The Bernina Express – Italy to Switzerland Train Ride
If you are looking for a grand way to have a train journey through the famous Swiss Alps, Bernina Express is the best option in hand. Along with this sister-train, the Glacier Express, this forms one of the most mesmerizing train journeys of the world.
This train covers the Abula-Bernina line in the Rhaetian Railways and it passes through many unique land forms like quaint snow villages, crystal-clear lakes, mountains, snow peaks and much more. Between Tirano, Italy and St. Mortiz of Switzerland, this train would take you for a ride in the lands of Narnia.
Brief History of the Train
Swiss Alps started to get more attention from tourists since the end of 1800. The Bernina railway route was initially a convenient route for tourists to travel to many Alpine regions like Engadine Valley, St. Mortiz, Bernina pass, Morteratsch glacier, and others. The construction of the route started in 1906 and was completed in just four years. In general terms, four years might look like an awful lot of time. But, given the altitude, mountain landscape, and the snow, engineers had unique challenges along the way and had to make decisive innovations and calculated risks throughout the project. This innovative route is the first element of beauty for this route. Tourists were eager to experience this engineering marvel covering viaducts, valleys, mountainsides, gaps, flyovers and so on.
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The line was opened for tourists only by 1913. With the Bernina route, the Alpine region became open to tourists even during winter and tourism started to bloom. In 1943, this route joined with the Rhaetian Railways and standard trains became common in this route.
However, the route was quite famous for the vibrant red-colored Bernina locomotive running from Tirano to Switzerland and back.Soon the Albula-Bernina line was recognized as a heritage site for its landscape beauty, architectural innovation, and engineering marvels.
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Highlights of the Bernina Express
As mentioned before, the train runs between Italy and Switzerland and it is not just snowy mountain everywhere throughout the route. There are numerous mesmerizing sights and elements along that way that you should not miss.
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As the train starts to climb after leaving Tirano town of Italy, the train reaches Brusio viaduct, minutes after it enters Swiss. This is an arched spiral bridge, which creates a connecting path for the train to cross, which would otherwise be a very dangerously sleep slope incapable of holding a railway track. This viaduct made this project possible.
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This lake adds a charming beauty to the land. Usually, the water is still and calm or even frozen. The beauties around the lake get reflected on the water adding a mirror mirage to the land. The sight would be mesmerizing and animatic to even imagine.
This valley is the starting point of the cliche Alpine landscape. You get to see a small glance of the Poschiavo village in the far end and it gets even smaller as the train moves towards Cavagliasco viaduct, it runs to a mountain terrain of higher altitude.
Bernina Express makes just one stop in its whole journey and this is where it stops. Alp Grum is a tiny mountain hamlet, which is accessible only via train during winter. Alp Grum is almost 6,900 feet above average sea level. From here, you can get a good view of Poschiavo Valley, Palu Galcier and others. It is hard to get a clear view of the landscape if you are visiting in winter. The entire area would look like mounds of snow and nothing but snow.
This is a high-altitude frozen reservoir. This is followed by the highest point in the route, the Ospizio Bernina, which is around 7,380 feet above average sea level.
This is the largest glacier in the route. Due to climate change, the lifetime of this glacier is highly questionable, as of now. During wintertime, this place is a remarkable skiing region and when it is the summertime, it is a perfect hiking area. Even though it is melting, the view is perfect.
A Few Tips for First-Time Travellers
What to expect from Bernina Express, if you are traveling for the very first time? Here are a few essential tips that would help you during this journey.
a) Always pick the right side of the train. It will give you the best view.
b) You can reach St. Moritz and get back to Tirano in one day. If you desire to do that, you need to board the first train out of Tirano. This will allow you to spend a few hours in St. Mortiz before catching the afternoon train from St. Mortiz to Tirano.
c) Is Bernina Express not available? You can always find normal trains on the same route, however, the essence of beauty is lost. If you are stuck with a normal train, the best option is the panoramic seats, which would give you a glimpse of the landscape but, not as perfect as the Bernina Express.
d) You can book a meal in advance for your train journey. Meals are not a part of the train tariff. If you are traveling first-class, coffee, tea or other beverages would be served.
