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Switzerland: Riding the Glacier Express

The second train my husband and I took was the Glacier Express, also known humorously as “The slowest express train in the world” (the route takes 8 hours). It is a wonderful train ride that takes you through some of the most remote towns and villages across the Swiss Alps, and drops you off at the end in Zermatt, a town famous for its skiing and spectacular views of Mt. Matterhorn. The Glacier Express starts in St. Moritz, but if you’ve already taken the Bernina Express, you actually should hop on the Glacier Express at Chur as the Glacier Express goes up the same route as Bernina Express.

St. Moritz is one of Switzerland’s most famous skiing resorts and truly the playground of the rich.

Oh did I mention we packed light? My backpack and the two duffel bags he is carrying are everything that we brought with us

In the early morning we had some time before the train departed, and we took the bus through downtown St. Moritz where there were beautiful hotels and fabulous designer stores. Then on top of a parking lot, we found this amazing view of the lake (currently frozen), mountain, and city. Click on the picture to see it full-size

The Glacier Express also has wonderful panoramic cabins for you to enjoy all the sights

It also has a bar car…. which apparently is being sponsored by Tag Heuer

And here’s the menu

We’re off! The next 3 photos show us going over the same route as Bernina Express

The 6 cars in the front of the train are actually commuter cars, and become removed once the cogwheel engine is attached to the train

Then we turned into the Rhone river valley

To climb into the Alps, a cogwheel engine was swapped in to take us the rest of the way and the commuter cars are removed. According to the altitude profile, the train changes elevations from a low of 585m (1,919 feet) above sea level at Chur to a high of 2,033m (6,670 feet) above sea level at Oberalppass. At such a gradation, the train would slide backwards without the cogwheel gripping onto the “teeth” of the tracks

Up into the Alps we go!

Matterhorn is the 5th tallest Swiss mountain, but it has one of the most striking silhouettes with its aggressive horn-like summit thrust into the sky. Unfortunately it’s better photographed in the morning from Zermatt

The goat pictured here that is half white, half black, is unique to this region

The cute town of Zermatt does not allow motor vehicles. Everyone gets around this by driving gigantic golf carts

Travel Tips

How to book: The Glacier Express accepts the Swiss Pass. You can visit here, and click “Timetable & Tickets” to book. I highly recommend Chur – Zermatt as your route. You need to make a seat reservation in addition to buying a ticket. If you have a Swiss Pass, you only need to book a seat reservation.

Sightseeing: Everything you need to know about main sights on the train will be announced by a tour guide through headphones provided for you. If you wish to visit any of the towns along the route, then you need to book several train segments as the train only stops for a couple minutes at each station. Zermatt takes only about 1 hour to explore, so book a ticket out of Zermatt to Interlaken on your way out.

Food: The Glacier Express offers snacks, a meal, and a bar throughout the trip, but it is an expensive experience as I’ve shown above. Before embarking, visit the Coop Pronto inside the Chur train station for all the food you’d need for the entire trip. There is also a Migros in Zermatt when you arrive where you can get more groceries. If you wish to purchase food on the train, they accept credit cards.

Miscellaneous: Wear sunglasses! Like the Bernina Express, the sun and snow reflecting off of each other through the train can be intense.

Where to stay: If you do decide to stay in St. Moritz, there are no shortage of 4, 5 star hotels starting at $600 a night. The only affordable option is the one and only youth hostel. They provide hot breakfast and dinner, great internet, and gorgeous common areas. It is quite literally the last building in the town, and if you arrive late evening, you may have to walk the ~1.5 miles around the lake to the hostel as the buses stop running and taxis are very expensive.

Don’t forget the SBB App for traveling on trains within Switzerland.

Don’t miss these related blog posts

1. How to travel well on a budget

2. Switzerland: Lucern, Basel, Bern, Zurich, and Geneva

3. Switzerland: Riding the Bernina Express

4. Switzerland: Riding the Glacier Express

5. Interlaken, Thun, GoldenPass train, and flying business class on SWISS

6. Lyon in 10 hours

7. Paris: Museums and Eats

8. Paris: The Beautiful City

9. Versailles Palace

I was able to take this trip in part because I won the ‘Feel the Music’ Facebook Contest from SWISS and Switzerland Tourism! Remember, SWISS is a great way to fly from the US to Switzerland!

Shang Chen Photography has rebranded to Saavedra Photography
Based in NYC | Open for select photography commissions on Sundays only

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April 22, 2014 - 1:33 pm

Fong The scenery is just awe-inspiring. I am gonna put this train ride in my bucket list. :)

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