I have decided Switzerland needs a voice! Italy and France get a lot of attention from me, but their very close neighbour Switzerland is truly gorgeous and if you like beautiful alpine scenery and trains, like I do, it is a perfect holiday destination.
There are actually about 7 Scenic Train Routes in Switzerland along with some 20,000 kms of train routes – the Swiss do like their trains.
The Glacier Express links the West to the East and connects 2 famous resorts – Zermatt in the West and St Moritz in the East. Nicknamed the world’s slowest express train – it has 291 bridges to cross during its scenic 8 hour journey.
The Bernina Express is spectacular as it crosses the Swiss Alps – from Chur and St Moritz you go South to Tirano in Italy. The journey is only about 5 hours but every minute is stunning. This route is actually a UNESCO World Heritage route and it has viaducts, tunnels, glaciers, lakes and the spectacular 2253metre high Bernina Pass. Train buffs will marvel at the alpine railway engineering feats that allow climb gradients of 70% – I was most impressed with the very tight spiral bridge at the end. I did this trip in summer and continued on to beautiful Lake Lugano (less than an hour by bus) and from here dropped into the Italian Lakes – a perfect way to combine Switzerland and Italy.
The Wilhelm Tell Express is an incredibly scenic boat and train ride. You travel from central Switzerland all the way south to Locarno by the Italian border. The first 2 and a half hours are by paddlewheel steamer across Lake Lucerne and then this is followed by another couple of hours by scenic train. The train travels the famous Gotthard route climbing to 1100 metres and includes the 15km Gotthard tunnel.
There is also the incredibly scenic Golden Pass Line – from Montreux through to Interlaken and on to Lucerne. I would definitely stop off in Interlaken for a few days as it is home to the incredibly stunning Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe which at 3454 metres is the highest railway station in the world. Part of the journey includes a 7.3km long cog railway tunnel – it is truly stunning and you don’t need to be a train buff to be impressed by the journey. Along the way like most of these train journeys you are looking out over absolute ‘chocolate box’ Swiss scenes – log houses smothered in colourful flowering window boxes, lovely green meadows with the odd cow sporting a great big bell, all surrounded by beautiful high mountains.
You can buy a Swiss Rail pass, they come in all sizes and are great value. Typically they include entry to all the gondolas and cable cars as well as museums.
But never be late – the Swiss are renowned for their timekeeping and their trains are always perfectly on time – to the minute!, The trains are very clean and tidy and everyone speaks great English – so it is very easy travelling for us Kiwis.