It might not look like the Hogwarts Express, but the Bernina Express surely takes you to a magical land.
The Bernina Express is a Unesco World Heritage on rails. It runs along 122 kilometers, passing through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges and viaducts along the narrow and winding tracks in the breathtaking Swiss alps. The train goes from either Chur/Savos/St Moritz to Tirano/Lugano on the Italian side of the border, and back. Since there is only 1 set of rails, the Bernina Express is the only train to travel on this extraordinary route.
I opted for Bernina Express as my means of getting from Switzerland to Italy just the night prior to departure and was more than glad I did. I could never have imagined a train ride to be this exciting!
As with everything in Switzerland, be prepared to pay a fair amount of money for this journey. If you’re lucky, you might find some deals online (like 120€ for per head for 2 person return tickets including lunch in a proper restaurant in Tirano), but let me assure you, even if you pay the one-way price of around 100€, it is still well worth it. If you start your journey from Zurich, you can take a local train to Chur (approx 40€), and continue from Tirano onward to Milan on a local train (11€).
For 4 hours, you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the breathtaking views, ranging from alp towns to mountains, glaciers, lakes, castles and everything in between. The wide windows give the feeling of almost being in a (slow) rollercoaster of more interesting things you can point your camera at.
I have been lucky enough with my travels to always seem to go to places when the tourist masses are somewhere else. Same applied to Bernina Express: on December 6th (coincidentally Finnish independence day), we had a private train car just to ourselves!
Tips on nailing the Bernina Express journey:
- If possible, book your ticket well in advance in order to get discounts, or leave it last minute if you’re not traveling during the summer; there are last minute deals.
- To avoid the crowds, don’t travel in July/August.
- Choose seats in the last car, near the back. The last car has a back door, offering a perfect view to what is left behind.
- Bring snacks. The joyride goes on for 4 hours, and is much better with some munchies. If desired, you can also buy snacks and prosecco on board.
- Make sure your camera is fully loaded and preferably have an extra battery with you. If you’re as snap-happy as I am, you will need it.
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