Two weeks before our trip , Hubs searched for the best train routes in Europe and “BAM!”, there it was. The Bernina Express, only a 90 minute drive from Lake Como. The complete line runs from Tirano, Italy to Chur, Switzerland. To get it in as a day trip we could only do one third of the line – Tirano to St. Moritz, Switzerland. The ride in one direction was 2.5 hours. We started our journey from our B&B around 7:30am for Tirano, got there with plenty of time to buy our bottles of water and boarded the train for St. Moritz.
Tirano is nestled in a valley, near the border of Switzerland, at 429m(1407ft) above sea level. At the apex of the ride, the train would climb to 2253m(7392ft). The Bernina Express features large panoramic windows to enable great views all around. The only downside on that day was the light rain, which made it a little more difficult to see things and take pictures, but only at the beginning of the ride. Towards the middle the skies cleared and it was partly sunny for the remainder of the journey. During the climb into the Alps, the announcement (in Italian, German, and English) stated the train would climb 70m for every 1km of track (7% grade), pretty steep! We jaw-dropped at beautiful greenish-white lakes, alpine valleys, and near the top there were glaciers! Hubs was most excited about the Kreisviadukt Brusio, a circular part of track used to gently ascend or descend elevation. At the highest part of the ride was the station Ospizio Bernina in the Bernina Pass. There was a glacier lake reservoir there called Lago Bianco. It was breathtaking and the pictures surely don’t do it justice. The runoff from this lake on one side runs to the Adriatic Sea, the other side ends up in the Black Sea – which we found interesting.
After the Bernina Pass the train started descending for about another 45 minutes until we arrived in St. Moritz, Switzerland at 1775m (5823ft) elevation. St. Moritz is a posh ski town and is alive in the Winter. In the summer time…not so much. It seemed like a ghost town, but a perfectly clean, not one speck of dust, symmetrical, perpendicular, everything in its place type of ghost town. The city is perched on a hill overlooking a gorgeous alpine lake with the snow capped Alps far in the background. You could sit there for hours and just gaze. But, since we were there for lunch we had to put our gaze on hold and look for food. The other thing I know about Switzerland is that it’s crazy expensive. We found a nice little place in the middle of town, we each had a normal size entree and shared a 1.5L bottle of water. €50 later we headed out for more gazing. Of that €50, €10 was for the water – which Hubs saw them fill from what looked like a draught nozzle; Switzerland’s finest mountain tap water. From there we went to a local hotel, an old castle or palace. It had a perfect balcony and seating area for a coffee and a tea to relaxingly gaze at the beauty. Perhaps that’s how Switzerland makes you forget that you just drank a €9 coffee and €14 tea.
The gazing had to end and we made our way back to the train station, not before picking up a box of delicious Swiss chocolate to enjoy on our ride back to Tirano. On the way back, we saw the same sights again, but this time we could just gaze at them (are you sensing a theme?), without the rush to take as many photos as possible. It was a much more relaxing ride back. After arriving in Tirano, the gazing ended and prices went back to normal. We jumped in the car and headed back to our B&B.
If we ever do the Bernina Express again, it will be in the winter. Supposedly, riding the line when everything is snow covered is another sight to behold. Plus, it’s also been suggested to ride the Bernina Express outbound and then use the regular commuter train for inbound. Commuter trains are cheaper, and you can lower the windows for all the unobstructed pictures your camera can handle. There are other famous train routes in Europe we hope to get to sometime, but definitely put this one on your list!