There really is no better way to discover the small but incredibly beautiful country of Switzerland than by train. All of the country’s best natural sights – from verdant valleys and dramatic waterfalls to sheer, snowy mountain peaks – are train accessible, with a number of these journeys considered the most scenic in the world. And Switzerland’s incredibly efficient rail network also nimbly connects the bigger cities to the smaller alpine villages tucked into the Alps, making it easy and fun to travel directly from one amazing destination to another in comfort and style!
Of the country’s many scenic train journeys, the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express are arguably the most jaw dropping. Connecting Chur to Poschiavo in Switzerland, and to Tirano in Italy, the Bernina Express features stunning views from its panoramic, shining red carriages. The two main lines on the Bernina Express route – the Bernina line and the Albula line – were jointly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
The Bernina line through this site is a spectacular four-hour journey across no less than 196 bridges, 55 tunnels and across the stunning Bernina Pass at 2,252 metres above sea level. The first section of the Bernina Express, from Chur to Pontresina, crosses the famous Landwasser Viaduct, a dramatic, curving single-track viaduct made of limestone and featuring six massive arches. This iconic journey continues to be one of the most popular in the country.
The Glacier Express, known as the ‘Slowest Express Train in the World’ because of its leisurely 24 mph clip and nearly eight-hour route time, connects the mountain resort towns of Matterhorn adjacent Zermatt, and St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps. Much of the train’s spectacular journey passes through the same World Heritage Site as the Bernina Express and boasts equally as impressive views, including the Matterhorn and the Matter Valley, the massive rock walls through the town of Visp, and the sparkling river Rhone, just after departure from Brig.
Not to be outdone, the historic Jungfrau railway takes visitors to Europe’s highest railway station, a whopping 3,453 metres above sea level. The snow-capped Jungfrau Mountain is sandwiched between the massive peaks of the Monch and Eiger Mountains, and part of the Jungfrau railway line tunnels through these two mountains, with spectacular views through windows carefully carved into the mountainside.
Then there’s the cogwheel railway to Mount Pilatus, which boasts the title of the ‘Steepest Cogwheel Railway in the World.’ The 30-minute journey begins in Alpnachstad, near Lucerne, and has an average gradient of 35%. Despite the climb, the ride is comfortable and incredibly scenic. At the top, you’ll find the historic Pilatus Kulm Hotel and restaurant where you can enjoy refreshments or discover one of the numerous walking trails with epic views of the surrounding mountain peaks and valleys.
The Gornergrat cog railway is considered a marvel of modern engineering, climbing from 1,604 metres above sea level near the charming town of Zermatt, to 3,089 metres at the top in just 33 minutes. From the top, visitors experience one the most spectacular panoramas in all of Switzerland – the iconic outline of the Matterhorn as well as the surrounding peaks and glaciers. Enjoy a stroll at the top through the nature reserve and sample a delicious fondue in one of the lovely, panoramic view restaurants.
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