The Glacier Express is probably Switzerland’s best known rail route that links the popular resorts of St. Moritz and Zermatt. However, less well-known is that it is part of a rail network known as the Grand Train Tour, that combines routes that zig-zag their way through some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery.
Made up of eight different sections the Grand Train Tour features trains with panoramic windows that allows all passengers to have an unobstructed view of the mountains above and the valleys below. With a regular service on all routes, it is possible to create a bespoke tour, staying in the resorts that you choose for as long as you want, however typically this holiday could take between seven and eight days. However, this can be easily extended if you wanted to venture off the rails on any of the possible excursions from your hotel.
Zurich is Switzerland’s commercial centre. Located in the heart of Europe it has become a popular cosmopolitan city with modern amenities. It also the beginning an end to Switzerland’s Grand Train Tour. Starting with a commuter train out of Zurich you quickly change at Luzern to board the Luzern – Interlaken Express. This route passes five clear mountain lakes before ascending the Brunig Pass on its way to the resort town of Interlaken. Interlaken is surrounded by mountains and it is possible to explore further whilst staying here.
The Golden Pass panoramic train takes you from Interlaken to Montreux via Zweisimmen. The route takes you through the Jungfrau region with views of Schiltorn, Jungfrau and Brienzer Rothorn mountains. Montreux is located on the shore of Lake Geneva and provides a relaxed ambience from which to enjoy the views. From here it is possible to visit the Chillon Castle; the former home of the Counts of Savoy.
The Matterhorn Gotthard Railway takes you from Montreux, through the Nicolai Valley to the car-free resort of Zermatt. Located at the foot of the Matterhorn, it is possible to spend a few days exploring some of the 250 miles of walking trails accessed by 54 mountain lifts.
The famous Glacier Express links Zermatt to the sophisticated resort of St. Moritz. The 181- mile journey, takes approximately eight hours, passing through 91 tunnels and 291 amazingly engineered bridges during its unforgettable journey. The panoramic windows provide stunning views of the Matterhorn, Rhine Gorge and the Landwasser Viaduct. It is possible to relax and recover in St. Moritz whilst surrounded by snow-capped mountain scenery.
The Bermina Express takes you south from St. Moritz, via the ingeniously created Brusio Circular Viaduct to Tirano, where you change to the Bermina Express bus to travel on to Lugano. Lugano combines the Mediterranean feel of an Italian small town with the efficiency and progress of a modern swiss city. Set on the northern side of Lake Lugano it benefits from a milder climate than its neighbouring alpine towns and is great for exploring on foot, with its traffic-free historic centre.
The Gotthard Panorama Express leaves Lugano and takes through the Gotthard Tunnel and many loops to the town of Fluelen where it is possible to transfer to Lucerne by steam boat across the lake.
To explore the gentler side of Switzerland the Voralpen Express carries you from Lucerne to St. Gallen, through undulating hills, fruit orchards and picturesque villages. Remarkably different from the earlier mountain scenery, this eastern side of the country provides picturesque views of a different nature. You will still cross the 99 metre high viaduct at Sitter before arriving in St. Gallen home to a Baroque cathedral that is now UNESCO World Heritage site.
The railway line that runs between St. Gallen and Schaffhausen is called the “Thurbo Seelinie” meaning “the Lake Line”, as it follows the river and then Lake Constance past many historic villages and small towns. At the medieval town of Schaffhausen it is possible to view the old town houses richly decorated with oriel windows and painted facades, before boarding your last train to return to the capital and Zurich to complete the Grand Train Tour.