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Switzerland Grand Train Tour in November

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Thcshc
Thcshc
18 posts
new member
Oct 13, 2019 - 6:34 PM

I am going on a grand train tour of Switzerland from 31 Oct to 11 Nov and ten going to Venice. II am very lost as I had booked my no refundable air tickets without knowing The Glazier Exoress and the Gotthard Panorama Trains are closed.

Can someone please help me with a grand train route to cover

Arrive Zurich.

Lucern, Lauterbrunnen, Montreux , Zermatt , Saint Moritz, Lugano before going Venice. I can forgo Lugano if the route is not ok

for this timing of the year where the Glazier express is closed. Shall I change to do Saint Moritz first upon arriving Zurich ( but I don’t know how to plan my route after this .)and depart Zermatt for Venice at the very end ? Please advise

Luke
Luke
105 posts
active member
Oct 13, 2019 - 7:54 PM in reply to Thcshc

Hi Thcshc and welcome to MySwissAlps!

I wouldn't be too concerned about any trains not running - the route is always open. So you can take standard Swiss trains to any destination you like at any time of year.

So you can still follow the route you planned above. :)

Use the SBB timetable here to plan out your trips and find the schedules: www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

I might try: Zurich - St. Moritz - Zermatt (via chur and Andermatt) - Montreux - Lauterbrunnen - Lucerne - Lugano - Venice.

Adjust your schedule depending on what you must see and do and what is optional. If you are just in Switzerland to ride the trains and see those routes/towns then it is all doable.

You'll want to look at a rail pass like the Swiss Travel Pass as well: www.myswissalps.com/sw isstravelpass

1960man
1960man
2327 posts
top member
Oct 13, 2019 - 10:45 PM in reply to Thcshc

" without knowing The Glazier Exoress and the Gotthard Panorama Trains are closed. "

The trains aren't 'closed' as such

You have fallen into the 'marketing trap' that I think is a big problem for Swiss railways. The two trains you mention are so 'well' marketed that occasional or first time visitors think that during periods that the 'special' trains are not running, that means the railway they travel on is closed. That is not in fact true, because all the 'famous' aka 'panoramic' aka 'scenic' trains in Switzerland run on normal railways with frequent regular trains open to all passengers and used by tourists, commuters, schoolchildren, local farmers, shoppers etc

(my personal views on the Glacier and Gotthard Panorama trains are at the bottom of this post)

Try not to focus too hard on the so called 'scenic' trains. Nearly all railways in Switzerland are scenic in some way - if you don't see high mountains you will see other icons of Switzerland such as lakes, rolling pastures, farmsteads, cows etc. - so you will rarely be disappointed with any Swiss train trip

If you get a Swiss Travel Pass, you can travel on any and all of the railway lines of the main Swiss national network, this includes any train on the so called 'Glacier Express route' (which in fact is just a normal railway with lots of normal trains services throughout the day.

Nearly all railways in Switzerland are scenic in some way, and it’s a small country so you can start anywhere you like.

A good publication to start with is:

www.bradtguides.com/sh op/europe/switzerland/ switzerland-without-a-car-3302.html

A look at this relief map will show you where the high Alps are and it shows the railways in context with the mountainous regions very well:

www.citymetric.com/sit es/default/files/artic le_body_2018/02/switze rland_without_trains.p ng

My personal views on the Glacier and Gotthard Panorama:

Gotthard Panorama Express - a personal view

This is ‘take it or leave it’ advice:

Personally I am sceptical of the attraction of the Gotthard Panorama Express. It is an attempt to keep some tourism going on the Gotthard 'mountain route' since the rest of the fast trains now go through the base tunnel. However, you see mainly valleys not high mountains. Also it is reservation obligatory and first class only.

Also, the train gets rather lonely - part of the ‘romance’ of the Gotthard route previously was that your train competed for space on the line with huge long international long-distance trains carrying 000s of passengers a day between northern and southern Europe, and those passenger trains interacted and weaved in between dozens of heavy freight trains lumbering back and forth across the Alps.

The curiosity was seeing another train high above you one minute then a few minutes later passing by your train on the same level, then perhaps seeing it again below you a few minutes after that. It is this that no longer happens as there are so few trains left on the line.

