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  • Bernina Express Holiday

    Credit: Switzerland Tourism

    Credit: Switzerland Tourism

    Bernina Express holiday – iconic Swiss rail journeys

    5 nights/6 days
    Zurich – St Moritz – Bernina Express – Lugano
    Spanning the most south-easterly point of Switzerland, the Bernina Express takes you south via train through the canton of Grisons into Italy, past glaciers, mountains, and marvels of railway engineering. Then, the Bernina Express coach takes you west past Lake Como and back into Switzerland to Lugano.


    After your arrival into Zurich, spend one night at your choice of Zurich hotel before catching a train south to St Moritz. Just outside the Parc Ela and at the foot of the Suvretta Mountain, St Moritz is a picturesque place to spend two nights at any time of year. From St Moritz on your fourth day, your experience of the Bernina Express begins in earnest. In less than one day, travel through southern Switzerland into northern Italy, finally stopping in Lugano for the final two nights of your tour.

    Click here to download a PDF itinerary.

    Sample prices
    Rail (standard class on Eurostar and second class on all other trains) from London and throughout back to London at 4 star hotels (eg Hotel Ambassador a l'Opera, Zurich, Hotel Schweizerhof St Moritz, and Hotel Lugano Dante), from £1,690 per person
    Supplement: Standard premier on Eurostar and first class on all other trains £350 per person

    Flights to/from Switzerland and second class rail travel in Switzerland at 4 star hotels (eg Hotel Ambassador a l'Opera, Zurich, Hotel Schweizerhof St Moritz, and Hotel Lugano Dante), from £1,610 per person
    Supplement: First class rail in Switzerland £190 per person

    Rail (standard class on Eurostar and second class on all other trains) from London and throughout back to London at 4 and 5 star hotels (eg Hotel Storchen Zurich, Suvretta House, St Moritz, and Hotel Lugano Dante), from £2,310 per person
    Supplement: Standard premier on Eurostar and first class on all other trains £350 per person

    Flights to/from Switzerland and second class rail travel in Switzerland at 4 star deluxe and 5 star hotels (eg Hotel Storchen Zurich, Suvretta House, St Moritz, and Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola, Lugano), from £2,230 per person
    Supplement: First class rail in Switzerland £190 per person

    What’s included
    Flights from UK to Zurich and back from Zurich or Milan OR rail travel London to Switzerland and back via Paris (first class can be booked at a supplement)
    4 day Swiss rail flex pass (first class can be booked at a supplement)
    1 night’s bed and breakfast in Zurich
    2 nights’ bed and breakfast in St Moritz
    2 nights' bed and breakfast in Lugano

    What’s not included
    Optional extra nights in Zurich, St Moritz, Lugano, or one of our Italian Lakes hotels
    Transfers in Paris
    Transfers in Switzerland station to hotel unless offered by your hotel
    A luggage transfer service is available within Switzerland – please contact us for further details.

    Dates
    This rail holiday can be arranged throughout the year. Timings can vary depending on the month and day of the week.
    For more information regarding rail services to and within Switzerland, view our train guide.

    Day-by-day Itinerary

    Zurich - St Moritz - Bernina Express - Lugano

    DAY ONE:
    Begin this touring holiday with a flight or rail journey into Zurich. Though the flight will drastically cut travelling times, enabling an earlier arrival, we would always recommend taking the scenic railway trip via Paris, Dijon, and Basel, or via Brussels, Cologne, and Frankfurt. This is an excellent way of making the most of your journey, taking in a vast expanse of Western Europe as well as Switzerland upon your arrival. Spend your first night at a hotel of your choice in Zurich. 

