Bernina Express is undoubtedly the best scenic train ride in Switzerland, to many a favorite one and probably the prettiest in the world.
Being number one country in Europe with best-organized railway transport and trains always on time makes traveling in Switzerland to be very easy. In whichever direction you choose to travel, you’ll simply need to only be on time at the station, hop on the train, sit by the window and enjoy the ride.
Bernina Express train route runs in all seasons, year-round. Except for the gorgeous landscapes that you can admire during the spring or summer months, in winter being in the middle of the white Swiss Alps covered with snow can be pretty amazing too. You can see for yourself why Swiss Alps and the ski resorts are so attractive for winter holiday vacations. So, any time of the year is perfect for this route.
Starting from the oldest Swiss town of Chur, all the way to Tirano in Italy this route covers 156 km that will take no more than 4.13 of your (Swiss) time. And there is plenty to see and enjoy in the meantime. The Bernina Express train will cross the canton of Graubünden passing through 55 tunnels, 196 bridges, and viaducts, 20 towns and 25 stops along the way. You’ll have a glimpse of the Swiss beautiful nature as the train pass by rivers, lakes, and waterfalls.
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But, you can experience this same train route and beautiful scenery with regional trains as well. Bernina Express is a direct panoramic train that goes through the same exact route as the regional trains do. If you choose to travel with Eurail pass whichever way you decide upon, it will be included in the price of the ticket. However, with Bernina Express you’ll have to make a reservation of the seat for a fee. Depending on the season the price ranges from 9-12 euros per person. You’ll get a better view of the beautiful scenery though with the big panoramic windows, more space and refreshments in the train as well as on-board commentary with the information about the sights along the route. There are no dining cars in the Bernina Express panoramic train, but a minibar instead, where you can grab a snack or have a drink.
When you travel the route with regional trains that won’t be included and you’ll have to change trains on the way. But, a seat reservation isn’t required and they run on every hour which might be kind of a relief. You can be more flexible and spontaneous about the trip.
*The Rhaetian Railway (Rhb) is Swiss private railway company located in Chur, that owns the largest railway network in Switzerland.
Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (122 km long). Represents an example of how the railway was used to overcome the isolation of the people in the mountains. It contains outstanding technical and architectural examples of well-designed constructions of bridges, viaducts, and tunnels, built with high quality in harmony with the natural environment and landscapes. The 62 km Albula line starts from Thusis towards St. Moritz. From here the Bernina line continues all the way to Tirano where the route ends.
The Bernina Express route will simply amaze you with the breathtaking natural scenery and astonishing railway engineering of such imposing structures like the viaducts. Especially from Chur to St.Moritz the picturesque views of the landscapes will leave you breathless. The train takes you up in the Swiss Alps where you’ll see glaciers, mountain peaks covered with snow and brings you back down to the warm Italian south rich in palm trees. And you’ll be experiencing these changes in the altitudes, all in just a few hours ride.
You can take the train from the capital of this canton of Graubünden, Chur which is the oldest town in Switzerland or from Davos, a very popular tourist destination and the biggest resort town in the Alps. Located 1,560 m above sea level, this Swiss ski resort town is also a host to the annual World Economic Forum. Finally, taking the route from St.Moritz is also an option. This upscale resort town is a two-time host to the Winter Olympics.
This scenic train route exists for a good reason though. If you’d wanna experience all the wow moments of the astonishing natural beauty, bridges or tunnels, see a little bit more what is Switzerland all about, don’t miss out the opportunity to board the train right from the beginning, in Chur. Starting its way from Chur, Bernina Express will pass by Rhine Gorge and the region with most castles in Switzerland, the Domleschg valley.
*A viaduct is a bridge composed of several small spans for crossing a valley, dry or wetland or forming an overpass or flyover.
The railway line from Thusis – Valposchiavo – Tirano has UNESCO World Heritage status. Here is what else you can see and experience on the way:
- Solis viaduct, the highest viaduct of Rhaetian Railway. It is a single track railway built in 1902 on two side rocks. Rises up to 89 m in height and 164 m in length with a span of 42 m.
- Built the same year the famous and probably the high point of the journey, Landwasser viaduct rises up to 65 m in height and it is 136 m long. The train here runs directly from this curved viaduct into the Landwasser tunnel.
- Next, the train will cross over another impressive bridge, the Wiesner viaduct.
- When the train passes under a curve of 180 degrees across the Montebello Curve, on the right you’ll be able to see the Morteratsch Glacier – the most massive glacier in the eastern Alps.
- Next, you’ll see two lakes, first the Black Lake (Lej Nair) and then the White Lake (Lago Bianco)
- At an elevation of 2,253 m above sea level, the Bernina Express will reach the Ospizio Bernina, the highest station of Rhaetian Railway. There is also a bistro – Albergo here, that serves snacks and drinks.
- The train continues to Alp Grum station, the only hotel/restaurant here where one can admire the astonishing views reachable only by train. A popular spot for hikers.
- The train route then continues towards the village Poschiavo and will pass by the Lake Poschiavo, at 962 m above sea level, where a popular hiking trail exists around the lake,
- before reaching to the Brusio Spiral Viaduct where will turn 360 degrees on the open track.
- In the end, the Bernina Express train arrives at the final destination, the town of Tirano (Italy) on the southern point of the Bernina line. The train will pass through the town before gets to the station.
There is no limit on your luggage on Bernina Express. You can place your bags in the luggage racks near the entrance door where you can hang your coat as well. Dogs might be allowed on board. Although they should be on a leash. WiFi won’t be available on this route.
In the canton of Graubünden, there are 4,000 kilometers of marked cycling trails where you can explore this famous train route even by bike. What is even more convenient you can buy yourself a bike pass and hop on or off the trains along with your bike as you like.
If planning more train journeys in Switzerland you can choose to travel with one pass that can be a Swiss Travel Pass. Or if you opt for Eurail Pass the scenic train rides will be included in the price of the ticket and you’ll get free or discounted rides with boats. Find out more about Eurail Pass and the types of tickets here.