What to expect on one of Europe's most breathtaking train journeys

Rhaetian Railway’s Bernina Express, which snakes through extraordinary landscapes in the Swiss Alps, is often hailed as one of the world’s most unforgettable train journeys.

By Rhaetian Railway
Published 14 Apr 2021, 08:23 BST
The Bernina Express route takes in breathtaking sites along the way, such as the Alp Grüm ...

The Bernina Express route takes in breathtaking sites along the way, such as the Alp Grüm station, which overlooks the glittering Palü Glacier.

Photograph by Rhaetian Railway/Erik Süsskind

After a year of travel restrictions, a change of scenery feels more like a necessity than a novelty. Which is why, as travel possibilities slowly open up again, Rhaetian Railway’s Bernina Express seems like the perfect post-lockdown trip. Its route runs from the historic Swiss town of Chur through mountains and valleys to the palm trees and cobbled streets of Tirano in Italy. Whether you’re a fan of nature, history and culture or you’re simply looking to pack as many discoveries as possible into one luxurious four-hour trip, this 75-mile meander is a firm reminder that train travel has the potential to be a stylish and sustainable way to explore.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be journeying on a train as packed with first-rate facilities as the Bernina Express. Onboard highlights include panoramic windows, an audio guide available in three languages and wi-fi — ideal for uploading those wish-you-were-here photographs snapped at numerous breathtaking sites along the way, such as the Alp Grüm station, which overlooks the glittering Palü Glacier. There's also a gourmet minibar, a souvenir shop and a platter of regional delicacies that must be booked in advance. 

Spanning the Landwasser Valley at 213ft high and 136 metres long, the iconic Landwasser Viaduct is the Albula Railway’s most spectacular landmark.

Photograph by Rhaetian Railway

Five facts about the Bernina Express
 

1. It passes through UNESCO sites
In 2008, the Albula Railway and Bernina Railway sections of the Rhaetian Railway were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Built in the early years of the 19th century, they’re both masterpieces of civil engineering.

2. There are 196 bridges on the route
Among them are the Brusio circular viaduct, which performs a remarkable architectural pirouette as it curves 360 degrees, and the iconic six-arched Landwasser Viaduct. Spanning the Landwasser Valley at 213ft high and 446ft long, this limestone bridge is the Albula Railway’s most spectacular landmark.

3. ...and 55 tunnels
The route has several spiral tunnels, built to traverse the demanding heights of this dramatic terrain. The famous Albula Tunnel, in between Preda and Spinas, is being refurbished and is due to open in 2024. 

4. It's the highest rail crossing in Europe
The Bernina Express's journey peaks at 7,392ft above sea level at Ospizio Station. Here, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding Alps. 

5. It's eco-conscious 
Since January 2013, the Rhaetian Railway’s focus on sustainability has meant it draws 100% of the electricity for its rail operations from local hydroelectric power.

For more information, visit berninaexpress.ch

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