The three finest mountain railways in the Alps

Alpine Peaks

SPECTACULAR PANORAMAS
LUCERNE  |  LUGANO  |  VARENNA  |  CHUR  |  ZERMATT

12-day, first-class journey
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Travel on the Glacier Express
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& the Bernina Express
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& the Gotthard Panorama Express
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Four-star boutique hotels
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VIP arrival service with private guides and chauffeurs
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Private city walks with local insiders
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Flights London-Zurich and Geneva-London
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From only £ 2750*
* per person when two travelling together

Alpine-peaks-map

If we were asked to name Europe’s most spectacular railways, the Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Gotthard Panorama Express would be right at the top of the list. If we were asked to name the most beautiful destinations in the Alps, Lucerne, Zermatt, Lugano and Varenna would be prime contenders. And then we asked ourselves: Why not include all this in one vacation?

Journey into thin air

Highlights of this journey

If we were asked to name Europe’s most spectacular railways, the Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Gotthard Panorama Express would be right at the top of the list. If we were asked to name the most beautiful destinations in the Alps, Lucerne, Zermatt, Lugano and Varenna would be prime contenders. And then we asked ourselves: Why not include all this in one vacation?

If this rail vacation were a symphony, its every movement would be allegro: One euphoric crescendo from start to finish. Your adventure begins in Lucerne, a perfectly preserved small medieval town, located at a cobalt lake ringed by glorious mountains. Here are historic covered bridges, beautiful plazas, candy-coloured houses and waterfront promenades. Impossibly steep cog railways lead to summits high above the lake.

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Travel over the
historic Gotthard Pass
to Lugano and Lake Como
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After two nights in Lucerne, you wander down to the lakeside in the morning and board a classic steamboat that sails you across Lake Lucerne. The boat connects seamlessly with the waiting Panorama Express train that takes you up through the historic and dramatic Gotthard Pass. This line is a great engineering feat with many spiral loops, bridges, tunnels, and ever-closer views of snow-capped peaks.

The pass leads you into Ticino, the warm, sunny and Italian part of Switzerland, where the old town of Lugano clings to its steep hillside above a mountain lake. Relax – or hike the mountains – for two days here, then board two local trains that take you from Lake Lugano to Lake Como, where you settle in the lake-side gem of small, medieval Varenna. Tourists flock to world-famous Bellagio, just 15 minutes away by the local ferry, but somehow manage to overlook this village that many locals regard as the finest of all.

From Varenna, the adventure gets truly wild two days later when you travel to Tirano and board the Bernina Express. Travelling at an average speed of 36 km/h, the Bernina is not a very fast Express train. But having to cross almost 200 bridges, curl around one spectacular spiraling viaduct, and negotiate some of the steepest gradients anywhere in the Alps, this is as fast as it can go. What it lacks in speed, the train more than makes up for in views. This may well be the finest scenic rail journey in all of the Alps.

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The final stretch to Zermatt
at the foot of the Matterhorn
is so steep that it is a
rack-and-pinion railway
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After a night in charming Chur, the oldest city in Switzerland with a picturesque historic centre, your trifecta of Europe’s finest mountain railways concludes with the Glacier Express: the world’s most legendary panoramic train. The 8-hour journey takes you over spectacular bridges, over the iconic Landwasser Viaduct, and through spiral tunnels that slowly gain height. You will travel through the winding Rhine Gorge – the Grand Canyon of Switzerland – and over the 2.000-meter-high Oberalp pass.

The final stretch to Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn is so steep that it is a rack-and-pinion railway. When you pull into Zermatt’s train station, you’re 1600 meters up, which sounds high, but doesn’t look it because of the multitude of snowy peaks all around the town. It’s a great first sight, but it gets even better: When you walk down the main street, the most beautiful mountain in the world finally reveals itself. The Matterhorn has attracted climbers for 150 years, and the local cemetery (a must-visit) is crammed with gravestones commemorating souls who perished while attempting to reach its peak. Even if you desire to stay alive the possibilities are endless, with numerous trails leading to lofty heights and great panoramas. Enjoy a well-deserved lunch at a mountain hut, then indulge in Zermatt’s excellent food scene in the evening.

