It might sound a lot and perhaps even far-fetched, but travelling a distance of 1,200km, across four language regions, through more than 90 tunnels and over about 295 bridges, while passing a series of majestic mountains and verdant valleys with zero rush is actually quite do-able in just a few days!
Where is this possible? Switzerland.
With your Swiss Travel Pass, hop on the country’s spectacular panoramic rail journeys, and let your jaw drop as you soak up all of the country’s top attractions and natural assets.
Starting in the historical city of Lucerne, where you will find the iconic Chapel Bridge and one of Parisian architect Jean Nouvel’s creation, the KKL that houses one of the finest concert hall sin the world, you will hop on board your first train journey towards the adventure capital of Interlaken, via the scenic Lucerne-Interlaken Express. Literally translated to “in between the lakes”, Interlaken is the gateway to the alpine Jungfrau region, which is home to the rugged and imposing Eiger, Monch and Jungfraujoch peaks.
The thoroughly scenic GoldenPass Line will then take you from Interlaken to Montreux, the charming French-speaking city where Freddy Mercury once lived and where the world’s second largest jazz event takes place, the Montreux Jazz Festival. Located on the glistening shores of Lake Geneva, also referred to as the “Swiss Riviera”, this is the gateway to the UNESCO listed Lavaux Vineyards, Chillon Castle and Vevey.
Given the high and wide panoramic windows of the train, you will no doubt feel very much a part of the verdant landscapes through which you are passing on your journey over. As with all Swiss panoramic train journeys, you will enjoy stunning views from both sides of the train, but we think the right side may offer just slightly better views as you travel past Lake Thun and through the lush meadows before coming into Montreux.
Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe
A ride up on the highest altitude railway station sitting at 3,466m asl, Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe is where you will enjoy unobstructed views of the region’s 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 on the inside either. Make sure you allocate some time to appreciate the many ice sculptures on display. There is even a bar made of ice if you wanted a place to chill out!
One of the major highlights of this Swiss train tour is the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz. Dubbed the slowest express train ride in the world, the roughly eight-hour journey links the car-free resort of rustic chalets at the foot of the Matterhorn to the glitzy and glamorous resort of St Moritz. From your carriage windows, you will marvel at the changing scenery transform from charming and picture perfect villages, paddocks and thundering waterfalls to towering mountains and glacial ice fields. It will certainly be hard to peel yourself away from those windows!
Another highlight of this the Swiss panoramic trains is the Bernina Express, which goes from St Moritz to Tirano in Italy. This journey will take you the through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges. Along the way, you will also enjoy marvelling at more glaciers, mountain streams and typical alpine scenery. By the way, the Rhaetian Railway part of this journey in the Albula / Bernina landscapes is UNESCO World Heritage Listed, thanks to its history as well as its outstanding technical, architectural and environment ensemble.
Gotthard Panorama Express
Another incredible engineering feat you will experience is on the last leg of this tour – the Gotthard Panorama Express. The longest train tunnel in the world, which took 17 years to construct, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is a pioneering masterpiece of modern, sustainable railway engineering and an exemplary example of Swiss precision planning, innovation and efficiency. Powered by hydroelectricity, you will travel through the mystical mountain massif where the journey links the classic Alpine train travel of yesteryear dating back to the 19th century to the newly completed state-of-the-art 21st century route. If you ever thought the old and new rarely can work harmoniously together, this will change your mind!
So, which train will you jump onto first?
Note: While the Swiss Travel Pass gives you unlimited access to the country’s public trains, buses and boats, you will need to make seat reservations when hopping on the panoramic train journeys.
And for an absolutely fabulous itinerary, we highly recommend the spectacular Grand Train Tour of Switzerland.