Experience the very best of vintage steam trains, historic paddle steamers and rugged mountain scenery on this holiday tour to Central and Southern Switzerland.
Packed with railway highlights, your tour includes a journey over the historic Gotthard summit route in panoramic dome cars, a breath-taking ride over the famed Centovalli narrow gauge railway and a private steam charter in Ticino for the ascent of Monte Generoso on one of Switzerland’s oldest preserved rack tank locomotives. There’s an exclusive behind-the-scenes visit to SBB’s Gotthard operations centre to look forward to, and a trip through the 57 km long Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest tunnel in the world. An exhilarating ride on the brand-new Stoos railway, the steepest funicular in the world, rounds out an outstanding rail programme. Based initially in Lucerne, you later transfer to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Bellinzona, where you’ll explore enchanting Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, with its Mediterranean climate and cuisine, gorgeous stone architecture, languid lakes and beautiful Alpine scenery. Sightsee in famed places like Locarno, Lugano, Stresa and Domodossola on this refined and relaxing holiday, an ideal introduction to both Switzerland and Italy that’s sure to delight railway enthusiasts, seasoned travellers and rail tour newcomers alike!
Monday 23rd September
London to Lucerne by rail
You travel first class by train from London St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord on Eurostar. You then transfer to Paris Gare de l’Est and take a French Railways (SNCF) TGV from there to Strasbourg. Continuing to Basel in Switzerland, you change trains and join a Swiss Railways (SBB) train to Lucerne. You check in to your comfortable hotel in Lucerne, with a welcome dinner served in the hotel restaurant this evening. (D)
Tuesday 24th September
World famous Stoos funicular and a visit to the Swiss Transport Museum
After breakfast this morning you’ll head northwards beside Lake Lucerne to the lively town of Schwyz, famous for the charter that led to the foundation of Switzerland. A trip on the Stoosbahn, the steepest funicular railway in the world, awaits, ascending to 1300 metres with a maximum incline of 110 per cent, and spectacular views of Alpine lakes and peaks from the summit at Stoos. You return to Schwyz for the SBB service train journey to Lucerne. There you’ll visit the Verkehrshaus, or Swiss Transport Museum, which holds major exhibits of all forms of transport as well as of communications and art! A giant operating model railway of the famous Gotthard line is one of many display highlights. After your visit you return to Lucerne main station on a public boat service. (B)
Wednesday 25th September
Lake Lucerne paddle steamer cruise and Gotthard Panorama Express to Bellinzona
After breakfast, you’ll experience a genuine paddle steamer cruise along the scenic length of Lake Lucerne to Flüelen, one of the finest steamboat journeys anywhere in the world. You drift at leisure along the placid lake with a backdrop of snow-capped mountain peaks and pretty little towns. On arrival in Flüelen you transfer to the famous Gotthard Panorama Express, for a journey along the historic Gotthard panoramic route to Ticino canton in south Switzerland, with its Mediterranean climate and Italian language and culture. On arrival at Bellinzona you check into a nearby hotel, where your luggage awaits you, having been transferred while you travelled. Framed by three impressive castle fortresses, Bellinzona is a UNESCO World Heritage site and you’ll be able explore these and many other impressive landmarks during your stay. (B)
Thursday 26th September
Mountain magnificence and funiculars in Lugano; scenic cruise on Lake Lugano
Lugano is one of the most vivacious cities in Switzerland, and today you’ll spend a relaxed morning exploring its diverse highlights. It’s a town of parks and flowers, villas and sacred buildings, framed by two spectacular panoramic peaks: the 925-metre high Monte Brè, which looks a bit like the Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro, and Monte San Salvatore, with an elevation of 912 metres. They’re conveniently accessible by funicular and you’ll ascend both in the afternoon to enjoy the amazing views at the summit, over Swiss and Italian lakes and towering mountains. In the early evening you then enjoy a private dinner cruise on languid Lake Lugano aboard the luxurious 1927 motor yacht ‘Milano’. (B L)
Friday 27th September
Lake Maggiore Express, Stresa, Domodossola and the narrow-gauge Centovalli railway
Today you travel on the unforgettable Lago Maggiore Express across the Italian border, through mountains, valleys and lake, by train and boat. You first leave Bellinzona by train to Locarno and continue by boat to Stresa. This Italianate gem is world famous for its (literally) beautiful island, Isola Bella. Arriving by boat, you’ll have the best views of the island before continuing on an FS service train to the mediaeval town of Domodossola. There is free time scheduled for you to spend here, allowing you to roam the spacious squares and little cobblestone streets, discovering Italian delicacies and perhaps indulging in some gelato ice cream at one of the countless parlours. In the afternoon your next railway highlight awaits, as you change onto the quaint narrow gauge Centovalli train - one of Europe’s most impressive train journeys. The Lake Maggiore Express winds its way slowly up to reach the many bridges and lofty viaducts that span the valleys, with grand views from the panoramic windows. After arrival at Locarno, you take the connecting service train back to Bellinzona. (B)
Saturday 28th September
Free day with transport rover in Ticino
After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant you have a free day to discover all there is to do in Ticino, using your specially issued rover pass for the region’s entire public transport system. You can explore everything in Ticino from the Saint-Gotthard massif and the Ritom funicular, to the sweeping hillscapes of the Mendrisiotto region. Highly recommended are a trip on the Madonna del Sasso funicular to the monastery above Locarno or the Lugano - Ponte Tresa narrow gauge railway. Your tour manager will be glad to provide you with planning advice and helpful insights. (B)
Sunday 29th September
Steam hauled to the summit of Monte Generoso
A tour highlight awaits today as you travel by train from Bellinzona to the resort town of Capolago Riva San Vitale. At Capolago you board the oldest steam train still in operation in Switzerland, dating back to 1890s, which takes you to the summit of Monte Generoso. There are magnificent views in store as your steam locomotive pushes the train up the gradient for 9 kilometres. The summit offers amazing 360° panoramic views over the Lombardy Plain and towards the Alps. The stunning Fiore di Poetra (Stone Flower) restaurant, designed by the architect Mario Bottam lies at the summit where lunch can be bought. Later you board the train for the return journey back down to Capolago Riva San Vitale, where you change trains for the journey back to Bellinzona. (B)
Monday 30th September
Return to London
You travel by SBB service train from Bellinzona to Basel and on to Strasbourg, from where you take a TGV service to Paris Gare de L’Est. You transfer to Paris Gare du Nord and then take a Eurostar service, travelling first class, back to London St. Pancras International. (B)
First Class: Our attractive First Class package includes rail travel from London to Lucerne and back to London from Bellinzona on high – speed Eurostar and TGV trains plus SBB service trains. All other short transfer trips on very comfortable Swiss service trains will be made in Standard Class with reserved seats.
All prices shown are per person.
Meals included each day are shown as:
B = Breakfast - L = Lunch - D = Dinner