Imagine a journey during which you don't think about reaching your destination as quickly as possible. On the contrary, you dream that it would last as long as possible because you are amazed by the views. Imagine the route covered by a modern narrow-gauge train. Running through old bridges, meadows and atmospheric villages in 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 Chur or St. in Switzerland. Moritz to Tirano, Italy. If you choose St. Moritz, the drive will take two and a half hours. Sit comfortably next to the panoramic window of the Bernina Express and admire the landscapes 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 between Thusis and Tirano was included 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 the routes you will have the opportunity to use.
What is worth paying attention to is an interesting paradox. You can move between Chur and Tirano many times a year, and each time you will see slightly different scenery. For example, in summer the Swiss flora captivates with its variety of colors from the entire palette. In autumn, however, the focus is on warm shades, from yellow to deep brown.
The point of view depends on the point of sitting - literally. When boarding a northbound train, we recommend choosing a seat on the left. Similarly, when traveling south, you will get the best views by sitting on the right side of the train.
The Bernina Express route – a UNESCO treasure
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 tracks from glaciers to palm-covered areas. Along the way, it passes areas inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The distance between 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 a suitable means of transport for quickly moving from point A to point B. 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 advantage of the opportunity to travel. You will be delighted! There are 196 bridges and 55 tunnels on the route from Chur to Tirano, as well as plenty of beautiful places worth seeing. The biggest attractions are undoubtedly the Landwasser Viaduct. It is 65 meters high and 136 meters long. It is slung over the river from which it takes its name. It is located in the canton of Graubünden, on the route to Tiefencastel, next to the Filisur railway station.
Attractions along the Bernina Express train route
Apart from the Landwasser Viaduct, you will see many other wonderful points decorating the tourist map of Switzerland. What awaits travelers? Among other things, the Montebello turn, 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 Alp Grüm hotel, located at an altitude of 2,091 m above sea level. It is tiny, with only 10 rooms, but anyone who stays in one of them will be enchanted. The hotel itself and the restaurant are located in a historic station building, at the railway station near the Bernina Pass. This pass connects the city of Samedan, located on the northern side, with Poschiavo, located in the south. To reach the destination, the train overcomes not only the height difference, 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 seen a photo promoting Switzerland with a viaduct, the photo most likely showed Brusio. In a very short distance, the Bernina Express comes full circle. This allows passengers to enjoy amazing 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. During the summer season, the Bernina Express bus runs from Tirano to Lugano and covers 90 km in three hours.
Bernina express – travel costs
A panoramic train awaits tourists who have purchased a Swiss Travel Pass. This is a ticket allowing an unlimited number of journeys on trains of most private carriers, 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 can choose from over 500 of them. The ticket also gives you the opportunity to benefit from attractive (up to 50%) discounts on selected roller coasters.
If you intend to come to Switzerland with children, we recommend obtaining a Swiss Family Card. It is available upon request and you get it for free. Just have it with you so that you do not have to pay for the ticket of a child aged 6-16. When your child needs to travel without you, this card will allow him or her to benefit from a 50% discount.
Bernina Express - is advance reservation necessary?
You must remember that you need not only a ticket for the journey, but also a seat reservation. They must be purchased at least 90 days before boarding the train. In summer, i.e. in the period 01/06-30/09, the surcharge is CHF 26. In winter, from 01/11 to 10/12/23, the price is CHF 20. If you travel outside the 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 interested can order, for example, bread with dried fruit or the "Bernina Express" plate, i.e. a board with pear bread and Alpine cheese. Fans of sweets can choose from the Grisons delicacy Totenbeinli or tartlets with nuts.
What happens after you get off the train?
The railway route you will travel on this train is enchanting. There are very attractive tourist towns nearby, including Chur, the capital of Graubünden. This is the oldest city in Switzerland, situated at the mouth of the small Plessur River, among the Rhaetian Alps. Much of the area is covered by forests, and there is also a brewery in Chur.
The last point of the journey, Tirano, is also interesting. It is a small Italian town on the border with Switzerland. In the immediate vicinity of the railway station you will find plenty of restaurants, cafes and local shops and shops. You will surely find the perfect place for dinner. On the horizon you can see the outlines of the snow-capped Alps and nearby there are numerous bridges over the river.
What else can you see or visit by choosing the Bernina Express ? For example, consider a trip to Lake Lugano. You will discover Monte San Salvatore, one of the greatest viewing spots over the reservoir. However, from Chur you can go to the mountain town of Arosa. The journey lasts one hour and the train covers 26 km. It may not seem that much, but the difference in altitude while driving is as much as 1000 meters!
We strongly encourage you to come to Switzerland and check out, if not all, then at least the most important routes of the Rhaetian Railway. Be sure to take a ride on the Bernina Express. Download the Swiss Grand Train Tour guide to Switzerland's most beautiful railway routes and start planning your trip. Really worth!