6 Trains Through the Mountains to Crown the Most Spectacular Views in Switzerland

Ignacio Luque
Ignacio Luque

The one who walks and the one who takes the train in Switzerland will have one thing in common: its beautiful nature. One of them lives it, and the other one contemplates it, but both love it. That is the reason why nature is the main character in the six trips Nattule suggests for you.

Rushing is not forbidden in Switzerland, but nobody seems to be in a hurry. It’s kind of like a paradox; time does not pass by quickly in the nation famously known for its watches. Even trains take their time here. However, this is great for you to get to enjoy the route in a different way, without a backpack and with a ticket collector instead.  

El emblemático tren Bernina Express

The emblematic Bernina Express train

You don’t need super long hikes in order to enjoy nature. You don’t even need to climb Mont Blanc. The picturesque routes from the trains in Switzerland allow you to see one of the most spectacular nature scenery in all of Europe.

You  can also take a seat in an alternative trip between Milan and Zurich and enjoy one of these 6 routes on rails:

1. Milan-Tirano (Italy): Train Chasing Water

The city of Milan, located south of the Alps, will be your departing point. From the central train station you can take a train that will take you to Tirano, right in the heart of the Italian Alps, just 2 hours away from Milan.

Righ after departure, you will be passing through Monza racing circuit. Since 1922, this has been a pilgrimage site for motor racing lovers. From that point, you’ll go towards Lecco, surrounded by a fantastic landscape of rough mountains and located in one of the arms of Lake Como, the most famous lake of Northern Italy.

Una bella ciudad a orillas del lago Como

A beautiful city by Como Lake

The train goes over the lake shore, going through Varenna, and up north to Colico Piano. From that point, the train leaves the lake to go deep into the Adda River Valley, side by side with the Regional Park of Orobie Bergamasche, arriving at Tirano.

This park is highlighted due to its abundance of water. In addtion, numerous lakes and waterfalls are found here. The Serio waterfall, with its triple fall of 315 meters, is the highest in all of Italy and one of the highest in all of Europe.

2. Tirano-Chur (Switzerland): At the Edge of the Gorge

From Tirano, an Italian city located right at the border of Switzerland, you will continue your trip through the Alps towards Chur.

From there, there are two options available: take the Bernina Express, one of the most famous panoramic trains of Switzerland, or take the regular train used by the locals, which is older than the other one, but also cheaper. In any case, the experience during the 4 hours route is a pleasant one. Three quarters of this route has been declared as a World Heritage Site.

Fifty kilometers away from Tirano, the Bernina Express goes over the Brusio viaduct, some wonderful architecture awarded by UNESCO. Right from there, the route ascends up to 1,500 meters of height towards Poschiavo Lake. Little waterfalls will surprise you along the way.

Viaducto de Brusio: un prodigio arquitectónico en Suiza

Brusio viaduct: architectural marvel in Switzerland

After that, you will reach Bianco Lake and the village of St. Moritz. If you are not in a hurry (and you better not be), wait for the next train, and stop for a while in this little village to contemplate the views surrounding you.

After St. Moritz, the train goes into the Ela Natural Park, Switzerland’s biggest park. Once there, you will get to know one of the key spots of this route, the Landwasser viaduct. It rises up between two tunnels on a gorge of 230 meters high. If you are lucky and with good eyesight, you may see a golden eagle or a bearded vulture flying over the summits.

Bernina Express atravesando el viaducto de Landwasser

Bernina Express over the Landwasser viaduct

Once you arrive at Chur, you will have crossed 55 tunnels and 190 bridges that connect this wide variety of landscapes, going from green pastures to the alpine mountains. In Chur, the oldest city of the Alps, it’s worth going over the narrow streets and corners to take a look at the shops, that today, still attest to its commercial history in the village.

3. Chur-Visp: The Specially Ranked Panoramic

If this route were to be done by a cyclist, this leg would climb a hors-catégorie pass. By train it’s much easier. From the departure point, about 600 meters above sea level, the Glacier Express will take you to the upper course of the Rhine.

You will go through the Ruinaulta canyon, near the village of Disentis, famous for its unique rocky formations, to go upwards to the Oberalp pass over 2,044 meters in height. Once you are on the train, you will realize why it is called the slowest express in the whole world.

Panorámica del cañón de Ruinaulta

Panoramic view of Ruinaulta canyon

Up until the 80’s, this route surrounded the base of the Rhone glacier and went through the tunnel of the Furka summit: this is why the train was called glacier. This route was only available during summer season, because of the heavy snowfall and the risk of avalanches.

Nowadays, this original section of the Furka summit that connects Realp and Oberwald is being performed by an ancient steam locomotive known as the Dampfbahn Furka-Bergstrecke, the second highest train line in Europe, offering visitors unique experiences and views among a spectacular setting.

