One of the most beautiful nations in the world, Switzerland is synonymous with picture perfect vistas, utterly charming landscapes and the prettiest of towns. And one of the best ways to explore this European country is via train. To say that the Swiss railway network is spectacular is indeed an understatement. Passing through some of the highest mountains and the most scenic valleys, Swiss trains work with clockwork precision and are known for their efficiency, cleanliness and punctuality. Here are some great train rides In the Swiss Alps you do not want to miss.
Often dubbed as one of the most scenic routes in the world, Bernina Express is a train with panoramic windows and which runs between Switzerland and northern Italy. Passing through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges with multiple steep inclines, the highest point in the journey is at about 7392 feet above sea level. The railway line that links two countries and cultures was built between 1896 and 1904 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The journey of about 90 miles takes four hours and goes through viaducts and glaciers. From Chur to Samedan near St Moritz, the train passes through the renowned Landwasser Viaduct. As the train moves past Morteratsch Glacier, south of Pontresina, the trains circles around the Brusio Spiral Viaduct. The bucolic charms of Poschavio, its picturesque lakes, the views from the highest Alps Grum station at 6,860 feet above sea level as well as the Ospizio Bernina – the summit is at 7,391 feet – are breathtaking.
One of the slowest trains in the country, it connects two of the country’s major mountain resorts, Zermatt and St. Moritz via Andermatt. While Zermatt is home to the most photographed mountain in the world, the Matterhorn, St Moritz is considered the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism and is a famous resort town. Snaking over 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels, the train takes seven-and-a-half hours to cover just under 186 miles. Modern panoramic coaches and wonderful service make the journey memorable. The train offers not only first and second class coaches but, since 2019, also an excellence class. The latter offers true luxury, with guaranteed window seats, gourmet food, on-board entertainment and personal travel guides. Passing through Rhine Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Switzerland, the train offers unobstructed views of the surrounding landscape, which includes majestic mountains, free flowing streams and awe-inspiring rock formations.
Gornergrat Cog Railway
This railway serves as an ideal excursion from the mountain resort town of Zermatt. With a continuous view of the enigmatic Matterhorn, this delightful train journey of 33 minutes takes you to the top of the Gornergrat which is about 4820 feet above sea level. This electric cog railway is operational throughout the year on a line built over 120 years ago in a marvelous piece of engineering. You can also spot the indigenous Wallis blacknose sheep grazing in the warmer months. With spiral horns, black faces and wholly coats, they are a unique sight.
Cog Railway from Montreux to Rochers-de-Naye
This goes from Montreux, a traditional resort town on the banks of Lake Geneva, to Rochers-de-Naye, which is at an altitude of 6,700 feet. With stunning views of Lake Geneva as well as the Swiss and French Alps, this journey also passes through lush fields, villages and forests, all in 55 minutes.
Brienz Rothorn Railway
The Brienz Rothorn railway, another heritage railway that opened in 1892, begins at Brienz, a picturesque town near Interlaken. This steam railway ends at the panoramic Rothorn Kulm station at 7,362 feet above sea level. From the summit one can see several mountain peaks and the stupendous beauty of the Alpine landscape. While on top you can also enjoy a hot meal and drinks at the local restaurant. Spanning a little less than 5 miles with a gradient of 25%, the train passes through nine tunnels, quaint villages and lovely fields. With each return trip using 550 lb of coal, this railway is regarded as the jewel of Switzerland’s railway heritage.
It is not the destination, it’s the journey ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
If exploring Switzerland is something you’re interested in, you might enjoy A Journey Through Time: The Clock and Watch Museum, Winterthur