Motto for Gstaad: Come Up – Slow Down
Symbol for Saanen: A goat
Written phrase you see as you leave town or exit the mountain rides: See You
Languages spoken: German, French, English – in that order usually. We have heard many people speaking French. Menus are in German and French (sometimes with English).
Gstaad, Saanen and Schonried are three towns in a large valley surrounded by big ski hills, with huge mountains behind. I think the town Zweisimmen is also included in Saanenland, but it is down a valley towards Thun. The valley opens up at Schonried.
I thought Gstaad might be a larger town and busy, so booked in Saanen instead, but Gstaad is a sleepy resort. It would have been fine to stay there. Saanen is smaller and is only 40 minutes walk or 5 minute drive from Gstaad.
Hiking: In this immediate area there are five different gondolas up to hiking areas – Wispile and Eggli near Gstaad; Horneggli and Rellerli near Schonried; Rinderberg near Zweisimmen. You can purchase an “Easy Access” card at the tourist office for 3 days for 28.50 CHF. This allows you on all gondolas plus the train between the towns and some buses. Buses go up two valley from Gstaad (Gsteig and Lauenen) and one near Zweisimmen (Sparenmoos).
The hiking is different here than in other Swiss mountain towns we have stayed in. In Grindelwald, for example, most of the mountain rides leave from town so you start out and end up in town. Also the mountains are bigger, so you can do hikes across the top, middle or bottom of the mountains. Here the mountains are lower and do not go up to alpine areas, so the gondola rides are shorter and you end up hiking down from the mountain, instead of across. There are some hikes that go across at alpine level, but you end up in another town and then bus or train back to your start.
We have only hiked twice so far, so I can’t completely judge. So far the hikes have not been as well signed as in other areas we have hiked. But they are well enough signed and the towns are great here.