Climb aboard Switzerland’s legendary trains to experience some of the most spectacular scenery in the Swiss Alps, from the twisted peak of the Matterhorn to the breathtaking vistas of the Bernina Pass. Soar high above Zermatt in a gondola, and enjoy a choice of hikes, walks, and tram rides through beautiful mountain landscapes. Then cross the Alps into Italy and cap off the trip on the shores of stunning Lake Como.
Journey along three of Switzerland’s most iconic railways—the Glacier Express, Gornergrat Bahn, and Bernina Express—with a National Geographic expert.
Board a private ferry for a scenic ride across Lake Como, and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Como Cathedral.
Meet an Italian chef for a cooking lesson in picturesque Varenna, and try your hand at preparing some of the Lombardy region’s rich specialties.
During a special visit to the Matterhorn Museum, hear a local mountaineer and an Alpine historian recount stories of the earliest attempts to conquer Switzerland’s most iconic peak.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Day 1 — Zürich, Switzerland/Zermatt
Arrive in Zürich this morning and board a train to the charming Alpine village of Zermatt, off-limits to cars. Check in to our hotel and gather for a welcome dinner tonight.
Hotel National Zermatt (D)
Day 2 — Zermatt/Zmutt Valley
Start the day with a walk through the village
of Zermatt. This afternoon, ride the gondola up
to Schwarzsee or Furi for a walk through the spectacular Zmutt Glacier Valley. Later, return to Zermatt by gondola. Ambitious hikers can also hike to Zmutt, a hamlet of weathered chalets, and continue to Zermatt on foot.
Hotel National Zermatt (B)
Day 3 — Zermatt/Gorner Glacier
Climb aboard the Gornergrat Bahn cogwheel railway, the highest train in Europe, and ascend to a summit far above Zermatt to experience one of the best viewpoints in the Alps. Admire a gorgeous vista that includes Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, and the Gorner Glacier. Hike down past Alpine lakes to Riffelberg, where we will catch the train back to Zermatt. Pay a visit to the Matterhorn Museum, where a local mountaineer and Alpine historian will recount stories of early attempts to conquer the Matterhorn and other climbing adventures.
Hotel National Zermatt (B,D)
Day 4 —Glacier Express/Pontresina
Take your first-class seat on the world-famous Glacier Express and set off on a breathtaking journey across three high-mountain passes, over 291 bridges, and through 91 tunnels. Enjoy the elegant atmosphere of the train as we soak up magnificent vistas of skyscraping, glacier-glazed peaks on our way to the Upper Engadin Valley. Disembark in St. Moritz and take a short drive to our hotel in Pontresina.
Sporthotel Pontresina (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Pontresina/St. Moritz
Set out on a walking tour of Pontresina and discover local lore that dates back to prehistory. Later this morning, travel to St. Moritz by local train, and visit the Segantini Museum, dedicated to the Alpine artist Giovanni Segantini. After lunch on your own, take the rest of the afternoon to explore the picturesque valley of St. Moritz before returning to Pontresina.
Sporthotel Pontresina (B)
Day 6 — Bernina Pass/Poschiavo
Today, ride the legendary Bernina Express, the highest mountain railway in the Alps, to the heart of Italian-speaking Switzerland. Take in extraordinary views of the Morteratsch Glacier from the train’s panoramic windows as we climb to the highest point at Ospizio Bernina, 7,578 feet above sea level. Descend to the town of Poschiavo, where we meet a local guide for a tour of its charming historic center. Return to Pontresina via the Bernina Express late this afternoon.
Sporthotel Pontresina (B,D)
Day 7 — Pontresina/Moltrasio, Italy
A spectacular drive through Alpine valleys brings us into the Italian Lake District today. The countryside is dotted with villas in hues of terra-cotta, pink, ochre, and gold, and strewn with tropical vegetation and lush gardens. Our destination is the lovely village of Moltrasio, perched on the western shore of the vast and beautiful Lake Como. Settle into an art nouveau resort and spa overlooking Lake Como.
Grand Hotel Imperiale (B,L)
Day 8 — Lake Como
Spend the day exploring the treasures of Lake Como. Board a private ferry for a picturesque ride across the lake to Varenna. Behold a panorama of colorful waterside villages and elegant estates, fringed by palms and pines and backed by soaring mountains. Learn secrets of Italian cooking during a lesson with a local chef, followed by a lunch of the dishes you’ve made, washed down with local wine. Visit the grand gardens of Villa Monastero, first founded in the 12th century as a Cistercian monastery.
Grand Hotel Imperiale (B,L)
Day 9 — Lake Como
Soak in the beauty of Lake Como’s lakeside towns. Discover Como’s historic center, its sunny piazzas, and the Como Cathedral on a private tour. Continue to the delightful town of Bellagio and explore at leisure. Later, relax on the hotel’s terrace, taking in the view before we meet to celebrate our journey at a lakeside farewell dinner.
Grand Hotel Imperiale (B,D)
Day 10 — Milan
After breakfast, transfer to Milan’s Malpensa Airport for your flight home. (B)
Travel writer Everett Potter has been covering the globe for three decades in pursuit of great stories. For the past 15 years, many of his pieces have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, including a recent feature, “Swiss Tracks,” for which he traveled by rail, cog-railway, tram, and lake steamer around the country. He’s also written about various destinations in the Caribbean, Canada, Central America, and other European destinations for the magazine. Everett received his B.A. in English from Boston University in 1974 and his M.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1976. He was a longtime columnist for The New York Times Syndicate, Smart Money, and Ski, and his work has appeared in most major publications, including Outside, The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast Traveler, The Washington Post, and Forbes Life. He is the author of The Best of Brazil and has been awarded four Lowell Thomas Awards for his travel writing. He lives in Pelham, New York, and spends summers in a rustic cabin in Western Maine.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Activities include city walking tours, train rides through beautiful landscapes, and options for more physical activities such as hiking. Though much of the transport on this trip is done by train, gondola, or boat, guests should be able to walk several miles per day and sometimes over steep, hilly, or uneven terrain. Please note that the Swiss hotels and sites are located at elevations ranging from around 5,000 to 10,000 feet.