Tailormade tour Glacier Express holiday Switzerland

5 nights/6 days

Zermatt • Glacier Express • St Moritz

This Glacier Express 5-night holiday includes a journey on the Glacier Express, one of Switzerland’s best loved iconic rail journeys, traversing stunning Alpine landscapes from Zermatt through to St Moritz. You stay in Zermatt and St Moritz, with optional stays in Geneva and Zurich.

Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £1,440 per person.

Luxury Swiss iconic rail holiday on the Glacier Express

Highlights

Geneva • Lake Geneva • Zermatt • Matterhorn • Glacier Express • St Moritz • Bernina Express • Zurich

Day by day

Begin this Glacier Express holiday by travelling to Geneva, either by plane or train. From here, board the train to Zermatt in the early afternoon. Change trains at Visp and arrive into Zermatt around four hours after departure from Geneva. Your hotel in Zermatt will send a complimentary shuttle to collect you from the station, where you will stay for 3 nights.

In an idyllic, car-free zone, known for its popular winter sports, Zermatt is a stunning place to start this memorable trip. A peaceful village in the summer months, Zermatt is a haven for gourmet food lovers, with the highest concentration of gourmet restaurants, serving very typically Swiss cuisine, on the Glacier Express route. Quaint boutique shops are also housed within the chalet houses in the village centre.

Your second full day in Zermatt provides the opportunity to take in the views of the icy Matterhorn and wander along some of the 400km of walking paths that vein the landscape around Zermatt, Tasch, and Randa. Perhaps even enjoy the sights from the smaller railways that can take you as high as 3000m above sea level. The Glacier Paradise cable car will take you up to Europe’s highest viewing platform, while the Gornegratbahn, the world’s highest open-air cog railway, take you from Zermatt station up to the Gornergrat where you can view the peaks of 38 surrounding mountains, including the Matterhorn. Consider visiting the famous Hornlihutte, where climbers have stayed for decades before advancing up the sides of the Matterhorn via the Hornli Ridge, the Zmutt Ridge, or through the north wall. To witness more of the sublime and intriguing history of the area, visit the Zermatlantis Matterhorn Museum, an archaeological site that has been faithfully recreated.

