Glacier Express

Glacier Express

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After Haut route trek I spent 2 nights in Zermatt. From Zermatt I traveled by Glacier express to St. Mortiz.

Glacier Express On the way

There are four sections from Zermatt to St- Mortiz.

Section 1: Zermatt to Brig

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The journey starts near the Matterhorn, in the car free mountain village of Zermatt, at an altitude of 1605 m. The Matter valley leads to the town of Visp and is quite narrow at many places, with massive rock walls rising up to well over 4000 m. The highest peaks of the Swiss Alps can be found in this region. Once Visp has been reached, the train has decended to 651 m. A short flat stretch leads to Brig.

Food in Glacier Express
Food on-board 

Section 2: Brig to Andermatt

The train crosses the river Rhone a few minutes after departure from Brig, and continues its way east into the Upper Rhone valley. Again, the V-shaped valley is very narrow sometimes. At end of the valley, in Oberwald, the train has reached an altitude of 1366 m.

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Since 1925, a railroad across the Furka Pass leads from Oberwald to Realp. The mountains caused quite some engineering difficulties to this stretch, and it couldn’t be crossed in Winter. In 1982, a tunnel to Realp was opened to bypass the pass, making the train service much more reliable. The old pass railway was closed, but it was reopened in 2010 for touristic steam trains. The Glacier Express continues to use the tunnel though. From Realp, a fairly flat stretch leads to Andermatt.

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Section 3: Andermatt to Chur

Andermatt, at 1436 m, is where the Oberalp Pass begins. The Glacier Express winds its way upwards to 2034 m, the highest point of this journey. This is where the river Rhine rises. The bare landscape up here is usually covered in snow from November to April. The road is closed during that period.

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Next up is a long descent along the Rhine valley to Chur, at 585 m. Chur is the lowest point of the route. The landscape looks very dramatic in the Rhine gorge between Ilanz and Reichenau, where the river carved deep into the white rocks. This region is also referred to as the ‘Swiss Grand Canyon’. After Reichenau, the train will reach Chur, the capital of the canton of Graubünden and the largest town along the route.

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Section 4: Chur to St. Moritz

The final section overlaps with the first section of the Bernina Express. The Glacier Express changes direction and heads for Reichenau again. There it bends to the south, towards Thusis and Tiefencastel. This Domleschg valley is know for its many ruins and castles.

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The Glacier Express continues south through a mostly narrow valley, crossing the spectacular curved Landwasser viaduct just before it reaches Filisur. After Filisur, several spiral loops help it gain height until it reaches the entrance of the Albula tunnel, at 1789 m. This section of the route is very interesting to explore on foot as well.

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The Albula tunnel leads to the high Upper Engadine valley. The Glacier Express reached its destination St. Moritz after another 20 minutes.

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