Bernina ExpressBernina Express
From Chur to Tirano and Lugano
This panoramic train connects the north of Europe to its south rail touring right through the UNESCO World Heritage site of Rhaetian Railway, passing by glaciers on its way down to palm trees.
Crossing the Alps in the Bernina Express certainly is one of the most spectacular ways to do it. Along the way, the Bernina Express rolls Hollywood-style over the 65 meter high Landwasser Viaduct, the signature structure of the Rhaetian Railway and the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Altogether the train passes through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges on its way from Chur to Tirano. Travellers are treated to marvellous sights during their journey, like the Montebello curve with a view of the Bernina massif, the Morteratsch glacier, the three lakes Lej Pitschen, Lej Nair and Lago Bianco, the Alp Grüm and the Brusio Circular Viaduct.
In summer, the journey can be extended from Tirano to Lugano aboard the Bernina Express Bus.
Bernina Express rolls on the Bernina Railway which is part of The Rhaetian Railway (RhB)
The Bernina railway is a single-track 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) metre gauge railway line forming part of the Rhaetian Railway (RhB). It links the spa resort of St. Moritz, in the Canton of Graubünden, Switzerland, with the town of Tirano, in the Province of Sondrio, Italy, via the Bernina Pass. Reaching a height of 2,253 metres (7,392 ft) above sea level, it is the highest railway crossing in Europe and the third highest railway in Switzerland. It also ranks as the highest adhesion railway of the continent, and – with inclines of up to 7% – as one of the steepest adhesion railways in the world.
On 7 July 2008, the Bernina Railway and the Albula Railway, which also forms part of the RhB, were recorded in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, under the name Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes. The whole site is regarded as a cross-border joint Swiss-Italian heritage area.
The most famous trains operating on the Bernina Railway are known as the Bernina Express.
Bernina Express Facts
The Bernina Express minibar offers delicious snacks and refreshing beverages
The train does not feature a dining car. The guests spend their lunchtime in the Italian town of Tirano
Bernina Express Timetable
Summer and winter timetable panoramic trains
Timetable regular scheduled service
Bernina Express Ticket
This route is fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass (Flex) and GA travelcard
Bernina Express Reservations
Apart from a valid ticket, a seat reservation is required (max. 90 days in advance)
In addition, the train is subject to surcharge:
Bernina Express from snow-capped peaks to palm-tree paradise.
The Bernina Express is the most spectacular of all Alpine crossings. It seamlessly connects
the cool north with the warm sunny south, effortlessly overcoming the steepest gradients.
This is one of the most beautiful rail trips in the world.
Crossing the Alps with the Bernina Express is an unforgettable experience. From Chur the crimson-red train first winds its way through the Engadine region up to the 2253-metre Ospizia Bernina, with its simple but welcoming rooms and spacious restaurant. Near Filisur the train crosses the 65-metre high legendary Landwasser viaduct dating back more than 100 years.
The journey continues through no fewer than 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges, easily
overcoming the 7 percent gradient, without resorting to rack-and-pinion technology. At the very latest when the first glaciers glisten in the distance, few passengers will be still staying in their seats. This remarkable route continues through the Val Poschiavo, crossing into Italy’s Valtellina winegrowing region.
The Albula and Bernina lines between Thusis and Tirano (in Italy) comprise a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site as an “outstanding technical, architectural and environmental ensemble”. Spectacular views along the way include the magnificent Montebello Curve.
Bernina Express History
The first direct railcar service from Chur in Switzerland to Tirano in neighbouring Italy was launched in 1969. Later renamed the Bernina Express, the cross-border route enjoyed such great popularity that only 10 years later the rolling stock had to be renewed. Large panorama windows were introduced in some railcars in 2000, and only six years later throughout the entire train. Today passengers enjoy air-conditioned comfort and freedom of movement as
they discover the many scenic splendours along this remarkable route. Between 1984 and 2012, the number of passengers more than tripled. 2010 saw the additional attraction of the Bernina Express Bus, which in summer travels from Tirano along palm-lined Lake Como to Lugano back into Switzerland.
Bernina Express Facts & Figures
Route Bernina Express Train:
* Chur – Tirano and vice-versa
* St. Moritz – Tirano and vice-versa
* Davos – Tirano and vice-versa (summer season only, March to October)
Bernina Express Bus: (summer season only, March to October)
* Tirano – Lugano vice-versa
Offer * Panorama railcars 1st and 2nd class
* Minibar with snacks and drinks
* Bernina Express Souvenir Shop
* Bernina Express souvenir certificate, obtainable from the railway stations
of Chur, St. Moritz or Tirano on presentation of ticket
* Good-to-know audio information in English, German and Italian between Tirano
and St. Moritz. Between St. Moritz and Chur in English and Germany only
* Bernina Express travel guide at your seat
* Handicapped accessible toilets and wheelchair seating
Travel duration * Chur – Tirano 4h 13 min
* Davos – Tirano 3h 40 min
* St. Moritz – Tirano 2h 30 min
* Bus Tirano – Lugano 3h 10 min
Route length 156 kilometres / 97 miles
Route stops * Chur – Tiefencastel – Davos – Filisur – Bergün – Samedan – St. Moritz – Pontresina – Ospizio
Bernina – Alp Grüm – Poschiavo – Le Prese – Tirano – Lugano
The Bernina Express reservation supplement applies to the entire itinerary, regardless of which part(s) of the route is or are actually travelled.
