My list of various destinations and scenic train rides in Switzerland is getting longer and longer. In the summer of 2022, I was finally able to cross off one item: a trip on the Bernina Express.
In the next lines, I'll take you on a journey from the Swiss glaciers to the Italian palm trees. I hope I can inspire you to take a trip with the Bernina Express.
7 Highlights on the Bernina Express
- The beautiful ride travels along the Bernina and Albula lines, which are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- The journey leads from the glaciers of Switzerland to the palm trees of Italy.
- During the trip, you'll travel through different language regions, cultures, climates and countries in just a few hours.
- The Bernina Express travels over 196 bridges and through 55 tunnels.
- At Ospizio Bernina, the panoramic train reaches the highest point of the journey at 2253 meters above sea level.
- The Bernina Express is the highest railroad line in Europe.
- The InfoT(r)ainment and the loudspeaker announcements on board provide you with additional information about the Bernina Express.
Route Bernina Express
The Bernina Express train runs between Chur or St. Moritz and Tirano in Italy. From Tirano, the Bernina Express bus then runs to Lugano.
- Chur - Tirano - Chur (Bernina Express train)
- St. Moritz - Tirano - St. Moritz (Bernina Express train)
- Tirano - Lugano - Tirano (Bernina Express Bus)
For my trip I slightly changed the route. I start in Chur and travel via Pontresina and Ospizio Bernina to Poschiavo. In Poschiavo, I have a lunch break and then return back to Chur.
But let's start from the beginning..
My Bernina Express train departs Chur at 08:32 and travels to Tirano. The journey leads through the UNESCO World Heritage Rhaetian Railway at the Albula line, through 55 tunnels and across 196 bridges. Many viaducts await along the entire route, which the Bernina Express crosses or even uses as loop tunnels between Bergün and Preda. The crossing of two famous viaducts, the Landwasser and the Kreisviadukt, is also on the itinerary.
Stage 1: from Chur to Pontresina
Armed with a fine croissant and a hot coffee, I wait at the Chur train station for the Bernina Express to arrive. On the platform there are already information boards showing where the various carriages are located. You can feel the anticipation of all passengers.
During the entire train ride, two stewards take care of the guests' well-being. In addition, there is a train attendant who checks reservations and tickets. I really like the fact that the stewards are always sharing insider information about the route with the passengers. You can feel their enthusiasm and passion for their job.
In addition to the information from the stewards, there are always train announcements about the landscape or historical background to various buildings, such as castles
Shortly after the start, the train already begins to gain altitude and the journey heads towards Thusis. The village lies at 697 meters above sea level and is the starting point of the UNESCO World Heritage route
With a view of beautiful valleys, gorges and mountains, the train travels along the Albula line to Bergün/Bravuogn. Before reaching the small village at 1372 m above sea level, the first highlight of the Bernina Express already awaits: the Landwasser Viaduct. It is one of the most famous structures in Graubünden and the landmark of the Rhaetian Railway. Around 22,000 trains cross it every year
The crossing of the viaduct is rather short, as it quickly ends with the entrance to the Landwasser tunnel, which takes us in the direction of Bergün/Bravuogn. If you want to enjoy the Landwasser Viaduct in peace and take a great souvenir photo, there is a viewpoint directly under the viaduct. However, for this you have to leave the Bernina Express train
After the departure in Bergün/Bravuogn, the Bernina Express travels through several helical tunnels up to Preda. Here it gains 417 meters in altitude. It is special that the train changes the valley side again and again and we can see Bergün from all sides. The train continues through the well-known Albula tunnel in the direction of the Upper Engadine. As the train comes out of the tunnel, a different and even more beautiful landscape awaits me. The higher the track gets, the less forest there is. But the more rock and glaciers
Stage 2: from Pontresina to Ospizio Bernina
Shortly after Pontresina, I also get an incredible view of the Morteratsch glacier. Once again I realize how beautiful and diverse Switzerland is. I am so overwhelmed by the landscape
To the left and to the right, more highlights are constantly added: Muottas Muragl, Piz Bernina, reservoirs and many more. By the way, you will also get to see this part if you start your trip in St. Moritz. But here the route from Chur is the same as the one from St. Moritz
With my cell phone camera I take one souvenir photo after the other. The ride flies by and soon the train has reached the highest point of the Bernina line: Ospizio Bernina (2253 m above sea level).
Before the train stops at Ospizio Bernina station, the journey passes three lakes: Lej Pitschen, Lej Nair and Lago di Bianco. The two lakes Lej Pitschen and Lej Nair (Black Lake) flow into the Inn River and later into the Black Sea.
