Culture

Springtime in Switzerland

4 - 11 April 2019
Switzerland

Switzerland is famous for being one of the most scenic countries in Europe, with soaring mountain peaks, deep valleys, numerous lakes, and for its neutrality, its chocolate and its cuckoo clocks.

Its diverse and plentiful railway system is legendary for its punctuality, and perhaps best of all, for its integrated transport policy, where different forms of transport connect seamlessly and with little effort. Standard gauge federal railways, connect with ease with standard and narrow gauge private railways, cogwheel rack railways, funiculars, trams, trolleybuses, cable cars and lakeside ships. After visiting Switzerland, the visitor is left wondering why all countries are not like this.

The country has four language areas: German, French, Italian and Romansch (a sort of modern day Latin). This tour aims to cover the three largest parts.

The country also produces some very fine wines, but not on a scale to mass export, so passengers may not have come across their wines before.

Based in a single centre location, passengers can relax and unwind, and unpack their luggage rather than living out of a suitcase. For a great introduction to the country, there can be few places to rival, Lucerne (French and English spelling), or more correctly Luzern (German spelling, for it is located in the German speaking part of the country).

Luzern is a truly stunning resort in every respect. It is a walled town, with high towers dating back to a time in history when fortifications were the norm. It is one of the few towns in Switzerland which still keeps this feature. Modern day Luzern is quite posh with boutique shops and a wonderful mountain setting. It is on the shores of Lake Luzern (the Vierwaldstättersee, which translates as the lake of the four wooden cantons. A canton being a self-governing county). Luzern is home to three railways, from which most parts of Switzerland can be reached by direct train, and the Swiss Transport Museum, which can be reached by a trolleybus from the station.

As soon as you arrive in Luzern, you will immediately know why this location was chosen as the base for this tour !

Highlights

  • No fly option
  • All seven nights at the same hotel
  • No road travel
  • Stunning scenery
  • narrow gauge private railways
  • cogwheel rack railways,
  • funiculars,
  • trams, trolleybuses, cable cars
  • lakeside ships

Tour Manager: Jenny. For further information email jenny@ptg.co.uk

DAY 1 Thursday 4 April – (D) Overland travel from London St Pancras via Eurostar or direct flights are available from Luton, Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester. Arrival at Zurich Airport is a good introduction to Swiss integrated transport. After collecting your luggage at baggage reclaim, simply go to the lift, and select the train station, and the lift opens on the platform.  There are hourly direct trains from Zurich Airport to Luzern. Trains are formed of double deck stock, and customers are encouraged to sit on the upper deck for some great scenic vistas. Welcome dinner at the hotel.

DAY 2 Friday 5 April – (B) An introduction to Luzern. We are spoilt for choice. First we visit the Kapellbrücke (the wooden chapel bridge dating from 1333), across the end of Lake Luzern. Walk around the town walls and admire the towers. Visit the Lion Monument and park. Take a ride around the lake on a trolley bus, and visit the world renowned Swiss Transport Museum, which has everything from trains, to road vehicles, planes and boats. In the afternoon there is time for your own exploration including retail therapy in the many luxury shops.

DAY 3 Saturday 6 April – (B) Today we explore wider afield. We start by taking the lakeside ship from Luzern station to Vitznau on the far side of the lake. Tickets are integrated, and options include a ride on the Rigi rack railway, and you can even purchase hot soup in the restaurant at the 6,100ft summit of Mt Rigi, before boarding the boat at Luzern station. The station at Vitznau is a short walk across the road from where the ship berths. There are two railways to the summit, so we do a circular trip, returning via Arth Goldau. There will be time to enjoy lunch overlooking the snow-capped peaks of the Bernese Oberland.

