Travelling around a new country can be as daunting as it is exciting. Not only do you probably have to decipher a new language but a new transport system too. There are the questions of where to buy rail tickets, how to choose the right trains and which passes work where. But lucky for us, the Swiss have made touring their country by rail a simple prospect.
Encouraging easy, unimpeded travel around the country, the SBB Swiss Pass gives you access to all rail (aside from a limited number of private railways) as well as roads and waterways. While simplicity comes at a cost, if you’re serious about seeing the whole country – and why wouldn’t you be when there is Swiss scenery on offer – then the price is worth paying. Travel in a group or with a partner and the price for eight days travel is around £250. The Swiss Pass can also be bought for single days and non-consecutive amounts e.g. four days in a month, so flexibility is outstanding.
But, where to start? Here are our tips for three epic Swiss rail routes.
The Glacier ExpressWe may not be covering any new ground – or should that be track? – by including the Glacier Express but how could we leave out the legendary line? Feel free to take the full seven-hour epic between St. Moritz and Zermatt as the train winds its way slowly through Unesco heritage countryside taking in the likes of some 280 bridges, 90 tunnels and the Matterhorn itself. One of the greatest rail journeys in the world, the glacier route has to be seen to be believed.
The Centovalli ExpressThe simple translation of the Centovalli Express hints at what you’re going to see on this journey that begins in Locarno and will take you all the way to Domodossola in Italy if you let it – you can choose where to disembark. The ‘100 Valley Express’ is a regular passenger train that connects Switzerland and Italy but it is just as popular as a leisure train for those who like the idea of riding over huge viaducts, through dense forests, past mammoth waterfalls and all on a hair-raisingly narrow track.
The Golden Pass LineIf you don’t want to be spending too long a train but still want to enjoy some stunning views then the Luzern to Interlaken express on the Golden Pass Line is one we would recommend. The two-hour trip takes in views of the Sarnesee as well as a range of other lakes, forests, villages, and of course, those picturesque Swizz meadows that look like nothing you find anywhere else in Europe.
The beauty of travelling by rail in Switzerland is just that… the beauty. There are so many great journeys and these are just a few. So get the Swiss Pass and get scouting.