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.
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.
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.
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, in fact. The next interesting point is Andermatt.
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.
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.
After journeying through Valais and Uri, you reach Graubünden. Soon, the train will be traversing the Landwasser Viaduct and the Rhine Gorge. Rhine Gorge is also called the “Grand Canyon of Switzerland”. This part of the journey is a special one. 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.
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.
I really like this video from MySwitzerland regarding Glacier Express and the Freeride experience in Zermatt. Go check it out.
Bernina Express Route
Bernina Express – the most beautiful experience of the Alps
Bernina Express is another train route that begins in Chur. Chur is the oldest alpine city in Switzerland and definitely worth visiting. This train route spans 196 bridges. It goes through 55 tunnels and passes 20 beautiful villages in Switzerland.
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.
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.
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.
As another alternative, there is also a possibility to start this journey in Landquart. From Landquart, it passes through the Prättigau region to reach Davos. Davos is also a well-known alpine resort, made famous by hosting the annual World Economic Forum as well as high-profile winter sports events. The Bernina Express then passes by the Zügen Gorge and Wiesen Viaduct.
The routes from Chur and Landquart then combine in Filisur. From Filisur, Bernina Express goes through lots of tunnels before reaching 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.
Then it heads down into the Italian-speaking region of Graubünden – 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.
This is another from MySwitzerland regarding the Albula/Bernina line that the Bernina Express passes through.
Train Journey: Glacier Express or Bernina Express
The Glacier Express train journey takes 7.5 hours 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 from Chur to Tirano, Italy. It leaves Chur at 8:32 AM and Landquart at 8:37 AM. By 12:49 PM it is in Tirano. The train ride back to Chur leaves Tirano at 2:25 PM and arrives in Chur at 18:19 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.
The options for Glacier Express are:
- Glacier Express Zermatt to St. Moritz Excellence class (3 days, 2 nights). Includes meals and entertainment: starting CHF 1204 per person
- Glacier Express Zermatt to St. Moritz (3 days, 2 nights): starting CHF 486
- Glacier Express Chur-Brig (2 days, 1 night) starting CHF 302
- Glacier Express Brig-St. Moritz (2 days, 1 night) starting CHF 324
- Glacier Express Zermatt-Chur (2 days, 1 night) starting CHF 341
The options for Bernina Express are:
- Bernina Express Poschiavo-St. Moritz (2 days, 1 night): CHF 229
- Bernina Express Classic (3 days, 2 nights): CHF 398
- Glacier, Bernina Express, and Gotthard Panorama Express (5 days, 4 nights): CHF 866
- Bernina Express Tirano-St. Moritz (2 days, 1 night): CHF 174
Summary: Glacier Express or Bernina Express
Choosing between Glacier Express and Bernina Express is difficult because they are both fantastic routes. My general recommendation would be to go with Bernina Express first. I have two reasons for this:
- 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 really quite long, especially if you are trying to fit in as many activities in 3 to 7 days during your holiday.
- 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, down to Poschiavo and Brusio is fantastic. It’s really one of my favorite views in Switzerland. Although the Glacier Express also has nice views, I find the views from Bernina Express have more of a wow factor. Again, this is a personal preference. Other folks will probably disagree.
That said, if you are including both Zermatt and St. Moritz anyway 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.
Bernina Express and Glacier Express Articles
- Bernina Express Route: Chur to Tirano
- How to Get To Bernina Express From Zurich
- How Long Does Bernina Express Take?
- Glacier Express Route: From Zermatt to St. Moritz
- How to Get To Glacier Express From Zurich
- How Long Does Glacier Express Take?
- Historical Train Davos to Filisur: All You Need To Know
- St. Moritz or Zermatt: Which One Is More Impressive?
- Most Beautiful Villages In Graubünden
- How to Spend 1 Day in St. Moritz, Switzerland
- 8 Best Day Trips from St. Moritz
- Visiting Pontresina, Switzerland: 8 Best Things To Do
- 9 Best Things To Do In Poschiavo, Switzerland
- Why We Love Hiking Around Ospizio Bernina
- Experience Alp Grüm At Least Once In Your Lifetime
- Swiss Alps – The Ultimate Guide
- Is Chur Worth Visiting? 8 Fun Things To Do In Chur