Take a scenic train ride or hop on a summer lift to get the best views of Switzerland’s mountains and lakes. You’ll even get a discount on some of them with your Swiss Half Fare Card, which is included with all Lakes & Mountains holidays. Take a look at our top six must-dos.
Holding the title of ‘steepest cogwheel railway in the world’ with a gradient of 48%, Lucerne’s Pilatus Railway is an engineering marvel. The train takes 30 minutes to glide over valleys and past meadows, and scale the sheer rock face up to the Pilatus Kulm. At the top, follow the Flower Trail to learn about Alpine flora, or pick up some speed and whizz down the summer toboggan. Pilatus is also the legendary home of dragons – these days, the friendly dragon Pilu carries on the myth in his adventure playground.
For a first-class day out, take the round trip to Lauterbrunnen’s Schilthorn peak on the series of four cable cars. View-seekers can count the tips of over 200 mountains, including the famous Big Three – Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch. Or you can watch the scenery slowly swirl around you as you dine in the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant, famous for its role as the villain’s lair in James Bond’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But the most dramatic view is on the descent. The final cable car down to Stechelberg drops over the edge of a cliff – get a spot at the front of the cabin to watch the ground fall away into the valley below.
Schilthorn cable cars
The Jungfrau Railway is one of the best things to do in Interlaken. It might not claim non-stop views on the way up, but what’s at the end of the line is certainly worth the trip. After winding through 9km of mountain tunnels – stopping at viewpoints along the way to give glimpses of the valleys far below – it emerges at the Top of Europe, 3,500m high. Gaze over glaciers and the infamous north face of the Eiger from the Sphinx Observatory. Then venture deep into the Aletsch Glacier, the longest in Europe, to explore the glistening tunnels and sculptures of the Ice Palace.
Leave the lakeside town of Montreux on carriages that wouldn’t look out of place on the Orient Express. Inside, the ornate, wood-panelled décor gives you a glimpse into the luxury of a by-gone era – sit back in the plush seats and watch views of Lake Geneva roll by. Get off in Gruyères to explore the medieval town, before visiting the dairy that produces the famous cheese. Then round off the day sampling Switzerland’s other edible export on a tour of the Nestlé chocolate factory.
Starting by the shore of Lake Lucerne, this is the oldest cogwheel railway in Europe and has been carrying passengers up to the Rigi Kulm peak since 1871. Nowadays, you can ride in beautifully restored carriages and, if you’re lucky, be pushed to the top by a steam train. Affectionately known as the Queen of the Mountains, the summit has spectacular views – on the clearest days, you can see to the Alps and the Black Forest in Germany.
This train’s been clacking its way from Zermatt to the peak of the Gornergrat mountain for over 100 years. Hop off at Rotenboden station and walk 10 minutes to Riffelsee lake, where you can see the iconic triangular peak of the Matterhorn reflected in the water. Then continue to the top of the line and visit the Hotel Kulm, with its distinctive domed observatories on the roof. The restaurant terrace is a great spot to sip a cup of coffee while you take in the impressive scenery.
Head to the heights on your next Lakes & Mountains holiday. All aboard!
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Author: Courtney Sparham
Published: October 25, 2019
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