After your final night in Zermatt, catch the Glacier Express to St Moritz at 08:52 in the morning, with a view to arrive at around 17:03. We include a three-course lunch served at your seat. From Zermatt, continue on to the first stop, in the peaceful and enchanting village of St Niklaus, punctuated by alpine chalets, rustic houses with peaked roofs, and a smattering of golden and green trees. Next, pass through Brig, home to the 17th century Stockalper Castle, which is the emblem of Upper Valais and the largest private building built in the 17th century in the country. If you have time to stop, enjoy the arcades, chambers, gardens, museum, chapel, halls, and views of the onion domes, monastery, and old town in this fantastic and striking building. Continue on through Fiesch and through the Furka tunnel of the Furka Steam Railway that links Realp to Oberwald. This 2 hour stretch weaves its way through the vast panoramas of the mountainsides, passing wooden chalets, the ice caves near the Rhone Glacier, old, wonky houses with moss-covered roofs and light stone walls, and the quaint river and bridge of Oberwald itself. Your next stop will be in Andermatt, nestled in the indomitable Gotthard Pass, initially avoided by the Romans, but conquered when the Scholenen Ravine, an important North-South connection, was established. Zig-zagging roads are dug into and supported above the craggy rocks, overlooking flat agricultural plains and clusters of white houses. To get from Andermatt to the next stop in Disentis, the Glacier Express takes you over the Oberalp Pass; a network of tunnels, viaducts, and winding roads and railway tracks. At its highest point, the Pass reaches 2044m above sea level, affording passengers in the panoramic carriages unforgettable, breath-taking views of undulating green countryside. Disentis itself sits in the upper half of the Anterior Rhine, the Surselva. A large Benedictine monastery crowns the town, which is dominated by snow-capped chalets, mountain views, and is distinctive due to its proximity to the source of the Rhine in Tomasee. From here, travel through the Ruinaulta, or Rhine Gorge, taking in one of the most picturesque landscapes in the Alps, which makes for a sensational experience. The winding river changes altitude beside the railway tracks, passing sheer white cliffs, hilltop towers, and slinking under arched viaducts. Next, you will pass through Chur, the oldest city in Switzerland and the lowest altitude stop on this route, affectionately named the ‘Alpine City.’ Twisting streets, historic buildings, restaurants, bars, museums, galleries, boutiques, and a pedestrianised Old Town provide days of cultural entertainment to those staying for longer, so you may wish to disembark for a night. You can also take the Dreibundenstein Panorama Path from Brambruesch to Dreibundenstein and Feldis if you wish to appreciate a selection of Alpine flora and more fantastic views. Nearby Heidiland was home to the eponymous character, and still retains its chocolate box feel, and the thermal waters springing from the earth in Bad Ragaz make this a very enjoyable spa destination. The waters reach their warmest, at 37 degrees, in the atmospheric Tamina Gorge. The Glacier Express will then take you through the Domleschg Region, the area with the most castles and palaces in Switzerland. Some areas of this lush region resemble fairytale English countryside, with paths sheltered by trees and shady groves. Next, pass through Thusis and Tiefencastel, the latter of which has ochre-fronted houses, stunning, narrow stone bridges, and is crowned by a solitary tower. The track takes a brief diversion east to Davos, nestled between the slowing rising slopes. From here, the Glacier Express traverses the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Bernina Railway Line. One of the highlights of this stretch is the curve of the Landwasser viaduct, built in 1901. This route takes you on through Filisur, gaining altitude via a series of loops, before entering the Albula Tunnel at 1789m above sea level and heading towards Bergun, where you may wish to stop to visit the Bergun Railway Village, home to the Albula Railway Museum and the Railway Adventure Trail. Otherwise, ensure you take in the sight of the crystal-clear blue waters that run in the rivers. Gaining on its final destination, the Glacier Express then stops in Samedan and Celerina, home to the Cresta Run. Built in 1884, this is one of the St Moritz area’s most famous attributes. Then, hurtle on to St Moritz, one of the most famous Alpine resorts in the world. At 1856m above sea level, visitors are welcomed by stunning views across the lakes of the Upper Engadine Valley, and the refreshing dry, clear, Alpine climate. Transfers can be arranged from St Moritz station to your hotel, where you will stay for 2 nights.

At 1856m above sea level, visitors are welcomed by stunning views across the lakes of the Upper Engadine Valley, and the refreshing dry, clear, Alpine climate. Navigate the local peaks via railway, reaching the Piz Corvatsch, Chantarella, and Corviglia, where a cable car takes you up to Suvretta’s most famous viewing point. Enjoy the water sports at the sublime Lake Sils and Lake St Moritz, or the windy Lake Silvaplana. While staying in St Moritz, it is possible to use this opportunity to explore another of Switzerland’s most iconic rail journeys, the Bernina Express. In one of the distinctive red trains, with their tall, angular windows, and comfortable, airy interiors, the Bernina Express rail journey takes you from Chur, the oldest city in Switzerland, south through the winter resorts of Davos and St Moritz to Tirano on the Swiss-Italian border. En-route you pass the dramatic Ruinaulta, or Rhine Gorge, the castles and palaces of the Domleschg Region, and the Morteratsch Glacier, and travel over the Landwasser Viaduct and around the Montebello Curve.

If you depart from St Moritz for Zurich in the mid-morning, you will arrive at around half one in the afternoon, which leaves plenty of time to enjoy a few hours in the city before catching a flight home. If you are catching a train from Zurich back to London, we would recommend spending the night in Zurich before your departure.

Best service I have had from a travel company. Itinerary put together was exactly right, all connections worked properly and loved the different types of hotel.
Mr I, April 2017

Holiday price guide From about £1,440 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for flights to Switzerland second class rail travel. First class supplement about £190 per person.

