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Are you interested on taking the Bernina Express ride in Switzerland? I took this scenic train ride from Tirano, Italy to Chur, Switzerland with my friends during our 2-week backpacking trip around Europe. I absolutely enjoyed the 4-hour train ride across the stunning landscape of Switzerland.
The Bernina Express train route is so incredible that it takes passengers through a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as incredible alpine landscapes. Imagine all of the cliches that exist regarding the allure of traveling by scenic train and then multiply them by a thousand. This excursion will take you all the way through Switzerland in the end.
In this blog, you will discover the highlights of this iconic alpine adventure, from the breathtaking route and comfortable travel classes to the convenient booking process and delectable dining options. Wander the charm of the Swiss Alps, and learn why the Bernina Express is a must-visit experience for any avid traveler.
What is Bernina Express?
The Bernina Express, operated by Rhaetian Railway, is an express train service that connects the Swiss towns of Chur and Tirano, traveling through the enchanting landscapes of the Swiss Alps. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the railway line boasts spectacular views and engineering marvels that have captured the hearts of travelers worldwide.
This journey covers a distance of approximately 144 kilometers (89 miles) and climbs to an impressive 2,253 meters (7,392 feet) above sea level at its highest point, the Ospizio Bernina. The route includes 55 tunnels, 196 bridges, and numerous viaducts, showcasing the remarkable engineering feats required to construct such a line in the challenging alpine terrain.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Bernina Express is its panoramic coaches, which feature large windows that allow passengers to fully immerse themselves in the captivating landscapes. Additionally, the train travels leisurely, enabling travelers to savor the picturesque surroundings and snap photographs of the idyllic panoramas.
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What are the highlights and routes of Bernina Express?
These are some of the various landmarks and scenic points that make the Bernina Express an unforgettable experience. For this trip, I took the Bernina Express from Tirano, Italy, to Chur, Switzerland, which allowed me to fully appreciate the astounding beauty and engineering feats along the way.
The Bernina Express route commences in Tirano, a charming Italian town nestled in the Valtellina Valley. As the train leaves Tirano, it crosses the border into Switzerland, beginning a magical alpine adventure. The journey follows the Albula and Bernina lines, recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their remarkable landscapes and engineering achievements.
One of the first highlights of the journey is the Brusio Circular Viaduct, a spiral-shaped stone structure designed to help the train navigate the steep gradient. This impressive feat of engineering allows passengers to marvel at the verdant valleys and quaint villages below.
As the train goes to the Bernina Pass, it reaches the Lago Bianco, which is a stunning lake between snow-capped peaks. The contrast between the turquoise waters and the surrounding alpine scenery creates a tableau that will leave a lasting impression.
Then, the Bernina Express reaches its highest point at Ospizio Bernina, 2,253 meters (7,392 feet) above sea level. Here, the train slows down a little bit to allow travelers to fully appreciate the breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding glaciers and peaks, a testament to the captivating beauty of the Swiss Alps.
Descending from the heights, the train travels through a series of tunnels and viaducts, including the iconic Landwasser Viaduct, a 65-meter (213 feet) high and 136-meter (446 feet) long curved limestone bridge that seems to effortlessly blend with the dramatic landscape.
The final leg of the journey takes passengers through the Domleschg Valley, which is adorned with forests, hills, and castles. The Bernina Express then arrives in Chur, the oldest town in Switzerland, where travelers can explore its charming cobblestone streets and rich history.
How long is the Bernina Express journey, and what is the schedule of the train?
The Bernina Express covers a distance of approximately 144 kilometers (89 miles) between Tirano, Italy, and Chur, Switzerland. The journey takes around 4 hours, allowing passengers ample time to savor the stunning landscapes, capture photographs, and immerse themselves in the captivating alpine atmosphere.
As for the train schedule, the Bernina Express typically operates daily, with two departures from Tirano and two departures from Chur during the high season (April to October). In the low season (November to March), the train runs less frequently, with one departure per day from each station. The first departure from Tirano is usually around 10:00 am, and the first departure from Chur is typically around 8:30 am. \
Take note that seat reservations are mandatory for the Bernina Express, so be sure to book your tickets in advance to secure your spot on this remarkable journey. Tickets can be purchased directly through the Rhaetian Railway website, at train stations, or via authorized travel agents.
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What are the different travel classes available on the Bernina Express, and what are their differences?
