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Glacier Express or Bernina Express: Which is better?

Last Updated on March 26, 2024 by Darla Uhl

Switzerland is a country with many historical monuments and vibrant towns. But people come to visit Switzerland largely because of its natural beauty. From grassy lands, snowy peaks, rivers, wine fields, and glaciers – the list is quite long. And one of the best ways to discover all these beautiful landscapes is to do it via train. Two of the more popular trains are Glacier Express and Bernina Express.

In this article, I would like to do a comparison of these two trains and their routes. And then you can decide which one is better for you – is it Glacier Express or Bernina Express?

Route: Glacier Express or Bernina Express

Glacier Express Route

Glacier Express is the slowest express train in the world.

Image of Glacier Express in Zermatt by TouringSwitzerland.com

Glacier Express is a long journey that starts from Zermatt, home of Matterhorn. It then traverses 291 bridges and 91 tunnels before stopping in St. Moritz. Both Zermatt and St. Moritz are beautiful mountain resorts worthy of a longer stay.

Image of Zermatt by TouringSwitzerland.com

In this other article, we compare them and see how they stack against each other – St. Moritz or Zermatt: Which One Is More Impressive?

The Glacier Express passes by several idyllic mountain villages. After departing Zermatt, it heads via St. Niklaus and Kipfen Gorge to Brig.

Image of Stockalper Palace in Brig by TouringSwitzerland.com

Brig is a historic alpine town in Canton Valais that sits at the foot of Simplon Pass. It has a castle from the 17th century. The town is also near Aletsch Glacier – the largest glacier in the Alps.

After Brig, Glacier Express moves on to Fiesch. (Fiesch is also a good starting point to visit Aletsch Glacier). Then the journey moves higher in altitude – close to 400 meters. The next interesting point is Andermatt.

Image of Schöllenen Gorge in Andermatt by TouringSwitzerland.com

Andermatt in the Ursern Valley is also a popular tourist destination – owing to its fine hotels (The Chedi!) and the Ski Arena. Ski Arena is the largest ski resort in Central Switzerland. It has over 100 kilometers of ski slopes spread across Andermatt, Sedrun, and Disentis. One of the many hiking trails north of Andermatt takes you to the Teufelsbrücke over the Schöllenen Gorge.

In case you want to visit Schöllenen Gorge nearby, you can check out this article: Discover Schöllenen Gorge and Devil’s Bridge in Andermatt, Switzerland.

Thereafter, it reaches Operalppass. Oberalppass has the highest altitude in this journey at 2,033 meters above sea level. Oberalppass is also the high mountain pass that connects the cantons Graubünden with Uri. As the train descends, it reaches the small town of Disentis. This village is part of the Ski Arena Andermatt-Sedrun region.

Image of Rhine Gorge by TouringSwitzerland.com

After journeying through Valais and Uri, you reach Graubünden. Soon, the train will be traversing the Rhine Gorge and the Landwasser Viaduct. Rhine Gorge is also called the “Grand Canyon of Switzerland”.

If you would like to read more about Rhine Gorge, you can check out our article Rhine Gorge – The Swiss Grand Canyon.

Image of Landwasser Viaduct by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Landwasser Viaduct area is one of the highlights of the journey. It is in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina landscape.

After the Landwasser Viaduct, it reaches Filisur. From Filisur, there is a possibility to leave this journey and go to Davos. But those who stay will be rewarded with beautiful scenery. As the train moves away from Albula and Bergün, it reaches the Engadine Valley.

If you would like to learn more about seeing the Landwasser Viaduct, you can check out this article: The Best Landwasser Viaduct Viewpoints and How to Get There.

Engadine is one of my favorite valleys in Switzerland. The train will pass by some Upper Engadine villages – Samedan and Celerina. The last stop is St. Moritz, a world-class and luxurious mountain resort at 1,775 meters above sea level.


Bernina Express Route

Bernina Express – the most beautiful experience of the Alps

Image of Bernina Express by TouringSwitzerland.com
Image of Bernina Express by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Bernina Express train route spans 196 bridges. It goes through 55 tunnels and passes 20 beautiful villages in Switzerland. 

Bernina Express is another train route that begins in Chur. Chur is the oldest alpine city in Switzerland. It has a charming old town, a Cathedral, several museums worth visiting, and its own local mountain.

Image of Chur by TouringSwitzerland.com

If you would like to learn more about Chur, you can read this article – Is Chur Worth Visiting? 8 Fun Things To Do In Chur.

Image of Bergün from the Train by TouringSwitzerland.com

This journey is also an amazing one. After beginning in Chur, it passes through the Domleschg – a region filled with castles. It then goes through the Schin Gorge and passes by the Solis Viaduct.

