With the Swiss Travel Pass, going cross-country on the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is a breeze
Going on that trip of a lifetime through Switzerland? The best way to check out the country’s ‘grammable landscapes and attractions is by hopping on the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, a unique travel experience extending over 1,280 captivating kilometres and involving the most beautiful panoramic routes across the country. The tour comprises eight scenic routes and takes travellers to all of Switzerland’s four language regions – through attractive towns and villages, past glistening glaciers, lakes and rivers, and over mountains. There is no prescribed travel direction and the tour can be started all year round from any point, with eight-day or four-day tour options available. To make this bucket-list journey easy and fuss-free, it’s all available on one single ticket: the Swiss Travel Pass.
This holy grail of tickets gives travellers numerous reasons to explore Switzerland by public transport, first of all, unlimited travel by train, bus and boat throughout Switzerland, but the romance of a cross-country journey by rail is an experience that’s bar none. It’s about time you lived your Wes Anderson-esque dreams with this unforgettable itinerary suggestion.
Route 1: Zurich to St. Gallen
Switzerland’s Zurich airport links perfectly to the country’s extensive public transport network. The railway station is located right inside the airport so you can comfortably board a train towards Eastern Switzerland upon your arrival. On your ride east, you might want to stop at the Rhine Fall, Europe’s largest waterfall and the city of Schaffhausen with its iconic landmark, the 16th-century Munot Fortress. Continuing the ride, look out for Lake Constance, the third largest lake in central Europe before you arrive in St. Gallen, a 7th-century UNESCO city that’s a cultural and economic hub in this part of the country.
Tip: Be sure to stop by the Abbey Library of Saint Gall, a gorgeous space intricately decorated with Baroque and Rococo details – it also houses an estimated 17,000 books and manuscripts, considered to be one of Europe’s oldest collections. Best of all, entrance is free with the Swiss Travel Pass!
Route 2: St. Gallen to Lucerne (Voralpen Express)
Next, the Voralpen-Express crosses into Appenzell, a traditional Swiss region located at the foot of the Alpstein mountains. Get your cameras ready, as you’ll be gawking at magnificient views of the Alpstein massif and the Säntis summit – it’s only the highest mountain of the massif – and the Churfirsten mountain range. The train then passes through Rapperswil (also known as the City of Roses) and across the expansive Rothenthurm Upland Moor, before turning towards Lucerne, the City of Lights.
Tip: Nature lovers, take note. Put on your hiking boots and trek across the Rothenthurm moorland trail, a protected area featuring a variety of natural habitats.
Route 3: Lucerne to Montreux (GoldenPass Line)
After stops at Meiringen, Brienz and Interlaken on the modern premium panoramic train Lucerne-Interlaken Express, the journey continues along Lake Thunersee, through the picturesque Simmental Valley (dotted with traditional farmhouses) and towards Zweisimmen. You’ll be changing to the GoldenPass Panoramic train, gliding past the holiday resort of Gstaad, the district of Pays d’Enhaut and the vineyards of Lake Geneva – a route that leads to Montreux, a charming town at the French-speaking Riviera of Switzerland.
Tip: Pays d’Enhaut’s Château-d’Oex is known for the International Hot Air Balloon Festival, a nine-day celebration that’s held every January. Aside from ballooning, the town is also famed for producing the Etivaz AOP / PDO cheese.
Route 4: Montreux to Zermatt
Great news: you’re about halfway through your trip. Martigny, the gateway to Great St. Bernard and Forclaz, has some 2,000 years of history with Celtic, Roman and French influences in its architecture. From here, you’ll be travelling into Rhone Valley towards Brig, before continuing through Nikolaital (the deepest Swiss valley) and finally to Zermatt, a winter sports destination boasting the much-photographed Matterhorn mountain.
Tip: What’s an European adventure without a jaunt to an ancient castle? The Stockalper Palace, built between 1658 and 1678 by silk merchant Kaspar Stockalper, is a Swiss heritage site and a stunning architectural marvel for any history buff. Even better, palace entry too is free with the Swiss Travel Pass.