Price of the Train Journey
Second class ticket from Tirano to St. Mortiz – 32 Euro per head
First-class ticket from Tirano to St. Mortiz – 56 Euro per head
Train Journey Duration
The train takes 4 hours to travel 76 miles (approximately 122 km) of track distance. This route covers 55 tunnels and more than 196 viaducts and bridges.
Best Time to Take the Train Journey
The best time to ride Bernina Express is up to you. If you are looking for a snow fairy tale experience, winter is the best time. The mountains will be dipped in snow, the lakes will be frozen into glass covers and the place will be near to perfection. If you choose the spring, summer or fall, the land will be green with vibrant wildflowers here and there. You can spot civilizations in hamlets and farming villages, which adds more color to the scenery. The train runs throughout the year and the nature tunes to a different perfection, every month.
- Winter – November to December
- Spring – January to May
- Fall – May to October
- Summer – June to September
Facilities Available in Bernina Express
- Comfortable seats with ample amount of legroom
- Panoramic window and audio system for guide
- Beverages in first-class coaches
- Snack trolley is available with local delicacies and simple snacks
Difference Between Palace on Wheels and Bernina Express
|Difference||Bernina Express||Palace on Wheels|
|Time span of the Trip||Time taken for Bernina Express to reach the destination is 4 hours.||The Palace on Wheels takes 8 days and seven nights.|
|Frequency of the Train||There is a Bernina Express train running to and fro in the route, once every day.||The Palace on Wheels is available once a week. A trip starts on a Wednesday and ends on the next Wednesday morning. On the same evening, the next trip starts.|
|Seating||Bernina Express provides comfortable seats with a considerable amount of legroom, which gives comfort.||The Palace on Wheels has star-hotel styled cabins with double bed or two single beds, attached bathroom, wardrobe, safe, large window and so on.|
|Train Availability||The Bernina Express runs throughout the year.||The Palace on Wheels runs from September to April.
Find here Palace on Wheels schedule
|Style of Landscape||Bernina Express covers a unique landscape of high altitude Alpine mountains, valleys, hamlets and others.||Palace on Wheels covers most of its itinerary in the desert land of Rajasthan, India. It covers lush national parks, lakes, heritage sites, cultural regions, forts and much more.|
|Reservation||If you are traveling during peak season, you need to reserve Bernina Express tickets.||The Palace on Wheels is always in high demand. Tourists have to book at least three to four months prior to get tickets.|
|Better Seats||If you are travelling in summer, both right-side seats and left-side seats would have a grand view. If you are traveling in winter, the left-side seats would have a duller landscape due to lack of sunlight.||The Palace on Wheels train provides 360-degree beauty throughout the trip.|
|Food and Snacks||In Bernina Express, a snack trolley is available inside the train and the first-class passengers are served beverages. Tourists are allowed to bring their own food to Bernina Express.||In Palace on Wheels, a chef team is dedicated to creating three or four-course meals, three times a day. There are two restaurant cars, a bar and complimentary snacks and water are available throughout the journey. Tourists are introduced to the gastronomic culture of the land with the food.|
|Facilities||Bernina Express does not provide many high-end facilities on the train.||The Palace on Wheels provides pampering facilities like spa, lounge room, shower room, doctor-on-board, laundry services, electronic safe, butler and so on.|
|Guide||Every seat in Bernina Express has an audio system that guides you about the landscape you are crossing.||The Palace on Wheels appoints a separate guide for each vehicle during road excursion. You can also choose special language guides for your trip.|
|Excursion||If you are traveling in Bernina Express, you would be covering only the train route. If desired, you can get down at the Alp Grum, stay for a day and catch the next train.||In Palace on Wheels, tourists are taken on a road trip at each destination and many activities like sightseeing, shopping, safari, and others are conducted, every day.|
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