Holiday Code CHBR03

Luxury Swiss iconic rail holiday on the Glacier Express

Best service I have had from a travel company. Itinerary put together was exactly right, all connections worked properly and loved the different types of hotel.
Mr I, April 2017

Holiday price guide From about £1,440 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for flights to Switzerland second class rail travel. First class supplement about £190 per person.

Holiday Code CHBR03

Our prices include ● Flights from UK to Geneva and back from Zurich OR rail travel London to Switzerland and back via Paris (first class can be booked at a supplement)
● 4-day Swiss rail flex pass (first class can be booked at a supplement)
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Standard double room at the Hotel Butterfly, Zermatt
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Standard double room at the Hotel Hauser, St Moritz
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, usually between Swiss Francs 1 and 3 per person per night, and payable locally to the hotel
● Transfers in Paris if travelling by train from London to Switzerland
● Transfers in Switzerland station to hotel unless offered by your hotel
● A luggage transfer service is available within Switzerland – please contact us for further details
● Optional nights in Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, St Moritz, or Zermatt

Best service I have had from a travel company. Itinerary put together was exactly right, all connections worked properly and loved the different types of hotel.
Mr I, April 2017

Holiday price guide From about £1,440 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for flights to Switzerland second class rail travel. First class supplement about £190 per person.

Holiday Code CHBR03

Luxury Swiss iconic rail holiday on the Glacier Express

Highlights of Grisons and the Engadine

Between the peaks, valleys, and lakes of Grisons and the Engadine, towns and villages with hidden cultural treasures abound. Some of the oldest settlements in Switzerland are located here, still with the same medieval atmosphere. One of the most iconic images associated with Grisons is Tarasp Castle, built in the 11th century, perched on its hundred-metre-high rock in the centre of its surrounding valley. To see more of traditional Engadine style, visit the ancient villages of Guarda, Ftan, and Sent. The village of Zernez is known as the ‘Gateway to the Swiss National Park,' which also extends south into Italy. The Inn Valley is the perfect place to admire your surroundings. 60km of hiking trails wind their way across the landscape between Maloja and Scuol, believed to be the most rewarding trails in Switzerland because of the high-altitude views. Between the months of May and September, the Inn Valley gorges are ideal for rafting, as their calm turquoise waters bustle white. The Bains Engadine in Scuol were the first Roman-Irish baths in Switzerland, now providing saunas and pools with a very impressive backdrop.

Cultural highlights of Grisons and the Engadine

The three main towns of interest are Chur, Davos, and St Moritz. Chur is the oldest city in Switzerland, affectionately named the ‘Alpine City.’ Twisting streets and historic buildings, restaurants, bars, museums, galleries, boutiques, and a pedestrianised Old Town mean the city is abounding in charming character. A farmer's market is held in the main square of the Old Town every Saturday morning between the months of May and October. High above the town stands the Bishop's Palace. Fortified walls surround the central courtyard, which holds the Cathedral of the Assumption, dating back over 800 years. Chur is also home to the region's three largest museums. Explore its history in the Rhaetian Museum, the works of prestigious local artists at the Museum of Fine Art, and the flora, wildlife, and geological history at the Graubunden Natural History Museum. The two most popular mountain peaks in the area around Chur are the Branbruesch and the Dreibundenstein, both accessible by cable car and hiking routes. Chur has the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in Switzerland, making it an excellent destination for gastronomists and those who enjoy sampling a range of delicacies in a new restaurant each night. The highest ‘town’ in the Alps, at 1560m above sea level, is Davos, another popular destination with winter sports enthusiasts. In the summer, however, the snow melts to reveal over 700km of hiking paths. These can be accessed via cable cars up to the Jakobshorn (2590m), the Weissflujoch (2844m), and the Rinerhorn (2490m). Horse-drawn carriages take you along the narrower valleys of Sertig, Dischma, and Fluela. At Davos Lake, visitors can take a refreshing swim or enjoy the sports available at the sailing and surfing area. Alternatively, visit the Zugenschlucht gorge to follow the geology trail, the rocky path of the river, or to visit the mining museum. For something even more unusual, spend an hour at the Monstein Brewery, the highest brewery in Europe, and the first in Switzerland to be opened for tastings and tours. St Moritz is perhaps the best-loved Alpine winter destination in Switzerland, and possibly Europe. At 1822m above sea level, visitors are welcomed first by views across the Upper Engadine Valley. The local peaks, including the Piz Corvatsch, Chantarella, and Corviglia can be reached via mountainside railway, and from Corviglia, you can take a cable car up to Suvretta's most famous viewing point. Though St Moritz is not a waterside village, the nearby Lake Sils and Lake Silvaplana are perfect for water sports, particularly the latter, which is known for being windy. The village of St Moritz itself is smattered with quaint cafes and stunning buildings with peaked roofs, and the central churches provide beautiful destinations after a morning of exploration on foot. Just outside St Moritz is Celerina, home to the Cresta Run, one of the area's most famous attributes. Celerina is also the first stop on the Glacier Express route from St Moritz to Zermatt: a journey of viaducts, steep inclines, spiralling declines, and some of Switzerland's most famous mountains.

