Travel

The World's Slowest Express Train Has Panoramic Glass for Breathtaking Views

More mountain vistas, less whiplash.

Glacier Express
Glacier Express
Glacier Express

Riding a train billed as “the world’s slowest express train” might initially sound like a drawback or at least confusing-until you realize that it’s one of the world’s most scenic train rides too. Traveling between the popular Swiss resort towns of Zermatt and St. Moritz, the Glacier Express more than makes up for in views what it lacks in speed.

To put some numbers to the Glacier Express experience: Settling in for the full route, which takes about eight hours, brings you over 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels, and up to an altitude of 6,670 feet of above sea level.

What you can’t count are the many striking landscapes you pass along the way, ranging from majestic mountains to idyllic valley villages. Come in the warmer months, and you’ll be greeted by postcard-worthy scenes of greenery and blooming wildflowers. Climb aboard when it’s cold and snowy, and you’ll be treated to a veritable Switzerland winter wonderland. The Glacier Express runs year-round, and frankly, the views are impressive any season.

But what are great vistas on a train ride without great windows? The Glacier Express is fitted with panoramic glass on the sides and along the tops of the train cars. No need to crouch down to see those many Swiss Alps mountain peaks above and take in all the wonder around you.

Here’s what to know to make the most of this unforgettable experience and cover huge swaths of ground at a pace to take in the views.

Glacier Express
Glacier Express
Glacier Express

Pick a seat and book a ticket for the Glacier Express

It’s a little confusing at first, but when booking your ride on the Glacier Express, you need to book both a ticket as well as a seat reservation. Tickets can only be booked up to two months in advance (or even at the station on the day of travel), while seat reservations can be made up to 92 days in advance (shrug).

An individual ticket ranges from 73 Swiss francs to 268 Swiss francs depending on how far you go and whether you’re cool with second class or want to get fancy in first class. The seat reservation fee ranges from 39 Swiss francs to 420 Swiss francs. The cheaper end is for a first or second-class seat during the low season, while the more expensive fees are for those living it up in the so-called “excellence class.”

If you’re having a little sticker shock right now, just know that the excellence class reservation comes with a seven-course menu plus wine pairing alongside other perks. Passengers in any class can order food in advance or along the route, though.

It should go without saying that snagging a window seat is the way to go, so you don’t have to lean over a stranger to snap your pics. Don’t worry too much about what side of the train you’re on. You’ll be able to see plenty on both sides thanks to those giant windows, and if you’re going the full route, the train actually reverses directions going into and out of Chur, so you won’t be facing the same way throughout. It is wise, however, to go for a spot in the middle of the coach, so you’ll be guaranteed a wider view traveling any direction.

XU BO/500px/Getty Images
XU BO/500px/Getty Images
XU BO/500px/Getty Images

Hop on or off at these notable stops

St. Moritz
One of the Glacier Express’ start/end points, St. Moritz is pure paradise for anyone into winter sports (the city has played host to two Winter Olympics). Not a skier? There’s hiking, mountain biking, and the chance to fly down a famous bobsleigh run at 80 mph. Not into anything so… heart-pounding and adrenaline-inducing? It’s off to the swanky shops, grand hotels, and casino for you.

Chur
Another stop where many passengers start their Glacier Express journey, Chur is often called the oldest town in Switzerland, with millennia-old archeological finds. Its quaint, car-free Old Town is well-preserved and worth walking around. More of Chur’s claims to fame include having the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in the country and “the largest shopping centre between Zurich and Milan.”

Zermatt
Zermatt, the other of the Glacier Express’ main start/end points, ranks high among Switzerland’s top resort towns. Aside from all the excellent skiing, hiking, and climbing, a highlight here is seeing the Matterhorn-you know, the real-life version of that pyramidal mountain decorating your Toblerone package. Keep your train adventures going with a ride up the Gornergrat Railway, which offers choice views of the Matterhorn all the way.

Glacier Express
Glacier Express
Glacier Express

Be on the lookout for the Swiss sights

Rhine Gorge
They call it the “Swiss Grand Canyon,” and it’s a beaut. In this section between Disentis and Chur, you can see the Rhine River winding through massive geological formations, resulting in a picturesque ravine.

Albula Line
The Albula Line, a twisting section of the railway located between Filisur and St. Moritz, is where you’ll traverse many of those viaducts and tunnels that make the Glacier Express so special. Anyone interested in railway engineering is sure to be impressed.

Glacier Express
Glacier Express
Glacier Express

Landwasser Viaduct
Did someone say viaducts? The Landwasser Viaduct is the most famous along the Glacier Express route, standing at 65 meters (or a little over 213 feet high) and stretching 142 meters (or around 466 feet long). Since it comes up just outside of the village of Filisur, it’s a good reason to make sure your chosen itinerary includes the railway’s eastern section.

Oberalppass
The Oberalppass near Andermatt is where things get taken to the next level-literally. The train reaches its highest altitude here and the views out of the windows make it feel more like you’re flying among the mountaintops rather than chugging along a railway track.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Cindy Brzostowski is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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