Known for its unrivalled beauty and spectacular panoramic rail journeys, Switzerland is the ultimate destination for nature-lovers and train enthusiasts.
For a country just two-thirds the size of Tasmania, you might be surprised that you can actually embark on an epic journey through a series of majestic mountains, endless verdant valleys and glassy lakes via 1200 kilometres of tracks, encompassing four language regions, passing through more than 90 tunnels and over about 295 bridges in just 10 days!
Whether you pick the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, which can be completed in a leisurely 10 days, or the specially designed Ultimate Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, which not only takes 13 days, but also includes hotel stays at some of the country’s most on-trend establishments, the sheer magnificence of the landscape will have your jaw dropping. Here, we’ve highlighted some of the most incredible journeys on rails.
1. Jungfraujoch: Top of Europe
A ride up to Europe’s highest-altitude railway station, sitting at 3,466 metres above sea level, Jungfraujoch, connected to the Top of Europe building, is where you will enjoy unobstructed views of the regions’ snow-capped peaks and glacial valleys. While you may want to marvel at the view outside, you won’t want to miss the Ice Palace ice caverns on the inside either. Make sure you allocate some time to appreciate the many ice sculptures on display here beneath the glacier. There is even a bar made of ice, if you want to take time out for a beverage or two!
2. GoldenPass MOB Panoramic
The GoldenPass MOB Panoramic is an ideal sampler of Switzerland’s premium panoramic train routes for the more time-poor traveller. This short and sweet 1 hour, 48 minute journey links the quaint village of Zweisimmen in the Bernese Oberland with Montreux, the charming French-speaking town that was once home for Queen singer Freddy Mercury, and is still home to the world’s second-largest jazz event, the Montreux Jazz Festival.
For the ultimate travel-back-in-time Orient Express experience, jump on the charming ‘Belle Epoque’ train, which runs daily from Montreux to Château-d’Oex, Gstaad and Zweisimmen. For the full experience in these beautifully kept carriages, a cold dish can be requested during reservation.
3. Glacier Express
A 7.5-hour journey between Zermatt and St Moritz, the Glacier Express is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest train journeys. Thoroughly scenic from start to finish, the views through the wide panoramic windows and skylights make the most of the slowest express train in the world as it crosses an astounding 291 bridges, passes through 91 tunnels, and ascends up to 2033 metres (the highest point of the track). A large part of the Glacier Express also travels along the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rhaetian Railway.
Adding to the already impressive experience is the sheer comfort and class of the modern train service and the delicious hearty meals offered on board.
4. Bernina Express
A four-hour journey between Chur in the north and Tirano in the south, the Bernina Express is another unforgettable Swiss train experience. Regardless of your start or end point, you will be utterly gobsmacked by the contrasting scenery from icy glaciers to leafy palm trees.
The journey stretches 122 kilometres, passing through 55 tunnels and crossing a series of 196 bridges and viaducts, including the Rhaetian Railway. In summer, there is also an extended service on the Bernina Express bus that connects Tirano to Lugano in three hours.
5. Gotthard Panorama Express
Operating twice a day from April to October, the Gotthard Panoramic Express is an unforgettable three-hour cruise and rail experience. The itinerary travels between the historical city of Lucerne in the heart of Switzerland and the Italian-speaking Lugano and Bellinzona in the sun-kissed Mediterranean south.
Highlights en-route include the historic paddle steamer ride on Lake Lucerne; the church of Wassen from three different angles, thanks to the loopy railway layout; and the journey past the Rütli Meadow, which saw the founding of Switzerland in 1291.
Whether you choose to experience part of the suggested journeys or the full itinerary, by the end of your tour, you will no doubt have a much better understanding and deeper appreciation for Swiss engineering as well as the country’s pristine scenery.
To enjoy these journeys, you’ll need a Swiss Travel Pass, which then allows you unlimited access to all the country’s public transportation system of trains, buses and boats, up to 50 percent off mountain and cableways, and free entry to more than 500 museums. Children under 16 travel for free with an accompanying adult using the Pass.
See here for more information on rail packages.