Image of the Landwasser Viaduct by TouringSwitzerland.com

Then it proceeds to the Albula Valley and Landwasser Viaduct. Similar to the Glacier Express, it passes through the same route. This is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Image of Upper Engadine Valley by TouringSwitzerland.com

Bernina Express passes through numerous tunnels, bridges, and inclines before reaching the Engadine Valley. In Engadine, it passes by Pontresina. This region is gorgeous. One of my favorite parts of this route of Bernina Express is this region – the Bernina massif. You will see the Morteratsch Glacier before proceeding to the highest stage. The highest stage is 2,253 meters high in Ospizio Bernina.

Image of Alp Grüm by TouringSwitzerland.com

Then it heads down into the Italian-speaking region of Graubünden via Alp Grüm before ending in Poschiavo. In Poschiavo, another interesting viaduct is present. This time it is a circular one called Brusio Circular Viaduct. The end of this journey is in Tirano, Italy.

From Tirano, there is a possibility to use the Bernina Express Bus which brings guests to Lugano. This route passes through the Valtellina region and Lake Como. Lugano is in Canton Ticino, Switzerland.


Train Journey: Glacier Express or Bernina Express

The Glacier Express train journey takes 7 hours and 45 minutes from Zermatt to St. Moritz. The route can also be done the other way around. So you are likely to need overnight accommodation in one of the two places.

The Bernina Express train journey takes around 4 hours and 21 minutes from Chur to Tirano, Italy. It leaves Chur at 8:32 AM. By 12:49 PM it is in Tirano. The train ride back to Chur leaves Tirano at 2:24 PM and arrives in Chur at 6:22 PM.

The bus from Tirano, Italy to Lugano takes an additional 3 hours. There is only one scheduled bus ride per day shuttling travelers from Lugano and Tirano (or the other way around).


Cost of Offers: Glacier Express or Bernina Express

There are various offers available for both train journeys on http://www.sbb.ch. Please note that the prices are subject to change.

Glacier Express Costs

The options for Glacier Express are (as of January 2024):

RouteFirst Class (CHF)Second Class (CHF)
St. Moritz to Zermatt272.00159.00
Davos to Zermatt260.00152.00
Chur to Zermatt212.00124.00
St. Moritz to Brig204.00119.00
St. Moritz to Andermatt150.4088.00
Chur to Brig144.0084.00
Andermatt to Zermatt131.0077.00

For those who prefer going with a private guide, you can book a private tour with GetYourGuide. Glacier Express private tours are also available from Zurich, Lucerne, Bern, and Basel on GetYourGuide. You may choose your departure point from one of the links above or one of the packages below.

Bernina Express Costs

The options for Bernina Express are (as of January 2024):

RouteFirst Class (CHF)Second Class (CHF)
Chur to Tirano113.0066.00
Chur to Poschiavo101.0059.00
St. Moritz to Tirano57.0033.00
St. Moritz to Poschiavo42.6025.00

If you are coming from Milan and would like to spend the day on a scenic coach trip to Lake Como and St. Moritz, you can book the From Milan: Bernina Express with Panoramic Carriages or the From Milan: Lake Como, St. Moritz & Bernina Train Day Trip tour with GetYourGuide.

Summary: Glacier Express or Bernina Express

Choosing between Glacier Express and Bernina Express is difficult because they are both fantastic routes. In my opinion, both routes are incredibly beautiful and worth experiencing. If you’re a train enthusiast, then I’d suggest doing both.

Overall, I would recommend starting with the Bernina Express. I have two reasons for this:

  1. The Bernina Express journey is shorter than the Glacier Express one. It takes just half a day one way instead of a full day. For Glacier Express, you will have to spend at least one night at one of the stops. You can break it down in the middle (maybe a stop in Andermatt, Chur, or Brig) or spend a night in one of the ends (Zermatt or St. Moritz). Or you can do a combination of both, thereby having a total of 3 days and 2 nights for the journey. I just find 7.5 hours quite long, especially if you are trying to fit in as many activities in 3 to 7 days during your holiday.
  2. My second major reason is the views from the train itself. I find the views of the Bernina Express route slightly better than the Glacier Express route. Remember, this is a personal preference. For me, the views from Albula Valley going into Engadine, Bernina Massif, the Bernina Pass, Alp Grüm, and down to Poschiavo and Brusio are fantastic. It’s one of my favorite views in Switzerland. While the Glacier Express route offers nice views, I find that the Bernina Express route provides a more spectacular experience. Again, this is a personal preference. Other folks will probably disagree.

That said, if you are including both Zermatt and St. Moritz in your journey, you can choose Glacier Express as a means to move from one location to another. It will also be a beautiful ride and a pleasant journey.

But if it were my first time in Switzerland, I came in via Zurich, and I just had to decide between one of both due to time or financial constraints – my choice would be Bernina Express.

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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.

Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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