The Bernina Express offers two classes of travel: First Class and Second Class. Both classes provide a comfortable journey with panoramic windows, ensuring all passengers can fully appreciate the captivating scenery along the route. However, some key differences between the two classes may influence your choice.
First Class on the Bernina Express offers a more spacious and luxurious experience. The seats are arranged in a 2+1 configuration, providing wider seats and more passenger legroom. Additionally, each seat has a fold-out table and a reading lamp, allowing for added convenience and comfort during the journey. First Class passengers also benefit from priority boarding and access to exclusive lounge areas at selected train stations.
Second Class on the Bernina Express still offers a comfortable journey, with the primary distinction being the seat configuration. In Second Class, the seats are arranged in a 2+2 configuration, providing slightly less space and legroom than in First Class. While the seats may not be as wide, they still offer ample comfort and unobstructed views of the stunning landscapes through the panoramic windows.
What are the ticket prices for the Bernina Express?
Understanding the cost of this is an essential factor to consider when planning your journey through the Swiss Alps. It will enable you to make the best decision for your trip and ensure you receive excellent value for your money.
The ticket prices for the Bernina Express vary depending on factors such as the class of travel, the season, and the type of ticket you choose. While this blog will provide a general overview of the costs, consulting the official Rhaetian Railway website or an authorized travel agent for the most accurate and up-to-date pricing is important.
First Class tickets, in Swiss Francs, typically range from CHF 90 (€90) to CHF 130 (€130) for a one-way journey between Tirano and Chur. The higher prices usually apply during the high season (April to October), while lower prices may be available during the low season (November to March).
Second Class tickets generally cost between CHF 60 (€60) and CHF 90 (€90) for a one-way trip from Tirano to Chur. As with First Class, the higher prices tend to apply during the high season, with lower prices available during the low season.
Please note that these prices are for the standard Bernina Express journey only and do not include seat reservation fees. A mandatory seat reservation fee, usually around CHF 14 (€14) per person, is required for all passengers, regardless of the class of travel.
Additionally, suppose you hold a Swiss Travel Pass, Eurail Pass, or Interrail Pass. In that case, you are eligible for discounted fares or free travel on the Bernina Express, depending on your pass type. However, the mandatory seat reservation fee still applies and must be paid separately. Again, it is important to check their website for updated pricing.
How to Book Bernina Express Tickets?
There are several ways to book your Bernina Express tickets, and here is the outline of the most common methods:
1. Online Booking
One of the most convenient ways to book your Bernina Express tickets is through the official Rhaetian Railway website. The website provides a user-friendly platform where you can select your desired travel date, class, and departure time and complete the booking process with a few simple clicks. This method allows you to secure your tickets and seat reservations from the comfort of your own home.
2. Train Stations
Another option for booking your Bernina Express tickets is to visit a train station in Switzerland or Tirano, Italy. Major train stations typically have staffed ticket counters where you can purchase tickets and seat reservations in person. This method may be suitable for those who prefer a more traditional booking experience or need assistance from the staff with their travel arrangements.
You can also book your Bernina Express tickets through authorized travel agents, either in-person or online. This option can be particularly helpful for those who want to combine their Bernina Express journey with other travel arrangements, such as accommodations or sightseeing tours. Travel agents can provide personalized advice and assistance, helping you create a tailored travel itinerary that meets your needs and preferences.
Regardless of your booking method, remember that seat reservations are mandatory on the Bernina Express, so be sure to secure your reservation in advance. Booking early is also recommended, particularly during the high season, to ensure you have the best selection of travel dates and seating options.
Recommended Stops and Places to Explore along Bernina Express Route?
Here are some of the recommended stops and places to explore along the route. These stops provide the opportunity to delve deeper into the culture, history, and natural beauty of the Swiss Alps. These stops include St. Moritz, Chur, Bernina Pass, and Alp Grüm.
St. Moritz is a glamorous resort town in the Engadin Valley’s heart. Known for its luxury hotels, world-class skiing, and vibrant social scene, St. Moritz is an ideal destination for those seeking relaxation and excitement. You may take a leisurely stroll around Lake St. Moritz, visit the Segantini Museum to appreciate local art, or simply indulge in the town’s lively après-ski culture. Also, do not forget to take a ride on the Muottas Muragl funicular for breathtaking panoramic views of the valley.
