murren Switzerland Flags

After breakfast we will travel to Lauterbrunnen, where we then take a funicular to the plateau at Grutschalp. A train then takes a scenic route along the cliff-edge to Mürren. Lying at the foot of the Schilthorn, Mürren has remained a cozy mountain village, even with its being featured in a major Bond production. The cable car runs further up, on a breathtaking ride up to the ice-bound summit of the Schilthorn. From here you can enjoy dazzling panoramic views of the spectacular mountain trio, Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau (Ogre, Monk and Virgin). 

Photography each day includes meadows, century-old chalets, cobalt lakes, rustic cabins, the mountain peaks, and the ‘jangling cows’ as we amble in the fields. You will burn up memory cards or film at a rate you did not expect. It is difficult to overstate how stunning the Lauterbrunnen Valley is; even seasoned Alpinists shrug their shoulders and call it the most beautiful valley in Europe! An immense U-shaped valley (the worlds deepest) with bluffs on either side, doused by waterfalls, it is utterly spectacular. The combination of snow-capped mountain peaks, fresh air, fall color, jagged rocks, and lush rolling green hills will quickly fascinate you. It’s the perfect time to relax with camera in hand in a beautiful environment.

Dawn photography amid a 'cathedral' of mountain peaks will be the starting point each day for walks, excursions, and photographic experiences. One excursion may include Grauseeli, a small lake on the eastern side of the Schilthorn, or a funicular leads to the Allmendhubel, immediately above the village at an altitude of 1907 meters. Themed walks such as the North Face Trail provide historical mountaineering information on the north faces, and the Panorama Trail invite visitors to discover the region. There may be a couple days in which you can enjoy picnic lunches and remain in prime locations for the most opportune times for photography. The last day there will be free time in the village, where you will enjoy another slow photo-exploration amid the alpine community, and superb Swiss scenery. Overnights HOTEL ALPENRUH  (B all days, two D)

October 4: Mürren – Zurich
Windows

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Switzerland

Capture the last of your photographs this morning, and then enjoy a leisurely breakfast before we make our way back to Zurich. The group will use public transport to Lauterbrunnen, where you will then travel via train back to Zurich. You can stop in the Capital City of Bern for lunch, photographing the architecture, giving your luggage time to arrive at the Zurich station. Transfer again, via hotel free shuttle. Check in to the airport hotel, and enjoy dinner on your own. Overnight MOEVENPICK ZURICH AIRPORT HOTEL (B)

October 5: Zurich - Home

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Switzerland

After breakfast you will depart for home, or your next destination. (B)

Photo Leader

Cathy & Gordon Illg
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Cathy & Gordon Illg

Cathy and Gordon Illg are freelance photographers specializing in nature and wildlife photography. For more than twenty years they have been guiding tours to outstanding locations for both scenic and wildlife photography. Their work has appeared in nearly all the major nature publications and prominent travel magazines, as well as earning numerous awards in Nature’s Best International Photographic Competitions. In 2003, they earned second place in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.

They are more than just skilled photographers and instructors; they are also Certified International Tour Managers, which ensures that traveling companions will have a great time, regardless of where they are traveling and what they are doing. The job is particularly fulfilling when it involves bringing guests face to face with the great outdoors and the creatures that call it home.

If you are already an accomplished photographer, they will get you to the good locations, at the right times, and set you free. However, if you want help, they will provide as much instruction as you want. On most tours instructional presentations are provided, and participants are always encouraged to bring a sample of their work for a helpful, friendly critique or just to share with the group.

It was an amazing trip and the uniqueness of the Galapagos Islands certainly added to that. Everyone did a great job!!

S. Hon

Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 8 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $400 if 4-7 paying participants. All our program prices are based on double occupancy unless noted in exceptions.

Single rooms are subject to availability. We try to accommodate travelers who request single accommodations, as well as travelers who are looking for a roommate. If a single room is requested, or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, you will be required to pay the supplement.

Testimonials

Additional Notes

Focus and Pace of the trip

The trip can be strenuous; anyone who is reasonably fit and in good physical condition should be able to participate. To get the most out of the trip, you should be able to walk for a few miles a day, and at elevations of 5,000-11,000 feet. There will be hills to climb &/or rough terrain. However, the hikes will be planned around photography. We will be moving at a pace that allows plenty of time for photos. You should also be aware that medical services or facilities might not be readily available during all or part of your trip. Alternatives are available for those who prefer not to hike. Accommodations are strategically located, however, and there are wonderful photographic opportunities available without straying very far from the premises.

Each of the areas we will visit has something unique to offer, and we will have time to explore them at leisure. In each location, there will be options for going with a local guide and emphasizing the informational aspects, slowing down and concentrating on a few special locations with your photographic guide, or exploring entirely on your own.

