RAIL TRAVEL ADVENTURES

SPRINGTIME IN THE ALPS: The Swiss Rail Tour  

April 18-May 2, 2014

Land tour from $3499.00 plus a Swiss Rail Pass

 

THIS TOUR IS SOLD-OUT. Waitlist is open.

 

Please join Carl Fowler, president of Rail Travel Adventures, on our colorful Springtime in the Alps tour of Switzerland including visits to adjacent areas in Italy and Germany. Mr. Fowler has been escorting tours to Switzerland for over 25 years and is extremely knowledgeable about the history, geography and culture of this remarkable country.

 

The tour combines a surprisingly easy pace (using only four hotels in 14 nights) with comprehensive sightseeing, featuring the grandeur of the Alps as seen from the superb trains of Swiss Rail. As part of the tour, each participant will have a Swiss Rail Pass which includes the entire Swiss rail network plus narrow gauge mountain railways, lake steamers, trams (trolley cars) in the major cities, and Postal Buses to the few areas not reached by train. In addition, the pass now includes paid admission to over 400 attractions throughout Switzerland. This allows participants to plan independent sightseeing to other areas of Switzerland if they so wish. Our program is packed with value, as the price includes all breakfasts, lunch in the dome diner on the GLACIER EXPRESS and nine dinners!

We begin with three nights at the beautiful Four Star Romantik Hotel Santis in “the most Swiss village” of Appenzell. Another three nights are spent at the lovely Romantik Hotel Stern, an historic landmark Three Star property in Chur noted for superb regional cuisine of the Graubunden Canton. We enjoy two nights in Locarno at the Four Star Hotel La Palma au Lac, where the kitchen produces spectacular Italian-Swiss dishes and the hotel lobby opens directly onto the lakeshore promenade. We end with six nights at the lovely Four Star Hotel Seiler au Lac in Switzerland’s magnificent Bernese Oberland at Bonigen/Interlaken. This lovely hotel is set on the shore of Lake Brienz!

Switzerland - Wiesner ViaductWe ride the narrow-gauge BERNINA EXPRESS over the 7,000-foot Bernina Pass, dropping down from glaciers and perpetual snowfields on the pass to the palm trees of Tirano, Italy. We also cross the main range of the Alps on the legendary GLACIER EXPRESS. The diners of the Rhaetian Railway are renowned for gourmet meals and unique tilted glassware to compensate for the steep grades! We enjoy a wonderful lunch in the diner on the GLACIER EXPRESS, see the Matterhorn and Zermatt, and visit the remarkable Swiss Railway Museum in Lucerne.

Several lake cruises enhance the tour. We sail the vast waters of the Lake of Constance to exquisite Mainau Gardens in Germany. We also cruise the beautiful lakes of Brienz, Luzern, Thun, and Geneva beneath towering peaks and visit the lakeside villages of Montreux, Vitznau, and Bonigen/Interlaken. There is a walking tour of Bern, a ride over the “Golden Pass” on the PANORAMIC EXPRESS and so much more! Complete details follow. All aboard!

 

Optional Pretour Travel Day, Thursday, April 17

Flights leave North America for Zurich. Air travel is not included in the tour price, as our clients live throughout North America.

Day One, Friday, April 18 (D)

Scenic train trip to the “most Swiss village” of Appenzell. Flights arrive in Zurich this morning. Carl Fowler will meet flights arriving before 11:30 AM. We proceed to Appenzell. Our hotel for three nights is the Romantik Hotel Santis, located in the heart of the Old Town in an area of decorative hand-painted homes and shops. The afternoon is unstructured so participants can rest after the long flight; however Appenzell does offer beautiful architecture, fine shops, a unique folkloric museum, a grand Baroque church, and a fascinating maze of squares and narrow streets all within a five-minute walk from our hotel. A welcome dinner is included this evening.

Day Two, Saturday, April 19 (B)

Tour the cathedral town of St. Gallen. We ride the little narrow gauge train to the beautiful cathedral town of St. Gallen for a walking tour of the magnificent cathedral and unique Abbey Library, which houses a priceless collection of illuminated manuscripts.

