The Gotthard Panorama Express
on an Unforgettable Trip
Visit Switzerland’s iconic beauty spots on the
Gotthard Panorama Express. Travel the length of Central Switzerland by train
and water, and pass through the picturesque mountainscape complemented by
gorgeous Lake Lucerne. Over 30 years of experience enables us to create bespoke
itineraries suited to the whole family, so you can all enjoy the astounding
sights that Switzerland has to offer. We even take care of your flights and
accommodation, making sure that you have the best experience possible. Your
perfect Swiss holiday is waiting for you.
Request a holiday quotation to find out
more or call us on 0800 619 1200 today.
The Gotthard Panorama Express connects two of the prettiest parts of Switzerland - Central Switzerland with its dramatic mountains and glorious lake contrasting with the Italian feel of Lake Maggiore. This special route is unique as you travel by both water and rail - Switzerland at its best!
You can enjoy lunch on board a restored paddle steamer or the elegant MS Diamant as you meander along Lake Lucerne, taking in the wonderful scenery. When you change to the rail section of the journey, you will be treated to views of a glorious landscape that most travellers no longer see (since the opening of the new, faster tunnel linking north and south). The train terminates in Lugano but if you prefer to stay in Locarno, it's a simple change in Bellinzona.
Travelling with the Gotthard Panorama Express is a unique and unforgettable experience. You can also start the journey from the opposite direction – from Ticino (Lugano or Locarno) towards Central Switzerland. In this instance, the lake section will take place aboard a paddle steamer or motor boat, according to season.
Outside the operating period of the Gotthard Panorama Express you can still enjoy this beautiful route on a standard train, with an extra change at Erstfeld. The lake section will be aboard a modern lake boat.
Details of the route
The Gotthard Panorama Express is a most delightful journey by lake and rail, with a good many scenic highlights to enjoy as you take in the varied but always beautiful landscape.
A wonderful resort thanks to its fantastic position on the lake, encompassed by gentle wooded hills and looking out on to an impressive alpine panorama to the south. Lucerne was an important historical crossroads as can be seen in the charming buildings of the Old Town including the Chapel Bridge and the ancient city wall with nine towers.
Central Switzerland spreads out in all directions from Lake Lucerne, revealing its incredible variety of natural beauty. To the east you will see Mount Rigi (1,797m) with the oldest cog railway in Europe. To the south is Bürgenstock (874m) which also has a nostalgic funicular and to the west is the spectacular Mount Pilatus (2,129m) which is reached by the world's steepest cog railway from Alpnachstad. The boat calls at the delightful lakeside villages of Weggis, Vitznau and Beckenried with their flower-decked restaurants and cafés.
You are now sailing into the historical heart of Switzerland. The boat calls at Brunnen and Treib - both places were regular meeting points for the alliance which evolved into the federal state of Switzerland in 1848. Beyond Brunnen is mountainous Schwyz, where the 'Bundesbriefe' constitution is preserved in the archive. The lake turns a corner and features awe-inspiring cliffs soaring up from the water with views of the Fronalpstock and Bristenstock. You will sail past the Rütli Meadow where the cantons of Unterwalden, Uri and Schwyz confirmed their confederation pact on 1st August 1291. Today, the Rütli belongs to the school children of Switzerland, who collected money to save the historic meadow from being sold.
Switzerland's national hero is commerorated in this part of the country. At Tell's Rock, legend has it that the hero managed to escape his captors (having refused to bow to the Habsburg invaders and shooting the tyrant Gessler after he was made to shoot an apple off his son's head). Tell was able to escape by leaping onto the rock and a Chapel exists here today. Also close by is the Schiller Stone, a memorial to the author of the Tell epic. The inscription reads 'To him who sang Tell's glory'.
As the boat sails on, the high Alps come into view making for a spectacular sight. You will dock in Flüelen, gateway to the mountains and a very pretty spot in its own right. This is where hauliers used to load their wares from barges onto pack mules to continue their journey through the mountains. The train is waiting just yards away to take you on the next part of your journey.
Erstfeld is known as the 'railway-man's village'. It marks the beginning of the long climb to the Gotthard, with its gradients of up to 26%. To the right are the Schossberg and Schossberg Glacier which crosses over to Engelberg. After Erstfeld comes a famous part of the route around Wassen. The track meanders gently up the gorge, you will emerge from loops in the tunnels to enjoy 3 different views of the pretty Wassen Church.
You'll pass the Devil's Bridge, which crosses the Schöllenen Gorge before the Gotthard Tunnel in this dramatic landscape. The 13km tunnel opened in 1882 and transformed travel and trade between northern and southern Europe. Work began on both ends in 1872 and it took eight years to pierce through the Gotthard massif. The train slows down in the tunnel for you to enjoy sound effects and projected film so that you can appreciate the Gotthard story.
When you leave the tunnel and arrive at Airolo, it is clear that you are suddenly in a totally different part of Switzerland, with Italian signposts and a more Mediterranean feel to the landscape. You will also enjoy a series of four spiral tunnels inside the mountains, a great engineering feat of the 1870s, that transport you slowly down the Leventina Valley. There are also scenic waterfalls, while the vines and Italian style buildings give this Swiss valley the evocative appeal of its neighbour.
Only 301m above sea level, the railway village of Biasca is the southern equivalent of Erstfeld. Above the station on a rocky terrace stands the little church of Santa Petronilla. From Biasca to Bellinzona this Ticino valley is full of flora with a southern character. The train calls at historic Bellinzona with its three medieval castles. If you are staying in Locarno you will change trains here.
Both these lakeside resorts are just half an hour from Bellinzona and offer a delightful holiday location. The lakes are stunningly beautiful and must be explored with a cruise or two. They both have verdant mountains at close hand, offering wonderful views from the summit. With great food and a relaxed atmosphere, you will enjoy your stay here.
The Gotthard Panorama Express allows you to experience a wonderful range of lakes and mountains scenery, linking Lucerne, Weggis and Brunnen with Locarno and Lugano.
The details below will help you plan your holiday and we will confirm train timings with you at the time of booking.
Tuesdays-Sundays 18 April to 18 October 2020
Passengers travelling to or from Locarno change in Bellinzona
You can still experience the route of the Gotthard Panorama Express outside the dates shown above.
The cruise section will be onboard a modern lake boat rather than the MS Diamant/steamship and you will need to change trains at Erstfeld. The stunning scenery remains the same throughout the route however!
Board Your Swiss Adventure
Experience Switzerland at its best with the Gotthard
Panorama Express. To book your Swiss adventure, request your personal holiday quotation. Alternatively, you can find out more information by calling us
on 0800 619 1200, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your idyllic
Swiss adventure starts here.