The is one of Switzerland's most famous train excursions. The Glacier Express, which has been operating since 1930, is billed as "the world's slowest express train" and averages 36 km/h (22 mph) during the approximately 7½-hour trip journey on its most popular route, Zermatt to St. Moritz or vice versa.
The 275 km miles (169 miles) of narrow-gauge track are punctuated by 291 bridges and 91 tunnels. Trains reach a peak elevation of 2,033 meters (6,670 feet) at the Oberalp Pass near Andermatt and traverse the 15-km (9.5-mile) Furka Tunnel, which takes a shortcut beneath the Alps between Andermatt and Brig.
Rolling stock varies from train to train. State-of-the-art "Glacier Express Premium" trains, which were introduced in 2006, have new panorama cars in First and Second Class (available for a higher surcharge). Other trains use conventional cars in First Class and panorama cars in Second Class.
Passengers on Glacier Express Premium trains can have meals served at seats or in the dining cars; on the standard trains, meals are served in the dining cars only, where angled-stem wineglasses help to prevent spilling during the steeper portions of the journey. All trains have Railbar carts that sell box lunches, salads, hot and cold drinks, etc. (Food and drink are not included in the fare.)
Timetable and routes
The Glacier Express used to be a summer-only train, but today it operates year-round. The summer timetable offers four trains per day; the winter schedule is more limited.
To make matters more complicated, not all Glacier Express trains go to St. Moritz. Some cover the Zermatt-Chur portion of the route, and you can also book a Glacier Express ticket between Zermatt and Davos via Chur. Consult the timetable at the Glacier Express Web site for details. (You'll find a link below.)
Tickets and rail passes
The one-way fare between Zermatt and St. Moritz was CHF 254 (first class) or CHF 145 (second class) in spring, 2013, when this article was last updated.
In addition to the fare, you'll pay a seat-reservation fee (CHF 13 in winter, CHF 33 in summer).
If you plan to travel elsewhere in Switzerland, you'll get a better deal by purchasing a Swiss rail pass from the Swiss Travel System or (in the U.S.) Rail Europe before you leave home. Swiss rail passes cover the entire fare, except for the obligatory surcharge. (In contrast, Eurailpass is good for only about half the route, so you'll need to buy a ticket for the remaining portion.)
Note: Swiss rail passes are also good on the yellow Postal Buses, which makes it easy to explore smaller villages from either end of the journey or--if you break your trip--from intermediate stations along the line.
Glacier Express Web links
Rhaetian Railway (Rhätische Bahn)
Swiss Rail Passes
Swiss Rail Passes
Photos copyright © Swiss Travel System.
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