A separate seat reservation is also required for the Bernina Express Bus
Eating and drinking
* The Bernina Express minibar serves a selection of tasty snacks and refreshing drinks
* The train has no dining car. During lunchtime in Poschiavo or in Tirano (Italy) many restaurants are on offer
Ticket information Reservation supplement (mandatory)
Summer season, 05.05. – 23.10.2016, CHF 14
Winter season, 26.10.2015 – 04.05.2016, CHF 10
Bernina Express Bus, 25.03. – 23.10.2016, CHF 14
Individual Passenger Fares (excluding reservation supplement)
Swiss Travel Pass
Swiss Travel Pass Flex
Swiss Travel Pass Youth
Swiss Half Fare Card
CHF 43.50 2nd class
CHF 67 1st class
Children aged 6 –16 with Swiss Family Card
free of charge
CHF 87 2nd class
CHF 134 1st class
All prices are subject to change.
Bernina Express Route Highlights
En route from Chur to Tirano (Italy) the Bernina Express comprises the following highlights and excursion attractions:
The Domleschg is a region renowned for its countless castles, due mainly to its strategic position on the route to three main Alpine passes – the Splügen, San Bernadino and Julier. Fortresses were built to control this ancient route, making the Domleschg one of the regions in Europe richest in castles. The largest is Schloss Ortenstein, which is located on a 120-metre rock overhangbhigh above Tomils.
In ancient Roman times, according to legend, Saint George escaped his pursuers by making
a mighty leap over the Albula River on horseback. The modern form of gorge-crossing is also
mighty in its own way. The Solis Viaduct, built in 1902, rises to 89 metres and spans 42 metres
– making it not only the highest bridge of the Rhaetian Railway but also the widest span of any
along the Albula line.
The Landwasser Viaduct is the most spectacular construction on the 63-kilometre Albula stretch between Thusis and St. Moritz – and the most photographed feature of the entire Rhaetian Railway.
It comes into view on the right shortly before the village of Filisur, is 142 metres long
and rises impressively to a height of 65 metres. The natural stone viaduct extends in a curve
over the rugged Landwasser Valley, directly into a tunnel entrance on a vertical rock wall.
Bergün and Preda.
The direct distance between Bergün and Preda is only six kilometres. But
the Rhaetian Railway has to travel more than twice that distance to make
the maximum gradient climb of 3.5 percent between the two. To cover the
418-metre difference in altitude, trains have to pass through five loop tunnels,
cross four valleys and negotiate many smaller tunnels, viaducts and dams.
Between Bever and Celerina in the Engadine, the traditional farmhouses of the region never fail to fascinate travellers. These mainly three-floor dwellings are characterised by strong stone walls and deep funnel-shaped windows – but most of all their stylish Sgraffiti (special facade decoration). The word is derived from the Italian “sgraffiare” (to scratch) and refers to the technique of this traditional craft.
Montebello Curve and Morteratsch Glacier.
After Morteratsch, the Bernina Express first passes the Montebello Curve. Then on the right in the direction of travel, the Bernina massif and Morteratsch Glacier come into view. This third-largest glacier in the Eastern Alps lies in the upper section of the Morteratsch Valley. The highest peak in the Eastern Alps – the 4049-metre Piz Bernina – sets the scene to perfection.
The Bernina Pass is just one of the many highlights of a trip on the Bernina Express – and at
2253 metres it is the highest-altitude station on the Rhaetian Railway network. Before reaching
the Ospizio Bernina the train passes the three small lakes Lej Nair, Lej Pitschen and Lago
Bianco, marking the watershed between the Black Sea and the Adriatic.
On Alp Grüm you’ll find probably the only restaurant along the route accessible solely by train.
Its sun terrace offers fine views of the rugged Bernina massif, the eternal ice of the Palü Glacier and the sunny Val Poschiavo extending into Italy. Just after the train departs, Lake Poschiavo and the distant Bergamo Alps come into view.
In Val Poschiavo – one of the most remote regions of Switzerland – the
Bernina Express runs in close proximity to the waters of Lake Poschiavo.
This natural lake was formed by a prehistoric landslide, but a man-made
water catchment at the southern serves to regulate the outflow. Today,
the two small communities of Le Prese and Miralago are popular vacation
Brusio Circular Viaduct.
No other landmark along the Bernina line is as striking as the Brusio Circular Viaduct. From
below Brusio, the Rhaetian Railway overcomes an entire altitude level by means of two loops
each of 100 metres’ diameter. The open stretch across the viaduct allows passengers to
appreciate fully this remarkable feat of railway engineering.
Tirano lies in the upper Valtellina at the entrance to the Val Poschiavo. The tiny town in the Italian province of Sondrio is renowned for its impressive 16th century Church of the Madonna.
This is where the train line terminates, and where in summer passengers change to the Bernina Express Bus to continue their journey to Lugano back in Switzerland.
Bernina Express Bus.
During the summer season, passengers can prolong their travel experience by changing
(across the border in Italy) to the red Bernina Express Bus in Tirano. The route passes through
the Valtellina with its Mediterranean-style climate via Sondrio and Morbegno to palm-lined
Lake Como. After a short stop in Sorico, the journey proceeds to Lake Lugano, re-enters
Switzerland and reaches its destination at Lugano – cultural “capital” of Canton Ticino.
Idyllic Lake Como is where many celebrities (among them Brad Pitt) own a vacation residence.
In summer Bernina Express Bus passengers too can discover the delights of picturesque
promenades, spacious parks and tranquil fishing villages, extending along the western shore
as far as Menaggio with its Piazza Garibaldi. From here the bus heads back to Switzerland.
Lake Lugano lies at Ticino’s southernmost point and extends into Italy. The lake is surrounded
by several mountains, including Monte Generoso, Monte Brè and Lugano’s “home” mountain,
Monte San Salvatore. A leisurely lake cruise is the perfect way to explore this diverse region.
The Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano operates a fleet of 10 motor vessels.