Bernina Express: Unforgettable Adventure in the Heart of the Alps

Lago no trajeto do Bernina Express.
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2024-01-25

The Bernina Express is certainly an unforgettable adventure, as it offers stunning views of the Swiss Alps while traveling through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

The train starts in Tirano, Italy, and passes through the Valtellina valley before crossing the border into Switzerland.

While crossing the heart of the Alps, passengers can enjoy stunning views of snow-capped peaks, glacial valleys and even picturesque villages that splash color onto the green scenery in summer and white in winter.

Ultimately, the Bernina Express is a must-see experience for anyone visiting the region and will certainly leave a lasting impression on your memory.

We took advantage of the fact that we were in Milan to make this trip on the red train, as the Bernina Express is affectionately called, and we have put together the best tips so you can make the most of your trip.

So, shall we embark on this memorable journey through the heart of Switzerland?

What is the route of the Bernina Express?

Ponte no Bernina Express.
Bridge on the Bernina Express route.

As already mentioned, the Bernina Express is a panoramic train that runs through the Swiss Alps.

The Bernina Express route begins in Tirano, Italy, and follows the Bernina Pass through the Valtellina valley before crossing into Switzerland.

The red train then heads through the Engadine Valley, passing through the resorts of St. Moritz and Davos, before arriving at its final destination of Chur, Switzerland.

Along the way, the Bernina Express stops at several points, including Poschiavo, Pontresina and Filisur, allowing passengers to explore these beautiful towns and the surrounding countryside.

  • Tirano: The train starts in Tirano, a small city located in the Lombardy region of Italy.
  • St Moritz: The Bernina Express passes through St. Moritz, a popular ski resort in Switzerland.
  • Davos: The train stops in Davos, a tourist city known for its snowy winters and beautiful mountain landscapes.
  • Arosa: The Bernina Express passes through Arosa, a charming mountain village in the Swiss Alps.
  • Chur: The trip ends in Chur, capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden and an important cultural and economic center in the region.

The entire trip takes approximately four hours and covers a distance of around 217 km.

Highlights of the Bernina Express route

Glaciar nos Alpes Suíços.
Glacier in the Swiss Alps.

The Bernina Express route has interesting highlights and sights along the way, so here are some of the most notable:

The Bernina Pass: The Bernina Pass, or Bernina Pass, is the highest point on the route. It is also home to the Bernina Glacier, which is one of the southernmost glaciers in the Alps. It’s a magical place, a feast for the senses, with snow-capped peaks, glacial valleys and picturesque villages all in view.

The Landwasser Viaduct: The Landwasser Viaduct is a spectacular bridge that spans a deep valley and, once again, has stunning views. Therefore, it is one of the most emblematic landmarks on the Bernina route. Upon crossing this engineering marvel, the visitor will be presented with intense valleys and snow-capped peaks. The Landwasser Viaduct is more than just a bridge in the Alps, it is a symbol of the human ability to overcome challenges and achieve greatness.

St. Moritz: St. Moritz is a popular ski resort in the Swiss Alps and is known for its luxurious hotels, high-end shopping and beautiful mountain scenery. It is a place like no other for those who appreciate luxury. Explore the ski resort and enjoy world-class restaurants if appropriate.

Davos: Davos is known for its snowy landscapes, as well as being the headquarters of the World Economic Forum, which attracts leaders and influencers from around the world.

Arosa: In Arosa there are ski slopes suitable for all levels and the Arosa Bear Sanctuary which is home to several rescued bears. Furthermore, the Arosa Lenzerheide region has walking and cycling trails, the Arosa Classic Car Museum has a collection of classic cars and you can even relax in the Arosa spa.

How to Experience the Bernina Express Route?

Túnel no Comboio panorâmico.
Tunnel on the Panoramic Train.

From Chur to Tirano and vice versa (diary)

The Bernina Express operates daily from Chur to Tirano, offering passengers the opportunity to see the beauty of the Swiss Alps first-hand.

