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Introduction

The Glacier Express connects St Moritz to Zermatt, two major mountain resorts located near the Piz Bernina and the Matterhorn respectively. It is an 8-hour journey in a narrow gauge railway, which goes through 291 bridges and 91 tunnels across the Oberalp Pass reaching its highest point at 2,033 m altitude.  Jointly operated by the Matterhorn Gottard Bahn(MGB) and Rhaetian Railway(RhB) it passes along the Albula/Bernina area between St Moritz and Thusis which were added to the Unesco World Heritage Sites in 2008.


Its first operation under the actual name was made in 25 June 1930 between three railway companies, Brig-Visp-Zermatt Bahn, Furka-Oberalp Bahn and RhB, and until 1982 the Glacier Express only operated in the summer months, because in the winter the Furka Pass, a mountain pass between Andermatt in the Canton of Uri and Gletsch in the Canton of Valais, was covered in snow and rendered impassable. That changed in the 25th of June the same year, with the opening of the Furka Base Tunnel which allowed for an year round operation, since the decades before, the journey went through the Furka Summit Tunnel between Furka station and Muttbach-Belvédère ,which was part of the Furka-Oberalp(FO) line with trains running between Disentis and Brig.  As soon as snow started falling, everything above 1 metre had to be removed from the line to be "avalanche ready", which required a huge annual expenditure for this operation. This line was reopened in 2000 for the Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway , a heritage railway operating in the summer months.


BVZ, FO and RhB saw the opportunity to promote the Glacier Express as a tourist attraction and invested in new rolling stock. Today, the trains are composed by specially constructed panoramic cars to immerse passengers in the scenery, with announcements on the highlights along the journey. You can also use headphones to listen to everything about the route, with commentaries available in English, Chinese, French, German, Italian and Japanese.


On offer there is also a delicious menu prepared on board and served at your seat. If you are travelling in groups of more than ten people, reservations for lunch are compulsory. For less or individual passengers, reservations are recommended since menu availability is not guaranteed. You can book your menu at the Rhaetian Railway website

Glacier Express near St. Moritz.
Glacier Express near St. Moritz - Copyright by Rhaetische Bahn/Christopher Benz
Passing Trun
Passing Trun - Copyright by Rhaetische Bahn/Max Galli
On the Oberalp Pass
On the Oberalp Pass - Copyright by Rhaetische Bahn/Gaudenz Danuser
Over the Landwasser viaduct
Over the Landwasser viaduct - Copyright by Rhaetische Bahn/Andrea Badrutt
Beautiful views in the panoramic car
Beautiful views in the panoramic car - Copyright by Rhaetische Bahn/swiss-image.ch/MGB
A snow landscape in the Albula Valley
A snow landscape in the Albula Valley - Copyright by Rhaetische Bahn/Andrea Badrutt

The Journey

Glacier Express map

Starting from either Zermatt or St Moritz doesn't make a difference, since the journey is worth it to both eastbound or westbound. It is up to you to decide where to start or whatever is more convenient for you. In this article we will describe the journey starting from St Moritz.

St. Moritz to Chur

The train enters the Albula line, which links the spa resort of St Moritz (1,774m/5,820ft altitude) to Thusis (697m/2,287ft altitude). In this part of the journey, which is 61,67 kilometers long, the train goes through 55 bridges and 39 tunnels making it one of the most spectacular narrow gauge railways in the world. Highlights of this line are the Solis viaduct, the Landwasser viaduct and the helical tunnels between Preda and Bergun stations.

