Great Swiss train trips: Rochers-de-Naye

June 12, 2012, No comments

There’s no better view of Lake Geneva than from Rochers-de-Naye, 1600m above Montreux. While some locals and hardy hikers might contemplate walking up, for us mere mortals there’s a train to take the strain of getting up to such heights. And as so often in Switzerland the ride itself is as memorable as the destination, packing in ever-more splendid views as you wind your way up from the lake to the top. All in about 45 minutes.

Montreux has its jazz festival and its luxury hotels, its lakeshore promenade and its statue of Freddie Mercury – and the only First World War memorial I’ve ever found in Switzerland (see this post for more on that subject). This chic town is also the starting point for one of Switzerland’s lesser-known mountain train rides, one which never seems to get the same press as its rivals in the Berner Oberland or Lake Lucerne. Of course, that also means it doesn’t get the same crowds, even in high summer.

The line opened in September 1892 and helped move the tourism boom of the 19th century to the villages above the lake, such as Glion and Caux. One remnant of that era can be seen from miles around – the grandiose former Caux-Palace Hotel, the largest and most sumptuous hotel in Switzerland when it opened in 1902. Two world wars killed off the tourist trade, and the hotel was used to house escaped Allied prisoners of war and Jewish refugees from Hungary. Since then it’s found a new life as a centre for the Initiatives of Change movement.

As the train climbs ever upwards the buildings and then the trees thin out until all that is left is rock and sky, and ever-changing glimpses of the lake. Views on either side are good as the line switches back and forth but I think that sitting on the right facing forward is marginally better. By the time you’ve curled round to the summit station at 2042 metres, you’re more than ready to get out and experience the 360° panorama in all its glory: from the Eiger all the way round to the French Alps, with Montreux far, far below your feet.

There are some easy walking trails along the summit ridge and round to the little Alpine Garden, or even back down to Montreux if you really want. And then there are the marmots, who live in burrows and apparently whistle a lot, though I’ve never heard one. Essentially they look like a cross between a squirrel and a beaver, so if cute and furry is your thing, then this is the place to come. I’d rather have a picnic on a bench overlooking one of the best and bluest views in Switzerland.

So if you’ve already been up Rigi and ticked off Jungfraujoch, or if you just want to see Lake Geneva at its best, then make Rochers-de-Naye one of your excursions this summer. You won’t regret it.

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