Lago Bianco, on the other hand, is a reservoir with a milky white color that comes from glacier water and sand. The special thing about Lago di Bianco is that besides being a reservoir, it is also a watershed. The water east of the lake flows into the Black Sea and the water south of the lake flows into the Adriatic Sea
The milky water, the purple flowers on the lakeshore and the Cambrena glacier in the background make a beautiful panorama. Fortunately, Lago di Bianco is about three kilometers long. So I can enjoy the view for a long time, because the train line runs along the lake
The journey continues to the next stop and a restaurant that can only be reached by train or on foot: Alp Grüm.
The train stops here for about 15 min, so I can enjoy the view of a small lake, the glacier and the old mountain inn and take a photo. With a bell, the train attendant symbolizes to the passengers that it is time to board and move on
Stage 3: from Ospizio Bernina to Poschiavo
Now the train zigzags downhill towards Valposchiavo. On the descent, I notice that the train loses more than 1000 meters in altitude in just one hour. The forest immediately becomes denser and the mild climate with the warm rays of the sun can be felt through the large panoramic windows
I enjoy the last minutes in the Bernina Express before the train reaches Poschiavo station. This is the end of the line for me on the Bernina Express. The small, charming village and a delicious lunch are waiting for me.
Poschiavo has a pretty village center with numerous restaurants. For a short stay and to have something to eat, Poschiavo is perfect. If you want to spend several hours or even a day in Poschiavo, you can go to Lago di Poschiavo and take a cooling dip in the lake if the weather is nice
Fabienne's 4th stage: Option Poschiavo back to Chur with a stop at the Cavaglia Glacier Garden
The train continues from Poschiavo to Tirano. For me it's after lunch with the regional trains back towards Alp Grüm. But before that I make a stop in Cavaglia, where I visit the Glacier Garden Cavaglia. The Glacier Garden is only a few minutes walk from the train station and is open to all visitors free of charge. At the exit there is the possibility to give a voluntary donation.
In the Glacier Garden you can see the glacier mills that were built about 11'000 years ago and you can even climb down some of them. You can also visit the Cavaglia gorge.
After the short but interesting visit in the Glacier Garden, I take the next regional train to Alp Grüm. On the outward journey, I liked the view and the atmosphere on Alp Grüm so much that a stop on the way back is definitely a must for me
On the terrace of the restaurant Alp Grüm I enjoy the peaceful and quiet atmosphere. A few last souvenir photos have to be taken, of course. With the view towards the Palü glacier, I discover some great hiking trails and already plan my next trips..
Official 4th stage: Poschiavo to Tirano
As already mentioned, the route of the Bernina Express does not end in Poschiavo, but continues on to Tirano. After departing from Poschiavo station, the train heads towards Lago di Poschiavo. The route passes directly by the popular bathing lake and you have an incredibly beautiful view of the lake
After Lago di Poschiavo, the next highlight of the Bernina Express train route soon follows: the circular viaduct in Brusio. Here the train makes a 360 degree turn on the viaduct to overcome the height. The viaduct is considered the most spectacular structure on the Bernina line.
After Brusio follows the final station of the train: Tirano. You immediately notice, due to the tropical climate, that the train has covered many meters in altitude and that you are now at 429 meters above sea level. But before reaching the station, the train passes through the small town and the famous church "Basilica Madonna". So you get a little sightseeing tour through Tirano at the end of your train journey.
5th stage: from Tirano by bus to Lugano
After a short stop and time for lunch, you have the option of continuing to Lugano on the Bernina Express bus. The bus route goes along the vineyards of Valtellina, Lake Como and Lake Lugano. The route is very varied and takes about three hours. Here, too, you will get additional information via the InfoT(r)ainment System.
The route is the pure opposite of the train route. Here you will see mainly the more Mediterranean landscape and significantly fewer mountains.
Gastronomy on the Bernina Express
There is no restaurant on board the Bernina Express. The stewards come after the train ride with a minibar through all the cars and serve you hot and cold drinks, wine, spirits, Plättli with cheese or Salsiz, various pastries and of course souvenirs
If you have enough time in the morning at the train station in Chur when you change trains, I recommend you to get a fine coffee and a croissant for the journey. In my opinion, this tastes better than from the minibar. And you have more variations.
Bernina Express timetable
The timetable of the Bernina Express depends on the season. While the train runs all year round between Chur or St. Moritz and Tirano, the bus between Tirano and Lugano runs only from the end of April to the end of November. You can make the trip in both directions. Start either in Lugano, in St. Moritz or in Chur.