The modern line, Chur-Visp, detours this original route and goes along a 15 kilometer tunnel dug in the Furka. Here, the traveller leaves the Uri canton to come out among the rocks in the Valais canton. The trip continues along the spectacular Goms Valley, right in the Natural Park of Binntal, a lush area full of unspoiled nature, to arrive at the old town of Visp, at the river side of the Rhone.

El Matterhorn (4.478 msnm) es la quinta cima más alta de los Alpes

The Matterhorn (4,478 masl) is the fifth highest peak in the Alps

4. Visp-Montreux: Among Coniferous Woods and Vineyards

From Visp you can take a train that will arrive in Montreux in less than an hour. The route runs almost all the time along the Rhone River, in a valley eroded by ancient glaciers, which passes by the capital of Valais known as the beautiful city of Sion.

Righ after departing, the train goes by the Natural Park of Pfyn-Finges, a well known place for all the ornithologists of the area. This Park harbors one of the biggest coniferous forests in all of Europe, the Pfynwald Reserve. The area is framed by mountain ranges that are over 3,000 meters high.

Sion, la capital del cantón de Valais

Sion, the capital city of Valais canton

After getting used to the slow motion of the panoramic trains, you may find it difficult to take pictures from this train, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the views. In Switzerland, even taking a regular train is a good option because its amazing views.

Halfway through the route, the train goes through Martigny, a Celt city with numerous Roman remains. In this area, if you decide to stop, you may visit natural monuments like the Trient gorge.

Montreux is the end of the route. The city is located in a bay by the Leman Lake. It’s surrounded by vineyards and the amazing snow covered Alps.

You can spend the day going over the 7 kilometer paths on the lake shore and get wonderful pictures of the mountains.

Lago Lemán, en Montreux

Leman Lake at Montreux

5. Montreux-Lucerne: The Path of the 6 Lakes

In this part, you will take the third panoramic train. The Golden Pass is a special route, during the 5 hour tour, you will need to change trains twice.

For those Agatha Christie followers, it offers the possibility of taking a Belle Epoque train. It has the luxury of the Orient Express, but not its bad reputation. In other words, you won’t need to sleep with one eye open. Quite on the contrary; you can relax and focus on the views. The best is not inside the carriage, the best is outside.

From Leman Lake, the Lavaux vineyards climb the slopes in an area that has been listed as a World Heritage Site. After that, we encounter another mountain leg of the route. The train will ascend vertiginously up to the Sonloup pass, going through a long tunnel.

Viñedos de Lavaux junto al lago Lemán

Lavaux vineyards by the Leman Lake

Fir forests, wild torrents and the luxurious ski resort of Gstaad frame this section of the trip that ends in Zweisimmen, the first stop of the route where you will need to change trains.

From Zweisimmen, the train continues on the Simme River Valley. You will go through the northern area of the Natural Park of Diemtigtal, an area with plenty of beautiful country houses, and finally, you’ll go along the shore of Thun Lake up to Interlaken. There you will change trains again.

Spiez, a orillas del lago Thun

Spiez, by the Thun Lake

The city name comes from its location between lakes Thun and Brienz. These are the first of the 6 lakes that you will see until you reach your destination in Lucerne. The Giessbachfälle waterfalls and the Brünig pass are other areas you will find along the way. Gaze out at the horizon and look for a famous trio, the Eiger, Mönch anf Jungfrau peaks, known as the Four Thousand.

6. Lucerne-Zurich: A Train to Climb the Mountain

Before finishing your trip, I recommend that you visit Lucerne, a city full of attractive sights and located in a privileged natural area. It’s worth spending a couple of days there before going to Zurich. A good suggestion is to get the Swiss Card, which will save you a lot money.

You can not leave Lucerne without visiting the region’s landmark: the Mount Pilatus, a massive 2,132 meters high mountain, located on the mountain range by the Swiss Alps. There is a wide variety of transportation options to get there. If you want to spend less money, take a bus toward the Kriens cable car station, near Lucerne, that will take you to the summit.

You can also do an hour and a half boat trip on the lake to arrive to the cog railway station of Alpnachstad. Its slope degree is the highest of all those type of trains in the whole world and it will take you to the Pilatus summit. Once there, the only way to descend is taking the cable car to the foot of the mountain and return to Lucerne.

Subida del tren cremallera de Alpnachstad al monte Pilatus

Alpnachstad cog railway to Pilatus mountain

Prices are quite high there, but the views on a clear day make this place worthy of being listed on the Nasdaq. On one side you will see the big Alps mountain range and its awesome snowy peaks, and on the other side, you’ll see the Four Cantons Lake and a mosaic of villages, forests and rivers expanding in every direction. So paying the price is definitely worth it.

Lago de los Cuatro Cantones, junto a Lucerna

Four Cantons Lake, by Lucerne

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A traveller’s schedule is not always chaotic. Some prefer the safety of the train platforms instead the cliffs. There may be some who think that going through Switzerland by train is not an adventure, but we should remind them that there’s the same amount of passion in a soft kiss as in a crazy night out.  

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