Scenic Trains of Europe Series: Riding The Glacier Express & Gornergrat Bahn

glacier express

Glacier Express traveling through scenic Switzerland

Enjoy the next installment of our Scenic Trains of Europe blog series covering some of Europe’s finest scenic trains. Over the course of the next several months the CEOs of these train services will share an insider’s perspective of how their service began, and also give you birds-eye views of some of the stunning vistas you can see when you travel on their trains.

At the end of each post, we’ll ask a trivia question and you’ll have 1-week to answer on Rail Europe’s Facebook page. From all correct answers, one winner will be selected to receive a complimentary iPod Touch, an approximate retail value of $229. Please note – the trivia contest for this post has ended.

 

glacier express

Fernando Lehner, CEO of the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn & Gornergrat Bahn

Glacier Express & Gornergrat Bahn With Fernando Lehner

Travel on the famous Swiss mountain railways from St. Moritz/Davos to Zermatt, from Piz Bernina to the Matterhorn or vice versa and you’ll experience an awe-inspiring railway journey of 8 hours across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and across the 6,700 feet high Oberalp Pass. This panoramic trip through the Alps in the heart of Switzerland is such an easy, relaxing and spectacular way to explore the Swiss Alps.

How did your railway get started?

Since 1930, the Glacier Express has traveled the beautiful route between the alpine Graubünden (Switzerland’s easternmost region) and the sunny Valais region with its glacier landscapes, beautiful mountains, rivers and valleys in between. Travel in comfort through unspoiled natural beauty of a landscape rich in ancient, fragrant mountain forests, peaceful alpine meadows, rushing mountain streams and mountain valleys, that is soaked in tradition and a centuries-old culture.

Glistening mountains in summer; a fairy-tale landscape deep in snow in winter; a magical carpet of flowers in spring; a splendid tapestry of color in autumn…all seen while riding the Glacier Express, one of the world’s most famous train journeys. It’s a fantastic experience at any time of the year!

A lesser-known railway than the Glacier Express is the Gornergrat Bahn but both railways are a perfect complement to each other. Departing from Zermatt, this “little brother” to the Glacier Express travels up the 10,000+ feet high Gornergrat peak. From there, the famous Matterhorn seems almost touchable. And you don’t need to be a mountaineer to appreciate these giant peaks – thanks to the Gornergrat train, the stunning mountainscape can be experienced even in high heels! My dream is for journeys on the Glacier Express and the Gornergrat Bahn to, one day, be mentioned in the same breath as the Matterhorn, and to remain linked inseparably together in the minds of people.

gornergrat bahn

Gornergrat Bahn ascending the top of the mountain.

Can you provide us with a description of your scenic train route?

Both railways offer a number of highlights; it is extremely difficult to pick only a few favorites! The entire Glacier Express ride is a spectacular train journey through breathtaking and unique mountain scenery between the world-famous mountain resorts of St. Moritz/Davos and Zermatt. On board, travelers will marvel at the passing scenery and can listen on headphones to relevant narratives in 6 languages (German, English, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese). Additionally, we realize that there are two important things which people cannot live without – eating and drinking! – so during your 7-hour trip on-board the Glacier Express you can also be pampered with a 3-course Swiss-style meal or the dish of the day served at your seat.

Let the Gornergrat modern cog railway take you to its summit station to soak up panoramic views exceeding all hyperbole of the Alps. You are surrounded by 29 mountains above 13,000 feet including the Monte Rosa massif, Switzerland’s highest peak the Dufourspitze, the Gorner Glacier (the 3rd longest glacier in the Alps) and, of course, the Matterhorn in all its glory.

Oberalp Pass with an open-top heritage observation car and the Belle Époque party car.

Oberalp Pass with an open-top heritage observation car and the Belle Époque party car.

Are there any special tips you can provide travelers, in order to have the best experience?

Anyone wishing to experience something quite remarkable can conquer the Oberalp Pass in an open-top train. The Oberalp Openair Express between Andermatt and Disentis operates across the Oberalp Pass with an open-top heritage observation car and the Belle Époque party car to offer an unforgettable experience.

And for those who prefer a little athletics to their outings, from September 12th through the 14th this year, the first Gornergrat Swiss Wrestling Festival will be held complete with a jam-packed program of supporting events. This is an event definitely not to be missed!

Trivia Question:

What is the highest point along the Glacier Express route?

  • Will Ellingham

    When I click on the link I get a blank page with your header… nothing about the contest. A shame, as I know the answer. I´ve ridden both trains mentioned with my EurailPass.

  • akoos

    Will, you can go directly to our Facebook page and click the Scenic Trains Sweeps icon found on the left-hand side of the page, this should take you to the entry form. https://www.facebook.com/raileurope. I’ve tested the link found in the post and have not encountered any problem with it. You must have a Facebook account and “like” Rail Europe in order to enter the sweepstakes.

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