DAY 4 Sunday 7 April – (B) An introduction to the Brunig railway system and network of connecting trains, including a steam railway.  The Brunig Line was built as a mainline metre gauge railway linking Luzern with another popular Swiss resort, that of Interlaken. The railway has to overcome the Brunig summit. Trains ascend using the rack system at a rate of 1 in 10 (think of it like a plane on take-off !). The train climbs in three stages to the summit, but descends in one (like off a cliff, only safely !). At Hergiswil, there is a highly scenic branch line to Engelberg, with its picture postcard Swiss Chalet buildings. At Alpnachsted, the Brunig line connects with one of the world’s steepest railways that climbs to Mt Pilatus at a rate of 1 in 2 !  Mt Pilatus is the mountain that overlooks Luzern, and it has another restaurant at its summit. The Brunig line trains reverse at Meiringen, which is another walled town with high towers. Meiringen is the home of meringue, and where the fictional character Sherlock Holmes met his death (they even have their own 221a, Baker Street). The line does continue south to Innerkirchen, but Brunig trains continue west. At Brienz, there is another rack railway to Mt Rothorn, only this one is steam hauled, with locomotives with inclined boilers. The Brunig train finally reaches Interlaken. As you will appreciate, it will take 6 full days just to explore this small system to its full; and all of it is on the doorstep of Luzern. You have the option of staying longer in Luzern, after the tour, if you wish.

DAY 5 Monday 8 April – (B) Plan A – If the weather is fine, and you can see the summit of the Jungfrau from Interlaken Ost station, we have two routes to get to Europe’s highest railway summit. So we go out one way and back on the other. There is yet another restaurant at the summit, only this one is at 13,645 feet.

Plan B – If you cannot see the summit, all you will see is cloud – we have a contingency plan. We will ride the BLS, to Bern, running alongside the picturesque Lake Thun. You then have the option of exploring the Swiss capital, Bern, and returning either by a direct train to Luzern, or back the way we came, via Interlaken, and climb the Brunig line in the opposite direction, up in one, down in three.

DAY 6 Tuesday 9 April – (B) An introduction to the French speaking part of Switzerland. Direct trains run from Luzern to Geneva. The route goes across quiet alpine meadows to Bern and then south, to reach Switzerland’s largest lake, Lake Geneva. Trains hug the northern shore of the lake, whilst passing numerous vineyards, for this is where the majority of Switzerland’s wine comes from. The Swiss pink rosé wine, is recommended. Geneva itself is a busy city, but the railway station is only short walk from the lake, and the famous water jet, which is often the symbol of Geneva. There are plenty of places to buy lunch, and you can even use the picnic tables to eat lunch opposite the Jet D’Eau and admire the massive lake in its mountain setting.

DAY 7 Wednesday 10 April – (B) An introduction to the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Direct trains run from Luzern to Lugano, through the St Gotthard Pass and newly opened 32 mile long base tunnel. Lugano is a charming lakeside resort, with Italianate architecture, fine dining opportunities and walks. You could easily believe you were on Lake Garda, only smaller.

DAY 8 Thursday 11 April – (B) Return home by air or via the Eurostar.

Hotels

Hotel Waldstätterhof, Luzern

Overland via Eurostar

10.24 St Pancras to Paris Nord
14.55 Paris Est to Strasbourg
16.51 Strasbourg to Basel
18.17 Basel to Luzern (arr 19.30)

Flights (based on 2018 schedules)

Swiss 08.40 Birmingham to Zurich (arr 11.30)
Swiss 08.45 Manchester to Zurich (arr 11.45)

For: Train at 12.47 from Zurich Airport to Luzern (arr 13.49)

Easyjet 13.10 Luton to Zurich (arr 16.00)
Easyjet 13.45 Heathrow to Zurich (arr 16.30)

For: Train at 17.47 from Zurich Airport to Luzern (arr 18.49)

Place(s) available
Holiday Prices (per person)
  • 8-day holiday including flights: from £1,199
  • Own travel to/from Luzern: £999
Options
  • Upgrade to half board (all dinners) for just £170 (excludes drinks)
  • No fly from London St Pancras: supplement confirmed at time of booking
  • Single room supplement: £180
Deposit
  • £500 (with flights or Eurostar) or £300 (if making own travel arrangements)
Price includes
  • Travel and activities as outlined in the itinerary
  • Swiss Pass giving 50% discount on additional trains/boat/etc not included in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, D = Dinner)
  • Services of our Tour Manager. Tour manager accompanies the group either by rail or by air.
Online Booking
Flight/travel enquiry: 
Room Type :
Quantity :

Please note that you cannot book a flight inclusive trip on our website but if you select the flight option you prefer then we will contact you with the flight details and convert your booking into a flight inclusive package.

Click here to see our Booking Conditions

Click here to see our Privacy Policy

We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice