You don’t need to be a train enthusiast to appreciate the engineering prowess that was required to build some of Switzerland’s railway lines. Just knowing that tunnels had to carved through mountains and viaducts built across deep gorges – and all this over 100 years ago – is enough to impress anyone.
The railway line and its famous panoramic train that we’re going to learn about today is one such example.
Connecting Chur in the German-speaking part of Switzerland with Tirano in Italy, the Bernina Express is one of Switzerland’s most well known trains, and that is thanks to the line it runs on.
On its 122 kilometre journey, the Bernina Express passes through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges and is a true engineering masterpiece. In fact, in 2008, one section of the line was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This is the highest railway line across the Alps and it offers spectacular scenery from glaciers and gorges to lakes and palm trees.
To tell us more about the Bernina Express, I’m joined by Camille Härdi from Rhaetian Railways. Camille has lots of great info to share including the highlights of the ride, what to expect onboard the Bernina Express, how far in advance you should book seat reservations, the best side of the train to sit on, and much more.
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As always, I’d like to say a huge thanks to the folks from Switzerland Tourism for sponsoring the podcast. For loads of inspiration and tips to help you plan your Swiss vacation, visit their website, myswitzerland.com.
If you need the train ride of a lifetime, you need Switzerland. And you need a ride on the Bernina Express!
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In this episode you’ll learn about:
- The premium panoramic train known as the Bernina Express
- The highlights of the Bernina Express route
- The most picturesque section of the journey
- Services and facilities onboard the train
- The best side of the train to sit on
- Tickets and seat reservations
- The operating schedule of the Bernina Express
- Regular trains versus the Bernina Express – what is the difference
- Camille’s top tips for anyone planning a ride on the Bernina Express
Camille Härdi is the Market Manager Europe for Rhaetian Railways, operators of the Bernina Express and Glacier Express.
Places and landmarks mentioned in this episode
>> Chur – said to be Switzerland’s oldest town, with settlement dating back to the 1st century BC, Chur is the capital of the Canton of Graubünden.
>> St. Moritz – the glitzy ski resort at 1,800 metres above sea level is a popular winter destination but also offers plenty to do during the warmer months.
>> Tirano (Italy) – just over the Swiss/Italian border, Tirano’s most recognised site is the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Tirano, a Catholic shrine dedicated to the appearance of the Blessed Mother to Mario Degli Omodei on September 29, 1504. The Bernina Express Bus allows passengers to travel between Tirano and Lugano (and vice versa) to continue their Bernina Express experience.
>> Morteratsch Glacier – the third largerst glacier in the eastern alps, the Morteratsch Glacier stretches for over 5 kilometres but, sadly, is fast retreating. The glacier can be viewed from the Bernina Express.
>> Alp Grüm – accessible only by train or on foot, the Bernina Express stops briefly at Alp Grum, providing the perfect opportunity to take photos of the Palü Glacier, the Bernina Massif and the Alps.
>> Lago Bianco – the Bernina railway line runs beside the eastern side of Lago Bianco (or White Lake). The Ospizio Bernina station is roughly at the mid-way point of the lake.
>> Landwasser Viaduct – one of the highlights of the Rhaetian Railway, the curved viaduct is 142 metres long and 65 metres high. It can be found near Filisur on the 63-kilometre Albula stretch between Thusis and St. Moritz.
>> Brusio Circular Viaduct – another impressive engineering masterpiece, the Brusio viaduct features nine stone arches. Its 360 degree curve means that the gradient remains below 7%, allowing for safe passage of trains without requiring a rack-and-pinion system.
Helpful resources about the Bernina Express
The Rhaetian Railways / Bernina Express website covers everything you need to know about travelling aboard the Bernina Express.
Our guide to the Bernina Express also includes step-by-step instructions for how to buy seat reservations for your trip.
As Camille mentioned in this episode, the fare aboard the Bernina Express and the regular trains of the Rhaetian Railways, is fully included with the Swiss Travel Pass. You can read our detailed guide to the Swiss Travel Pass here. Click here to buy your Swiss Travel Pass.
If you’d prefer to have rail and accommodation bookings made on your behalf, we recommend the rail packages available from Switzerland Travel Centre. You can find more information, and details of an exclusive discount for our audience, > here.
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This episode is sponsored by Switzerland Tourism
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