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SWISS RAIL TOURS - GLACIER EXPRESS

These tours can be added into any European tour itinerary of your choice or enjoyed on their own (with extra nights in each resort if you wish) All itineraries can be travelled in either direction.

GLACIER EXPRESS 

Travel on Europe’s “Slowest Express Train” and one of its best known, the legendary Glacier Express linking the fashionable resorts of St Moritz and Zermatt via a truly amazing route through the heart of the Swiss Alps.  Starting from one of the continent’s most exclusive resorts, St Moritz, your journey includes the twisting spiralling Albula route – a World Heritage Site – the spectacular climb to the Oberalp Pass, the vertiginous descent into Andermatt and the spectacular climb to the “chocolate box” village resort of Zermatt at the foot of the mighty Matterhorn, perhaps the world’s most recognised mountain.

DAY
1

Arrival in St Moritz area for an overnight stay.  If time permits, why not browse the classy shops in the centre of town, marvel at the surrounding mountains or take a ride on a cable car to one of the summits for a spectacular sunset panorama. 

OPTIONAL EXTRA: BERNINA RAILWAY – You may choose to add a day based in St Moritz and ride another of Europe’s finest trains, the Bernina Express, crossing the highest “adhesion worked” railway route on the continent without “rack wheel” assistance and taking in the spectacular descent into Italian speaking Switzerland and the open air spiral loop at Brusio where the train travels over itself on an amazing circular viaduct as well as more fabulous mountain views.

DAY
2

After breakfast this morning take your seat for a spectacular day’s journey through green pastures and high alpine meadows, across tumbling streams, past mighty glaciers and through epic tunnels on board Europe’s “slowest express train” the world famous Glacier Express.

The Glacier Express is built to operate on special narrow gauge track which facilitates the tortuous twisting that enables the train to negotiate the most difficult geographical obstacles along the way. Your journey commences on the track of the Rhaetian Railway which serves this fascinating corner of Switzerland, the Graubuenden, where the ancient Romantsch tongueSwitzerland’s fourth official language,  is still spoken.  Sit back and relax in the specially adapted panoramic carriages, with their enormous windows giving you a superb view of the passing scene, as the train leaves the high valley of the Engadin and plunges through the first long tunnel of the day beneath the Albula mountain range to commence the twisting turning descent down a route so spectacular that it has been awarded World Heritage status. The engineering feats which allow the railway to traverse the Albula valley are extraordinary, as the train loops and spirals back over its route, and travellers compete to see if they can spot where you pass the same spot two or three times in different directions at different levels!  The journey is almost continuously downhill for an hour or more until you reach the upper reaches of the River Rhine, one of Europe’s great rivers.  Here it is a tumbling mountain torrent and the Glacier Express follows up valley through the wild and romantic Ruinalta, a canyon of towering pinnacles so chaotic that no road can reach it and the train is alone amongst the majesty of nature.

As lunchtime approaches the Glacier Express transfers to the tracks of the Matterhorn Gottardbahn railway for the onward journey over the 2000 metre high Oberalp Pass, where snow is often present even in mid summer, and those who have chosen the on board lunch service will enjoy well prepared food in the comfort of their own seat. Soon the mountain resort of Andermatt can be seen far below in the valley and the  train, using “rack wheel “ assistance from an extra toothed track between the running rails, descends a winding and impossibly steep route to reach the town itself. Once again surrounded by snowcapped peaks and glaciers, the superb scenery continues before the darkness of the Furka tunnel and a gentle descent along the upper valley of another of Europe’s great rivers, the Rhone, before turning away for a final spectacular climb, the train clinging to the steep mountain sides as the valley narrows and the summits soar ever higher. Keep a look out for more glimpses of ice blue glaciers high above as you approach journey’s end  in one of Switzerland’s most delightful places, the wonderful car free resort of Zermatt, bidding a fond farewell to the Glacier Express. 

DAY
3

There’s plenty of time for a relaxing breakfast today before setting out to explore Zermatt and its truly stunning surroundings, including more than twenty peaks of over 4000 metres, none more famous than the remarkable Matterhorn, probably the most recognised mountain in the world with its amazing pyramid shape.  The best views of this truly iconic peak are from your included ride on the Gornergrat mountain railway which climbs from the centre of the town to the sensational location at Gornergrat itself, where the amazing views across the glaciers to the Matterhorn, the Monte Rosa (W. Europe’s second highest peak) and a host of other summits are amongst the most beautiful on the planet.   The energetic may choose to walk some or all of the way down to Zermatt on the excellent signposted trails but you can of course ride back down and either way keep an eye open for the Alpine wildlife; Ibex, Chamois and the cute Marmots can all be seen hereabouts.  Back in town there are a full range of excellent places to eat and drink – with or without more mountain views!

DAY
4

This morning rejoin the Matterhorn Gotthardbahn train for the descent to the Rhone Valley before changing to a mainline express for the onward journey to Montreux and Geneva.  The route remains delightfully scenic as the mountains gradually recede on either side of the fertile valley and it opens out into the beautiful surroundings of Lake Geneva, with vine clad slopes to one side and the mighty peaks of the Mont Blanc range to the other across the shimmering waters of the lake.  This section is known as the Swiss Riviera and you can see why as the train winds along just above the waters edge, past Montreux and the Olympic city of Lausanne en route to Geneva, where there’s time to explore this cosmopolitan city, see its famous giant fountain and historic cathedral and perhaps browse the many exclusive shops before a final overnight  hotel stay.

DAY
5

Continue your European journey or transfer for your homeward flight this morning.