Traveling the Swiss Alps in style: Glacier Express
Billed as ‘a train to fall in love with’, the world-famous Glacier Express takes passengers on the ultimate romantic journey through the Swiss Alps. The red-and-white train travels from east to west across a 300km stretch of railway, boasting unrivalled views of magnificent countryside en route. You can expect to see breathtaking mountain passes, glistening glaciers and rushing streams, so sit back, relax and enjoy the journey.
The Glacier Express is over 75 years old, and took its very first trip in 1930 to ferry locals and tourists from one side of the Swiss Alps to the other. Up until 1982, the Glacier Express only ran during the summer months, as the thick winter snow made certain parts of the track impassable. In fact, there are still times during the year where conditions are too severe to travel.
Today’s trains are powered by electricity, but the original steam-powered versions would have followed the same route. This magical 7.5-hour journey begins in the glamorous ski resorts of St Moritz, and snakes through the Albula Valley, Davos Dorf, the Nikolai Valley on its way to Zermatt and the Matterhorn village. You can jump aboard at stops along the way, and indeed catch it going in the opposite direction. Either way, there’s no shortage of stunning Alpine sights.
Contrary to what ‘Express’ might suggest, this is the world’s slowest train − it travels at an average speed of just 20km/hour − but it would be a sin to rush past such dramatic landscapes, Alpine meadows, narrow valleys and deep gorges at speed. You’ll also conquer 91 tunnels and across 291 bridges in total if you travel the entire route.
This is the most relaxing and elegant way to enjoy the picturesque landscape that makes Switzerland so utterly unique. Take a seat, pull out of the station, and you won’t be able to take your eyes off the unimpeded views through the windows of the stylish panoramic carriages. For example, the lengthy Rhaetian Railway (Rhätische Bahn RHB) section, which lies between Thusis and Bergün, is a World Heritage Site and an impressive demonstration of how civil engineering can blend seamlessly with its environment. It looks even better when the sky is blue, so it might be worth checking the weather before you book.
Particular highlights along the 180-mile line include the one-hour ride between Disentis and Andermatt, the stunning six-arch 65m-high Landwasser Viaduct between Chur and Filisur, and the Oberalp Pass with its crystal-clear mountain lake. When you reach the Oberal Pass, you’ll be at the highest geographical point of the journey − it’s over 6,600 feet above sea level.
Some of the climbs are so steep that drinks are served in specially designed tilted glass. 🙂 Well, you wouldn’t want your crisp Swiss white wine to spill, of course. This kind of attention to detail makes your trip even more of a pleasure. As well as indulging in a drink or two, you can also sample a freshly prepared three-course meal in the comfort of your seat or in the vintage dining carriage. This is luxury travel at its finest.
Offering a truly unique perspective on the Swiss Alps, and a luxurious experience in total comfort, it’s no wonder the Glacier Express has gained iconic status. Make sure to bring your camera − you’ll want to look back at these fascinating sights forever.