The magnificent Baroque interior of the St. Gallen Cathedral, photo by Carl Fowler

Day Three, Sunday, April 20 (B)

Mainau Gardens in Germany; northern Switzerland. This morning we ride regional trains north to Lake Constance, a great widening of the Rhine River, and cross into Germany. In the “Free and Imperial” city of Constance, we board a lake steamer for the lovely voyage across the lake to tour magnificent Mainau Gardens. This floral paradise occupies the estate of a Swedish count. The immense spring tulip display should be at peak during our visit. Returning to Appenzell, we pass through sunny vineyards on flower-bedecked terraces, gradually ascending from the lakes to the Alps above the village.

Day Four, Monday, April 21 (B,D)

Train journey to Chur; optional afternoon trip to Arosa. We ride the narrow gauge railway to Alstatten. This line descends from the heights of the Mount Santis massif to the Rhine River Valley and offers amazing views of three countries: Switzerland, Austria and Lichtenstein. Here we transfer to the mainline train for a fast run to Chur. An exciting option this afternoon is riding the narrow gauge railway to Arosa, departing from the main plaza in front of the station. This line ascends through a stupendous canyon on its hour-long journey into the high peaks. Here we stay three nights at the lovely Romantik Hotel Stern. Dinner is included this evening.    Photo by Carl Fowler

Day Five, Tuesday, April 22 (B)

Round-trip over “the top of the world” to Tirano, Italy on the BERNINA EXPRESS. We can almost touch a glacier from our train today as we ride the BERNINA EXPRESS over 7,000-foot Bernina Pass, the highest point in Europe reached by a non-cog railway. This narrow gauge line includes spiral tunnels and horseshoe curves as it surmounts the Albula and Bernina Passes, finally terminating amid unexpected palm trees at Tirano in northern Italy. There is free time for lunch before the return journey to Chur.

One of the marvels of this line is a spiral viaduct on the ascent up the Italian side of the Pass. Mr. Fowler considers this to be the most scenic train trip in Europe.

Day Six, Wednesday, April 23 (B,L)

Cross Oberalp Pass on the GLACIER EXPRESS, circling the Alps. We re-board the Rhaetian Railway, riding the renowned GLACIER EXPRESS with lunch in the unique narrow gauge diner while traveling across the Oberalp Pass (literally the “Overalp Pass”). We descend via the “North Ramp” of the St. Gotthard Line, renowned for its spiral tunnels. At Arth-Goldau we change to the little-known but very scenic VORALPEN EXPRESS for a lovely crossing of the meadows and heights of the pre-Alps enroute back to Chur.

Day Seven, Thursday, April 24 (B,D)

Postal bus and mountain railway journeys to Davos, Klosters, the San Bernardino Pass and Locarno. The narrow-gauge trains of the Rhaetian Railway and Switzerland’s remarkable Postal Buses take us on another grand mountain circuit today. We begin with a spectacular Postal Bus trip to the ski resort of Davos, climbing thousands of feet above the gorges of the Landwasser River as we ascend. At Davos we board the train for Klosters, then return to Chur and reboard the postal bus for the “Via Mala”, the legendary crossing of the San Bernardino Pass. This is a stunning drive across the Alps to Bellinzona in the Italian-speaking south.

Our route ascends the breath-taking switchbacks and narrow gorges to the tunnel under the San Bernardino Pass, then descends on sweeping loops with great distant vistas into the palm trees and stone-roofed villages of the Ticino Canton. We stay two nights in Locarno, a lovely resort on the palm-lined shores of Lago Maggiore. Our lodging is the Hotel La Palma au Lac, located on the flower-splashed lakeshore promenades and just a five-minute walk from the main railway station. Dinner is included this evening.