If you want to travel the whole Bernina Express route by train and bus, you have to either
- in Chur at 08:32,
- in St. Moritz at 09:17 o'clock or
- in Lugano at 10:00 o'clock
timetable Bernina Express train 2022
|Chur - Tirano||08:32||12:49||all year|
|Chur - Tirano||13:33||17:59||mid May to end of October|
|St. Moritz - Tirano||09:17||11:32||Mid May to end of October|
|St. Moritz - Tirano||13:17||15:31||Mid May to end of October|
|St. Moritz - Tirano||16:14||18:39||Mid April to end of October|
|Tirano - Chur||08:06||12:39||Mid May to end of October|
|Tirano - Chur||14:24||18:20||all year|
|Tirano - St. Moritz||10:06||12:35||mid April to end October|
|Tirano - St. Moritz||13:17||15:45||mid May to end October|
|Tirano - St. Moritz||16:06||18:25||Mid May to end of October|
Timetable Bernina Express Bus 2022
|Tirano - Lugano||14:20||17:30||end of April until end of October daily|
|Tirano - Lugano||14:20||17:30||November Thursday to Sunday|
|Lugano - Tirano||10:00||13:00||end of April until end of October daily|
|Lugano - Tirano||10:00||13:00||November Thursday to Sunday|
Tickets Bernina Express
The price for the ticket with the Bernina Express consists of two components. On the one hand you need a ticket for the route, on the other hand there are the costs for the seat reservation
Prices Bernina Express 2022
All Swiss Rail tickets are valid on the Bernina Express. The prices in the table are for adults without discount
|Route||2nd class (CHF)||1st class (CHF)|
|Chur - Tirano one way||63.00||111.00|
|Chur - Tirano return||126.00||222.00|
|Chur - Poschiavo one way||56.00||98.00|
|Chur - Poschiavo return||112.00||196.00|
|St. Moritz - Tirano one way||32.00||56.00|
|St. Moritz - Tirano return||64.00||112.00|
- With the GA, the Swiss Travel Pass, the Eurail and the Interrail, the journey is included, except for the surcharge for the seat reservation.
- With the Half-Fare Card or the Swiss Half Fare Card, there is a 50% reduction.
- Children between the ages of 6 and 16 travel at half price.
- With the Junior Card, children up to 16 years of age travel free when accompanied by a parent.
Prices Reservation Bernina Express
A reservation is required in any case, even if the route costs nothing with certain tickets. Prices for seat reservations vary depending on the season and cost the same for 1st and 2nd class.
- Season A lasts from the beginning of June to the end of September
- Season B lasts from the beginning of March to the end of June and from the beginning of October to the end of October
- Season C lasts in November
|means of transport||season||price (CHF)|
|Bernina Express Train||Season A||26.00|
|Bernina Express Train||Season B||24.00|
|Bernina Express Train||Season C||20.00|
|Bernina Express Bus||Season A||16.00|
|Bernina Express Bus||Season B||14.00|
|Bernina Express Bus||Season C||10.00|
Fabienne's tips for the Bernina Express
Seat reservation in two compartments
I made the trip in 1st class. If you are also traveling in 1st class, I recommend reserving a seat in a double compartment. There are two seats opposite each other and you have much more space than in a four-seat compartment.
Savings day tickets
In order to get a cheap ticket, I can recommend you the Spartageskarten on the SBB website or SBB Mobile App. These are available with and without a Half-Fare Card and you can book them up to 60 days in advance. The earlier you book your Spartageskarte, the cheaper it is
Better view on the right side
During the journey towards Tirano, you have a better view of the sights in the direction of travel on the right. However, you cannot influence this when booking and need some luck to sit on the right side.
Shortened journey to Poschiavo and use of regional trains
If the whole trip to Tirano is too long for you, I can highly recommend the trip to Poschiavo. Poschiavo is a small village and is ideal for a delicious lunch. After that you can also continue to Tirano with the regional trains of the Rhaetian Railway. The other option is to take the regional trains back towards St. Moritz or Chur
Overnight stay in St. Moritz
Of course, an overnight stay in St. Moritz is also worthwhile. The region is a perfect starting point for numerous activities and hikes. So you can split your trip with the Bernina Express and enjoy the towns along the way.
At every table on the Bernina Express you will find a flyer about InfoT(r)ainment on board. With your Bernina Express reservation, you benefit from discounts in restaurants or bakeries in some towns such as St. Moritz or Poschiavo
Are you planning a trip with the Bernina Express? Then I recommend you to reserve your seat as early as possible. Seats on the Bernina Express train and bus are limited and can be booked up quickly, especially in high season. You will receive your reservation up to 90 days in advance
FAQs about the Bernina Express
When is the best season to travel with the Bernina Express?
- You can travel the Bernina Express all year round. The view is very impressive at any time of the year. However, if you want to travel from Tirano to Lugano by Bernina Express bus, you should travel between the end of April and the end of November
Is a trip with the Bernina Express worthwhile?
