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The Glacier Express, Switzerland

Glacier Express

The Glacier Express, Switzerland

story by: Mike Williams

Sometimes travelling to a destination is as much about the journey to get there as the destination itself. This is surely the case with the Glacier Express in Switzerland, one of the most famous and scenic rail journeys in the world. When one thinks of Switzerland, the imagination conjures images of beautiful, untouched landscapes of snow-capped mountains, gorges, valleys, and even glaciers. Well, over 7.5 hours and 290 km the Glacier Express showcases all of it, combining the romanticism of a train journey and unobstructed panoramic views as it meanders through the Swiss Alps. The trip even includes no less than 91 tunnels and 291 bridges.

The route, which usually operates at least twice a day, even in winter, travels between St. Moritz, a resort town in the Engadine valley, and Zermatt in Valais, Switzerland. In between you’ll enjoy sights of Rhône Valley, the Rhine Gorge, and of course the iconic Landwasser Viaduct. There are also stops at Andermatt, Disentis, Reichenau, and Chur. Along the route, the Glacier Express traverses the Oberalp Pass, which at 2,033 metres above sea level is the highest point of the route.

Much of the journey takes place on the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes. The railway allowed easy access to isolated alpine settlements and had to overcome huge technical challenges in being built. As such, in 2008 the Rhaetian Railway was placed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to its cultural significance. However, the beauty of the journey ensures it would not look out of place due to its natural significance either.

The journey perhaps takes more from the ‘glacier’ part of its name than the ‘express’ in terms of speed, as it is considered to be the slowest express train in the world. Chugging along at an average speed of just under 40km per hour, one look at the views outside and you’ll wish the train was travelling even slower.

Inside, you’ll find the Glacier Express clean, comfortable, and modern. The seating is based around tables. In second class, there are four seats around each table, while in first class there are either two or four seats to a table depending on the side of the aisle. Best of all, there are glass skylights in the ceiling and huge panoramic side windows to take in the wonderful sights.

As the Swiss mountain scenery rolls past, you can enjoy a wine or beer from the food service car, as well as other drinks, snacks, or a complete meal. You can even bring your own picnic.

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Map Image (on left) Source: wikipedia.org

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