Hello from St. Moritz!

Today is all about the Glacier Express, a scenic train through the Swiss Alps between Zermatt and St. Moritz. This train is considered a bucket list item by many and has accolades aplenty. Will it live up to these expectations?

The exterior of the train is rather ordinary for Switzerland.

A red and white passenger train parked at a station platform with tactile paving on the ground.

But the interior, that’s something incredible.

Interior of a luxury passenger train with spacious seating, large panoramic windows, and a scenic view of green, forested hills and a small town.

A train bar carriage with a compass rose on the ceiling, a counter with bottles, and a window showing another train outside.

I’m riding in what they call the Excellence Class. Here, every seat is at these picture windows with a table. You are served a six course meal with wine pairing as the trip progresses. It’s excessively luxurious, but this is likely a once in a lifetime thing, so I thought it was worth the splurge.

A magazine cover titled “EXCELLENCE MAGAZINE” featuring a photograph of a stone bridge with a train crossing, with the caption “Window to the Swiss Alps” and the Glacier Express logo, indicating routes from St. Moritz/Davos - Zermatt.

Here’s a few facts and figures from the Excellence Magazine that was provided to us:

  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Jungfrau-Aletsch and Albula & Bernini Line
  • Route length: 291 kilometers
  • 291 bridges
  • 42 km/h avg speed
  • From 584 to 2,033 meters above sea level
  • 45 m^2 windows in each carriage
  • 91 tunnels
  • In operation since 1930
  • Steepest gradient: 12.5%
  • 31.9km cog wheel stretch

But forget the numbers, let’s talk about the views. The landscapes quickly became impressive. A lot of the advertising shows this train in winter, but I’m glad that I was able to take it in the spring, as the green fields with wildflowers against the snow capped mountains made for stunning view after stunning view.

I’m very sorry that these photos do not do it justice. You’ll have to take my word for it. Or, better yet, come and experience the Glacier Express for yourself!

A vibrant field of yellow flowers with a backdrop of towering mountains and a clear blue sky, taken from behind a window as evidenced by light reflections visible across the image.

A picturesque view of a mountainous village with snow-capped peaks in the background, green hills in the foreground, buildings scattered throughout, and a clear sky above.

Here we have one of the first highlight landscapes: The Oberalp Pass, which is 2,033 meters above sea level. Here you see the Oberalp Lake.

A glacier with a snow-covered surface featuring meltwater pools against a backdrop of mountain slopes and a clear blue sky.

Near the pass is, surprisingly enough, this lighthouse. This lighthouse marks the source (well, one of) the Rhine river. It’s a smaller scale exact copy of the lighthouse in Rotterdam where the Rhine meets the sea!

A red-roofed lighthouse-style building labeled “Infocenter” perched on a snow-covered landscape with mountainous terrain in the background.

When I booked this trip, I did not expect to see the origin of these famous rivers. In Lyon, the Rhône river passes through the city. The train route from Lyon to Geneva to Brig follows the Rhône river valley and we saw the headwaters of this river as well. So incredible! Not to mention the milky blue color of the water, which my train neighbor told me is due to the glacial melt water mixed with the mineral content of the mountains.

The next highlight is the Rhine Gorge, which we are told is known as the “Swiss Grand Canyon.” I’m not sure about that comparison, but it was an incredible sight that stood out from the other landscapes. This photo really doesn’t do it justice.

A serene landscape featuring a turquoise river in the foreground with lush greenery on its banks and dramatic, rocky mountains in the background, all under a slightly cloudy sky.

We had a short stop at a station to switch out engines. So, I took an opportunity to photograph engine 626.

A red train locomotive with the number 626 parked at a train station, with mountains and a cloudy sky in the background.

A few more scenic village views before our next highlight.

A serene landscape with a small church on a hill, plowed fields in the foreground, and snow-capped mountains in the background.

A picturesque village nestled at the base of a mountain range with a prominent peak against a blue sky with fluffy clouds. A road winds through vibrant green fields leading towards the village center, characterized by traditional buildings and a church with a tall steeple.

The final highlight on the trip is the Landwasser Viaduct. It was built in 1902 and stands 65 meters tall. It is considered an architectural masterpiece. Again, the photos do not do it justice and, honestly, the best views would have been from outside the train rather than on it. But I do think it was cool that we could catch a glimpse of the forward carriages of our train as we made the crossing.

A train crossing a tall, stone arch bridge against a backdrop of steep, rocky slopes and trees under a partly cloudy sky.

Not too long after the viaduct, we pulled into the platform at St. Moritz.

A red and white electric train at a platform with overhead power lines, a pantograph raised to connect with the electric supply, and other trains in the background.

Thank you, Glacier Express, for an incredible experience! So, does it live up to the hype? Yes, I think so. I don’t think I’ll ever experience anything quite like this anywhere else. The views were amazing. The train interior was over the top luxury. The service was great. The food, hands down the best I’ve ever had on a mode of transportation. It was certainly high-end restaurant level of food. And the wine pairings (all Swiss wines, I believe) were very good as well.

The view in St. Moritz immediately outside the train station. A scenic view of a lake with a town in the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the background under a blue sky with clouds.

And here’s the view from my room. It’s perfectly on theme for this whole trip and somewhat accidental, as I didn’t realize it overlooked the station. A train station with red trains, a lake, a forest, and snow-capped mountains in the background.

Tomorrow, I’ll explore St. Moritz! I believe there’s a cog railway up the mountain that I’ll most likely visit.