The journey from Chur to Tirano takes around 4 hours and covers a distance of approximately 135 kilometers.

It leaves Chur in the morning and arrives in Tirano in the early afternoon. The return journey from Tirano to Chur leaves in the late afternoon and arrives in Chur in the evening. There are several classes of service available, including panoramic car, comfort class and first class.

From St Moritz to Tirano and back (from May to October)

The Bernina Express runs from St Moritz to Tirano from May to October, i.e. during the hottest months of the year.

The journey from St. Moritz to Tirano takes around 3 hours and covers a distance of approximately 110 kilometers.

In this case, the Bernina departs St. Moritz in the morning and arrives in Tirano in the early afternoon. The return journey from Tirano to St. Moritz leaves in the late afternoon and arrives in St. Moritz almost at night. Again, you can choose between different classes.

Please note that stops on this route only last a few minutes, meaning it is not possible to get off the train at the stations.

From Landquart – Davos – Tirano and vice versa (from May to October)

The Bernina Express route between Landquart – Davos and Tirano is not so well known, however, it is very interesting.

It operates from May to October, and in total, this trip takes around 3 hours to complete. There are approximately 110 kilometers through the Swiss Alps, with snow-covered peaks, glacial valleys and beautiful villages along the route.

Normally the train leaves Landquart in the morning and arrives in Davos in the early afternoon. From Davos, head to Tirano, arriving in the early evening. The return journey from Tirano to Landquart leaves in the late afternoon and arrives in Landquart almost at night.

From Tirano to St. Moritz and vice versa (from April to October)

Another interesting option is to board the Bernina from Tirano to St. Moritz from April to October, with the characteristics of the route being identical to those already mentioned.

From Tirano to Lugano using the Bernina Express Bus (from mid-February to October)

Did you know that it is possible to take the Bernina Express by bus? Thus, from mid-February to October passengers can go from Tirano to Lugano, in a different way.

This way, in addition to the landscapes of the Swiss Alps, you have the opportunity to include the Italian lake region in your itinerary.

The journey from Tirano to Lugano on the Bernina Express Bus takes around 4 hours, and covers a distance of approximately 115 kilometres.

Bernina Express Bus departs Tirano in the morning and arrives in Lugano in the early afternoon. The return journey from Lugano to Tirano leaves in the late afternoon and arrives in Tirano almost at night

Take the Bernina Express route from Milan

O que fazer em Milão, Itália: visitar o Duomo, ou Catedral de Milão.
Milan Duomo or Milan Cathedral.

The best way to take the Bernina Express from Milan to St. Moritz is, in my opinion, by joining an organized tour.

Typically, these tours leave from the center of Milan and go by bus to Tirano, followed by a train journey on the Bernina Express to St Moritz and, finally, a return journey to Milan by bus.

Alternatively, if you want to do this journey independently, you can take the train from Milan to Tirano and then transfer to the Bernina Express for the journey from Tirano to St. Moritz. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

  • Take the train from Milan to Tirano: There are several trains that operate from Milan to Tirano, including high-speed and regional trains. The journey takes around 3 hours and tickets can be purchased through Trenitalia or other online sales platforms.
  • Take the Bernina Express in Tirano: When you arrive in Tirano, go to the center of Tirano, buy the ticket and board the Bernina towards St Moritz, Switzerland.

Stay in St Moritz for a few days or return to Milan.

When is the best time to take the Bernina Express train?

Lago nos Alpes.
Lake in the Alps (view from the panoramic train).

So let’s see when is the best time to take the Bernina Express, as this decision depends on each person’s preferences.

Therefore, keep in mind that there are trips throughout the year, but the climate and landscape can vary significantly depending on the season.

For example, during the winter months, the red train travels through a snowy and cold landscape, while in the summer the landscape is greener and the climate is warmer.

On the other hand, during the high season which runs from June to August, the Bernina tends to be in greater demand. In other words, if you prefer a calmer and less crowded experience, consider traveling between October and April.

