Switzerland is many things to many people, a beautiful country of soaring mountains, turquoise lakes, attractive cities and rustic villages. The landscape is truly daunting, with mountains blocking the way in every direction – “much more up and down than sideways,” in the words of Hemingway. Of course we like to hike these mountains, but traveling through them by train or bus, and taking cable cars up to high viewpoints, is also tempting.
Despite their mountain barriers, Switzerland’s public transporatation system is a marvel. Trains and busses go everywhere… every city, every little town, every mountain pass. Steamboats cross the lakes. When you’re in the mountains, all manner of transport is ready to take you up to the peaks – cable cars, gondolas, funicular trains, cogwheel trains, steam trains, chairlifts, even elevators! You don’t need a car in Switzerland, but you do want a rail pass.
Many people have heard of the most famous Swiss trips. These are justifiably popular routes like the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz, the train to glacial Jungfraujoch in the Bernese Oberland, and the Golden Round Trip to Pilatus above Lucerne (an excursion by boat, cogwheel train, cable car, gondola and bus). These are all wonderful, but for too many people it stops there. What really amazes me, is the sheer depth and variety of transport options Switzerland has to offer. There are hidden gems all over the Alps that make for memorable excursions, perhaps quite popular with locals, but typically skipped on a quick-hitting trip to the highlights.
So this year, we set out to document a few of these lesser-known trips to the mountains. Our guides and support crew at Alpinehikers have headed into the Alps with their passes, taken some photos and notes, and formed some opinions. We’ll be following up over the next few months with a blog series on various trains, cable cars and scenic trips in the Alps. Don’t get me wrong… we weren’t looking for the most obscure or far flung chairlifts, or the funkiest modes of transportation. We were just looking for interesting and scenic trips, accessible from places you might be already, that add spice and charm to a trip to Switzerland. Perhaps you’ll find something to add to your next trip.