As the oldest town in Switzerland, Chur is steeped in history and charm. Wander this charming town through the cobblestone streets of its old town, admire the impressive architecture of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, and visit the Rätisches Museum to learn more about the region’s rich cultural heritage. Chur also serves as a gateway to the Swiss Alps, with numerous hiking and skiing opportunities nearby.
The Bernina Pass is a stunning alpine pass situated at an altitude of 2,253 meters (7,392 feet) above sea level, offering unrivaled views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. While the Bernina Express offers a memorable passage through the pass, consider taking a break from the train to explore the area more thoroughly. Lace-up your boots and embark on one of the many trails, or visit the nearby Diavolezza Glacier for an unforgettable glacier walk.
Alp Grüm is a lesser-known gem along the Bernina Express route, a small railway station perched on a mountainside with commanding views of the Palü Glacier, Lago Palü, and the Poschiavo Valley. Disembark the train to enjoy a meal or a refreshing beverage at the historic Alp Grüm restaurant, with its panoramic terrace overlooking the breathtaking alpine scenery. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you may try and explore the nearby hiking trails or take a leisurely stroll around the serene Lago Palü.
What is the best time of year to take the Bernina Express?
Choosing the right time of year to embark on your Bernina Express journey can significantly impact your overall experience. Honestly, there is no definitive “best” time to take the Bernina Express, as each season offers its own unique charm and allure. I personally found April to be an exceptional time for the journey, with its mesmerizing combination of snow-capped peaks and blossoming valleys.
Anyway, this section will help you determine the best time for you to take the train ride in Switzerland. Remember that each season offers distinct advantages for travelers on the Bernina Express, so your choice will ultimately depend on your preferences and interests.
Spring, particularly April, is a fantastic time to experience the Bernina Express. The weather begins warming up, and the snow melts, revealing a vibrant landscape with blooming flowers and lush greenery. The contrast between the remaining snow-capped peaks and the awakening valleys creates a stunning visual spectacle. Additionally, April typically sees fewer tourists, allowing for a more relaxed and peaceful journey.
Summer (June to August)
Summer is the most popular season for the Bernina Express, as the warm weather and long days provide ideal conditions for sightseeing and exploring the various stops along the route. The alpine meadows are in full bloom during this time, and the hiking trails are more accessible. However, the popularity of the summer months may result in larger crowds and higher ticket prices.
Autumn (September to October)
Autumn is another excellent time to take the Bernina Express, as the changing foliage creates a tapestry of vibrant colors across the landscape. The temperatures are cooler, making it a pleasant time for outdoor activities, and the tourist crowds begin to diminish. Be aware that some hiking trails and attractions may close as the season progresses, so plan your trip accordingly.
Winter (November to March)
Winter on the Bernina Express offers a unique and magical experience as the train winds its way through a snow-covered wonderland. The crisp alpine air and serene atmosphere make this season particularly enchanting. However, it’s essential to dress warmly and be prepared for possible travel disruptions due to weather conditions.
What are the dining options on the Bernina Express?
While the Bernina Express is best known for its breathtaking scenery and remarkable journey through the Swiss Alps, it’s essential to consider the onboard dining options to make the most of your trip.
The Bernina Express features a dedicated dining car, which offers a range of snacks, light meals, and beverages to cater to various tastes and preferences. With comfortable seating and large windows, the dining car provides an excellent setting for passengers to enjoy their meals while admiring the stunning views.
Snacks and Light Bites
For those who prefer a quick snack or a light bite, the dining car offers various options, such as sandwiches, pastries, and fresh fruit. These items are perfect for a convenient and satisfying refreshment as you continue your journey through the captivating Swiss scenery.
For passengers seeking a more substantial meal, the Bernina Express dining car also offers a selection of hot dishes, typically including regional Swiss and Italian specialties. These meals are an excellent opportunity to indulge in the local cuisine while enjoying the comforts of the train.
Various hot and cold beverages are available on the Bernina Express, ensuring passengers stay refreshed and hydrated throughout their journey. Choose from a selection of tea, coffee, and hot chocolate or soft drinks, mineral water, and fruit juices. For those who wish to celebrate their journey in style, a range of wines, beers, and spirits is also available.
It’s worth noting that the dining options on the Bernina Express may vary depending on the time of day and the season, so it’s a good idea to check the current offerings before your trip. Additionally, while the onboard dining options cater to a range of tastes, passengers with specific dietary requirements or preferences may prefer to bring their own snacks or meals to enjoy during the journey.
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