At the Albula valley
At the Albula valley - Copyright Rhaetische Bahn/Andrea Badrutt

The engineering masterpiece that was the construction of this line, is felt between these two villages with the many spirals that increase the track altitude in a short distance (400m/1,300ft for 5km/3mi). After reaching Filisur at the end of the Albula valley, the train passes on the Landwasser viaduct, one of the landmarks of this journey, continuing towards Thusis, reaching the Posterior Rhine and following to the city of Chur (585m/1,919ft)

Winter journey over the Landwasser viaduct
Winter journey over the Landwasser viaduct - Copyright Rhaetische Bahn/Andrea Badrutt
Chur to Andermatt

From Chur, the train follows the course of the Rhine Gorge, Switzerland´s Grand Canyon between the village of Reichenau and the municipality of Ilanz/Glion and is only accessible by foot, bike or train. This area is a good place to go hiking, biking or canoeing and rafting with several trails and activities to choose from. If you wish to find more info about holidays around the area go to https://www.flims.com/en/experience-resort/nature/rhine-gorge 

After passing Ilanz (698m/2,290ft), Disentis/Munster (1,142m/3,747ft) and Sedrum (1,404m/4,606ft), it reaches its summit in the Oberalp Pass at 2,033m/6,670ft, reaching the Canton of Uri in Central Switzerland and continuing down to Andermatt (1,447m/4,747ft)

Through the Rhine Gorge
Through the Rhine Gorge - Copyright Rhaetische Bahn/Tibert Keller
Andermatt to Zermatt

The final section of the journey goes into the Urserental valley passing the village of Hospental, then through the Furka Base Tunnel in the municipality of Realp, Canton of Uri to exit 15km ahead in the village of Oberwald, situated in the Canton of Valais. It was here that the old Glacier Express service used the old railway line which climbed the Furka Pass through the Furka Summit tunnel. Nowadays the Furka Base tunnel is also used to shuttle cars in the Furka car train.

From Oberwald, the train follows the Rhone Valley to Brig along the Rhone river and the scenery joined by the views of pretty villages and mountains makes for a winter fairytale or an inspiring Alps painting in the summer.

Above Andermatt
Above Andermatt

In Brig (678m/2,224ft), it is the start of the Brig-Visp-Zermatt Bahn (BVZ) which goes through the Mattertal valley until Zermatt.

Brig is the end of the Simplon Pass and a connection point for trains going to/from Milan and Italy. The journey continues to Visp (651m/2,136ft), then it enters the Mattertal valley and starts ascending, passing through the villages of Stalden (799m/2,621ft), St Niklaus (1,127m/3,698ft) and Randa (1,408m/4,619ft) before reaching Zermatt (1,616m/5,302ft) ending a spectacular 8 hour journey through some beautiful views along the swiss Alps. No matter if you travel in the winter or in the summer, you will have a great experience on board.

Timetables
Summer 2018 Winter 2017/8
Eastbound GEX 900 GEX 902 GEX 904(1) GEX 906 GEX 902

Zermatt

Brig

Fiesch

Andermatt

Disentis

Chur

St. Moritz

07:52 dep

09:18 dep

09:42 dep

10:54 dep

12:11 dep

13:26 arr

-

08:52 dep

10:18 dep

10:42 dep

11:54 dep

13:11 dep

14:32 dep

16:40 arr

09:52 dep

11:18 dep

11:42 dep

12:54 dep

14:11 dep

15:32 dep

17:40 arr

14:10 dep

15:54 dep

17:11 dep

18:58 dep

20:58 arr

08:52 dep

10:18 dep

10:42 dep

11:54 dep

13:11 dep

14:32 dep

16:40 arr


Summer 2018 Winter 2017/8
Westbound GEX 901 GEX 903 GEX 905(1) GEX 907 GEX 903

St. Moritz

Celerina

Samedan

Bergun

Filisur(3)

Tiefencastle

Thusis

Chur

Disentis

Andermatt

Brig

Zermatt

07:02 dep

07:05 dep

07:16 dep

07:47 dep

08:01 dep

08:15 dep

08:33 dep

09:26 dep

10:37 dep

12:08 dep

13:40 arr

-

09:15 dep

09:19 dep

09:25 dep

10:04 dep

10:17 dep

10:32 dep

10:50 dep

11:26 dep

12:37 dep

14:08 dep

15:45 dep

17:10 arr

10:19 dep

10:22 dep

10:28 dep

11:02 dep

11:17 dep

11:32 dep

11:50 dep

12:26 dep

13:37 dep

15:08 dep(2)

