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Switzerland, best explored by train

Switzerland by train
Switzerland by train

The country that is well known for its watches, cheese and chocolate, but that is not all. The snow capped mountains, serene lakes and green valley's makes Switzerland in awe aspiring experience. From their natural beauty to their wines, Swiss wines are well known for their diversity and high quality. Looking to discover nature at its best? Switzerland is your destination.

 

Switzerland, an overview

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Locarno

As scenery goes it doesn't get much better than Switzerland. The dramatic ridgelines and towering peaks of the Swiss Alps cover so much of the country that the Swiss by rights should be born in skis and crampons.

Rustic villages rest in the granite folds of mountain ranges, whose perpetual snow capped summits rise from a tangle of rivers, 1500 lakes and over one million hectares of forest. It's the kind of bucolic inspiration that fed the imaginations of Voltaire, Byron, Shelley and Joyce but is most often purloined by chocolate-box designers.

Among the hundred plus pinnacles that climb within a hairs-breadth of 4000 meters or taller, are the fabled mountains of Eiger, Jungfrau and the Matterhorn, the legendary ski resorts of St. Moritz, Davos and Zermatt and some of the most spectacular railways in the world.

Stunning Alpine scenery abounds on the Glacier Express, one of Europe's greatest rail journeys from St. Moritz to Zermatt (or vice versa). The Jungfrau railway climbs to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe at 3,454 metres.

Much of the action in the James Bond flick On Her Majesty's Secret Service is set on the Schilthorn, the Alps longest cable railway that travels to the world's first revolving restaurant, Pia Gloria (2,970m.) Here a James Bond breakfast can be ordered, Vodka Martini anyone?

A cable car from the lakeside city of Lucerne ascends a thrilling 2,120 metres to the summit of Mount Pilatus, where views extend over the whole range of the Swiss Alps, as far south as Italy and north to the great Bavarian plain.

While the rich and the celebrated famously shred the powder at St. Moritz and Davos there are more ski Swiss resorts than weeks in the year including Portes du Soleil, Klosters, Verbier and Saas Fee.

Mountain sports are a way of life, with perennial climbing and ice climbing options, winter ski touring, snowboarding, deep-snow skiing, heliskiing and glacier walking. St Moritz, also offers snow-polo, an Olympic Bobsled run and the Cresta run.

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Jungfrau

In summer the country can be easily accessed on foot via a staggering 50,000km of marked walking trails, colour-coded according to difficulty and 3,300km of interlinked cycling trails, where bikes can be hired from railway stations and returned to any other station at the end of the tour.

There are walking trails and superb views to be had at the Swiss National Park where ibexes, chamois, marmots and large red deer roam free.

Lake cruises and ferry trips can be made on Lake Zürich, Lake Geneva, Lake Constance (with visits to towns in Germany and Austria) and the picturesque Vierwaltstättersee at Lucerne.

Precision and "Swiss Made" are synonymous with the nations timepieces. The infrastructure too, runs like clockwork, yet with four official languages and three distinct cultures wrapped in one tiny nation it's a wonder the Swiss aren't all cuckoo.

Horology is an honoured art celebrated at the comprehensive Musée international d'horlogerie and watch-making factories in La-Chaux-de-Fonds and at the museum in Musée d'Horlogerie in nearby Le Locle, another production centre of Swiss meticulousness.

There are nine Swiss UNESCO Heritage sites including the frescoes of Müstair and the abbey complex of St Gallen. Neanderthal cutting tools dating back to 3000BC were found in the Cotencher Cave, in Neuchâtel.

While Switzerland's oldest known building lies where it was discovered on the bottom of Lake Biel, the nations oldest settlement Chur, has been continuously inhabited since 3000 BC. The town of 33,000, features beautiful 16th century buildings and fountains, an 800-year old cathedral and museums of history, art, and winemaking. From Chur the Rhaetian Railway heads into the mountains towards the Swiss Grand Canyon within an hours travel.

Appenzell, is the most traditional of the 26 Swiss cantons. Its picturesque villages of ornately painted houses are set in lush, rolling landscapes think Heidi and William Tell. Fantastic views of five neighbouring nations can be had from Säntis, Appenzell's most famous peak.

Montreux, on the shores of Lake Geneva, in the heart of the Swiss Riviera, offers beautiful lakeside walks. . It is said that Lord Byron scratched his initials in the dungeon of the stunning 11th century Chillon Castle; the most visited historical building in Switzerland.

Musicians and fans flock to Montreaux for the Jazz and Blues festival while Grindelwald is home to a festival of the yodeling kind plus the World Snow Festival in mid-January.

 

Train network in Switzerland 

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Glacier Express

Train travel in Switzerland, is comprehensive with a well-developed rail network with many excellent services provided by Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB).

 

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