Epic Swiss train rides

Trains are not the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking of Switzerland. Chocolate, cheese, army knives, and cows with huge bells, those I can name off the top of my head. But trains? In a mountainous country like Switzerland? Not really. As it turns out, I couldn’t be more wrong. This Alpine country offers some truly epic railway journeys.

A couple of facts about Swiss trains

The trains in Switzerland are modern, clean and on time. All in all, a great way to travel, if they weren’t also quite expensive. To give you an idea: The 4-day Travel Pass available to tourists for unlimited travel by train, bus and some boats costs roughly as much as a 7-day Japan Rail Pass.

The most panoramic routes are often operated by special trains. Such is the Bernina Express, running from Chur to Tirano in Italy, or the Glacier Express, travelling between Zermatt and St. Moritz. They offer special panoramic cars to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the route plus some extra comforts like food and drinks. Of course, all those extra comforts also cost extra.

During our recent trip to Switzerland our primary way of getting around was our motorhome. As we didn’t use the trains to get from point A to point B, but for the train ride itself we picked only the most scenic parts of the most popular routes. Normal local or regional trains were just perfect for that. They didn’t come much cheaper, but they offered us more flexibility as they stopped at every station.

Morteratsch to Alp Grüm on the Bernina Line

Approximately 50 km of railway line between St. Moritz and Tirano is a pure marvel of engineering. The trains climb from 1,822 metres above sea level up to Ospizio Bernina at 2,256 metres and then rapidly descend to Tirano in Italy at 429 metres.

We travelled only the short distance from Morteratsch to Alp Grüm to experience the most picturesque part of the trip.

Diavolezza Glacier viewing platform
From the Bernina-Lagalb station you can take the cable car up to Diavollezza at almost 3000 metres above sea level to enjoy the view of yet another glacier.
View of Lago Bianco from the Bernina line train.
Lago Bianco at 2234 m almost at the highest point of the Bernina Line.
Alp Grüm train station
The picturesque Alp Grüm station is only accessible by train.
View of Palü glacier
The view of the Palü glacier and lake from Alp Grüm.
The view from Alp Grüm to Lago Poschiavo.
It’s hard to imagine the train from Alp Grüm descends all the way down to Lago Poschiavo and then some more…

Rhine Gorge: Ilanz to Reichenau – Tamins

The impressive Rhine Gorge, also called the “Swiss Grand Canyon” is best seen from a train. The Glacier Express train runs through the gorge. But, if you take a local train from Ilanz to Reichenau-Tamins you can stop at Versam-Safien station and see the most beautiful parts of the gorge on foot. Of course, you could also walk the whole 20+ km distance from Ilanz to Reichenau-Tamins, but we opted for the more leisurely option.

Glacier Express passing through Rhine Gorge close to Versam-Safien station.
Glacier Express passing through Rhine Gorge close to Versam-Safien station.
Rhine Gorge walls
Sure, a train ride through the gorge is convenient, but it’s still worth exploring parts of it on foot.
Rhine Gorge close to Versam-Safien.
White rocks in the Rhine Gorge
The train goes into a tunnel, the river around a bend.

As you can see, we barely skimmed the surface of the surprisingly extensive Swiss railway network. But it was enough to make us want to go back for more.