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Best& quickest scenic travel from Lugano to Lauterbrunnen Valley

We have had to revamp our original scenic train travel thoughts in the interest of time & complication of schedule.
What would you suggest as the fastest and most scenic way to get from Lugano to Lauterbrunnen??
Is there a way through Zermatt? Or is route through Luzern better??

Posted by
2829 posts

Best scenery and quickest do not go together.

A reasonable compromise is going through the Centovali route and the old Loestschberg line.

Itinerary would be via Locarno, Domodossola, Visp and Kandersteg. It will involve a few changes but either Swiss Travel Pass or a Swiss Saver Day Pass will cover the whole journey even on the Italian sector. No reservations are required for any of the trains on route, although they are possible for the Centovalli railway panoramic cars. Beware you should take the regional BLS trains in Visp to Spiez via Kandersteg, not the fast Intercity ones that go through a deep tunnel.

Zermatt is a dead-end location 1h20 away from the nearest mainline (one way).

Posted by
16894 posts

Another compromise: the Gotthard Panorama Express train + boat which goes over the Gotthard Pass route between Lugano and Luzern, instead of using the deep Basistunnel. It only runs seasonally, starting April 18.

This departs Lugano at 9:22 and takes you to Luzern, arriving at 14:47. You would than have another two hours' travel time to Lauterbrunnen, on another scenic route.

It would be faster to skipmthe boat portion and travel from Flüelen to Luzern by train, but the train and boat portions of the Panorama Express are not sold separately. You can however, shorten the time between Lugano and Luzern by taking regional trains over the Gotthard Pass route to avoid the tunnel. You have to build in stops in Göschinen and Erstfeld. This shortens the travel between Lugano and Luzern by an hour, from 5h 20 minutes, to 4 hours 20 minutes. And since you can depart Lugano earlier than the GPE departure time of 9:22, you can get to Lauterbrunnen a couple of hours earlier.

It is still a long journey, but doable. Lots of changing trains, though.

Posted by
17 posts

Thankyou for these great suggestions! Would it more advisable, from your experience, to go from Varenna & head to Tirano on the regional train & still take the Bernina Express and then somehow get back to Lauterbrunnen by taking a fast train
to Zurich & then south to Lauterbrunnen on Golden Pass train. Is this an option? I'm starting to think we need to re-configure our days and add a sleepover somewhere to make one of these train trips possible. . We are set to leave Varenna, Italy on Sept.12 & had hoped to get to Lauterbrunnen that night??? Impossible?

Posted by
16894 posts

That would take a looooog time if you want to use the Bernina Pass route. Six hours 40 minutes from Varenna to Chur, then another 2 hours to Luzern, not counting wait time for the next train.

Are you starting in Varenna or Lugano?

Take a look at the rail map of Switzerland and you will understand why it takes so long to accomplish what you want. Varenna is not on the map, but Tirano is.

It is far to the east, and you are going through mountains all the way to Luzern. The only fast trains are the ones through tunnels. You could do that by going from Varenna to Milan and taking the direct train to Luzern but it goes under the Alps in the deep Basis tunnel.

If you can start at Lugano, you can do the Gotthard pass route or even the Gotthard Panorama route; a long day but doable. Or the Centovalli train route from Locarno to Domodossola as Andre suggests, I did not check the time for that. The distance is not bad, but the train goes fairly slowly.

It really would be best to spread this journey over two days if you can. That way you can enjoy the journey and discover a new town or village on the way.

Posted by
7209 posts

Best and quickest would be helicopter.

Posted by
5697 posts

Thanks for the info, Lola -- was considering doing this north-to-south so I now know it has to be before October 18.

Posted by
20460 posts

We are set to leave Varenna, Italy on Sept.12 & had hoped to get to Lauterbrunnen that night??? Impossible?

Not at all but you will have to make some compromises on the "scenic" nature of the travel. I would scrap the idea of the Bernina Express.

  1. The route using the Centovalli Railway will take about 8 1/2 hours and involve 7 connections. Monza, Bellinzona, Locarno, Domodossola, Brig, Spiez, Interlaken Ost.

  2. The route via Luzern using the older Gothard Tunnel route will take 8 3/4 hours and involve at least 4 connections, Monza, Erstfeld, Luzern, and Interlaken Ost. The section to Erstfeld and Interlaken Ost are quite scenic.

  3. The route similar to No 1, but in 7 1/2 hours with 4 connections at Milano Centrale, Brig, Spiez, and Interlaken Ost. This route uses the older Loetschberg Tunnel route that goes mostly over the mountains instead of the newer route using the base tunnel, thus more scenic.

All of these itineraries depart Varenna at 8:37 am going south toward Milan. Skipping the Loetschberg Tunnel route and using the new base tunnel you can do it in 6 1/2 hours and only 3 connections at Milano Centrale, Spiez, and Interlaken Ost.

The route via the Bernina Pass will take 9 1/2 to 12 hours depending on departure time and number of connections. Generally, the more connections you take, the shorter the travel time, but it will be at least 5 and could be as many as 8.