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Gotthard Panorama Express vs Gotthard Tunnel

It was recently suggested that I take the Gotthard Panorama Express from Luzern to Lugano. I'm actually staying in Bellagio, so I would still need to get to either Como or Menaggio and ferry over. I probably won't have a Swiss Rail pass as I'm only in Switzerland for 3 days (likely Luzern) and I haven't added up the few trips/attractions to see if a rail pass would be worthwhile.

While a scenic boat-train combo sounds enticing, here's my question: is the Gotthard Panorama Express actually worth the extra time and money? From what I can gather, it's about $100+ more and 3+ hours longer. Do you really see that much more? I will be going in early May... could weather negatively impact the trip... I'm assuming a definite yes on the boat portion, but what about the train part?


Posted by
6858 posts

The normal trains now use a 50-km tunnel under the Gotthard Pass, so there is not a lot to see besides a few glimpses of Lake Lucerne.

Now, if the Gotthard Panorama fare is too high for you (it sure isn't cheap!), you can replicate the route, but skipping the boat portion.

It recently became much easier to do so, because a new "Treno Gottardo" train service now uses the old, scenic Gotthard Railway (with a much shorter tunnel) between Rotkreuz or Arth-Goldau and Bellinzona.
Rotkreuz or Arth-Goldau are easily reached by suburban train from Luzern, and Bellinzona has onward connections to Como San Giovanni, where you can take a bus to Bellagio (or the ferry, if you make your way from the station to the lake, about 1/2 mile).
So, all in all this just adds 1 connection and perhaps 1 hour to the journey.
To find the train connection using the old, scenic railway, use the SBB app or website and specify "Goeschenen" in the "via" field.

By the way, beware of using the SBB website to check fares, because it automatically assumes that you have a Half-Fare Card. Either double the prices that you see, or create yourself a profile without a card. You might well find that for a trip from the French border, to Luzern, to Como, and a day trip to Mt Rigi, a 3-day pass could be worth it (or close to it, in which case you pay a small premium for convenience).

Posted by
11 posts

So basically this train does the same route as the Gotthard Panorama Express without the 3 hour boat ride (which honestly could be brutal if the weather is bad) for a fraction of the price and then all I have to do is book a local train to Arth-Goldau and likewise to Como from Bellinzona. Found a video from The Man in Seat 61 and the train looks nice.

Thanks @balso that was very helpful information!

Posted by
367 posts

Here's my experience . . .

We did the route of the Gotthard Panorama Express on just the regular trains and boats, so it didn't cost any extra. In our case, we lucked out and got a much nicer boat than the one you get on the Gotthard Express. We bought our ticket in person (not a machine) and specifically said we didn't want to take the tunnel route. We did still end up in tunnels, but shorter ones. We stayed in Lugano (gorgeous!) and then took the train from Lugano to Como, and then a hydrofoil up the lake to Bellagio. The Italian ferry was such a disappointment after the lovely Swiss one. But I'd pretty much do it all again. The boat part was great, the mountain part okay. If you want to speed up after you get off the lake, it wouldn't be the worst decision. You also don't have to go all the way to the Fluelen -- you can get off at Brunnen, which is a gorgeous spot. But if you want to see the William Tell meadow and all, you'll want to sail the whole way.

We did it in the second week of May and I took about a zillion pictures sailing down Lake Lucerne. Stunning. It was one of the highlights of our trip. You can decide the day you leave though-- if the weather is terrible, just take the train. If it's okay or better, take the boat.

My daughter lives in Luzern, and friends at work live in Ticino. When they go home on the weekends, they take the speediest train possible, which is not scenic. Apparently it can get very crowded at peak times as well. So don't travel on a Friday after work unless you want to stand the whole way.