By Railtour’s invitation, we rode the rails in the world’s most famous train… and what a thrill it was!
The tendency is to keep postponing a ride on the Glacier Express for far too long into the future: after all, it’s right there, practically on your doorstep; it’s doable “anytime”…
But really, don’t keep putting off a trip on the “Gelati Express” (as our train conductor called it) – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thrill!
There are indeed a number of trains with such evocative names. Just say them slowly and let their romantic promise sink in: “Orient Express” or “Rovos Rail” and “Blue Train” for Southern Africa. In the Canadian Rockies, there is the no less spectacular sounding “Rocky Mountaineer” luxury train. And then there is indeed the famous “Glacier Express” with its legendary observation cars and the highly fashionable departure and destination points of St. Moritz and Zermatt…
The Glacier Express is titled the “the world’s slowest express train”: Normally, the trip takes you from St. Moritz via Chur, Disentis, Andermatt and Brig to Zermatt in about eight-hours. Or vice versa. It is a day trip that ranges over 291 bridges and 91 tunnels, past breathtaking mountain backdrops and quaint mountain villages, over chasms and wonderful valleys.
Not wanting to shoot our bolt all in on one day (or sit in the train for that long), we broke the trip in Andermatt, where we overnighted in the much-commented “The Chedi Andermatt“. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
The legendary Glacier Express
Riding the Glacier Express is the classic among scenic journeys through Switzerland. One highlight chases the next here! They’ll tell you all you need to know over headphones (in six languages; you don’t need to speak all of them) about what lies along the route that cuts right through the Alps. Here is just a selection of highlights:
- Albula/Bernina – the UNESCO World Heritage route: Between Preda and Bergüng lies the most spectacular part of the route, with six high viaducts, three spiral and two loop-back tunnels making the climb up a 400 meter grade differential possible. It’s enough to give you vertigo…but it doesn’t; it’s not a Pendolino tilting train, after all.
- Swiss Rhine Gorge – Switzerland’s Grand Canyon. The rockslides that took place after the end of the Ice Age formed today’s unique canyon landscape.
- Oberalp Pass – the engine goes into cogwheel mode to work its way up to 2,033 meters above sea level, the highest point in the pass and on the Glacier Express route.
- The Rhone Glacier – a nine-kilometer long natural wonder in the canton of Wallis.
- Zermatt and the legendary Matterhorn. Naturally, here too the clever cogwheel system is engaged.
Although the majority of tourists prefer to ride the Glacier Express during the warm seasons, we deliberately chose winter for our trip, because we are simply enthralled by snowy landscapes.
Kudos to our Japanese friends from the “Swiss Fan Club“. Thanks to them I found out which castle and churches we actually photographed ;-)
The weather was favorably inclined toward us – at least on the first route segment from St. Moritz to Andermatt. On the first day of our journey, the panorama offered itself to us like a Swiss winter’s fairy tale. The landscape covered with deep snow glistened everywhere like a fantastic winter wonderland!
On the second leg, from Andermatt to Zermatt, on the other hand, we were not so lucky. But even with blowing snow and uncounted snowflakes whirling, the route still had its charm. In any case, we thought the trip was fantastic start to finish!
Service on the Glacier Express
Just to complete the adventure with a bit of Swissness, you get entertained with Swiss music on channels 7 and 8. While on channel 7 they delight you with traditional Swiss music (Ländler, i.e. folk dance music), those less rooted in the local soil can avail themselves of channel 8, where Swiss singers like Bligg, Büne Huber and others will treat you to songs of Switzerland.
To keep passengers from starving en route, scrumptious local delicacies are offered as well as a complete menu of the day. And they serve you right at your observation car seat! Drinks and snacks are also available in the Panorama Bar. It doesn’t get any better!
You can find all the details, such as trip information and schedules, on the Glacier Express website.
Our thanks go to…
Our fellow bloggers at Swiss Nomads, for example, have written a nice account of riding the Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano.
Ah! Lest I forget, the Chedi Andermatt is awesome! Here is the review to tell that story…