Route 5: Zermatt to St. Moritz (Glacier Express)
Zermatt is departure and destination point of the world-renowned Glacier Express, a popular choice for travellers to the region. From Matterhorn, the train heads for the idyllic Goms region, and then to the holiday resort of Andermatt, located at the foot of the Oberalp pass. Nearby, highlights include Disentis Sedrun, an Alpine destination known for the beautiful Benedictine monastery, the Rhine Gorge, the Domleschg region with its many castles, and the Albula line of the Rhaetian Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tip: Dubbed the ‘Grand Canyon of Switzerland’, the Rhine Gorge is a leisurely hike that’ll bring you to a 12.5m-high observation platform – giving you a bird’s eye view of the gorge.
Route 6: St. Moritz to Lugano (Bernina Express / Palm Express)
Among other things, the Alpine resort of St. Moritz is famous for the Bernina Express, which takes travellers over the highest railway route of the Alps. Stretching between Thusis (Grisons) and Tirano (Italy), the Albula and Bernina route reaches its highest point at Bernina Hospiz, 2,253m above sea level. In summer, the trip can be extended with the Bernina Express Bus from Tirano to Lugano that will lead you through Valtellina Valley and along Lake Como (psst… try and spot its fishing villages) to Lugano. During winter, visitors travel on the Palm Express bus from St. Moritz to Lugano past the Engadine, over the Maloja pass down through the Val Bregaglia, along the shoreline of Lake Como in Italy and back to Switzerland at the village of Gandria, located on Lake Lugano.
Tip: Maximise the benefits of your Swiss Travel Pass: take a free boat ride on Lake Lugano from Lugano to Melide, where you get to visit Swissminiatur, Switzerland’s only miniature park boasting 120 models of houses, castles and monuments in the open air, distributed throughout a lush 14,000 square meter park (entrance to the park comes with a 50% discount for Swiss Travel Pass holders).
Route 7: Lugano to Luzern (Gotthard Panorama Express)
Travel by train and boat on the Gotthard Panorama Express route, where you’ll be immersed in the myths and legends surrounding Gotthard, before traversing through the rugged Reuss Valley. In Flüelen, a municipality in the canton of Uri, travellers will be cruising on Lake Lucerne onboarding a historic paddle steamer, while passing by landmarks such as Tell’s Chapel, the Rütli Meadow and the Schiller. More epic views of summits like Rigi, Bürgenstock, Titlis and Pilatus unfold as you reach the city of Lucerne.
Tip: Here’s a fun fact: Gotthard boasts The Gotthard Base Tunnel, a 57 km-long tunnel. The longest in the world, it was launched in 2016, making the region more accessible than ever.
Route 8: Luzern to Zürich
Get your fill of the spectacular lakes of Switzerland in the last leg of your journey. Drink in the sights of Lake Lucerne and Lake Rotsee at Ebikon, as you travel along the shoreline. Switzerland’s 10th largest lake, Lake Zug, and the serene Lake Zürich will cap your adventure as you finally make your way to the city of Zürich.
Tip: Before taking your flight back, buy your loved ones something special at Bahnhofstrasse, well-known around the globe as one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world. Check out the exquisite watches and jewellery from The House of Guebelin.
Don’t forget your complimentary copy of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland myTravel Stamp Booklet when you purchase a Swiss Travel Pass – you’ll need it to collect nine unique stamps from the different stops along the way. Watch out for the discount coupons for excursions along the way too! And when you’ve finally completed your journey, mark this travel milestone with the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland souvenir certificate. All you need to do is fill up this form before downloading your own memento.
Explore more tour options in Switzerland and kickstart your adventure, pronto.
For bookings and enquiries, contact Dynasty Travel (6536-4966), Platform 9 (6317-2111) or visit myswitzerland.com/rail.
This article is sponsored by Switzerland Tourism