Aisha Iqbal fights her rail-phobic ways to discover a visual feast in the Swiss Alps, and comes back a devotee of trains and snowy plains...
AS a committed and lifelong non-train traveller, I knew that signing up for any trip with the word ‘rail’ in it was going to be a challenge.
But I have to say my exploration of the Swiss Alps with Railbookers turned me into a train-lover – and left me feeling on top of the world!
If you want to enjoy wondrous landscapes and pure panoramic romance, then rail – and particularly Swiss rail with the help of Railbookers – is the only way to travel.
My four-day train tour of the Swiss Alps region was a feast for the eyes and the soul.
From almost the first moment, I found myself spouting superlatives: evocative, stunning, wondrous, sublime, euphoric.
Our first destination, Interlaken, has become somewhat of a wintery fairytale location for ski and sledging fans. Its name means, literally, ‘between lakes’. We checked into the Hotel Krebs, a small, charming and inexpensive base right in the heart of the town and just a minute’s walk from the station.
The town sits in the heart of the magnificent Jungfrau region, offering not only an affordable haven for winter sports lovers, but also unbeatable views of the world famous trio of peaks: the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau.
After a heavy first day of travel – around 10 hours and half a dozen trains from London Eurostar to Swiss hotel – we needed some hearty refuelling, so a visit to the charming Laterne restaurant in Interlaken was ideal. This rustic, family-run eaterie serves up traditional Swiss fare, and that of course includes the obligatory cheese fondue. We also enjoyed a selection of pickles and breads, along with potatoes served hot in little sacks. Gourmet it wasn’t, but fun, yes.
Day two, and there was only one way to enjoy the three-peaked delight of the Jungfrau mountain region. The Jungfraubahn mountain railway, which takes you right to the summit, is celebrating its centenary this year and even after 100 years, it remains a miracle of engineering. It also remains, at 3,454 metres, Europe’s highest altitude railway.
Sublime views of the snow-capped peaks surround you and it’s not an overstatement to say it’s like something out of an epic movie. The best bit comes, of course, when you reach the final stop, right near the peak of the Jungfrau. Sitting eating lunch in the highest restaurant in the world – the Restaurant Crystal Jungfraujoch - certainly gave a new meaning to the phrase ‘haute cuisine’!
After lunch, wander to the observatory section and you can reach out and almost feel you are touching the magical rock. Pure euphoria.
Day three, and we were off to Visp, from where we would catch the magnificent Glacier Express to our second main destination, the skiers’ paradise of St Moritz.
This was a premiere-class panoramic train-journey through the whole Swiss Alps region. Mountain after mountain, vista after vista greeted us, and the massive windows turned the visual journey into a huge rolling cinema screen.
In St Moritz, we checked into the gorgeous Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains which is, like the resort itself, the height of luxury.
We were transported via horse drawn carriage to Lej da Staz restaurant, which translates in Romansch – one of Switzerland’s four national languages – as ‘Lake of Stars’. Situated in idyllic surroundings, it really did feel like dining among the stars.
Our final day of mountain magic took in a tour of Engadin St Moritz. This is the largest winter sports region in Switzerland and boasts legendary glamour.
We took a ride on the Muotass Muragl funicular – a cable railway that takes you from St Moritz to some of the finest mountain views in Switzerland. At the top, we settled at our table – under blazing alpine sunshine – at the Romantik Hotel. This unique hotel generates its own electricity, has energy efficient construction and its own solar energy plant.
We also popped into the ‘igloo village’ next door to the Romantik hotel. This genuine snow-hotel is a must-see. A drink and a sunlounge at the igloo village, followed by watching the sunset from Muottas Muragl, rounded off a perfect day.
On our final night, we enjoyed a stunning gourmet finale to our St Moritz experience, in the form of a seven-course meal prepared by Michelin star holder Matthias Schmidberger, head chef at the Kempinkski Hotel’s Ca d’Oro restaurant.
It was a delicious end to a sublime week full of sensory and spiritual pleasures galore.
With an abundant supply of mountain magic, ski-ing and sunshine, the Railbookers Swiss Alps package has something for everyone. And the best thing is, it’s all just a train ride away.
Railbookers is offering YEP readers two special four-night packages to Switzerland, a budget deal and a luxury deal.
BUDGET PACKAGE: Two nights at the four-star Krebs Hotel in Interlaken, two nights at the three-star Hauser Hotel, St Moritz, including daily breakfasts, day trip to Jungfraujoch, one way journey from Visp to St Moritz on the Glacier Express, outbound rail journey from Leeds to Switzerland by train and return flight to Manchester with British Airways from £899pp
LUXURY PACKAGE: Railbookers offers 4 night package to Switzerland including 2 nights at 5 star Lindner Beau Rivage Hotel in Interlaken, 2 nights at 5 star Kempinski Grand Hotel Des Bains St Moritz, breakfast daily, day trip to Jungfraujoch, one way journey from Visp to St Moritz on the Glacier Express (1st class), outbound rail journey in standard premier class on Eurostar and first class all other trains from Leeds to Switzerland by train and return flight to Manchester with British Airways in business class from £1499pp
For more information, visit www.railbookers.com or call the dedicated YEP telephone number 020 3327 2414 to book.