Festivals in Grisons and the Engadine

In Switzerland there is only one nationally celebrated day, the Anniversary of the Founding of the Swiss Confederation on the 1st August, aside from Christmas, advent and New Year. Apart from these, festivals and holidays are determined by the canton and the town. The residents of Grisons see in the first day of March with Chalanda Marz, in which bells are rung to chase out the winter. In Disentis on July 11th, a religious procession takes place to honour Saint Placidus. In Pontresina, St Moritz, and across the canton, the BSI Engadine Festival brings the region to life with performances of classical music in August. The most unusual of the major festivals in Grisons and the Engadine may well be in Chur, at the Chur City Festival and Alpine Beard Festival in August. In the autumn, Chur Theatre performs a diverse international theatre and dance programme, and in August every two years open-air opera is performed at the Haldenstein Castle.

Gastronomy in Grisons and the Engadine

As Grisons is still comprised of three language areas (Italian, German, and Romansh), the cuisine remains eclectic and varied. Many ingredients, prominent in the Alpine terrain are recombined in new ways to create different, flavoursome dishes. Three popular dishes in particular are maluns, capuns, and pizokels. Maluns are made from boiled potatoes, which are then grated, rolled in flour, and then roasted in butter. Often eaten by farmers for breakfast, maluns are also popular snacks to accompany a cup of coffee or served with Alpine cheese at dinner. Capuns come in a range of varieties, but are always wrapped in savoy cabbage leaves, spinach leaves, or Swiss chard. Inside, they have some combination of dough, meat, fish, and vegetables. Pizokels are baked dishes of special dough and vegetables topped with cheese.

