Switzerland's oldest paddle-steamer, the Uri, built in 1901, chugs along Lake Lucerne.
Switzerland's oldest paddle-steamer, the Uri, built in 1901, chugs along Lake Lucerne. BEAT MUELELR

Travel: All-embracing beauty express across Switzerland

ONE of many dazzling panoramic trips in Switzerland is the Wilhelm Tell Express experience, part paddle-steamer through beautiful Lake Lucerne, part train ride through sweeping mountain ranges.

Boarding the regal paddle-steamer in Lucerne gives you a tingle of anticipation, and when it slowly sails from the shore and you gaze back to the snow-topped sight of Mt Pilatus soaring to the blue sky, well, you know you are in one of the most scenic destinations on the planet.

A glamorous lunch is served on board in an elegant dining room. Traditional dishes are matched with local wines while you sit back and glide past lofty mountain landscapes, picture-perfect villages and charming lakeside towns.

You'll pinch yourself. Are you really there on this blue and lovely Lake Lucerne? Surrounded by cloud-shrouded mountains? With the glinting sun on the clear water creating millions of dancing diamonds? It's beauty overload. The senses struggle to take it all in.

There is not a moment where you are not encircled by Switzerland's embracing beauty, when you are not gazing at something postcard beautiful.

The boat stops briefly at chocolate-box villages - Hertenstein, Weggis, Vitznau, Beckenried, the names go on and probably won't mean anything to you but at each brief stop, you will be filled with envy for those who live there and have this beauty year round.

Finally, at the town of Fluelen, it is time to disembark, no doubt with 50 or more photos in your camera, and walk a few steps to meet the train for the next part of the scenic journey, your high speed trip through to Locarno or Lugano near the Italian border.

Yet more regal mountains to look up to, more serene lakes to marvel at, more impossibly beautiful landscapes to gape at, this time from the comfort of a large seat in one of the panorama carriages where the windows loop around and above you and bring all that Swiss splendour right to your seat.

Because you have travelled from the middle of Switzerland down to the balmy Italian border, the scenery changes: snow-capped peaks give way to swaying palms as you cross spectacularly tall bridges, pass cascading waterfalls, and zoom through mountain tunnels.

The Wilhelm Tell Express is an astounding and unique travel experience named after the Swiss hero Wilhelm Tell who, according to legend, symbolised the struggle against oppressive rule. And the best part? You enjoy all this natural beauty in absolute comfort and arrive at yet another of Europe's lovely destinations for ongoing adventure.

The writer travelled courtesy of Switzerland Tourism and Rail Europe.

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