Bernina Express - a panoramic train journey along a UNESCO-listed railway route
Imagine a journey where you don't think about getting to your destination as quickly as possible. On the contrary, you dream that it will last as long as possible, because you admire the views. Imagine the route covered by a modern narrow-gauge train. Running through old bridges, meadows and climatic villages of the eastern part of the country.
It is considered by many to be one of the most picturesque railway lines in the world. You can reach it from Swiss Chur or St. Moritz to Tirano, located in Italy. If you choose St. Moritz, the drive will take two and a half hours. Make yourself comfortable by the panoramic window of the Bernina Express and admire the scenery with us. It will be an amazing journey!
From Switzerland to Italy – and back
In 2008, on the centenary of its existence, the section of the Rhaetian Railway line between Thusis and Tirano was entered on the UNESCO list. No wonder, because it leads through areas of exceptional beauty. The route is not only one of the oldest, but also the most beautiful of all that you will have the opportunity to use.
What is worth noting is an interesting paradox. You can travel between Chur and Tirano many times a year and each time you will see a slightly different scenery. For example, in the summer, the Swiss flora captivates with a variety of colors from the entire palette. In autumn, however, it focuses on warm shades, from yellow to deep brown.
The point of view depends on the point of sitting - literally. When boarding a train heading north, we recommend choosing a seat on the left. Similarly, when traveling south, you'll get the best views by sitting on the right side of the train.
The route of the Bernina Express - a treasure of UNESCO
But let's start from the very beginning. The Bernina Express is a panoramic train of the Rhaetian Railway. It connects the north and south of Europe, speeding along the tracks from glaciers to areas covered with palm trees. On the way, it passes areas inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The distance between the stations in Switzerland (Chur) and Italy (Tirano) is 144 km, which the train covers in 4-4.5 hours. As you can see, it is not the right means of transport to get from point A to point B quickly. If you have little time and your holiday plan is strictly defined, the Bernina Express or other panoramic trains will not necessarily meet your expectations.
For our part, we recommend taking the opportunity to travel. You will be delighted! On the route from Chur to Tirano, there are 196 bridges and 55 tunnels, and many beautiful places to see. One of the biggest attractions is undoubtedly the Landwasser Viaduct. It is 65 meters high and 136 meters long. It is thrown over the river from which it takes its name. It is located in the canton of Graubünden, on the route to Tiefencastel, in the vicinity of the Filisur railway station.
Attractions on the Bernina Express train route
In addition to the Landwasser Viaduct, you will see plenty of other great points that decorate the tourist map of Switzerland. What awaits travelers? Among other things, the Montebello bend, from which you will see the monumental Bernina massif. Along the way, you will also be able to admire the Morteratsch Glacier and Lej Pitschen, Lej Nair and Lago Bianco, three wonderful Swiss lakes.
You have a chance to visit the unusual hotel Alp Grüm, located at an altitude of 2091 m above sea level. It's tiny, it has only 10 rooms, but whoever stays in one of them will be enchanted. The hotel itself, along with the restaurant, is located in a historic station building, at the train station near the Bernina Pass. This pass connects the city of Samedan on the north side with Poschiavo on the south side. To reach the destination, the train overcomes not only the difference in height, but also several serpentines. You can admire the Alpine valley from different perspectives!
Brusio Spiral Viaduct
Another intriguing point on the train route is the circular Brusio viaduct. If you have ever come across a photo promoting Switzerland with a viaduct, it was very likely that the photo was of Brusio. In a very short distance, the Bernina Express comes full circle. Thus, it allows passengers to enjoy the insane views. The spiral viaduct is one of the most interesting Swiss attractions. It is located in the canton of Graubünden, near the village of Brusio.
Importantly, if you travel in the summer, you can extend the pleasure of sightseeing. On the route from Tirano to Lugano during the holiday season, the Bernina Express bus travels 90 km in three hours.
Bernina express - travel costs
The panoramic train awaits tourists who have purchased the Swiss Travel Pass. This ticket allows for unlimited travel on the trains of most private carriers, the SBB Federal Railways, as well as on ships and Postbus buses. Thanks to it, you can use public transport in selected cities and visit museums. You have over 500 of them to choose from. The ticket also gives you the opportunity to take advantage of attractive (up to 50%) discounts on selected roller coasters.
If you intend to come to Switzerland with children, we recommend that you obtain a Swiss Family Card. It is available on request and you get it for free. It is enough to have it with you in order not to pay for a ticket for a child aged 6-16. When your child needs to travel without you, this card will allow them to take advantage of a 50% discount.
Bernina Express - is it necessary to book in advance?
You must remember that you need not only a ticket to travel, but also a seat reservation. You have to book them up to 90 days before boarding the train. In the summer, i.e. in the period 01/06-30/09, the surcharge is CHF 26. In the winter, from 01/11 to 10/12/23, the price is CHF 20. If you travel off-season, booking a seat will be cheaper - you will pay CHF 24.
There is a minibar on board where you can buy a snack or drink. Those willing can order, for example, bread with dried fruit or a plate of "Bernina Express", a board with pear bread and Alpine cheese. Fans of sweets can choose from the Grisons delicacy Totenbeinli or tartlets with nuts.
What after getting off the train?
The train route you will travel on this train is captivating. There are towns very attractive for tourists, including Chur, the capital of Grisons. This is the oldest city in Switzerland, it is located at the mouth of the small river Plessur, among the Rhaetian Alps. A significant part of the area is covered by forests, besides, a brewery is prospering in Chur.
The last point of the trip, i.e. Tirano, is also interesting. It is a small Italian town on the border with Switzerland. In the close vicinity of the railway station you will find plenty of restaurants, cafes and local shops and stores. You will surely find the perfect place for dinner. On the horizon you can see the outlines of the snow-covered Alps, and numerous bridges over the river nearby.
What else can you see or visit by choosing the Bernina Express? For example, consider a trip to Lake Lugano. You will get to know Monte San Salvatore, one of the best viewpoints on the reservoir. From Chur you can go to the mountain village of Arosa. The journey lasts an hour and the train travels 26 km. Not so much, but the difference in altitude while driving is as much as 1000 meters!
We strongly encourage you to come to Switzerland and check if not all, then at least the most important routes of the Rhaetian Railway. Be sure to take a ride on the Bernina Express. Really worth!
A writer by profession, a passion of a cat. One day he will see what is behind the Urals - good to Vladivostok. So far, when he can, he enjoys the sun of the countries of southern Europe. And it's also fun;)