Rails & Trails

Details – 7 Days Dramatic Rails & Trails Tour

Swiss Alps by Rail Itinerary – 7 Day Tour

Day 1 – Arrive in Lucerne

All participants meet together for a trip briefing followed by a leisurely informative walk around the old town to the historic Chapel Bridge, Lion Monument, St. Ledger’s Church, through the old town squares and much more.

Dinner at a local authentic Lucerne restaurant.

Day 2 – Trip to Lucerne’s two home mountains: Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Rigi

Take a morning excursion on Europe’s first cogwheel train from 1871 to the top of Mt. Rigi, 1800 m/6,000 ft, with 360 degree views of the surrounding alps.

In the afternoon ride up to Mt. Pilatus, 2000 m/7,000ft offering stunning views of the Central Swiss Alps. The Pilatus Rail, first commissioned in 1889, uses a system with two horizontally rotating cog wheels to cope with a 48% gradient. It is still the steepest cogwheel train in the world.

Day 3 – From Lucerne by Voralpen Express to St. Gallen then by Glacier Express to St. Moritz

Depart on the Voralpen Express train from Lucerne and travel through scenic rolling landscapes typical of Eastern Switzerland to arrive at St Gallen.  Take a walk through the old town and see the how the city’s embroidery and textile industry brought it such wealth during the 19th century.

Visit the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site, the St Gallen Abbey Church and its Library, one of the oldest libraries in the world with manuscript collections from the Carolingian and Ottonian period from the 8th to the 11th century.

After a quick bus transfer to Chur, considered Switzerland’s oldest city with 5,000 years of continuous habitation, take the Glacier Express train and enjoy a legendary ride along the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Albula Railway Line, through “castle” valley and criss-crossing the Rhine river. Be ready as the train crosses the famous Landwasser Viaduct, a single track six-arched curved limestone railway viaduct designed in 1901, and iconic image for this train route.

Arrive in St Moritz and take a short orientation walk through the town before reaching the centrally-located family-run hotel.

Echo Trails Rails & Trails - Bernina Express

Day 4 – All day in the St. Moritz-Engadine Valley area to visit scenic Alpine highlights with optional Panorama hike.

Options for today include impressive train and cable car rides and a hike in the pristine Alpine environment.

Take a cable car ride up to the Corvatsch 3300m/11,000 ft where you understand the rationale for St. Moritz’s “Top of the World” branding as you see mountain peak after mountain peak.

Another cable car takes you up to the Diavolezza at 2979 m / 8937 ft, situated at the base of the fabulous backdrop of the Bernina massif and the Piz Palü, 4000m / 12,000 ft. mountain peak.

Ride on the highest railway across the Alps on the Bernina Express train to enjoy the awesome Bernina mountain peaks, glaciers and waterfalls. The Ospizio Bernina summit is the highest point on the route at 2,253 m/6760 ft above sea level. Here we can absorb the natural and cultural surroundings of the high Alps at their most impressive.

Take an optional Panorama hike to experience these Bernina mountains and green pastures first hand. The walking & hiking time and distance is 3½ to 4 hours, 5½ miles/9 km with an elevation change of 400ft/130m down, and the hiking terrain is relatively flat on natural dirt and stone paths.

Day 5 – From St. Moritz by Glacier Express to Andermatt in the infamous Gotthard region of the Central Swiss Alps

Today you experience the highlights of the Glacier Express route – described by the UK’s Telegraph newspaper as one of the world’s best train journeys.

Experience a second view of the Albula line and Landwasser Viaduct from the South-to-North direction. Continuing on alongside the Rhine Gorge or Switzerland’s ‘Grand Canyon’ as you travel up to the Oberalp Pass at 2033 m/6000 ft.

Witness one of the few trains that still serves hot meals at your seat as you ascend 1000 m/3000 ft from Disentis to Oberalp.

Arrive at Andermatt in the afternoon, in the area known as the watershed of Europe for it is here that Europe’s mighty rivers, the Rhine and the Rhône, as well as many other small ones, arise.

In Andermatt, pamper yourself with a drink in the Chedi Hotel, listed by the New York Times lists as one of the worlds best 20 hotels and recipient of the Gault-Millau Hotel of the Year award for 2017.

Otherwise take a ride up one of the local chair lifts and experience surrounding Alps and alpine wildflowers on your own.

Day 6 –

All day in the Andermatt / Gotthard region with an excursion to a military fortress and ride in the 1920’s Furka Steam Train

In the morning ride up to the Gotthard Pass summit and get a sense of Switzerland’s defense system during the World War 11 period.

Take a guided walk through the former top-secret Elsasso Gothardo military bunker. This fortress was built inside the mountain during World War 11 to protect Switzerland’s southern flank and designed to be self-contained for 420 man and 73 artillery pieces for a minimum of 6 months.

In the afternoon enjoy a two-hour ride through mountainous countryside and across the Rhone & Mutt glaciers in the Furka Cogwheel Steam Train with the carriages restored to their original 1920s condition. The Furka Railway is the second highest rail crossing in Europe, after the Bernina Railway.

Overnight in Andermatt.
Gotthard Tunnel Rail Pass

Day 7 – From Andermatt to Lugano with an afternoon Olive Trail walk and dinner at an outdoor Grotto

Ride through the old Gotthard Tunnel from the German-speaking region to the Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland. The Gotthard Railway is a 19th century engineering feat as it uses many spiral loops tunneled inside the mountains in order to allow the trains to gain altitude without using a cogwheel system.

The Gotthard Tunnel is a 15 km/9.3 mi long railway tunnel was first opened in 1882 and at the time, it was the longest tunnel in the world and the first to use the newly-invented product “dynamite” supplied by Alfred Nobel (originator of the Nobel Prizes).  The Tunnel goes under the peaks of the mighty Gotthard Massif section of the Alps. Different weather and vegetation as well as architectural styles are noticeable on each side of the tunnel.  Keep your cameras handy as there are numerous spectacular waterfalls.
Arrive in Lugano in time for lunch at one of the many lakeside restaurants and enjoy an afternoon at leisure. Options on what to do are given below.

In the late afternoon depart on a Lake Lugano boat to arrive at an outdoor Grotto for dinner of local specialities.

End of the 7-Day Lucerne to Lugano section of the tour

Afternoon Options

Option A:  Relax or walk around the old town – window-shop along Via Nassa and Via Pessina offer a range of shops from famous fashion designers’ boutiques to delicatessens and bakeries; visit the nearby 15th century church with magnificent frescoes, walk along the lakeshore to the public gardens with exotic trees.

Option B:  Take the local bus and then walk the Olive Trail to Gandria
A leisurely, scenic level 1 hr/1 mile long walk along the “Sentiero dell’olivo” with wonderful views over Lake Lugano. 18 information boards bring you closer to the history and scientific nature of olive tree growth and the oil harvested from olives. The little village of Gandria lies at the foot of Monte Brè, on the shores of Lake Lugano. It has a very nostalgic atmosphere having remained unchanged for over 100 years.

From Gandria take the Lake Lugano boat and ride to Lugano to join the rest of the group and continue together to the Grotto Dinner