St Moritz to Zermatt: Glacier Express

Back in the 1970s school excursions to Melbourne’s famous St Moritz Ice Skating rink on the St Kilda Esplanade were a treat. That famous rink burned down long ago. I never imagine I’d be at the real St Moritz forty years later!

Glacier Express route through Switzerland

From Munich we caught the train to St Margarethen then another train to St Moritz, bypassing Zurich and skirting the border of Lichtenstein.

The focus of our Switzerland experience was the Glacier Express. It would have been great to get some skiing in, but that would have to wait for another lifetime!

Our accommodation in St Moritz was a basic B&B and one of the cheapest places in town, but still more expensive than other places we’ve stayed at 96 Euros per night. The room was warm and clean with a big soft king size bed and a full breakfast the next morning. I filled up on yoghurt, muesli, boiled egg, toast and coffee and bought some goodies from the Coop supermarket to make up a couple of easy salad rolls for the trip.

The panoramic views from the Glacier Express (“The slowest fast train in the world”) takes us from the posh ski town of St Moritz at 1775m, across spectacular viaducts, helical and spiral tunnels. The impressive Landwasser Viaduct leads a curved path and carries on down to the town of Chur, one of the oldest cities in Switzerland and at 585m above sea level. Through the Rhine Gorge we scale to a height of 2033m at the Oberalpass – the highest point of the journey then it snakes its way down to Brig at 670m then up again to Zermatt at 1604m and the foot of the Matterhorn (4478m).

Headphones are provided and commentary on the history of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are pointed out as we make our way over 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels. Only a couple of people joined at St Moritz, followed by more at Chur and so on.

The panoramic first class carriage was empty except for us  – despite having to reserve the last two seats in that class (others joined in much later into the trip). The booking price of €46 is on top of the Interrail Pass but worth it for a comfortable ride.

Looking up at gondolas

The highest pass at 2033m was a whiteout and the snow was blinding. The train rattled fast down the valley through a long dark tunnel towards Brig some 1400m below. It’s quite odd to be on a train looking up at the ski resort gondolas overhead. Along the way are many small local ski fields.

We arrived at the busy ski village of Zermatt. The trains run regularly to Bern via Visp and takes around two hours. With some time up our sleeves, we jumped off the train and walked swiftly to a place where we could get good views of the Matterhorn one of the highest peaks in the Alps at 4,478m.

Strategically placing the empty box of Toblerone into the view, I took a photo of the Matterhorn with the Toblerone bear and mountain in the shot! Looks great!

That night we would stay in Berne so quickly jumped on the next train to the capital of Switzerland.