You don't have to be a mountaineer to access some of the Swiss Alps' most magnificent peaks. Sometimes you just need a train ticket and a pair of excellent walking boots.
Switzerland is at the heart of the Alps, the most extensive and impressive mountain range in Europe spanning across seven countries. In fact, 65% of Switzerland is dominated by this magnificent mountain range, which is undoubtedly the top attraction of the country. There is, therefore, no shortage of peaks to visit, many of them a lot more accessible than you might think, either by train or cable car, or both. Here are some of our highly recommended spots to discover when exploring the Swiss Alps by train.
Home to Europe’s highest suspension bridge, the world’s first 360̊ revolving cable car, Lake Trübsee, a glacier cave, TITLIS Glacier Park and the Ice Flyer chair lift, Mount Titlis (3,283m) makes for an adventurous day out.
While the warmer months are ideal for hiking, biking, wildlife spotting and kayaking, winter conditions from October to May welcome snow enthusiasts to ski, snowboard, snowshoe and toboggan its slopes. You can even opt for an overnight experience in an igloo.
To get there, take the 45 mins train ride from Lucerne to Engelberg before transferring onto TITLIS Rotair for a 360̊ scenic ascent to the summit.
Mount Schilthorn (2,970m) gained international fame after being featured in the sixth Bond series, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Home to the world’s longest cable car system, the journey to the summit is a great entrée to what awaits at the top: unrivalled panoramic views of more than 200 peaks.
Relive scenes from the movie at Bond World 007; dine at Piz Gloria, the revolving restaurant that housed villain Blofeld’s headquarters in the movie; and get your adrenaline pumping on the Thrill Walk at Birg.
The journey to Mount Schilthorn takes 90 mins and involves a train ride from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen, a bus transfer to Stechelberg Schilthornbahn and four magnificent cable car rides via Gimmelwald, Murren and Birg.
A starting point for many hiking trails, Grindelwald First (2,166m) is one of the greenest peaks in the Bernese Highlands, offering glorious views of the Eiger North Face. Activities include the First Cliff Walk, an 800m zipline, hiking around Lake Bachalp and cycling down the mountain.
Getting there from Interlaken takes around 25 mins by train to Grindelwald, followed by a gondola ascent. Note that Grindelwald First operates only in the warmer months from April–October.
Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe
Located in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Jungfrau-Aletsch, and saddled between the Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe (3,454m) is the highest railway station in Europe.
Learn about the history of the railway service at the Alpine Sensation exhibition before enjoying the ice sculptures at the Ice Palace. Head to the viewing platform to marvel at the surrounding peaks and then hit the Snow Fun Park for zip-lining and snow-tubing.
Allow 2 hrs travel time from Interlaken, where you take the train to either Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald to board the cog railway to Kleine Scheidegg, which is bookable locally. Then, transfer onto the Jungfrau train, also bookable locally, to reach the summit.
Home to the world’s first suspension footbridge linking two summits, Glacier 3000 is a spectacular glacier surrounded by 24 summits over 4000m, including the Alps’ most iconic peaks of the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
A quieter destination, fill your visit with activities such as hiking on the glacier plateau; riding on the Alpine Coaster; the highest toboggan run in the world and dog sledding.
To get to Glacier 3000, take the PostBus from Gstaad to Col du Pillon before hopping on the gondola to the summit. The journey takes less than 45 mins one-way.
Undoubtedly the most recognisable peak in Europe, the pyramid-shaped peak of the Matterhorn stands majestically on the border of the Valais canton Valais and Breuil-Cervinia ski region of Italy. Views of the summit can be enjoyed from anywhere in the region, but to get up closer, head to the Matterhorn Glacier Express, the highest cable car station in Europe (3,883m) and a definite highlight when travelling through the Swiss Alps by train. The journey from Zermatt takes 45 mins via three cable car rides.
For views at a slightly lower altitude, head from Zermatt to Mount Gonergrat (3,100m), also home to Switzerland’s highest hotel. The 33 mins ride on the Gornergratbahn cogwheel train from Zermatt comes to a superb finale with sweeping views of 29 peaks in the region.
Lucerne and Arth-Goldau are both good starting points for your trip up to Mount Rigi. It is important to note that there are two stations that are served by the Mount Rigi cogwheel train which take you to and from the peak. One is at Arth-Goldau, within walking distance from the main train station, and the other is at Vitznau, which you can access via a boat trip across the lake in Lucerne. You can, of course, go up one way and down the other so that you get two beautiful trips for the price of one, stopping off for some snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or hiking depending on the season.
Mont Blanc massif
There’s a reason Mont Blanc’s nickname is “the roof of Europe.” At 4,810m, it is the highest point of the Alps, the tallest peak in Western Europe, and its ‘massif’ magnificence spreads not only through France but also into Switzerland and Italy. The easiest way to scale at least some of its heights is by cable car from Chamonix which, although in France, is easily accessible by train from Switzerland.
Take the train from Martigny in Switzerland to Chamonix, via Vallorcine, which takes 1 hr 26 mins. Another more direct route to Chamonix from Switzerland is travelling from Geneva via St Gervais les Bains, also in France. From Chamonix, take the 20 mins Aiguille du Midi cable car up the Pic du Midi, where you can access panoramic terraces to take in the natural beauty of Mont Blanc.
Photo credits top to bottom: Titlis cable car ©Titlis Bergbahnen, 2014, Fotograf: Roger Gruetter, Grindelwald © Jungfrau Railways 2017, Swiss Alps at sunset iStock ©Burben_Images, Zermatt and the Matterhorn iStock ©extravaganti, Mount Rigi train ©GaudenzDanuser.com
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