Deep gorges, lush forests, snow- and frost-covered landscapes and glistening lakes: the Bernina Express takes you through some of the most beautiful corners of Switzerland. We have put together a summary of the highlights of the journey. Prepare to be won over by what are arguably the most beautiful railway routes in Switzerland.
Starting in Chur, the Bernina route has been in operation for over 100 years now and takes us through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges to get to Lugano. The section from Thusis to Tirano was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list ten years ago thanks to its sophisticated structures and routing. I also like how the rail tracks blend inconspicuously into the natural landscape.
A masterpiece of engineering.
One of the most famous constructions along the route is undoubtedly the Landwasser Viaduct. The 50-metre-tall arches towering over the wild Landwasser valley below were built without scaffolding. We cross the bridge slowly at a dizzying height, allowing us to enjoy the magnificent view to the full.
A journey for slowing down the pace.
Filisur, Bergün and Samedan are just some of the peaceful mountain villages where we stop briefly to let passengers on or off. After all, many people like to combine a day or two enjoying a journey of discovery on the Bernina Express with a few days’ holiday and go hiking in the mountains.
Where the water splits.
The villages gradually disappear to be replaced by forests. The train clatters smoothly uphill. And every time we gain another couple of hundred metres in altitude, another mountain appears before our eyes in all its glory. The most impressive sights of all are Piz Bernina and the Palü Glacier.
Then all of a sudden we have virtually reached the top. Two lakes glisten in the sunlight amid the snowy landscape. One shines brightly, while the other has dark mystical depths.
Up here on the Bernina Pass is where the water splits. The water from Lago Bianco (the “white lake”) flows southwards and ends up in the River Po, while the waters of Lej Nair (the “black lake”) journey northwards to join the catchment basin of the River Inn.
We stop for a few minutes at Alp Grüm to take photos. This is the perfect start and end point for hikes in the summer. You can make your way to the lake at the foot of the Palü Glacier, for example, or to picturesque Poschiavo perched high on the mountain.
When the railway goes round in circles.
From now on it’s all downhill. The snow is once again replaced by lush meadows and forests. We cross the Brusio spiral viaduct, another of Switzerland’s most famous bridges. With its 360-degree curve, the viaduct is both beautiful and practical. It was designed to enable the Rhaetian Railway to negotiate the difference in altitude in Brusio in the smallest space possible. Another masterpiece of bridge-building!
Changing to the panoramic bus.
Our journey continues, taking us to the quiet little town of Tirano, now in Italy but once part of the canton of Grisons. Here we change to the Bernina Express bus, which makes its way to Lugano, where we can finish off our trip in fitting style with a delicious risotto.
“The greatest sight to see is the world. Look at it!”