Switzerland Scenic Journeys
Bernina Express. The highest Alpine railway crosses some of Graubünden's most famous bridges and viaducts. The leg from Chur to St. Moritz is part of the Glacier Express route, but as the little red train continues southeast toward Italy, it also passes Europe's highest concentration of hilltop castles, as well as imposing glaciers and icy blue lakes. Once at the Italian town of Tirano, travelers can continue on to Lugano, via a Bernina Express bus across northern Italy. Overnight stops can be arranged in Alp Grüm or Tirano, but you must purchase another seat reservation when resuming the journey. Don't forget your passport. The journey from Chur to Tirano takes four hours; from Chur all the way to Lugano (via Tirano), the trip is nine hours. Chur, Graubünden. 081/2886565; www.rhb.ch. Chur–Tirano 64 SF (plus 14 SF seat reservation); Chur–Lugano via Tirano 89 SF (plus 28 SF for seat reservation).
Glacier Express. The queen of all scenic routes, the Glacier Express (also christened the world's slowest express train), begins and ends in two of Switzerland's most frequented and fashionable resorts. But in between, it's the mountain landscape that people flock to see. Glaciated valleys, steep gorges, high meadows, and ancient townships are all viewed through panoramic cars while the train passes over 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels. The trip takes seven hours and 30 minutes. 081/2886565; www.glacierexpress.ch/en. 153 SF (plus 33 SF for seat reservation in summer; 13 SF in winter).
GoldenPass/Panoramic Express. Travel in style in either a belle époque–inspired Orient Express train or a panoramic train from Lac Léman's "Swiss Riviera" into the cow-studded pastures and meadows of central Switzerland. This three-stage journey squeezes through Vaud's vineyards to emerge in a higher valley strewn with chalets and farmsteads; later it scales the 1,000-yard-high Brünig Pass before reaching the cultured city of Luzern. Trains must be changed at Zweisimmen and Interlaken Ost. With at least 10 trains plying this route per day, it's possible to hop on and off at any point along the itinerary. The trip takes five hours and 20 minutes. 0900/245245; www.goldenpass.ch; www.cff.ch. 77 SF (plus 19 SF seat reservation).
Palm Express. This trip on the famed yellow postbus begins among the frozen glaciers of the Engadine, winding over the Maloja Pass into the picturesque Bregaglia Valley (the inspiration for the artistic Giacometti family). From here, you travel to Menaggio, on palm- and villa-fringed Lake Como, then on to Lugano. The scenery is as varied as the views are spellbinding. The journey takes about four hours. 058/4483535; www.postbus.ch.
RegioExpress Lötschberger. While travelers in a hurry take the Lötschberg Tunnel train, you can jump aboard this scenic line to experince the beauty of the mountains between Bern and Brig. Rugged and romantic, the trip passes two picture-perfect spots for exploration. First is Kandersteg, with its cable car up to Oeschinensee, an otherworldly lake at the bottom of a sheer cliff face—perfect for walking, hiking, and rowing. Farther along, Goppenstein is the gateway to the Lötschen Valley, where you'll get a taste of classic Valaisan scenery. It's easy to hop on and off this train along the route. The whole trip takes about one hour and 50 minutes. 058/3272727; www.bls.ch/loetschberger. 54 SF (no seat reservations).
Gotthard Panorama Express. Connecting central Switzerland with the swaying palms of Ticino, this route takes you down the length of Lake Luzern, through the impressively precipitous inner Alps, and on to the Swiss-Italian hubs of Bellinzona and Lugano. A historic paddle steamer carries you past the Rütli meadow (the birthplace of the Swiss Confederation). At the end of the lake, you'll step aboard an SBB panorama train to continue your journey south through the newly inaugurated Gotthard Base Tunnel—the longest train tunnel in the world. The Luzern–Bellinzona route takes five hours; onward travel to Lugano or Locarno is an additional 15 minutes. 041/3676767; www.sbb.ch. 84 SF for standard second-class ride on the boat and train (seat reservation 24 SF).
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