The Bernina Express
The Bernina Express takes you across the entire canton of Graubünden, all the way from the old town of Chur to Italy. Then there's a bus section to Lugano in Switzerland. Wonderful scenery all the way!
The Bernina Express route in detail.
The forum allows you to post your questions and discuss your plans.
A journey with the Bernina Express
The Bernina Express is a direct train from Chur to Tirano in Italy. In just 4 hours, you'll see stunning variations in the landscape, from high alpine scenery on the Bernina Pass to a Mediterranean atmosphere in the Poschiavo valley just before Tirano. Palm trees and snow within a couple of hours!
There's a connecting bus service from Tirano to Lugano (not in winter).
You can travel from Chur to Tirano or the other way round. The train route consists of two sections. The leg from Tirano to Lugano by bus is a third section.
While on board, you can get route information by connecting your phone or tablet to the "InfoT(r)ainment" system through Wifi. This works in the 1st class train coaches and in the bus. Do bring a headset so you can listen to the commentary.
Traveling on board the Bernina Express is comfortable. Both 1st and 2nd class coaches have large panoramic sealed windows all the way to the roof. The train is air conditioned. The 1st class seats are more spacious as there are only three seats across versus four in 2nd class.
There is a trolley serving snacks and drinks at your place.
What's the best season?
Actually, any season can be great if the sky is clear enough to enjoy the views. Winter, from mid December to March, is beautiful as most of the landscape is usually covered by a thick layer of snow. In summer (July to September), it's the flowers and the Mediterranean atmosphere in the Poschiavo valley that make this journey attractive. Our favorite season is spring (May to June), as that offers the perfect combination of green valleys and snowy mountains.
The winter timetable of the Bernina Express train is limited and Bernina Express bus from Tirano to Lugano does not operate. But there's something extra too: the regular trains from St. Moritz to Tirano have a panoramic car attached. This concept is called Bernina Panorama Winter. You can sit there after paying a supplement, and enjoy the superb winter scenery in a very comfortable manner.
Open air cars (no windows) operate during good weather in summer on the St. Moritz to Tirano line, and sometimes on other routes in the area too. These cars are attached to selected regular trains, not to the Bernina Express. These cars are ideal for photography. Be sure to wear a jacket!
Regular trains versus Bernina Express
You are not required to travel with the Bernina Express if you want to enjoy the scenery of the Bernina railway. There are regular train services on the same line as well. The regular trains do not offer the panoramic windows and the same level of comfort, but other than that you can see the landscape just as well.
The regular trains are local trains, so you would have to switch trains at least once to cover the whole route. The Bernina Express is the only direct train from Chur to Tirano.
Day trip if you are staying off the route
For the best experience, we recommend to stay in a town along the route: e.g. in Chur or St. Moritz. If you are staying elsewhere, a day trip with the Bernina Express will take a lot of time. There are some options though:
- From Lucerne: take a train to Chur and board the Bernina Express train there. Take the bus from Tirano to Lugano. Then take a train back to Lucerne. This day trip takes about 14.5 hours.
- From Lugano: take the bus to Tirano and board the Bernina Express train there. Get off the train in Thusis. Take a bus to Bellinzona and finally a train back to Lugano. This day trip takes about 11 hours. If you stay in Milan you can follow this route as well, by taking a train to/from Lugano.
- From Milan: take a train to Tirano, and change for St. Moritz. Then take a bus to Chiavenna, and finally take trains back to Milan. This route takes about 9.5 hours. A longer alternative is to take a train to Lugano, and take the Bernina Express bus to Tirano from there. Then continue as described.
- From Zurich: take a train to Chur and board the Bernina Express train there. Take the bus from Tirano to Lugano. Then take a train back to Zurich. This day trip takes about 13.5 hours.
- A day trip with the Bernina Express is not possible from many others cities.
Detailed schedules can be found in the timetable.