After three days here, a beautiful rail journey transports you back down into the Rhone Valley and onwards to Geneva Airport for your included flight home.

The journey

The Gotthard Panorama Express | The Bernina Express | The Glacier Express
Includes flights from London to Zurich and Geneva to London
From only £2750

You fly into Zurich from London and take the train from the airport the short distance to Lucerne. Your 12-day journey includes first-class rail travel, four-star boutique hotels, privately guided city walks with local insiders in Lucerne, Chur and Zermatt, and a flight home from Geneva.

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Say 1
Arrive to Lucerne from London

Fly to Zurich airport on your included flight, and then jump on a direct train from the airport for the scenic one-hour journey to Lucerne.

The moment you arrive at Lucerne and exit the train, your Silver Tray guide stands ready to welcome you. She will escort you to your hotel, and then invite you on a private two-hour city walk.

Direct train from airport to Lucerne
VIP arrival service with private guide
Privately guided city walk with local insider
Day 2
Lucerne

Everyone has always agreed that Lucerne is stunning. Queen Victoria, Goethe and Wagner all thought so. Mark Twain did too, but he grumbled about how touristy the place was. And let us warn you, things have not improved since. But it does get a lot better in the evening when the day-tourists have departed.

Lucerne is a perfectly preserved small medieval town, located at a cobalt lake ringed by glorious mountains. Here are historic covered bridges, beautiful plazas, candy-coloured houses and waterfront promenades. Even by European standards, Lucerne is of a rather advanced age. Founded around 1200 years ago, things really kicked into action in the 13th century with the opening of the St Gotthard pass, making Lucerne a significant trading town. Some of the finest sights in the town date all the way from back then.

Lucerne is compact and easy to explore. If you love mountains, good news: They are almost as easy to reach from here. Simply hop on the cableway all the way to the plateau of Pilatus-Kulm at 2000 meters.

 

Perfectly preserved small medieval town
Surrounded by great lake and high peaks
Day 3
The Gotthard Panorama Express

This is one of the best scenic journeys in Switzerland. While most trains today speed under the Alps through the world’s longest tunnel, this route takes you over the historic and dramatic Gotthard Pass.

Your journey starts on a classic steamboat that sails you across Lake Lucerne. You sail in first-class (the train is all-first class) and may have lunch in the boat’s restaurant (for a fee). The boat connects seamlessly with the waiting Panorama Express train that takes you up through the Gotthard Pass. This line is a great engineering feat with many spiral loops, bridges, tunnels, and ever-closer views of snow-capped peaks.

On the train, you can purchase drinks and snacks that are served at your seat. There is also a special car with opening windows if you wish to take pictures. A guide will explain the highlights along the route, and the train will even slow down occasionally to allow you to savour the views.

In Lugano, you will be met by your private guide at the train and escorted on the local funicular down the mountainside to your hotel in the historic part of town. Then, enjoy a two-hour city walk with your guide.

Travel by paddle steamer and panoramic train
Stunning views of the Gotthard Pass
Restaurant on the steamboat, at-seat drinks service on the train
Day 4
Lugano

Lugano lies in a bay on the northern side of Lake Lugano, surrounded by numerous mountains offering splendid viewpoints. The historic town centre is traffic-free, and neither the architecture or the relaxed lifestyle leaves you in any doubt that you are in the Italian part of Switzerland. Enjoy the Mediterranean temperatures, palm and olive trees. If you really want to relax, just sit at a table in one of the squares. And do what everyone does here: eat, chat and enjoy life.

The two closest mountains to Lugano, Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè, give you an outstanding panorama of the town, Lake Lugano and the alpine scenery. From Monte Brè there is a walk down to the village of Brè, which has preserved its typical Ticino village centre. From the San Salvatore another popular walk leads down through the beautifully situated Carona to Lake Lugano at Morcote. Taking a boat trip back to Lugano is a splendid way to round off the day.

