The combination of stunning scenery, elegant and spacious seats (we were, it must be said, first class), a complex itinerary and three two-night stays in very different but remarkable hotels in height was more than enough to give us common goal.
Some were clearly true train enthusiasts, brimming with excitement when stops included the chance to gaze at an impressive feat of engineering, a mighty locomotive, a cogwheel rail; some have sunk into a reflective mood with comparisons of past adventures.
There was always plenty to discuss at the dinner table, especially when each of the three key hotels involved a special trip in itself. The first was a modest funicular ride from Lake Brienz to the Grandhotel Giessbach, a hotel with turn-of-the-century elegance and rooms with views of a mighty waterfall. The second – the more modern Scandi-like Romantik Hotel at Muottas Muragl – was a much higher proposition with a more spectacular funicular ride, which crossed the snow line.
The latest stay – at Hotel Pilatus-Kulm – involved a trip on the world’s steepest cog railway to an altitude of nearly 7,000 feet. We arrived in snow and darkness, and awoke to crystal clear skies and a sunrise casting its magnificence over a panorama of peaks, above the clouds below.
For those seeking them, activities along the way included nature and wildlife walks and city explorations. Lucerne was a popular port of call on the all free day towards the end. Personally, I walked in the mountains of Pilatus where I met magnificent horned alpine ibexes.
So is Switzerland really home to the most spectacular train journeys in the world? It depends on the type of landscape you are looking for. I will never forget the tropical lushness of a journey on the Eastern & Oriental Express from Bangkok to Singapore, the austere beauty of a journey through the Australian Red Center on the Indian Pacific, the spectacular rock formations of the Copper Canyon on the Mexican Chepe Express. They are all wonderful. But as an all-encompassing single-country train travel experience, Switzerland really comes out on top.
Great Rail Journeys (01904 527180; greatrail.com) is offering its nine-day Mountaintops of Switzerland tour on selected dates between June and October 2022 from £2,795 pp. The price includes eight nights four-star accommodation with breakfasts and dinners, Glacier and Bernina Express rail travel, first class rail travel within Switzerland and to and from London by Eurostar and high-speed train. Maximum group size is 25 and there is a guide throughout
All travelers 18 and over must present proof that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid within the past year. Under 18s are exempt