Rediscover Slowness in the Legendary
The dizzyingly high Landwasser Viaduct
The mythical Glacier Express is a true classic and belongs to the world's most impressive train routes. This Alpine train railroads through some of the most spectacular landscapes. Just because the train is called "Express" doesn't mean it is in a hurry. The train travels leisurely through valleys, along rivers, through gorges, 91 tunnels - amongst them a few impressive spiral ones - and over 291 bridges - the "Landwasser Viaduct" could make you dizzy just looking at it. The train is actually proudly called the World's slowest express train.
The Glacier Express travels from the Bernina massif to the Matterhorn - from St. Moritz in Graubünden to Zermatt in the canton Valais (and visa-versa). There is an addition that starts or ends in Davos, Switzerland's famous ski resort where the world's first bracket lift hauled skiers uphill.
Red line = Glacier Express route
Starting in St. Moritz, the Glacier Express meanders along the river Inn toward its first tunnel and the Albula UNESCO Heritage Landscape with its impressive "Landwasser Viaduct". The train from Davos joins the racks in Filisur from where the route follows the river Albula toward Reichenau and Chur (lowest point of the journey at 585m/1919ft.)
From there the train follows the young Rhine through the Ruinaulta canyon with its strange rock formations to Disentis/Muestér before climbing up to the highest point on the journey, the Oberalp Pass at 2044m/6,706ft.
The Ruinaulta gorge is often called the "Swiss Grand Canyon"
The train skirts Andermatt in the Canton Uri before disappearing into the 15.4km/9.6mi Furka Tunnel and emerging in Oberalp in the Canton Valais. The journey continues through the Goms valley, a wonderful and unspoiled landscape and along the river Rhône to Brig and Visp from where the Glacier Express climbs up the narrow valley to Zermatt to the grand finale, the view to Switzerland's most distinctive peak, the Matterhorn.
Here's a video that shows the journey now and then:
Good to Know
- It takes 7½ hours for the entire route (257 km/160 miles), however you don't have to go all the way. You can choose to travel only certain sections. For example, let's say you are in Lucerne and want to go to St. Moritz. You can board a train to Andermatt where you catch the Glacier Express to St. Moritz. Or you can train to Chur and board the Glacier Express there. The most dramatic route is the one between Andermatt and St. Moritz - and visaversa;
- The train operates summer and winter with a pause between November and mid-December;
- One can do the journey both ways - from St. Moritz to Zermatt or visa-versa;
- Important Note: Since spring 2014, the Glacier Express operates a bus between Davos Platz and Chur via Lenzerheide. While this is a nice journey, you would miss the most dramatic part of the Glacier Express over the Landwasser Viaduct in the Albula Valley. Instead of taking the bus, you can easily connect to the Glacier Express by taking the regular train from Davos Platz to Filisur (or visa versa);
- Non-smoking train;
- Both classes offer practically the same service, comfort and panoramic windows, though first class provides more leg room and less seats per coach;
- Freshly prepared food on board; dining at your seat. Snacks, drinks and à la carte or "plat de jour" for lunch;
- Headphones: Information in six languages and a music program.
Tickets and Rail passes
All the following passes and cards are valid on the Glacier Express. However, the reservation fee is not included. And of course, you will have to pay extra for food and drink:
- The Glacier Express Journey is included in all Swiss Travel Passes;
- Half Fare Card holders receive a 50% discount on regular tickets;
- Free with Half Fare Card and 1-Day Travel pass;
- Free with Swiss Transfer Ticket on transfer days;
- Free with the Adventure Card Upper Valais-Uri-Grisons/Graubünden;
- Eurailpass Holders: 25% discount on regular tickets. You can buy the ticket at the train station or upgrade in the train itself;
- Family Card: All children accompanied by a parent or grand-parent travel for free up to 15 years of age (one day short of their 16st birthday);
- Wheelchair accessible: If you are wheelchair bound at all times please call +41 (0)27 927 7000 or email for reservations. However, if you are not confined to your wheelchair during the journey you can reserve your seat through the link below;
- Dogs welcome: tickets cost 50% of the regular fare and seat reservation applies. Lap-dogs up to 30 cm hight at the shoulder and travelling in a basket or bag are free. If you want a seat for your lap-dog you have to make a reservation.
Best Time to Travel with the Glacier Express
If you ask me, it would be October and smack dab in the middle of winter - between January and end of February. The brilliant fall colours - golden larch and deep blue sky combined with a magical light in the Engadin and Goms valleys - make this trip even more awesome. The glistening masses of snow in mid-winter are fairy tale stuff!
Mid-winter Glacier Express journey
Of course, summer is a beautiful time too, but it's quite touristy. I would not recommend the journey in March and April. Although there are still masses of snow in higher regions - which is beautiful - the lower regions of these route can still be a bit dreary with patches of snow or bare grounds and leafless deciduous forests.
You can reserve a seat as early as 90 days before you travel. It's recommended to make a reservation as early as possible in peak travel months. For seat reservations click here.
Are you interested in a small guided tour - hotels and all - instead of organizing the trip yourself? Check out our offer!
- Summer: 3 times daily Zermatt to St. Moritz and back (if coming from Davos by regular train, connect in Filisur);
- Winter: 1 time daily from and to Zermatt/St. Moritz (change of trains in Filisur for Davos) and a 1 daily train from Brig to Chur and visa-versa. Check the current time table here.
- Consider travelling in first class in peak season since second class can be full to the last seat. Rail passes second class can be upgraded for this day trip, either at the train station or in the Glacier Express directly;
- If you want to save on food, bring your own snacks, lunch and drinks;
- If you are pressed for time, consider travelling only certain sections, for example: St. Moritz - Brig, St. Moritz - Andermatt, Chur - St. Moritz and so on. However, you might not be able to make seat reservations online on all partial sections in advance;
- Regular trains operate on the exact same route. You won't enjoy panorama windows, but you experience the same views only with way less tourists on board. No reservation necessary. What's more, you can stop along the route - stay for a few hours or overnight. Visit the medieval city of Chur with its Bishop seat, cobbled streets and numerous fountains; Disentis/Mustér with its impressive monastery, beautiful hikes to the source of the Rhine, excellent ski slopes in winter; Andermatt for outstanding off-the-beaten-path skiing; delightful villages in the Goms - such as Fiesch, Betten and Ernen (just to name a few) close to the Aletsch Arena are all worth some extra time;
- Combine a ski holiday with a scenic train ride. For example start in St. Moritz, and then head to Davos and later to Zermatt. In between take a day off and travel in style in the Glacier Express between these famous Swiss ski resorts;
- On the route between Chur and St. Moritz sit to the right in driving direction and you will have a good view when the train disappears into the Landwasser Viaduct shortly after Alvaneu.
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