Switzerland's Great Rail Journeys
If you want to see Switzerland, the rail tracks can transport you to mountains no road will ever reach.
Switzerland has one of the world’s most reliable rail networks, so you won’t be sitting and waiting, you’ll be transfixed by the views as they stream past your window. It’s not a fast stream, mind - with steep mountainsides to negotiate, the journey is often slow. But that only makes it more relaxing and more enjoyable, with more time to capture the images of cascading waterfalls, fields of wildflowers, and isolated wooden chalets.
“I have made the trip in the Bernina Express several times, but each time it is unique and breathtaking. The landscape that changes in every season makes the journey spectacular and you can never get tired of it. Everyone who visits Switzerland should take the Bernina Express at least once.” Jennyfer Cirignotta, Market Manager Europe for Rhätische Bahn
What to expect on the Bernina Express
If you board the Bernina Express at Chur station, you can enjoy one of the most impressive scenic rail journeys in Switzerland. The views change from town to countryside, and the occasional ruined castle, as we cross the first of 196 bridges and make our way through Domleschg valley.
As we gain height, the views continue to impress. From your seat, large windows let in unblemished scenes of great mountains, valleys and meltwater streams. We cross the spectacular curved Landwasser viaduct and follow several spiral loops in the track that keep the gradient to a safe 7%, and add a human element to your scenic photos.
Travelling over the spectacular Bernina Pass to more than 2,253m (7,391 ft), you pass snow-covered mountain peaks and glaciers, including the highest peaks and the largest glacier (Morteratsch) in the Bernina Range, before we can go no higher.
Our descent starts and, as we go, we pass stout stone igloos and tall green pines rooted to the steep mountain sides. You might even spot a small herd of cows freely munching on greenery on an outlying slope.
On reaching Poschiavo, we skirt the beautiful banks of Poschiavo Lake. With beautiful scenes of rugged terrain reflected in its calm waters, your camera will be in overdrive! Brusio spiral viaduct helps us negotiate a 20-meter drop further into the valley - a century-old engineering feat that became an iconic symbol of this railway. Soon we’re making our way through small towns squeezed between valley walls, where the train track is embedded into the roads for the lack of space to lay it anywhere else.
From eternal ice to lemon ice cream…
Soon you’ll find yourself crossing the border into Italy, and the delightful town of Tirano. We take this opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy exploring its delightful old town centre. As an ancient thoroughfare, Tirano is used to welcoming visitors. It’s said that even the Virgin Mary appeared here in 1504, and promised to rid the town of the plague if a shrine was built in her name. The promises were kept, and you can visit the church.
A scoop of the local ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to a wander through Tirano; or maybe sip a local wine while taking in a view of the vine-clad terraces that bore the grapes. Then it’s time to return to the station to enjoy more views as we return to Switzerland.
If this appeals to you, it’s just one of the many wonderful adventures you could enjoy on our tour of ‘Switzerland’s Spectacular Rail Journeys’.
Article published on: 23rd March, 2021