Day Eight, Friday, April 25 (B)

Free Day: Optional all-day cruise to the Italian garden islands of Isola Madre and Isola Bella. We enjoy a free day in the lovely resort of Locarno. There are numerous options here. You can ride the funicular railway (inclined-plane) to visit the pilgrimage church of the Madonna del Sasso above the town. Weather permitting, you can continue on the cable cars above the church to alpine meadows thousands of feet above the town. There are wonderful shops and narrow streets with ancient stone buildings in the Old Town, and a museum with items going back to Roman times.

If the weather is dry, a full-day option (additional cost about $80 including garden/palace admissions) is a cruise on Lago Maggiore south into the Italian Lake District. Here you can disembark on the beautiful islands of Isola Madre and Isola Bella for walks through their castles and formal gardens. Madre features a magnificent recreation of an English estate garden; while Bella offers a romantic castle, unique grotto and stunning formal plantings. If there is interest in this excursion, Mr. Fowler will accompany those participants.

Day Nine, Saturday, April 26 (B,D)

Free time in Locarno; Cento Valley and Lotschberg Lines to Interlaken. The day is free through the early afternoon. Consider an optional (no additional cost) trip by postal bus into the high mountains above the lakes. This is a region of ancient villages, rugged canyons and towering peaks. Or you can board a morning lake steamer and sail to the Swiss island of Brissago. This unique treasure is very different from the formal gardens seen on yesterday’s optional trip to Italy. The entire island is covered with stately trees and flowers, which should be at the peak of spring bloom. Azaleas and rhododendrons are particularly spectacular here, and there is a restaurant on the island. The cost for this excursion is about $25.

We travel northwest this afternoon, departing from Locarno on the narrow gauge Cento Valley (Hundred Valley) tram (interurban trolley) line, which ascends past thundering waterfalls up a narrow gorge to the Italian border. We cross over the range to Domodossola and change to the mainline Lotschberg route. This amazing line traverses the trans-Alpine Simplon and Lotschberg Tunnels, then descends to the Lake of Thun. Here connections are made to Interlaken and our hotel for the next six nights. The Hotel Seiler au Lac is located right on the shore of Lake Brienz in the quiet lakeside village of Bonigen/Interlaken. The hotel is five minutes from the Interlaken Ost rail station using the frequent local postal bus stop by our hotel (fare included in the Swiss Rail Pass). Dinner is included here each night of our stay.

Day Ten, Sunday, April 27 (B,D)

Brunig Pass RY; tour Lucerne; Swiss Transport Museum; sail Lake Brienz. We board a lake-steamer at the pier across the street from our hotel and cruise the majestic Lake of Brienz. At Brienz landing we board a train for the stunning narrow gauge crossing of the Brunig Pass en route to Lucerne, the beautiful city on the shores of Lake Lucerne. Mr. Fowler will lead a walk through the historic center to visit the beautiful Jesuit Church, cross the renowned covered walking bridge, and view the famous Lion Monument. Optionally you can take the electric bus or the lake-steamer (free fare with the Swiss Rail Pass) to visit the superb Swiss Transport Museum. This afternoon we return to the hotel independently over the Brunig Pass, using the hourly train service.

Day Eleven, Monday, April 28 (B,D)

Lotschberg RY and GLACIER EXPRESS routes to Zermatt and the Matterhorn. Today we ride the rugged standard gauge Lotschberg RY south to Brig, changing to the narrow gauge cog-wheel trains of the Brig-Visp-Zermatt RY and continuing along the route of the GLACIER EXPRESS to Zermatt. The ascent from the Rhone River Valley to Zermatt traverses a narrow canyon, then passes stunning vistas of glaciers and quaint hill-side villages. The car-free village of Zermatt lies at the base of the Matterhorn. Good views of the legendary peak can be seen from the village but, if the weather is clear, we suggest the option of riding the steep cog-wheel Gornergratt RY to a classic overlook of the peak and glaciers (optional fare of about $45 would be paid in Zermatt). We retrace our route back to Interlaken this afternoon.