More economical might be for you to take any boat Luzern - Fluelen. Then take the train Fluelen - Erstfeld. Change at Erstfeld into the regional train that takes the same old mountain route but at no extra cost, and runs direct through to Como (and Milano)

Glacier Express:

Take care with the hyped-up marketing of the Glacier Express. It is not always the best way to 'see Switzerland'

The Glacier Express runs roughly on an East - West axis in the southern part of Switzerland, so trying to access it from further north is falling into the trap of being lured by the hyperbolic marketing of the Glacier Express. In practice the Glacier Express is just an ‘exclusive’ train on a normal railway route with plenty of other normal - non supplement , reservation-free trains on it.

To understand the above, it is worth taking a moment to understand the Glacier Express and its history:

It was created (as one train each way daily) with the notion that well-healed travellers taking long holidays in Switzerland in the ‘Belle Epoque’ era (1930s) would stay in Zermatt and then also go and stay in the other fashionable resort of the time, St Moritz. The train was named (mainly) after the Rhone Glacier which has now melted so much that you don’t see it from the train and in any case the train runs under the Rhone Glacier in a base tunnel which replaced the Furka mountain section in 1982.

Points to bear in mind about the Glacier Express:

Although the whole journey is in the mountains, a lot of it is in valleys - where you get some good views of bubbling rivers but not all the time - there are some mundane sections.

in truth there are only 4 really spectacular sections - in order West to East: the loops around Grengiols and Fiesch; Andermatt - Oberalppass - Disentis; Ruinaulta (Rheinschucht aka Rhein gorge); Albula north ramp loops and spirals Tiefencastel - Filisur - Preda

The trip is a long one - tourists can frequently be seen sleeping rather than watching the view and missing the spectacular bits anyway!

the same railway lines can be travelled using ordinary local trains which are no slower in practice due to the single track infrastructure

Arno
Arno
14121 posts
expert &
moderator
Oct 14, 2019 - 5:54 AM

Hi Thcshc,

Personally I like the official scenic trains, and I think they are worth it especially for first timers. It's a more luxurious trip that way, and often less train changes. However, if they don't operate like in your case, the regular trains are just fine. The regular trains have other advantages like experiencing how "the locals" travel and often they are less crowded. Also, like 1960man said, you don't need seat reservations for those trains, so they are cheaper and more flexible. The scenery will be the same!

Thcshc
Thcshc
18 posts
new member
Oct 14, 2019 - 3:51 PM

Thank you all Luke and Arno for taking your precious time to help me with your replies.

Thank you so much for your lengthy information. I was very upset that the most of if not all of the grand train route which was the main reason I came to Switzerland was closed during the period I am there . At least now I know I only miss some of the comfort but the scenic views are still there . My flight and hotels are non refundable. Looks like I will have to stick to the Zermatt Saint Moritz route as some of my booked hotels don’t allow cancellation. I fly 17 hours each way. I have checked and because construction is going on at part of the Glazier Express route, commuters have to change to buses for that stretch. Already the estimated travel time by local train is almost 9 hours, I am just afraid when I reach St Moritz with the change of bus, it may take 10 hours which is Long for a day’s travel. May I know if I use the route through Zurich (7 plus hours), Is it as scenic and do I miss out alot by taking this route instead. ? Also 2 days Lucern , I day Lauterbrunnen, 2 days Montreux and surrounding, 2 days Zermatt , 3 days Saint Moritz, 1 day Lugano before heading for Venice. Is it a good choice for the number of days that I had planned for each place

Annika
Annika
6110 posts
expert &
moderator
Oct 14, 2019 - 5:29 PM

Hi Thcshc! Yes, it's a bit unfortunate that the panoramic trains won't be running, but try not to worry too much as you'll still get to enjoy wonderful scenic trips. As for the Zermatt-St. Moritz route: yes, it will be quite long due to construction works between Lax and Oberwald. Replacement buses usually run very smoothly though, and allow for reasonable transfers. It's up to you to decide whether or not you're up for a long travel day. You do plan a couple of nights in St. Moritz, so you still be able to enjoy the area even though you might arrive rather late on your transfer day coming from Zermatt.

The alternative via Zurich is a bit shorter and different in terms of the views, but it certainly has scenic sections along Lake Thun and between Zurich (especially from the Walensee onwards), Chur and St. Moritz. Note that there are also construction works going on between Sargans and Chur, at least for the (random) date in your travel period I've been checking.