17:25 dep

18:10 arr

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

14:16 dep

15:37 dep

17:08 dep

18:45 dep

20:10 arr

09:15 dep

09:19 dep

09:25 dep

10:04 dep

10:17 dep

10:32 dep

10:50 dep

11:26 dep

12:37 dep

13:54 dep

15:45 dep

17:10 arr

The winter timetable goes from 10.12.2017 until 09.05.2018.

The summer timetable goes from 10.05.2018 until 14.10.2018

1) Runs from 01.05.2018

2) 01.05 to 09.05.2018 departes from Andermatt at 14:54

3) From/To Davos change trains at Filisur

Note: Between 15.10 to 09.12 2018 the Glacier Express wont be running.

Tickets and Rail Passes

As of January 2017, Interrail and Eurail passes are valid to travel in the whole journey. GA Travel card, Swiss Travel pass an day passes are also valid but every passenger, including pass holders must pay a seat reservation in full to secure their seat in the train. You can buy tickets at https://shop.glacierexpress.ch/gex_en. Prices are shown below:

Ticket Prices
2nd Class 1st Class
St.Moritz - Zermatt/Zermatt - St. Moritz 153 CHF / 154 USD / 130EUR 269 CHF / 272 USD / 229 EUR
Seat reservation fees
Prices

Low season (10.12.2017 - 29.03.2018)


Mid season (30.03 - 15.06 / 17.09 - 14.10.2018)


High season (16.06 - 16.09.2018)

23 CHF / 23 USD / 20 EUR


33 CHF / 33 USD / 28 EUR


43 CHF / 43 USD / 37 EUR

You can also eat on board, choosing between a three course lunch or the plate of the day:


Menu Price

Plate of the day


Three-course lunch

30 CHF / 30 USD / 25 EUR


43 CHF / 43 USD / 37 EUR

Places to visit

St Moritz and Zermatt are close to two well known mountains, the Piz Bernina and the Matterhorn. Both municipalities offer plenty to do throughout the year with plenty of activities to choose from. You can also visit other villages or cities around like Andermatt, Flims, LAAX or Brig.

St Moritz

St Moritz is one of the most famous holiday destinations in the world. Lots of leisure and sporting activities like skiing, snowboarding in the winter and mountain biking, hiking or lake swimming in the summer to choose from. Rest in one of the grand hotels and delight yourself in a star-rated restaurant. Find more info at https://www.stmoritz.ch/en/

St. Moritz panorama

Zermatt

At the other end of the journey there is Zermatt. With the famous Matterhorn in sight, you can take the Gornergrat Bahn for an unique view of the mountain. Winter activities like skiing and snowboarding, sunbath at the Leisee Lake in the summer or photography points around are activities you can enjoy. For more info check https://www.zermatt.ch/en

Matterhorn

Flims

Flims, located in the canton of Graubunden, is also in the region of the Rhine Gorge. Visit Sardona, a Unesco World Heritage where you can learn how the Alps were formed, do rafting or go around the Lake Caumasee on a E-bike that you can rent. For more info visit https://www.flims.com/en

Lake Caumasee

Davos

Davos is the highest city in Europe and with plenty to do up there. From Tobogganing (sledging), to fat bikes on the snow, museums, art galleries and nightlife it is a place not to be missed if you take the Glacier Express. Catch theGlacier Express Bus to connect to the slowest express train in the world. More info at https://www.davos.ch/en/

Winter in Davos

Where to sleep

The links above concerning each region or city, offer plenty of info for accomodation but if you wish to search in other websites, visit www.booking.com or www.hotels.com.

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