Luxury Swiss iconic rail holiday on the Glacier Express

Highlights of Valais

During your stay in Valais, you will see lush meadows, rivers, and 4000m high mountain peaks topped with all-year ski slopes. Between these peaks, creaking, radiant-white glaciers mould to the gradients of the slopes and filter into the craggy valleys. The most famous mountain in Valais, and possibly the whole of Switzerland, is undoubtedly the Matterhorn. Its distinctive silhouette can be appreciated from miles around, but perhaps best from Zermatt. Take the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car from Zermatt up to 3883m, making it the highest cable car in Europe, to the Panoramic Platform to look out across the other neighbouring 4000m high mountains and glaciers. Before returning to ground level, admire the mesmerising ice sculptures hidden within the Glacier Palace, a series of stunningly carved ice tunnels. Zermatt is an Alpine village known for its winter sports, being as it is one of the most popular skiing destinations in Switzerland. In the summer, when some of the snow has melted, Zermatt is a peaceful community of chic bars and cafes and quaint and characterful chalets. It comes highly recommended to those who enjoy hiking, walking, or simply the sight of those dramatic Alpine panoramas outside your hotel window. Those looking to experience the undisrupted beauty of the landscape but without the strenuous exercise of the hiking routes may wish to take advantage of the excellent local railways and connections. The Gornergratbahn, for example, is Europe's highest cogwheel railway, and its characteristic red carriages take visitors up to stunning Gornergrat. From Zermatt you can also board the Glacier Express to St Moritz in Grisons, which is a continually popular and iconic route. In the north of the Canton of Valais is the Aletsch Glacier, the longest in the European Alps and with the greatest volume. Reaching from the Bernese Oberland to the Rhone River, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a vast expanse of twisted, mottled ice which navigates sharp spikes of rock and thick clusters of pine forest. Between Bettmeralp and Riederalp, to the southeast of the Aletsch Glacier, is the Aletschji-Grunsee Suspension Bridge. Over 124m of thrilling high-altitude metal bridge hovers above the Massa Gorge, affording the brave and adventurous among us phenomenal, unparalleled views of the glacier. Northwest of Zermatt, towards Martigny, is Verbier, a luxurious ski resort known for attracting very elite clients. If you have the chance, it is worth spending a night here so as to take the first Medran cable car up to the summit of Mont Fort at 3329m to see the sun rise over the mountaintops. At Saas Fee, the Mittelallin funicular railway climbs underground to 3500m, where a revolving restaurant looks out across the Allalin Glacier and others that sit at 4000m.

Cultural highlights of Valais

Sion, in the northern half of Valais, is home to chateaux and palaces galore. Chateau de Tourbillon has a magnificent hilltop position looking down over the Rhone Valley. After a fire in the 18th century, mainly the brooding exterior walls remain, though the site offers a breath-taking, intriguing place for a walk. Opposite the Chateau de Tourbillon, on an equally majestic hill, is the Chateau de Valere. Originally started in the 11th century, the castle was built around an ancient basilica. Today, the castle church holds carved stalls, an apse with beautiful frescoes, and the oldest playable organ in the world, which dates from 1440. While visiting, take a tour around the castle museum, and, in the summer, enjoy one of the concerts held here. Another small castle in Sion houses the Musee d'Art, exhibiting works by artists such as Oskar Kokoschka, Caspar Wolf, and Ernest Bieler. For even more prestigious art collections, visit the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny, which houses works by the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso, and the Fondation Pierre Arnaud, which is a strikingly modern building with a mirrored exterior and a dramatic mountainous location in Crans Montana.

Festivals in Valais

Popular destinations and cultural cities lend themselves to high profile celebrations and festivals, which crop up around Valais at various points in the year. In Sierre, the Marche des Cepages in early September sees residents and visitors walk through the vineyards around the town, while drinking the produce and socialising with the winegrowers themselves. From the middle of August to the middle of September, the Festival de Sion sees international classical artists perform at many local stages, violinists compete, and many smaller free-entry stages pop up. Two weeks at the end of July see Verbier truly live up to its sophisticated reputation with a classical music festival. During the summer months at the Chateau de Valere in Sion, in the evening the castle walls are lit up with colour as part of the fascinating sound-and-light show. Something more unique is the Foire au Lard in Martigny, otherwise known as the Bacon Fair. Held in December, this festival has been around since 1801. In Riederalp, an unusual but very traditional festival takes place, the Chuefladefascht. Local residents throughout history would smash up cow pats and spread it as fertiliser across their fields; now, the game is to strike as many with your weapon of choice as possible and pluck out tombola prizes written down on paper and hidden inside.

Gastronomy in Valais

Valais the largest wine-making region in Switzerland, with plenty of wineries and vineyards open for tastings and tours. Other speciality ingredients include the huge range of savoury spices that grow here, including saffron. These local spices ensure that every dish in Valais' many gourmet restaurants will be seasoned and spiced to perfection. As with much of Switzerland, a very popular dish is the raclette, made using the best Alpine cheeses. For a heartier, homelier meal, seek out a dish that utilises the rich flavour of the local chestnuts, or choose to begin your meal with some fresh rye bread.

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