Yes, I think your choice for base towns is good overall. To be honest, all of them deserve more nights as there's so much to explore, but if your main aim is to stay in several towns across the country, this plan will serve you quite well. You may want to drop Lugano to create a bit more space in your itinerary. It's a fantastic place, but I think more so in spring, summer and fall than in November-December.

1960man
1960man
2327 posts
top member
Oct 15, 2019 - 12:39 AM in reply to Thcshc

"I have checked and because construction is going on at part of the Glazier Express route, commuters have to change to buses for that stretch. Already the estimated travel time by local train is almost 9 hours, I am just afraid when I reach St Moritz with the change of bus, it may take 10 hours which is Long for a day’s travel."

It is not as bad as that

There are some technical points that you should understand:

Firstly, the bus replacement on the Furka section of the route does not change the timings, the buses run to the same timings as the trains.

The Glacier (not Glazier) Express (GEX) is not 'express' in the conventional transport context - it is not a much shorter journey time than on other regular trains to go from Zermatt to St Moritz. This is because the route is mainly slow, winding single track railway track through mountainous terrain. The GEX often has to wait to cross other trains so its progress is little faster than ordinary trains

So, if the GEX had been running it would have taken you 7 hours 46 minutes to do Zermatt - St Moritz.

As it stands, you can do it by regular train in 8 hours 21 minutes - which is only just over half an hour more travel time

Last modified on Oct 15, 2019 - 12:42 AM by 1960man
Thcshc
Thcshc
18 posts
new member
Oct 15, 2019 - 6:40 PM

Thank you 1960man. Thank you for giving me so many precious advise. I am now looking forward for my Switzerland trip even without the Grand Trains.

Thcshc
Thcshc
18 posts
new member
Oct 15, 2019 - 7:04 PM

Thank you Annika. I only choose Lugano as a stopover because the trip from St Moritz to Venice is almost 8 hours. By bus or train , is there any shorter timing route so that I can skip Lugano.

I am Also not sure if my 2 nights stay at Montreux is sufficient as I think by the time I arrive at Montreux , it will be about 10.30am from Interlaken . I intend to visit Geneva and tour around Montreux for the rest of the day and the next day .is it too rush ? I could add my extra day here.

Also, I just check weather forecast, Saint Moritz during my time of visit is Approximately 0 degrees centigrade in the day, Is it ok to move and tour Saint Moritz in this weather . I have 2 full days here Never been to a winter 0 degree day time place before

1960man
1960man
2327 posts
top member
Oct 15, 2019 - 11:26 PM in reply to Thcshc

St Moritz only exists as a resort thank to 0 degrees temperatures. It is cold weather that made it the one of the birthplaces of winter sports, notably the famous 'Cresta Run' toboggan run created by British people like me.

St Moritz is at its best when it is cold and crisp with snowy mountains all around

Things would not stop in St Moritz unless it was colder than about -35 or a huge snowstorm - this is the high Swiss Alps after all!

alterra.cc/media/turob j/images/St._Moritz-4.jpg

Quickest way St Moritz - Venezia is

St Moritz - Chiavenna, Italy (postbus)

Chiavenna - Colico (Trenord train)

Colico - Milano (Trenord train)

Milano - Venezia (Trenitalia)

Last modified on Oct 15, 2019 - 11:27 PM by 1960man
1960man
1960man
2327 posts
top member
Oct 15, 2019 - 11:36 PM in reply to Thcshc

I would add the day in Montreux. There is plenty to see all around the Lake Geneva area (it is a big lake!).

Thcshc
Thcshc
18 posts
new member
Oct 18, 2019 - 5:59 AM

Thank you for the advise. My 5 days plan will be 3 days montreux 2 days zermatt . Is it better experience to stay all 3 nights in Montreux as base with same bnb and day trips to Geneva and Lavuaex or stay 2 nights in Montreux and the extra night in Geneva or Lavuaex?

Anna
Anna
322 posts
top member &
moderator
Oct 18, 2019 - 7:53 AM in reply to Thcshc

Hi Thcshc,

I think Montreux is an ideal base to explore the Lake Geneva region, including the city of Geneva and the Lavaux vineyards. I personally would just stay in the same BnB for all 3 nights. Direct trains from Montreux will get you to Geneva in roughly 1 hour, making day trips easily manageable.

In addition to the helpful links provided by 1960man, please find more information about things to do in Montreux and Geneva from these pages:

Regards,

Anna

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