- Yes, a trip with the Bernina Express is definitely worth it. Throughout the trip you will have a very nice view of valleys, mountains, gorges, glaciers and much more through the large panoramic windows. Since the landscape is very diverse, you can expect one highlight after another
From where to where is the Bernina Express?
- The routes can vary depending on the season. The Bernina Express train runs between Chur and Tirano or between St. Moritz and Tirano. The Bernina Express bus runs in summer between Tirano and Lugano
How long does the trip with the Bernina Express take?
- The entire journey between Chur and Lugano via Tirano takes nine hours. The trip between St. Moritz and Lugano takes eight hours. You can also travel only between Chur and Tirano (4:20 h) or St. Moritz and Tirano (2:15 h)
Is the Bernina Express included in the GA?
- Yes, with the GA the trip with the Bernina Express is free of charge. In addition, there is a surcharge for the obligatory seat reservation. The price for seat reservation varies depending on the season
Is there enough space for luggage on the Bernina Express?
- There is one luggage rack per carriage for larger pieces of luggage. There is room for approx. 10 - 12 pieces of luggage on the rack. Please note that this number may vary depending on the size of your luggage. Small hand luggage can also be stored under the seats
Is there WLAN on the Bernina Express?
- Yes, you can use free WLAN on the Bernina Express. Connect to the WLAN network "InfoTrainment", open the website www.infotrainment.ch in your browser and accept the terms and conditions. You are already connected to the Internet and can chat during your trip, send photos or spontaneously book your activity on Swiss Activities
Do I receive information on the way about the places the Bernina Express passes?
- Yes, via the loudspeaker you will be informed about what you are seeing on the way. In addition, you can log into the on-board information system "InfoT(r)ainment" to find out even more. Your personal audio guide, which you use via your cell phone, tells you everything about the highlights on the Bernina Express route. You'll get exciting information about Domleschg, the Landwasser Viaduct, the Albula Line, Ospizio Bernina, the Circular Viaduct in Bivio and much more. In addition, you can always see where you are on the map
Are dogs allowed on the Bernina Express?
- Yes, dogs are allowed on the Bernina Express. For the entry to Tirano (Italy) you have to bring the necessary documents. You do not need a reservation for your dog. If your dog is smaller than 30 cm, it does not need a ticket, as long as it travels in a basket, a bag or a transport box. However, if your dog is taller, you need a ticket for him at half price in 2nd class, even if you travel in 1st class. If you are traveling a longer distance, a dog day ticket for 25 CHF, which is valid throughout Switzerland, may also be worthwhile
Can bicycles be transported on the Bernina Express?
- No, bicycles are not allowed on the Bernina Express. If you travel by bike, you have to use the regional trains with the marked compartments or luggage cars.
Is the Bernina Express wheelchair accessible?
- No, there are a few steps to enter the train car. However, passengers with a handicap do not have to miss out on the journey and have the following options
- If travelers can leave the wheelchair, the reservation can be made independently at a railroad counter or online
- If travelers are unable to leave their wheelchairs, reservations can be made through the Rhaetian Railway's Railservice. Special seats are available. With both options, it is important that the passenger registers the boarding and alighting assistance with the SBB Handicap Center
Can you open the windows on the Bernina Express to take photographs?
- No, the large panoramic windows cannot be opened. On some doors of the train cars there is a window that can be opened to take pictures
For whom is the Bernina Express suitable?
- The Bernina Express is suitable for both tourists and locals. With the Bernina Express you will have a unique experience with a wonderful landscape. The train ride is a great idea for a trip for all connoisseurs, landscape enthusiasts, train fans, families with older children and many more.
Who is the Bernina Express not suitable for?
- I don't recommend traveling on the Bernina Express if you are traveling with small children, you don't have much time or you don't like long train rides. For the whole distance between Chur and Tirano or even to Lugano you need almost the whole day. However, you have the option to travel only individual stages of the Bernina Express and shorten the trip a bit.
What else do I have to consider for the trip with the Bernina Express?
- Since you will pass through Italy on your journey to Tirano, you will need your passport or ID. Please pay attention to the entry regulations that apply to your nationality, so that you don't get any problems when crossing the border
The trip with the Bernina Express was a unique experience for me. Since I had bad luck with the weather on my last trip with the Bernina Express in winter 2017, I was even more happy about the blue sky this time. I have already made a few panoramic trips by train in Switzerland. But the Bernina Express is on my place 1
The friendly and upbeat service of the stewards delighted me from the start and as a traveler I immediately felt welcome and comfortable.
Through the trip I got to know especially the Upper Engadine. In addition, I discovered many more excursions and hikes, which I hope to cross off my To Do list soon
I hope I could inspire you with my text about the Bernina Express. A trip is definitely worth it, because on very few train journeys in Switzerland you have such a diverse and dreamlike landscape.