My senior husband and I (66 & 72) want to travel from Lake Como to Switzerland via train in mid-September of 2022. We will have about 5-7 days total. We are fairly active, but with tender backs, we do not want to push the envelope by hiking steep mountains or valley's. Should we get the fast train up to Lucerne and then travel down through Switzerland from there? Or? We will fly back to the US from Milan. Suggestions for must-see villages and sights? We prefer a minimum of two nights in each location we visit. Thanks for your input!
Where on Lake Como will you be starting?
The "fast train" to Luzern from the town of Como ( station Como San Giovanni) is indeed fast, but it spends much of the time (around 40 minutes) in a deep tunnel under the Alps, the Gotthard Basistunnel. So you miss most of the alpine scenery.
You can see the route on this map of the Swiss railway system. The tunnel is the grey dashed line between Biasca and Erstfeld.
Instead, if starting at Comomtown, youncould take the Gotthard Panorama Express, a lovely journey by train and boat. The train uses tracks which go much higher into the mountains. Although there is still a tunnel, it is much shorter.
If you want a route with no tunnels and do not need to start your Swiss sojourn in Luzern, I suggest you start in Varenna on the east side of Como, take the train to Tirano on the Swiss border, and connect there with a train over the Bernina Pass to Pontresina. This is the most scenic way between Italy and Switzerland and would be my choice.
And Pontresina is a lovely place to stay..
We took the route Lola is describing in reverse. We started in Chur and took the Bernina Express to Tirano, switched trains to arrive in Varenna. Extraordinarily beautiful.
Wonderful, thanks so much for your feedback on the fast train to Lucerne. We were not aware of the long tunnel travel on the fast train and will definitely change our plan to take the scenic route through the Alps with a night in Pontresina. Excellent! From there I think we will head to Lucerne for a night and then to the Berner Overland unless you have a better itinerary .
The train ride from Pontresina to Lucerne is about 4 1/2 hours which leaves you at best a half day there. It’s a pretty lakeside city. It’s worth at least 2 nights. If you have 7 nights then I would break it up as 1 Pontresina, 2 Lucerne, 4 Berner Oberland. In the BO I would suggest staying up in the mountains. I have stayed in Murren and would recommend it as a base.
Have a great trip.
I'll also add that in the Lauterbrunnen area there are a number of great hikes where you will not need to push yourselves. The classic Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg is actually pretty flat but with unbelievable views. The cog train to Wengen and then the cable car up to Mannlichen gain the elevation for you! On the Muerren side, I've done a fairly easy hike from Almendhubel (take the funicular up) back to Muerren, as well as others. You can always hike in the bottom of the valley as well.
Wonderful, thanks all. That should do it. We are joining a Rhodes Scholar tour in Lake Como, Garda & Maggiore first and will then head to Switzerland on our own. We have never participated in an official tour before, but look forward to being taken care of (itinerary, meals, transport, etc.). We should then be relaxed enough to do Switzerland on our own. I read Rick Steves' guide books in '87 (and even and had a personal presentation by Rick Steves himself at the UW), then backpacked seven countries in 3 weeks - too much and too fast. It will be nice to slow it down this time.