Train rides might just be the most charming way to travel - and among the many fascinating, scenic train rides in the world, one might be the most picturesque yet: Switzerland’s 8 hours long Glacier Express ride, which runs through the mountains and forests of the beautiful Swiss Alps.
Sometimes called the “slowest express train in the world”, The Glacier Express embodies the emphasis on the journey, and not simply the destination. It’s a special, panoramic, made for tourist train, connecting the famous mountain resorts of St. Moritz and Zermatt directly and without stops, in an uninterrupted train voyage across the most breathtaking Swiss landscapes that last around 8 hours, traveling 291 km.
The Glacier Express Train
The Glacier Express invests in comfort and technology, promoting a one-of-a-kind train experience for tourists and travelers. Panoramic carts (actually, extra-panoramic) count with large, floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights, offering unique, vast, and unobstructed views of the most beautiful landscapes in Switzerland, from Engadine to the Matterhorn.
Meals are served on the seat and prepared entirely in the Express’ kitchen, and are served strategically across the entire trip. Aperitifs, lunch, sweets, the according to wines, and coffee are all available and the food plan can be acquired alongside each ticket.
The Glacier Express cuts through Switzerland in one of the most scenic journeys across the Alpine country. It leaves the exclusive and elegant St. Moritz (or the opposite way, of course!), soon reaching the Alpine valley of Engadin, a region of lush green fields and glittering lakes.
The Express then passes through the Albula Tunnel at Albula pass, one of the highest tunnels in Switzerland at 1,815 meters above sea level. It’s one of the 91 tunnels that the Express crosses on the ride. It also travels through 291 bridges, such as the famous Landwasser Viaduct, the limestone arched elevated pass that is a Swiss landmark, and a highlight of the Glacier Express ride.
Leaving the Landwasser Viaduct behind, the trains pass by Hinterrhein, a clear rushing stream that will reach the Rhine river. The Express reaches Chur, the most important city in the region, and continues following the Rhine to the gorge of Ruinalta, “Switzerland’s Grand Canyon”.
The train offers a unique view of the graying mountains cut through by the winding clear blue curves of the river in the Canyon as it climbs up the valley towards the Oberalp Pass. At over 2,000 meters of altitude, the Oberalp Pass propitiates more outstanding mountain views and the way through the Canton of Uri and down to Andermatt.
The Express makes its way to the Urseren valley, surrounded by green hills straight out of a postcard before entering the Furka Base Tunnel and crossing it through to Valais, in the district of Gom, treating passengers to views of grassy fields, pine trees, farmhouses, and many tranquil cows, before reaching Brig.
From Valais in the Brig railway station, the Glacier Express continues to the Visp station through to the Mattertal Valley, reaching the final stretch of the journey. Mattertal Valley is south of Valais, in the Pennine Alps. Near permanently snowy cusps in the mountains frame the landscape in Mattertal, as green hills, rocky formations cut by clear streams, and small waterfalls fill the landscape at ground level.
Through the Mattertal line, the Glacier Express passes through the municipalities of Stalden, St. Niklaus, and Randa, medieval alpine villages whose history and architecture dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries, middle-aged stone bridges and churches dotting the view here and there surrounded by the Alpine mountains.
Passing the Täsch railway station the train goes through a steep section of the journey before it arrives at the final destination, charming Zermatt, looking up right at the Matterhorn, one of Switzerland's most famous mountains, its snowy pyramid shaping straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy.
That’s the 8 hours of scenic, stream, hill, mountains, and forest-filled journey that the Glacier Express makes nearly every day. It’s like traveling through an Alps postcard - and with foodservice too!
How to travel on the Glacier Express
For the Glacier Express, reservations are required. The train can leave St. Moritz towards Zermatt or vice versa. The same route can be made on regular local trains, without the panoramic carts and amenities, and with more stops along the way.
- Tickets: Prices depend on the route travelers will choose; the classic St. Moritz - Zermatt ride at 152 EUR second class and 268 first class. Reservation fees can go from 49 EUR to 420 EUR.
Swiss Pass tickets are valid for the Glacier Express. Children under 6 don’t pay and 6-16-year-olds pay a half pass.
The food menus can be purchased separately.