What are the best seats on the Bernina Express?

Aldeias pitorescas ao longo do Bernina Express.
Picturesque villages along the Bernina Express.

First of all, you should take into account that there are different ticket classes on the Bernina Express, and, naturally, 1st class is more comfortable.

In any case, although the experience may be different, the truth is that the view is the same.

However, if you are looking to know which side of the train has better views, the right side or the left side, then let’s do it!

In the direction from Chur to Tirano, the right side of the train usually offers the most spectacular views. This doesn’t mean that the opposite side isn’t interesting, because as a rule passengers tend to go from one side to another along the route looking for the best view.

Therefore, my suggestion is that you don’t waste too much time deciding whether you want to go on the right or left side of the Bernina Express carriage.

Do I need to book the Bernina Express in advance?

Subida de comboio para os Alpes suíços.
The Bernina train in the Swiss Alps.

It is generally recommended to book Bernina Express tickets in advance, especially during high season. This happens because the train can be crowded and if you wait until the last minute you may not get tickets.

Tickets can be purchased on the official Rhaetian Railway website, at ticket vending machines at Tirano train station or, if you want to help our project, buy your ticket for the Bernina Express at this link. Keep in mind that tickets can sell out quickly, so it’s a good idea to book as far in advance as possible to secure your spot.

It’s also a good idea to check schedules and confirm your reservation before your trip. The Bernina Express schedule may vary depending on the time of year, and there may be unexpected changes or delays.

If you are unable to book tickets in advance or if you prefer to be spontaneous, you may be able to get tickets on the day of travel, but this is not guaranteed and you may have to wait for the next available train if the one you want is full.

Bernina Express Tours

Timetables and fares: what is the price of the Bernina Express?

Mapa do Bernina Express.
Bernina Express Map.

If you prefer to travel on the Bernina on your own, that is, not buy a tour, here are the approximate ticket prices:

One-way tickets: One-way tickets for the Bernina Express cost from CHF50 for adults and CHF25 for children in second class, and around CHF80 for adults and CHF40 for children in first class.

Return tickets: Return tickets for the Bernina Express cost from CHF 90 for adults and CHF 45 for children in second class, and around CHF 150 for adults and CHF 75 for children in first class.

Discounts: There are several discounts available for the Bernina Express, including discounts for seniors, students and children. You can also get discounts by booking your tickets in advance or purchasing a pass like the Swiss Travel Pass or Eurail Pass.

If you want to simplify, when purchasing a tour departing from Milan you don’t need to worry about transfers or exchanging the Swiss franc to the euro, nor any fees for making payments in a different currency.

Differences between the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express

O Comboio vermelho panorâmico.
The panoramic red train in the Alps.

The Bernina Express and Glacier Express are two popular tourist trains in the Swiss Alps. Both trains are known for their panoramic windows, and both pass through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

However, there are some important differences between the two trains.

Here are some of the main differences between the Bernina Express and Glacier Express:

Route: The Bernina Express travels from Chur to Tirano, passing through the Swiss Alps and the Engadin region. The Glacier Express travels from St. Moritz to Zermatt, passing through the Swiss Alps and the Valais region.

Duration: The Bernina Express takes around 4 hours to travel from Chur to Tirano, while the Glacier Express takes around 8 hours to travel from St. Moritz to Zermatt.

Elevation: The Bernina Express reaches a maximum elevation of 2,253 meters at Bernina Pass, while the Glacier Express reaches a maximum elevation of 2,033 meters at Oberalp Pass.

Scenery: Both the Bernina Express and Glacier Express have stunning views of the Swiss Alps, but the scenery on each train is a little different. Thus, the Bernina Express passes through the Engadin region, known for its lakes and mountains, while the Glacier Express passes through the Valais region, known for its glaciers and valleys.

In other words, both the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express are great options for discovering the beauty of the Swiss Alps.

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