Even if you hold a rail pass, make reservations in advance; they are required on most tours and high-speed trains. Some of the most popular and most breath-takingly beautiful trips are:
The Glacier Express
Zermatt – Brig – Chur – St. Moritz
Settle into a first-class panorama car on the “slowest express train in the world,” which connects St. Moritz and Zermatt in just under eight hours. Between them lie 291 bridges, 91 tunnels, and the 6,700-foot-tall Oberalp Pass. Narration provided by STS points out some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe: dense forests, snow-peaked caps including the Matterhorn, rushing mountain streams, and centuries-old villages.
The Bernina and Heidi Express
Landquart – Davos – Bernina Pass – Tirano
Crossing the Alps from north to south, this route covers the breathtakingly lovely canton of Graubüenden and affords ideal views from first- and second-class panorama cars. Travel over graceful viaducts, through galleries carved into the sheer rock, switch-back tunnels, mountain streams, glaciers and even an Alpine garden. This route also carries passengers up to the 7,400-foot Bernina Pass.
The William Tell Express
Lucerne – Lake Lucerne – Fluelen – St. Gotthard – Bellinzona – Lugano or Locarno
This trip connects the historic cradle of Switzerland with Italian-speaking Switzerland. It begins on a nostalgic paddle steamer that plies the calm waters of Lake Lucerne. A three-course lunch is served on board. Upon arrival in Fluelen, passengers transfer to a panorama train bound south for the Ticino. The train chugs up the St. Gotthard mountain range through a series of switch-back tunnels and onto Bellinzona, where visitors can tour castles standing guard over this medieval city. From Bellinzona, the train moves on to Lugano or Locarno.
The Golden Pass Line
Lucerne – Interlaken – Zweisimmen – Montreux
This journey connects central Switzerland and Lake Geneva. Passengers depart from historic Lucerne and cross the famous Brunig Pass en route to Interlaken, where they have the option to embark on an excursion to the Jungfraujoch, also called Top of Europe. Afterwards, take the Salon Bleu train and head toward Gstaad. Leaving Gstaad, the train makes an electrifying descent towards Montreux and passes through vineyards and sprawling country estates en route to Lake Geneva.
The Lötschberg Centovalli Express
Bern – Lötschberg – Domodossola – Centovalli
Another highly scenic route, this express travels from the capital city of Bern to the palm tree-studded fishing villages of Lake Maggiore. A window into the craggy, snow-capped Alpine world, this route has one of the world’s highest train tunnels, an engineering feat that leads to the south side of the Alps and eventually to the Italian mountain town of Domodossola. Passengers change to another train that travels through the green valleys and deep gorges of the Centovalli. Here gushing waterfalls, tidy vineyards, chestnut forests, and tiny villages whoosh past your train window. Valid travel documents for Italy are necessary.
The Mont-Blanc Express
Martigny – Châtelard Frontière – Chamonix
Begin this scenic tour in the canton of Valais. Once across the wild Trient Gorge and ascending to breath-taking heights towards Chamonix, passengers will thrill at the sights of steep mountain sides and waterfalls crashing down outside the train windows. Shady forests alternate with cozy mountain villages, until the tour reaches the magnificent Mont Blanc glacier, Europe’s tallest peak. Swiss Travel System tickets are valid from and to Chatelard. Connecting tickets to and from Chamonix are sold on board. Valid entry documents for France are necessary.
The Romantic Route Express
Andermatt – Furkapass – Gletsch – Grimselpass – Meiringen – Grosse Scheidegg – Grindelwald
Climb aboard a bright yellow postal bus for this trip through the Swiss Alps. The bus leaves from the Reuss Valley in Uri and begins a thrilling ride over the 8,000-foot high Furka Pass and glides directly by eye-popping Rhone Glacier before continuing down into the sleepy village of Gletsch in the Valais. (On this voyage you can also include a ride on the Furka steam train.). Leaving Gletsch, the bus climbs a serpentine road to Grimsel Pass, 7,100 feet at its peak. Passengers have a bird’s-eye view of mountain lakes before descending into the Hasli Valley and the town of Meiringen. The yellow bus route continues beyond glaciers, alpine meadows, and past dairy farms, eventually reaching the Reichenbach Valley and pulling onto Grindelwald, the resort village at the foot of the Eiger North Face.