With 4 official languages spoken, French, German, Italian and Romansh, you will not get lost in Switzerland! It is hard to define this country in words, it’s simply stunning. From its economy, awe-inspiring standard of living, chocolates, safety, cleanliness and impressive natural wonders that will take your breath away, Switzerland is definitely a must country to be included on your bucket list. The serene lakes, rivers, falls, glaciers, medieval cities, landmarks, imposing mountains, rolling hills, high peak Alps, food and wine, Switzerland has so much to offer! Although it’s not a cheap country to visit and travel, there are ways on how you can stretch your budget without robbing your bank balance.
Traveling by train on regional or high speed are the easiest way to get around and of course by car if you intend to drive. The Swiss Federal Railways – SBB offers different types of Travel Passes for foreign visitors which allow unlimited use of the public transport network. Free to travel on trains, buses, ferry and tramways throughout Switzerland and discounted fares for transport into the mountains by cable car, funiculars and cogwheel trains. For the two of us, we bought the 3 consecutive days pass 2nd class for CHF 216 each (last year’s price), and contrary to many advises on travel forums to buy it before arriving in Switzerland, we bought our passes at the Zurich central station, same price as the online rate.
You need to present your travel documents when you buy your passes at the train station. During our stay in Zurich, we bought the 24hr travel pass, which allows unlimited travel by train, tram, bus, short boat trips and cableway in the city. This pass also entitled us for museum entry discounts including various walking tours and other perks. Are the passes of great value? Definitely! but I recommend to carefully check out your travel needs and plans before you buy, for current online prices click here.
Trains in Switzerland are beyond reliable, always on time, and during our stay, we only had one train that was 4 minutes late, beat that State Rail! Carriages are immaculate with comfy seats and armrest, quiet, some of the double decked cars have a saloon with semi-circular lounges and tables, great for groups or you can use them as a work station whilst onboard. Most trains have a bar/restaurant car for coffee, snacks, serving alcoholic and soft drinks, we had one train and with a car that had a bank of vending machines, we have never seen that before. Swiss trains are some of the best we have been on, rarely packed out if you avoid certain times, which is only to be expected, and toilets that you are glad to see and happy to use. You don’t need to reserve your seat if you travel around Switzerland.
Geneva – Visp – Zermatt
It was our second day of enjoying the travel pass when we visited Mt. Matterhorn. Our journey began at Geneva Central Station – (Gare Cornavin) for a 07:42 train to Visp then a connecting train to Zermatt. The journey passes thorough the picturesque city of Lausanne by the lake through a number of towns before arriving in Visp. The journey takes 2 hrs and 12 minutes.
We transferred to another platform, this time by Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn train for Zermatt. The front section of the train will give you a wider angle of views although all windows are wide enough for photo ops. Trains run on a narrow-gauge and cog railway so it’s a different feel if you’re not familiar with this type of mountain train. The journey is simply breathtaking, it goes through the deepest cleft valley with small villages nestled along the route. Snow caped mountains can be seen left and right. Look at for Täschhorn, Dom and Weisshorn, these are the highest mountains in Switzerland. Trains terminate at the Bahnhofplatz Zermatt and the journey is just over an hour.
Zermatt – Gornergrat (Mt Matterhorn)
We arrived in Zermatt, the foot of the Matterhorn just in time for elevenses but since we still have energy to burn, we opted to first check this town out then have lunch before we headed off to Gornergrat Peak. It’s a very picturesque and colourful town with plenty of shops, restaurants and accommodation along the main strip. It’s a car-free town, cars can only travel up to Täsch, 5 km away from Zermatt then catch a train to continue. Small electric buses are the public transport in Zermatt.
Return ticket to Gornergrat is half price CHF47 (last year’s price) for Swiss Travel pass holder otherwise you will pay for the full price. The Gornergrat Station is located just a few blocks from the main strip and there are overhead signs to follow.
Arriving at the Gornergrat Peak
Excitement builds up as we hopped on the train as this is Europe’s highest open-air cog railway. As we climbed up, we can see the village down below and the snow caped Mt. Matterhorn that seems to be following us in all directions. Breathtaking is an understatement, a 33 minute journey of pure bliss like reaching heaven at 3000 meters above sea level. We reached the Gornergrat Peak, alighted and we all have our own free time to discover and enjoy the unforgettable panoramic views.
Here, you’ll see the second longest glacier in the Alps – the Gorner Glacier, the emblematic, majestic and somewhat elusive (due weather) Mt. Matterhorn which appears on Toblerone chocolate bars, Monte Rosa massif and Dufourspitze the highest peak in Switzerland at 4634 m above sea level. Allow plenty of time, there are a few walking tracks, a restaurant, shop and hotel. You can even buy a wine and celebrate a toast in heaven, oh well a cheers to Mt. Matterhorn. We stayed here for at least 2 hours and we caught back the train to Zermatt. Depending on the weather and time of the year, it is best to put on few layers, it can be windy and cold at the peak.
We arrived back in Zermatt and we are feeling the relaxed holiday vibe of this lovely town. Immediately without even thinking twice, an overnight stay in Zermatt was included on our bucket list, oh well another one to tick off. See you again Zermatt, we shall return, definitely!
The Matterhorn is a mountain of the Alps, located on the border between Switzerland and Italy. Switzerland was one of the countries that we’ve visited last year.