Do it yourself 7-day tour "Ultimate Swiss Scenic Trains"
The ultimate vacation for train lovers: a week filled with the best scenic train trips across the Alps.
The itinerary of this tour can be booked as displayed here (see the shopping list), or you can extend it to have more time in the towns along the way. You can book extra nights in Zurich, Interlaken, Montreux, Zermatt, Chur, Lugano and Lucerne. If you have time, we strongly recommend to spend a couple of extra days in one or more towns.
Be sure to check the timetables of the various trains and boats before you book. This tour can be made throughout the year, but in the off season (early Spring and Fall) you may have to skip a boat trip or travel by a regular train instead of the Glacier Express.
Shopping list for this tour
Please note that this is a sample itinerary. You can make any changes you like, to adapt the tour to your preferences and available time. The list below is what you would need to book if you choose to make the tour as described.
8-day Swiss Travel Pass. This includes all transfers Zurich to Interlaken, Interlaken to Montreux, Montreux to Zermatt, Zermatt to Chur, Chur to Lugano and Lugano to Zurich. There are discounts on the mountain trips such as the Jungfraujoch and Gornergrat. Note that the suggested tour only requires 7 travel days, so the pass allows to easily extend your stay by one night. Of course you can pick another rail pass if you want to extend the tour even further. A good town to stay longer is Interlaken, as more days increase your chances of having good weather for your Jungfraujoch trip. Also, Lucerne is a good town for an extra night;
Optionally: VIP seat reservations for the Golden Pass Panoramic;
Seat reservations for the Glacier Express;
Seat reservations for the Bernina Express;
Seat reservations for the Gotthard Panorama Express;
Optionally: Train tickets from Tirano to Lugano if you travel in Winter, when the Bernina Express bus does not operate;
Hotel in Interlaken (2 nights);
Hotel in Montreux (1 night);
Hotel in Zermatt (1 night);
Hotel in Chur (1 night);
Hotel in Lugano (1 night);
Optionally: Hotel in Zurich or near Zurich Airport.
Look here I you prefer an all inclusive train holiday package over booking all items yourself.
Day 1: Golden Pass Northern leg
You will take the train from Zurich to Lucerne, and change to the Golden Pass route that takes you to Interlaken Ost (East). The whole trip will take about 3 hours.
Day 2: Highest rail station in Europe: Jungfraujoch
From Interlaken Ost, you will take the spectacular railway to Lauterbrunnen and Kleine Scheidegg, and finally reach the highest rail station in Europe: the Jungfraujoch. After enjoying the view and the snow up here, you descend back to Kleine Scheidegg. Then you'll take another route down to Grindelwald, passing the impressive Eiger North face. From Grindelwald you'll take a direct train to Interlaken Ost. This day trip takes about 6 hours.
It is not worth going up the Jungfraujoch if it's cloudy up there. Here are some bad weather alternative activities:
- Travel only as far as Kleine Scheidegg. You'll skip the highest (and most expensive) section of today's route, but you can still enjoy the rest of the route;
- The national capital of Bern (an hour by train);
- The Trümmelbach Falls near Lauterbrunnen;
- The Glacier Gorge near Grindelwald;
- Shopping in Interlaken;
- Great for kids: Heimwehfluh in Interlaken (there are model trains too);
- Great for kids: JungfrauPark Interlaken.
Day 3: Golden Pass Southern leg
A magnificent trip from Interlaken Ost via the Golden Pass to Montreux, along Lake Geneva. You can optionally book VIP seats in the front of the train for the leg from Zweisimmen to Montreux. This allows you to see the route from the train driver's perspective. The trip takes about 3h15. If you choose to arrive early, there's still time left to travel up to Rochers-de-Naye by cogwheel train.
Day 4: Montreux to Zermatt
The train ride to Zermatt takes about 2.5 hours. That leaves time to do something extra, like a boat trip from Montreux to Lausanne. From Lausanne you can take the train to Zermatt. This adds about 3 hours to today's activities. Another option is to arrive early in Zermatt and do the cogwheel train trip up the Gornergrat, for a good view of the Matterhorn.
Day 5: Glacier Express
You'll board the famous Glacier Express to enjoy the 6 hour ride up the Oberalppass and across the Rhine valley to the historical town of Chur.
Day 6: Bernina Express
Another famous train: the Bernina Express offers a scenic ride across a varied landscape. The train takes you to Tirano, just across the Italian border. From there the special Bernina Express bus takes you back into Switzerland, to the town of Lugano. In Winter, there's no bus; you can use regular trains instead. This journey takes about all day; you'll arrive in Lugano around dinner time.
Day 7: Gotthard Panorama Express
This is the last time you will cross the Alps this week. From the Italian like climate and atmosphere in the South, the Gotthard Panorama Express will take you to the North again. First you'll travel by train to Flüelen. There you will change to the boat to Lucerne. In Lucerne you'll take a train to Zurich. The complete trip takes about 6.5 hours.