Traversing the mountains of Switzerland during the winter months reveals more than fine powder and great après ski, particularly when you’re on board the Glacier Express.
When it comes to panoramic scenery, Switzerland excels. The country has it all: soaring summits, dramatically-chiselled glaciers and glittering lakes – and Swiss public transport weaves its way through some of the most show-stopping sights. One of the densest networks in the world, it’s also the most popular. A mass of 29,000 kilometres of railways, roads and waterways supply the country with comfortable, punctual and hassle-free connections.
Travelling by train in this part of the world is as enthralling as it gets, especially if you happen to hop aboard the Glacier Express. This is no ordinary train journey – you’ll be enjoying the best seats in the house in Excellence Class, which launched in February this year. The new carriage is a throwback to the golden age of travel, when a journey wasn’t simply a question of getting from A to B. Here, sip local wines while watching glaciers go by from the comfort of guaranteed window seats. Your personal concierge can provide anecdotes and information about the nature, culture and people you meet along your journey.
With bags dispensed of and champagne corks popped for welcome drinks beneath the gold-plated compass in the Glacier Bar, take your seat for a five course lunch of regional delicacies, accompanied by wines, amuse-bouche and more champagne. All dishes are freshly prepared in the on-board kitchen, including the delicate patisserie treats served at teatime, with a side order of outstanding views.
Tick off the highlights of the alpine chain – from the soaring 2,033-metre high Oberalp Pass to the 400-metre deep Rhine Gorge – while diving through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges on the eight-hour journey from Zermatt to St Moritz via Andermatt (or vice versa). It offers the rare opportunity to combine one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world with the most iconic Swiss ski resorts.
Zermatt is at the foot of the towering Matterhorn, making it one of the most memorable and picturesque ski resorts in the Alps. Skiing up to 3800m, there’s something for everyone and the high altitude means stunning panoramas and fantastic snow conditions all year round. Around 360 kilometres of blue, red, black and yellow runs promise fantastic skiing, particularly for intermediate to advanced skiers. Of course, activities aren’t solely for snow lovers. The picturesque, traffic-free village is chocolate-box perfect with its authentic barns on stilts, cobbled streets and horsedrawn carriages, but also offers the best in designer shopping, luxury hotels, independent coffee shops, superb restaurants and lively après ski.
On the way to St Moritz, a stop at the lesser-known but authentically traditional Andermatt offers plenty of respite for weary ski legs. The slow-paced mountain village is located at a crossing point between high mountain passes, used as a resting place by travellers for centuries. Due to recent investment in the lift system, there’s now a link to the nearby family-friendly Sedrun resort, making it the largest ski resort in central Switzerland with more than 120km of linked slopes. However, many come here just to visit the calming oasis of The Chedi Andermatt, home to 2,400m² of indulgent spa space, including ten deluxe spa suites and a zen-filled Tibetan Relaxation Lounge.
The final destination is St Moritz – as the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism, this glamorous region has already hosted two Winter Olympic Games and five Alpine World Ski Championships. In addition, an array of festivals and events make this a sought-after resort before you even carve powder – the annual gourmet festival, snow polo, classic car racing, not to mention the world-famous toboggan track, the Cresta Run, provide year-round entertainment. St Moritz offers a rare combination of snow and sun, and with 350km of pistes over four separate sectors, it’s a great choice for all abilities, particularly intermediates.
Experiencing the mountains of Switzerland is a true feast for the senses – and travelling in style doesn’t get much better than this.