The Golden Pass starts in German speaking Lucerne and ends in French speaking Montreux. Towns along the way are Meiringen, Interlaken, Spiez, Zweisimmen and Gstaad.
Section 1: Lucerne to Interlaken Ost
The trains on this section are referred to as the "Luzern-Interlaken Express". The train departs from Lucerne and passes the foot of the Pilatus mountain. You can see Lake Lucerne every now and then, but you will soon leave it behind you. You'll pass two more lakes, the Sarnersee and the Lungernsee, before the train starts climbing the Brünig Pass. The pass has an altitude of 1008 m, which isn't very high for Swiss standards. Next, the train has to descend 413 m to reach Meiringen at 595 m on the valley floor, and it uses the cogwheel track to do so.
The train changes direction in Meiringen. A flat stretch through the Hasli valley follows before the train reaches Brienz along beautiful Lake Brienz. About 20 minutes later the train arrives in Interlaken Ost (East), which is the gateway to the Jungfrau region.
Sit on the right side of the train for the best view of the lakes and the view while descending from the pass down to Meiringen.
There's an app for your phone or tablet to be used as a travel guide on this section.
Section 2: Interlaken Ost to Zweisimmen
First the train runs along the river Aare to the other side of Interlaken. It continues its way to Spiez, a town at a scenic location along Lake Thun. You can easily see the pyramid shaped Mount Niesen from here.
The Golden Pass line proceeds into the Simmen valley; a typically Swiss green valley with farms, small villages, forests and surrounded by mountains.
You can best sit on the right side for the view on Lake Thun, but this is only a short section.
Section 3: Zweisimmen to Montreux
First the train climbs to the highest point of the entire Golden Pass line, near Saanenmöser, at 1279 m. Next up is the upper class town of Gstaad, with luxurious shops and hotels. Soon after you will leave the German speaking part of Switzerland and enter the French speaking part.
The train winds its way through the valley, which is quite narrow in some places. The valley ends in a tunnel that leads to Les Avants. From there, Montreux is just 3 km as the crow flies, but there are still 578 m to descend. Cogwheel track and many curves are necessary to complete the last 20 minutes of the journey, and you will have a wonderful view of Lake Geneva along the way.
It does not matter that much on which side of the train you sit. We think the right side provides a slightly better view.
What's the best leg of the route?
All sections are worth your time. If we necessarily had to choose a section it would be section 3, Zweisimmen to Montreux. This is where the line is at its narrowest, tram-like sometimes, and the descent to Montreux with the view of Lake Geneva is absolutely beautiful.
If you don't have the time to do the complete Golden Pass route, just pick the section that is closest to your base town. If you are based in the Bernese Oberland, then consider this round trip:
- Take the Golden Pass train to Zweisimmen and Montreux;
- Spend some time in Montreux;
- Take a train to Brig;
- Take a local train via Goppenstein and Kandersteg to Spiez;
- Take a train to Interlaken.
Check the timetable of trains on the Golden Pass trains line. To be sure to travel via the Golden Pass line, enter the via-stations Meiringen and Zweisimmen.
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