Switzerland is well known for its ski resorts and chocolate, but it also boasts some incredible feats of engineering which can be admired through its many breathtaking railway networks that span the majestic Swiss Alps and provides access to some unforgettable panoramic spectacles. A rail holiday to Switzerland has become a 'must do' for many who want to explore the Swiss mountains and here seasoned tour leader Mike Fletcher shares his Top 5 Swiss Rail Journeys.
I have been travelling with Ffestiniog Travel for over 37 years and spent the last 25 years as a volunteer tour leader taking groups to Switzerland. I always wanted to go to Switzerland after having read an article in Trains Illustrated in the early 1960's - inspired by the way their railways fitted into the fantastic scenery so naturally yet seemed to defy physics. Having travelled the length and breadth of these railways over the years I share my firm favourites to hopefully inspire others to share my enthusiasm for the Swiss Alps and its wonderful railways.
Top 5 Swiss Railway Journeys
1. The Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano
This journey crosses one of the famous viaducts (the Landwasser) en route before traversing the Albula spirals before reaching the Albula tunnel which leads in to the Engadine. The journey continues on to the summit of the line at the Bernina Pass before descending in to the Val Poschiavo passing a favourite viewing point at Alp Grum. The line negotiates a spiral at Brusio before reaching Tirano in Italy. Anyone who enjoys rail travel must at some point board the Bernina Express for the ultimate rail journey.
2. The Glacier Express from Disentis to Brig
The line climbs continuously from Disentis to the Oberalp Pass before it descends down to Andermatt. It continues through Hospental and uses the Furka base tunnel by passing the original route via the Rhône Glacier. The line continues on through a district called the Goms before descending along the banks of the River Rhone in to Brig. Wonderful views of lakes and mountains - Switzerland at its very best.
3. Brig to Zermatt continuing on to the Gornergrat
The journey follows the Mattervisp valley passing St. Niklaus on its way to Zermatt. Here we must change trains for the mountain railway to the summit of the Gornergrat. As we climb out of the trees sensational views of the Matterhorn can be seen. Alighting at the Gornergrat the scenery is dominated by 14,000 feet high mountains – stunning!
4. The Centovalli from Locarno to Domodossola
This line used to travel along the main streets of Locarno causing many traffic jams along the way, but it now starts its journey in a tunnel. The line follows a number of river valleys that feed Lake Maggiore, crossing many side valleys along the way - hence the nickname 'Hundred Valleys' route. There are very few straight sections on the line so views are ever changing before we drop in to Domodossola. This line is best travelled in Winter when there are no leaves on the trees.
5. Chur to Arosa
The line starts in the street outside Chur station and runs along the main road for around 2km before climbing along the side of the valley of the River Plessur. The line continues to climb before reaching Langwies where it crosses the river on a spidery looking viaduct. The route continues on through the trees to reach Arosa well known as a summer resort and ski resort in winter. A journey rich in unspoilt mountainous landscape.
Ffestiniog Travel runs several escorted and unescorted tours to Switzerland each year.