Day Twelve, Tuesday, April 29 (B,D)

Visit Bern; cruise Lake of Thun. We ride a fast express train this morning to Bern, Switzerland’s lovely capitol city. Bern’s streets are lined with grand buildings and covered arcades dating from the Middle Ages. We enjoy a walking tour of the historic center, see the stunning Gothic cathedral and have free time for optional tram rides (free on your Swiss passes). This afternoon we take the train to Thun and board a lake steamer for the stunning voyage up the Lake of Thun to Interlaken. The lake is surrounded by the towering peaks of the Berner Oberland (the high country of Bern).

Day Thirteen, Wednesday, April 30 (B,D)

Free day to explore Bernese Oberland. Today includes the option of several stunning train trips through the towering peaks of the Bernese Oberland. This morning there is a choice of narrow gauge trains that challenge the high peaks. Participants can select their routes today based on the weather and willingness to pay the surcharges assessed for the highest cogwheel routes. At no extra fare, participants can ride the cable car and mountain railways to the car-free village of Murren, descending back into the glacial valley by another cable car, then riding a Postal Bus back to the railway station in Lauterbrunnen for the train back to Interlaken.

Another option goes to the highest railway summit in Europe (over 11,000 feet), the towering heights of the Jungfrau. Here you can walk through ice-caves inside a glacier!. Three different narrow-gauge railways comprise the Jungfrau Circuit. At one point participants can look out a tunnel window at the great icefall on the infamous North Face of the Eiger. The extra fare for the Jungfrau (only worth doing if the weather is fine) is about $130, but the summit vista encompasses almost all of Switzerland.

 

 

Waterfall in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, photo by Carl Fowler
 

A third option is to take a trip to the wood-carvers’ village of Brienz and the Swiss Folkloric Museum at Ballenberg, which re-creates historic Swiss farms from throughout the country. The interpreters carry on the customary trades of each region in authentic local dress. All rail, Postal Bus and museum admissions on this option are free.

The isolated narrow gauge railway to Murren, photo by Carl Fowler

 

 

 

 

 

Day Fourteen, Thursday, May 1 (B,D)

PANORAMIC EXPRESS route to Chillon Castle; Lake Geneva. We follow the renowned Golden Pass PANORAMIC EXPRESS route to the shores of Lake Geneva. This unique line mixes both standard and narrow gauge services and includes two breath-taking mountain passes and an amazing descent through vineyards, gardens and cascading waterways to the shores of Lake Geneva at Montreux. Here we take a short lakesteamer voyage on the Lake of Geneva to the Castle of Chillon, made famous by the poet Lord Byron. The day concludes with a journey along the shores of Lake Geneva past the vineyards to Lausanne and Bern and back to Interlaken for our spectacular Farewell Dinner at the Seiler.

Day Fifteen, Friday, May 2 (CB)                    

Transfer by train to Zurich Airport; tour ends. Same-day connections are available for flights departing after 12:00 noon. For morning flights, you may wish to book a pre-flight night in Zurich. Same-day arrivals are available to most North American cities.

TOUR PRICES include all lodging, admissions, meals noted as included above, train reservations, transfers, luggage handling, and tour manager services. A 15-Day Swiss Rail Pass must be added to this price.

$3499.00 per person, double occupancy

$3799.00 single occupancy

Mainau Gardens, photo by Carl Fowler

SWISS RAIL PASS PRICES

We have a special group rate for the pass noted below in conjunction with this tour. Longer duration passes can be purchased at regular prices. Please note this price is in effect as of July 2013 and could change based on exchange rates at any time. Pass prices are guaranteed only when payment is made.

$650.00 15-Day First Class Swiss Rail Pass (special group price)

FOR QUESTIONS AND TO BOOK:

Reservations for this Rail Travel Adventures tour are being taken by Jessica Green at Gateway Travel, 266 Canal Street, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301. Call toll-free from anywhere in the USA between 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday Eastern Time on 1-800/639-3706 (from outside the USA the toll number is 1-802/254-8844) and mention that you want to book the Rail Travel Adventures Springtime in the Alps Tour. You can also E Mail her at jessica@gatewaytrav.com. Gateway Travel also can help with air reservations to/from the tour and with extended stays in Europe.

 

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Last modified: July 24, 2013