How Long Does Glacier Express Take?

Known as the slowest express in the world, the Glacier Express has been operating since 1930. The train averages 36 kph (22 mph) along this scenic route between Zermatt and St. Moritz.

Glacier Express journeys depart from Zermatt in Valais. After passing through the Rhone Valley, it travels to Oberalp. From Oberalp the train descends into the Rhine Gorge. UNESCO’s route to St. Moritz in the Upper Engadine Alps passes through the Albula line, a World Heritage Site. Bernina Express trains pass through this same section as well.

During the Glacier Express journey, the train covers 291 kilometers, crosses 291 bridges and overpasses, and passes through 91 tunnels. Despite the name, it is not a high-speed train. Rather, the Glacier Express train travels continuously over a distance of 291 kilometers (181 miles). It also skips stops made by commuter trains. Huge panoramic windows enable train passengers to enjoy the fantastic views along the route.

How Long Does Glacier Express Take?

Glacier Express takes between 7 hours and 45 minutes to 8 hours and 19 minutes depending on which direction you take.

  • Glacier Express takes 7 hours and 45 minutes from Zermatt to St. Moritz. It starts at 8:52 AM in Zermatt and arrives at 4:37 PM in St. Moritz.
  • Glacier Express takes 8 hours and 19 minutes from St. Moritz to Zermatt. It starts at 8:51 AM in St. Moritz and arrives at 5:10 PM in Zermatt.

The following are the anticipated travel times for sections of the route if you find the Glacier Express route too long.

Glacier Express RouteExpected Duration (in hours and minutes)
Zermatt – Andermatt 2 hours 54 minutes
Andermatt – Chur 2 hours 30 minutes
Andermatt – St. Moritz4 hours 43 minutes
Andermatt – Zermatt3 hours 16 minutes
Chur – Andermatt 2 hours 47 minutes
St. Moritz – Andermatt 5 hours 1 minute
Zermatt – Chur5 hours 6 minutes
St. Moritz – Chur2 hours 3 minutes
Expected Duration of Glacier Express Trip Sections (as of 13 December 2021)

Glacier Express Route

During the nearly eight-hour journey, passengers will be rewarded with some of Switzerland’s most breathtaking scenery. Passing glaciers, ancient forests, idyllic mountain streams, and valleys, you will be immersed in beauty for most of the trip. Some of the highlights of Glacier Express include:

  • Views of the Matterhorn from the alpine village of Zermatt
  • Rhine Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland
  • Crossing 291 bridges and 91 tunnels
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site Albula Railway Route with its viaducts and spiral tunnels
  • Oberalp Pass which connects Graubünden with Uri
  • St. Moritz and the Bernina Region

Regular Train vs. Glacier Express Train

Local trains are an alternative for covering only part of the route or completing it in a few days. The regular commuter trains provide easy access to the Glacier Express route. Although you don’t have the scenic carriages that the Glacier Express trains offer, the windows can be opened to take better photos. Furthermore, the Swiss Pass allows you to go on regular trains without booking. 

There is one downside to skipping the Glacier Express train and going for local trains: you have to change trains along the way. Still, the train connections function without any issues. 

The local trains run every hour, so you can easily get off at any stop and walk around before taking the next train. The busiest routes might even have two or more trains per hour. 

Although the journey may be scenic, a Glacier Express train ticket will cost more than a local train ticket. By taking a local commuter train, you could save some money. On the other hand, you will sacrifice some comfort and experience. The decision is entirely yours to make.

Related Posts: Bernina Express and Glacier Express