Great panoramas over lake Lugano
Fine hiking on mountains close to town
Day 5
Lugano - Varenna

Today’s journey is on two humble regional train, mostly used by commuters headed from their towns and villages to Milan. But the views are anything but ordinary: Your trains cling closely to two of the most beautiful lakes in Italy, first alongside Lake Lugano and then with mesmerizing views over Lake Como, always with hills and mountains as a backdrop. You easily change trains at a small Milanese suburb. When you arrive at Varenna, a car is awaiting to drive you the short distance to you hotel in the town’s medieval centre.

Regional trains with easy change
Panoramic views over Lake Lugano and Lake Como
Private transfer to your hotel
Day 6
Varenna

Lake Como has more famous towns and villages, but many locals will tell you that this is the finest and most charming of them all. Not least because Varenna is blessedly free of the crowds that descend on the neighbouring towns. The cobblestoned alleys climb from the lakeside promenade up the steep hill to the medieval piazza that is the town’s centre. A local ferry can get you to world-famous Bellagio in 15 beautiful minutes, but do not neglect to also explore the narrow trails above Varenna that leads to gorges, ruined castles and panoramas over the lake and mountains.

Picturesque medieval village
Wonderful panoramas over Lake Como
Day 7
The Bernina Express

Travelling at an average speed of 36 km/h, the Bernina is not a very fast Express train. But having to cross almost 200 bridges, curl around one spectacular spiraling viaduct, and negotiate some of the steepest gradients anywhere in the Alps, this is as fast as it can go. What it lacks in speed, the train more than makes up for in views. This may well be the finest scenic rail journey in all of the Alps, arguably surpassing even the famed Glacier Express.

You travel in a first-class panorama car, offering you great views as the train first crosses the iconic Landwasser Viaduct from mountainside to mountainside, and then ascends up the lofty Bernina Pass, travelling past the Morteratsch Glacier, before it descends to the warn and pretty valleys of Italy.

The train’s terminus is a tiny station in small Tirano. Yards away you will find an equally small station with your onwards regional train. Soon you will marvel at the sight of Lake Como, as the train speeds alongside it. In small and idyllic Varenna, a local driver awaits to take you to your hotel.

Glaciers and Alpine passes
Spectacular curves and viaducts
First-class panorama car
Day 8
Chur

Chur is the oldest city in all of Switzerland, founded thousands of years ago by the shore of the fledging Rhine. The city seems surprisingly modern when you first encounter it at the train station, but just a few minutes away lies the old town with its winding cobblestone alleys and immaculate buildings. A cable car can quickly whisk you up the local mountain for some fine walks, but the high-point for hikers here is the Rhine Gorge, reachable in just a few minutes by local train.

Switzerland's oldest city
Hike the stunning Rhine Gorge
Day 9
The Glacier Express

The Glacier Express is the world’s most legendary panoramic train. The 8-hour journey takes you over spectacular bridges, over the iconic Landwasser Viaduct, and through spiral tunnels that slowly gain height. You will travel through the winding Rhine Gorge – the Grand Canyon of Switzerland – and over the 2.000-meter-high Oberalp pass. The final stretch to Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn is so steep that it is a rack-and-pinion railway.

You travel in first class. The train carries a full-service kitchen and you may order a three-course lunch to be served at your seat (at quite reasonable prices). Here is also a good wine list with local products. If you order a grappa, schnapps, or some other digestif, the head waiter will perform a little show for you, pouring the spirit from an alarmingly high altitude.

In car-free Zermatt, your private transfer will be by electric buggy.

The world's most legendary panoramic train
Through the Rhine Gorge and over the Oberalp Pass to the foot of Matterhorn
Order a three-course lunch from the full-service kitchen
Day 10
Zermatt

As your train approaches Zermatt, the views keep getting ever more impressive as Alpine peaks start towering high above you. But only when you walk down Zermatt’s main street does the most beautiful mountain in the world finally reveal itself. The Matterhorn has attracted climbers for 150 years, and the local cemetery (a must-visit) is crammed with gravestones commemorating souls who perished while attempting to reach its peak (a few of them just featuring an ice pick, as the body was never recovered).

