The Gotthard Panorama Express is a replacement for ‘The Wilhelm Tell Express’ service; it comprises both a boat steamer from Lucerne across Lake Lucerne to Fluelen and a journey between Fluelen and Lugano by train on the old Gotthard main line with its fabulous views.
The end-to-end journey is so fabulous that it has been included on Far And Wide's list of Europe's Most Remarkable Train Journeys.
The service has been renamed because:
It showcases the fact this train is now the only direct train to Lugano, which travels on the older Gotthard main line, as the regular express train services have been diverted into the new Gotthard Base Tunnel.
An at seat catering service is available on the train, while 1st class ticket and rail pass holders can access the restaurant on the lake cruise boat.
The end-to-end travel experience is available in both directions between Luzern and Locarno from early May until late October, heading south the boat departs from the piers in front of Luzern station at 11:12.
Heading north the train departs Lugano at 09:22; and from Bellinzona (with connections from Locarno) at 09:48.
It isn't possible to make a return trip by the Gothard Panorama Express, but regular trains link Luzern and Lugano, for conveyance back to the starting point.
The highlights of the journey occur when the train spirals up and down the mountains on either side of the older Gotthard Tunnel, hence the famous three views of the white church at Wassen.
But due to the method of the line’s construction, the church can be seen from the left and right of the train.
Tickets for the Gotthard Panorama Express are available for one-way journeys from either Luzern or Lugano and they comprise;
Cheaper prices are available for travel by 2nd class on the cruise boat part of the trip.
On the cruise boats only 1st class ticket holders have access to the upper deck and this is where the restaurant on the boat is located; but the food and drink on the boat (and on the train) is not included in the price
So if you don't want to have a meal on the boat and are happy to see the lake views from the lower deck, you can save more than 20CHF.
Tickets, can be booked on the Gotthard Panorama website in the operating season, they are not discounted when booked in advance, but booking ahead guarantees a seat on the train.
Though if seats are available and you want to be spontaneous, an option is to book a boat cruise (1st or 2nd class) and a 1st class rail ticket for the journey between Fluelen and Lugano at the stations; and then pay the 16 CHF supplement when boarding the train.
Travel on the Gotthard Panorama Express with a rail pass, can be great value for money; particularly with a 2nd class pass
Users of Swiss Travel Passes and Saver Day Passes only have to pay the 16CHF reservation fee (supplement); while users of Eurail and InterRail passes valid in Switzerland have to pay the supplement and 50% of the cost of taking the cruise boat.
The 16CHF reservation fee on the train is payable by both holders of 1st and 2nd class passes, so holders of 2nd class passes can travel in the 1st class coaches.
On the cruise boats holders of 1st class Swiss Travel and Saver Day Passes can travel on the 1st class deck; and access the on board restaurant, but holders of 2nd class passes have to travel, on the lower, 2nd class deck.
Those with 2nd class Eurail and InterRail passes can pay the 50% fee of travel in the lower deck on the boat, but holders of 1st class Eurail and InterRail passes can either pay 50% of the 1st class boat ticket and ride on the upper deck, or pay 50% of the 2nd class ticket and ride on the lower deck.
I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.
This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.