Switzerland’s Glacier Express from incomparable Zermatt to glamorous St Moritz is one of, if not the World’s most scenic alpine rail journeys. It’s a must do experience in any season, but for skiers winter is obviously the best time to hop on board for the trip of a lifetime.
It’s a great start or finish to a Swiss snow trip, or as an in between, and not just from Zermatt to St Moritz. Why not stop at other classic areas like Andermatt? Our view of Andermatt while crossing the highest point of the journey over the 2,033m Oberalp Pass sure made us want to come back and try it on our next Swiss ski trip, and that was just the largest of numerous ski areas you pass along the way, big and small. I wanted to hop off numerous times, it reels like you can just jump out the panoramic windows.
We started from Zermatt, having checked our ski and boot bags in and got our SWISS boarding passes for the flight home from Zurich at the station the night before (it costs CHF 22 per bag, well worth it), so we travelled with just our carry on bags.
That meant kicking back and relaxing to enjoy the passing spectacle from the comfort of the Glacier Express panoramic window seats.
So I hadn’t had too much chance to check out the views as the roads demand your attention. It was a nice change to be on a train, winding down past waterfalls, old farmhouses, historic villages and of course glimpsing ever present towering peaks made life easy. Good coffee, a nice lunch, and a well earned beer in the afternoon helped.
The Swiss Travel System is certainly the more relaxing way to travel around Switzerland, including a vast array of trains, buses and boats. If we hadn’t been on such a tight schedule we would have been happy to go with it for the whole journey. Passes go from $AUD 355 (Dec 2019).
The Glacier Express route orignally opened as a summer journey way back in 1930, and for winter since 1982. The famous Glacier Express panorama trains starting in 1993. You can do it in sections, and with planning use it as key to enjoy several resorts.
The route takes you over the watershed between two of Europe’s greatest river systems, the Rhône and Rhine, and past the headwaters of both.
A couple of main stops are included along the Glacier Express trip. This includes half an hour at fascinating Disentis, the largest Romansch speaking town in Switzerland. Romansch is Switzerland’s 4th official language, and seeing the hidden valley ringed by high peaks that funnel into the Rhine Gorge it’s easy to see how a whole language developed here over centuries of isolation. The stop also gives you time to stretch the legs and pick up some souvenirs.
The Glacier Express route presents numerous amazing engineering feats. Spiral tunnels that pop out over curved viaducts with absolute precision are my favourite. Without modern laser aids, never mind tunneling machines, you wonder how they managed it.
We didn’t have time to go all the way on the Glacier Express to St Moritz, changing at Chur for a regular Zurich express – a scenic ride in its own right.
Thanks to checking the ski bags in at Zermatt we have a few hours to check out the fascinating old city and shops there, including the fascinating market in the station, before the short trip to the airport.