An iconic rail route, soaring over the spectacular Bernina Pass and reaching lofty heights of 2,134 meters, the famous Bernina Express is the only railway connecting the North and South Alps. Starting in Switzerland, from the ‘Top of the World’ in St. Moritz, the narrow-gauge railway runs through the untamed gorges of the Engadine valley, past the shimmering glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Bernina mountain range, through cliff-hugging tunnels and over hair-raising bridges. Finally terminating in the palm-tree framed Tirano in north Italy, the entire journey takes a mere 2.5 hours, and offers an unbeatable introduction to the Alps.
The acclaimed railway route was finally awarded UNESCO World Heritage status back in 2008 for the Thusis to Tirano section, celebrating the extraordinary feat of engineering that allowed the railway to be constructed. The tracks, laid between 1896 and 1904, include an incredible 196 bridges and 55 tunnels.
Riding Europe‘s highest open-air cog railway is a popular pastime for visitors to Zermatt and the dramatic Gornergrat railway serves up jaw-dropping views as it winds its way to the summit of Gornergrat Mountain.
The 45-minute journey might be impressive, but the real highlight is the destination and the Gornergrat Bahn boasts the title of Switzerland’s second-highest train station (after Jungfrau), located at a dizzying 3,089 meters. On arrival, make your way to the dedicated viewing platform, where the views span 29 of Switzerland’s highest peaks, including the mighty Matterhorn and one of the longest glaciers in the Alps.
Lake Walen is a lake in eastern Switzerland separating the cantons Glarus and St.Gallen. It is part of a region known as Heidiland, named after the famous Heidi story by Johanna Spyri and represents these corresponding values of unspoiled nature, warmth and simplicity. The mountains rise almost vertically on all sides of the lake and nestled on little plateaus and along the shores are several traditional Swiss towns. Below the steep south face of the Churfirsten, the small village of Quinten is a car-free paradise. It can only be reached by boat from Murg or on foot and due to the protected location, excellent grapes, figs and kiwis are grown here.
The Jungfraujoch is a saddle between the mountains Monch and Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps. It is known as the Top of Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From here you look down upon the ice wilderness of swirling glaciers and across at 13,000 ft (4,000 m) high mountain turrets. On top of the Jungfrau is a global atmospheric monitoring station.
Visiting the Jungfraujoch's eternal ice and snow is a once in a lifetime experience as the annual two million visitors can attest. Riding the narrow cog railway to 11,300 ft (3,454 m) is a must. On the journey you pass by the foot of the notorious Eiger North Wall, through tunnels, past polar dog kennels, finally arriving at the heart of the glaciers. The longest glacier in Europe, the Great Aletsch Glacier - 14 miles (23km) - begins at Jungfraujoch, and you can see as far as France and Germany.
Permanent ice and snow at the top of the world and a revolving gondola lift to take you to the top of the mountain, chairlifts over deep crevasses and exploring a glacier cave... If any of these sound amazing - and they do - Mount Titlis is the place for you. There are also restaurants and breathtaking views for those of us who prefer to be amazed in comfort while sitting on top of the world at 10,600 ft (3,238m).
Titlis is Central Switzerland's highest mountain and the views are amazing. However, be prepared: it is a bit like a high altitude theme park. The ice cave has music and flashing neon lights and you can pose for a photo with a giant Toblerone. Still, the surrounding peaks like shark fins, the glacier and the sweeping views to pastures, cliffs and waterfalls should make you forget any crass commercialism.
Recognized as the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps, Altesch glacier stretches across nearly 50 square miles of protected mountain terrain. While visitors lament its far-flung proximity to any major Swiss city, most agree that the well-kept hiking trails, impressive views and natural beauty make it worth a trip. Active adventurers can explore the glacier on foot, while less intrepid travelers can venture to the top of Aletsch aboard one of the famous cable cars. Uninhibited 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape make for a most memorable journey regardless of how visitors voyage to the top.
Maienfeld is the picturesque town, in which the best-selling Heidi story by Johanna Spyri takes place. The famous novel tells of the life and adventures of a cheerful young girl growing up in the alps in her grandfather’s, the Alm-Uncle’s, care. The town of Maienfeld, which can be found in the canton of Graubünden in eastern Switzerland, embodies this image of a romantic and nature-oriented Switzerland and transports visitors back in time. Experience an emotional journey to the Swiss mountain world of the 19th century and visit the Heidi Village and Trail detailed in Spyri’s novels. The venue makes history come alive and displays everything from the goat barn, to Heidi’s house as well as a museum dedicated to the author and shows nothing but pure dedication to the story that has inspired children around the world.
With its reputation as the mecca of high-fashion shopping, Milan not only offers the hallowed designer-filled streets of the Quad d’Oro and the world’s most beautiful department store at 10 Corso Como but is also conveniently located for sorties into Switzerland to hoover up cut-price bargains at FoxTown Factory Stores.
Switzerland’s most popular discounted outlet mall is found in Mendrisio near the border with Italy. It offers over 160 designer stores including world-renowned names, plus the chance to secure savings of up to 70 percent on recommended retail prices. With most items selling at factory prices, fashion stores include the niche jeans brand 7 for all Mankind, British high-end store Burberry and favorite Italian designers Versace, Valentino, Prada and Gucci; sleek interior design stores Le Creuset and Villeroy and Boch compete for the homeware market; and in the middle-price range Nike, Adidas, Swatch and Diesel all have outposts here.