The trip is suitable for virtually every level of photography or special interest. Although it is geared for photographers, non-photographers will get a great deal from the experience as well. Please call us at 607-756-8676 if you have any specific questions on fitness or health.

Terms and Conditions

Unless otherwise noted, this information applies to all tours.

Airfare

Contact Strabo Tours if you would like rates on International Airfare. Please note on your trip application form if you would like us to assist you with your airfare needs, a charge is added for this service. If making your own arrangements, it is important to discuss flight times with Strabo Tours before booking any airline tickets. This will avoid you having to pay airline cancellation penalties. Please contact Strabo Tours for destination airfare estimates, specific flight time arrivals, and departures.

The land cost includes:
  • Group transportation for tour events in the tour van.
  • Accommodations based on two people sharing a room, singles are assigned on a first come, first served basis.
  • Services of driver, English speaking cultural guide (if applicable) and photographic leader, during the tour.
  • Meals as listed in itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner).
  • Park entrance fees, day tours and excursions as shown in the itinerary.
  • Extensive pre-departure information and services.
The land cost does not include:

Domestic or International air fare; other airfare if noted in exceptions; air fare tax; airport departure tax; airport transfers; additional transfers or accommodations that may be required by those not traveling with the group; excess baggage charges; meals not included in itinerary; activities taken on your own; passport/visa expenses; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature, such as room service, laundry, beverages not included with meals, medical expenses, photographic equipment, any activities not specified in tour itinerary or listed as optional, or any items not listed in what is included; fuel surcharges; exchange rate surcharges; upon the completion of your trip, modest gratuities to the local guides and the drivers are customary; tips for meals not included in itinerary.

Fitness and Health

The majority of trips are not strenuous (see exceptions below for particular destinations) and anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to take part in most of the activities. You may experience general fatigue due to the long flights and the change in time zones. You will need to be sufficiently agile to climb in and out of the tour van and be able to carry and manage your own equipment. We will frequently hike trails ranging from easy to moderate. Some hotels do not have elevators or air conditioners.

If you have any special needs or any physical condition that you feel might prevent you from fully participating, please contact Strabo Tours with your concerns (607-756-8676).

You should also be aware that medical services or facilities might not be readily available during all or part of your trip. This could include emergency medical care, presence of physicians, or adequate medication.

Exceptions:

The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

Deposits, Cancellations AND Refunds

A deposit of $750 ($500 on domestic tours) per person is required. Specific tours may require an additional deposit due to accommodation bookings or transportation requirements. If applicable these will be noted on your invoice. Payment in full is required when bookings are made less than 120 days before the departure date. Space is subject to cancellation by Strabo if payment is not received when due.

If a passenger wishes to cancel they must send notification in writing to: Strabo International Tour, Co., P.O. Box 580, Dryden, NY 13053; fax 208-545-4119. At the time we receive your notification, the following per person charges apply:

  • 91 days or more before departure: $300 cancellation fee ($150 fee on domestic tours), plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation.
  • 61-90 days before departure: $500 ($250 on domestic tours) minimum cancellation fee, plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation. Fees may range from 25% to 100% of tour costs.
  • 60 days or less before departure or anytime after departure: NO REFUND.

Refunds for services that are voluntarily not used by you cannot be made.

Insurance

Each participant must be covered by medical insurance that is valid overseas.

We strongly urge you to evaluate your risk and to take out insurance on your trip. It is vital for you to realize that if you experience a delay or find it necessary to cancel or cut short your trip for any reason, you will lose part or the entire sum you’ve invested in it (see the section “Deposits, Cancellations and Refunds” in the trip brochure).

Travel insurance helps to minimize the risk of monetary losses you would incur in the event of a delay of your departure due to weather, airline strike, missed connection, etc., your inability to travel for reasons such as illness, injury, unforeseen financial complications and other personal circumstances, or if you were required to cut your trip short for medical or any other reasons.

There are restrictions and limitations on any insurance program. For this reason, please read carefully the enclosed pamphlet, which outlines their program of trip cancellation, baggage, and medical insurance. Trained agents are available to answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to call the toll free number in their brochure. It is to your advantage to apply for insurance at the earliest possible time, so don’t delay in making a decision.

Subject to Change

Itineraries have been carefully constructed to assure participants the best each destination has to offer; however, should events arise that are beyond our control, activities and hotel arrangements are subject to change without notice. The itineraries summarize typical areas you will explore. Since there is no possible way to visit all of them, your guides will plan each day considering the interests of the group and the weather at hand. Be assured that we will make substitutions that are as similar in quality and interest as possible.

Photo Release

Strabo International Tour Company, Inc. reserves the right and permission to use photographs of individuals on tour for use in promotional and publicity purposes. We also reserve the right to use clients photographs for promotional and publicity purposes, when submitted to Strabo International Tour Company, Inc.

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