Zermatt is a wealthy town, with great shopping and superb dining. But everyone is here for the mountains, not for the shopping. If you’re here, you’ll probably also want to hit the heights. You could certainly go hiking – the possibilities are endless, and we really recommend heading for a lofty mountain hut where you can enjoy lunch with a beer (usually brought in by helicopter), before heading down to the valley again.

The throne room of the Alps.
Have lunch in a lofty mountain cabin
Take the mountain railway to Gornergrat.
Day 12
From Zermatt to Geneva Airport and flight home

Your final journey to the airport is one to remember: First you retrace your path down the Mattertal valley, bidding a final farewell to the 4000-meter peaks of the Valais. Then, you easily change trains and travel through the Rhone Valley and alongside Lake Geneva with views of castles and terraced vineyards. The train terminates at Geneva Airport for your flight home to London.

Panoramic train and regional express to Geneva Airport
Panoramic views of the Zermatt valley and Lake Geneva

Four-star boutique hotels

Stay in charming, comfortable and centrally located four-star boutique hotels carefully curated by Silver Tray. Breakfast is included, as are transfers between the train station and the hotel.

Your trains

Silver Tray has curated Europe's best trains and finest routes for you. See a few of the trains you will experience on this journey.

Gotthard Panorama Express

This is one of the best scenic journeys in Switzerland. While most trains today speed under the Alps through the world’s longest tunnel, this route takes you over the historic and dramatic Gotthard Pass. Your journey starts on a classic steamboat that sails you across Lake Lucerne. You sail in first-class (the train is all-first class) and may have lunch in the boat’s restaurant (for a fee). The boat connects seamlessly with the waiting Panorama Express train that takes you up through the Gotthard Pass. This line is a great engineering feat with many spiral loops, bridges, tunnels, and ever-closer views of snow-capped peaks.

Bernina Express

What this 'express train'  lacks in speed, it more than makes up for in views. This may well be the finest scenic rail journey in all of the Alps, arguably surpassing even the famed Glacier Express. You travel in a first-class panorama car, offering you great views as the train first crosses the iconic Landwasser Viaduct from mountainside to mountainside, and then ascends up the lofty Bernina Pass, travelling past the Morteratsch Glacier, before it descends to the warn and pretty valleys of Italy. 

Glacier Express

The Glacier Express is the world’s most legendary panoramic train. The 8-hour journey takes you over spectacular bridges, over the iconic Landwasser Viaduct, and through spiral tunnels that slowly gain height. You will travel through the winding Rhine Gorge – the Grand Canyon of Switzerland – and over the 2.000-meter-high Oberalp pass. The stretch to or from Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn is so steep that it is a rack-and-pinion railway. You travel in first class. The train carries a full-service kitchen and you may order a three-course lunch to be served at your seat (at quite reasonable prices). Here is also a good wine list with local products. If you order a grappa, schnapps, or some other digestif, the head waiter will perform a little show for you, pouring the spirit from an alarmingly high altitude.

Your Silver Tray service includes

First class rail travel on direct Trains
  • + First class rail travel
  • + The Gotthard Panorama Express
  • + The Bernina Express
  • + The Glacier Express
  • + Flights from London to Zurich and Geneva to London
Private city walks
  • + Two-hour city walks by local insiders in Lucerne and Lugano
  • + Fully customizable experiences
  • + Insider advice about local restaurants and hidden gems
Four-star boutique hotels
  • + Four-star boutique hotels
  • + Highly rated and carefully selected
  • + Perfectly located in city centers
  • + Breakfast included
Travel with confidence
  • + Private guide waiting at your train car upon arrival
  • + Private transfer to hotel (where necessary)
  • + Private transfer from hotel to train station upon departure
Sorry, this is not included
  • – Food and drinks other than breakfast
  • – Catering on trains, unless specified
  • – Local excursions

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