The Expensive Train Journey In Switzerland Is On Glacier Express

Roger Federer and Trevor Noah found themselves on an unexpected adventure when they accidentally boarded the wrong train in Switzerland. Little did they know that this problem would lead them to discover the awe-inspiring beauty of Switzerland on the renowned “Grand Train Tour of Switzerland.”

This train journey, aptly named the Glacier Express, is a grand experience in every aspect. From the breathtaking alpine vistas to the impeccable onboard richness services, this trip showmatters the best of Switzerland. With its route encompassing 11 magnificent lakes, 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a mesmerizing 1,280 kilometres of scenic views, this journey is sure to become the highlight of anyone’s life.

Speaking of Roger and Trevor’s adventure, while I did not have the same misfortune as them, I wholeheartedly agree with their sentiment that “You’re Never on the Wrong Train in Switzerland.” My 18-day Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, facilitated by the Swiss Travel System and using the Swiss Travel Pass, was nothing short of epic.

I explored Zurich, Geneva, Lugano, Interlaken, and Zermatt, saving the most iconic and luxurious scenic rail journey for last – the Glacier Express. This extraordinary expedition brought me devotedly close to the splendid Swiss mountains.

True to its name, the Glacier Express lives up to its glacial pace while being the world’s slowest “fast” train. With an average speed of around 24 mph, this panoramic train winds its way through 91 tunnels and crosses 291 bridges. This leisurely pace allows passengers to savour unobstructed and ever-changing panoramic views of the majestic Alps, deep ravines, and picturesque valleys from the comfort of their luxurious coach. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the roof-high panoramic windows throughout the journey. Equipped with headphones, I remained informed about every small and significant detail of the route, immersing myself in the breathtaking landscapes of the Alps.

Glacier Express Zermatt to St. Moritz Route

The Glacier Express route is a treasure trove of sights and landscapes. As the clock struck 8:52 am, the sleek red-and-white iconic Glacier Express departed from the platform, embarking on a sensory feast. The first leg of the journey, from Zermatt to Brig, has been connecting the alpine car-free village of Zermatt, home to the Matterhorn, with the ritzy ski resort town of St. Moritz since 1930. While the entire journey from Zermatt to St. Moritz takes eight hours and nineteen minutes (8h 19m), my limited time allowed me to cover only the section from Zermatt to Chur (5h 21m0), which was perfect in every sense. Divided into four legs, the eight-hour journey includes:

Zermatt to Brig (45 km)

The train passed through the Matterhorn Tunnel, offering stunning views of the Matterhorn Valley. The route was often narrow, with towering rock walls reaching over 4,000 meters. This region is home to some of the highest peaks of the Swiss Alps. After reaching Visp, the train descended to 651 meters, traversing the Goms Valley, renowned for its breathtaking vistas.

Tip: The view is equally stunning on both sides of the train.

Brig to Andermatt (64 km)

Departing from Brig, the train crossed the river Rhone and further continued east into the Upper Rhone Valley, passing through the Swiss National Park, which houses a diverse range of wildlife, including ibex, chamois, and marmots.

The V-shaped valley occasionally narrows, and in Oberwald, at the valley’s end, the train reaches an altitude. The V-shaped valley is very narrow sometimes. At the end of the valley, in Oberwald, the train reaches an altitude of 1366 m. Since 1925, a railroad across the Furka Pass led from Oberwald to Realp. From Realp, a fairly flat stretch leads to Andermatt.

Andermatt to Chur (82 km)

The third leg of my journey was slightly longer but offered even more stunning scenery. Andermatt, at 1436 m, is where the Oberalp Pass begins. The Glacier Express health issue its way up to 2034 m, the highest point of this journey. This is also where the river Rhine rises. The landscape up here is usually covered in snow from November to April.

After reaching the journey’s highest point, we descended along the Rhine Valley to Chur at 585 m. Chur is the lowest point of the route. The landscape looked very dramatic in the Rhine gorge between Ilanz and Reichenau, where the river was carved deep into the white rocks.

This region, also called the Swiss Grand Canyon, is one of Switzerland’s most impressive natural spectacles. The Rhine Gorge is a popular attraction for hikers, bikers, and river rafters – and can even be toured by train.

Chur to St. Moritz (89 km)

The fourth and final section of the journey overlaps with the first section of the Bernina Express. Unfortunately, I had to give it a miss because I had to catch a train to Zurich from Chur. So I am still trying to figure out how Glacier Express vs Bernina Express. If I had a little extra time, I’d have tried this stretch on Bernina Express. Anyway, here’s the information you can use on your trip further.

On this section of the Glacier Express journey, the train passes through the Engadine Valley, which is home to some of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland. The Glacier Express changes direction and heads for Reichenau again.

There it bends to the south, towards Thusis and Tiefencastel. This Domleschg valley is known for its many ruins and castles. The Glacier Express continues south through a narrow valley, crossing the spectacular curved Landwasser viaduct just before reaching Filisur. After Filisur, several spiral loops help it gain height until it reaches the entrance of the Albula tunnel, at 1789 m, before leading to the high Upper Engadine valley. The Glacier Express reaches its destination St. Moritz after another 20 minutes.

Tip: Sit on the right side of the train to enjoy the view of the Landwasser viaduct.

Which is the best part of the Glacier Express journey?

Honestly, I loved the entire journey, and it’s hard to pick one. Each section was unique and beautiful. But if I were to pick one, I would say the best section of the Glacier Express was from Andermatt to Disentis, where the train went over the Oberlap Pass, the highest point of the journey at 6,673ft. Ideally, You should do the entire trip, but if you don’t have the time to complete the entire Glacier Express route, pick the section closest to your base town. Some of the short sections that you can choose are:

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