    DAYS TWO AND THREE:
    On the morning of your second day, board the train to St Moritz, arriving around 3 and a half hours later. This rail journey takes you first along the southern curve of Lake Zurich, passing through Horgen, Wadenswil, and heading inland onto the vast plains of the valley at Lachen. From here, you carry on towards the undulating green shores of Lake Walen, Weesen, and Walenstadt. Follow the paths of the valleys as you continue southeast to the spa town of Bad Ragaz, and cross the border into the canton of Grisons at Landquart. Change trains at Chur, Switzerland’s oldest city, and join the pathway of the Bernina Express as it continues briefly west to Tamins, Rothenbrunnen, and Thusis. Notice the sheer white cliffs, hilltop towers, and gorges of the Ruinaulta as you traverse the area around the pretty ochre village of Tiefencastel. The train now sweeps back round to Filisur, passing through the railway town of Bergun, Samedan, Celerina, home to the Cresta Run, and finally arriving in St Moritz. Spend two nights in St Moritz, staying in your choice of elegant hotel. Use the rest of your afternoon and the following morning to explore the quaint village of St Moritz. The dry, clear climate of the Upper Engadine Valley makes it the perfect winter sports resort, but also well-suited to long rambles, walks, and hikes across the undulating mountainside. Perhaps spend an hour or two wandering around the lake shore, admiring the mountains and the waterside, and uncovering shady groves, trickling waterfalls, and hidden caves. It is also possible to navigate higher up the mountains by rail, reaching the vantage points on the Piz Corvatsch and Chantarella at the top of the steep track. At Corviglia, a cable car takes you up to the Suvretta Mountain’s most popular viewing point. Those looking for more thrilling and active experiences could partake in the water sports at Lake St Moritz or Lake Sils, or across at the high-altitude Lake Silvaplana, known for being windy.

    DAY FOUR:

    After two nights in St Moritz, board the Bernina Express. In one of the distinctive red train carriages, with their tall, angular windows, and comfortable, airy interiors, the Bernina Express will take you from St Moritz to Tirano on the Swiss-Italian border. The Bernina Express takes you around the Montebello Curve, the most photographed section of the journey, which prolongs the breath-taking views of the Morteratsch Glacier. From here, gain altitude until you reach the highest point on the Rhaetian Railway at Ospizio Bernina at 2253m above sea level, with its picturesque, isolated station house. The Bernina Express then takes you to a restaurant that can only be accessed by train, past the grand houses of Poschiavo, through idyllic villages, across a spiralling viaduct, to Tirano, surrounded by vineyards and orchards in Italy. From here, disembark the train and board the dedicated Bernina Express bus past mountain lakes, fertile green agricultural land, and ancient towns and villages to Lugano, the largest town in the Swiss region of Ticino. Once in Lugano, spend two nights at another of our luxury hotels. For more information on the Bernina Express and its route, view the 'About the Train' tab above.

    DAY FIVE:
    Use your fifth day to explore this cultural lakeside town, which is quintessential of the Ticino region. Lugano’s Old Town will be one of the highlights of your stay here, with its relaxed café culture influenced by both the Italian border and the prominent Swiss towns to the north. Pay a visit to the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence, which sits at the top of the gently stepped Via Cattedrale. This Roman Catholic cathedral was founded in the Middle Ages, but was drastically rebuilt in the late 15th century. Its tower still rises high above Lugano, crowned by a distinctive green dome. For a further, more rounded, insight into Swiss cultural history, visit the waterside pink-fronted Museum of Cultures. Lake Lugano is perfect for a final sweeping boat trip, or for sampling the local water sports. The peak of nearby Monte Bre can be reached by funicular railway from Casserate, from where you can take in the sublime views, seek out the forested beauty spots, and embark on a hiking trail. San Salvatore can also be reached by funicular railway from Lugano, and offers an alternative, but no less stunning, perspective.

    DAY SIX:
    After two nights in Lugano, board the train back to Zurich for your return flight, or to Milan for a taste of cosmopolitan Italian life before flying back. If you wish to return by rail, we would recommend spending an extra night in Zurich beforehand.

    Optional
    It is possible to add extra nights in Zurich, St Moritz, and Lugano, or in one of our hotels situated on the shores of the Italian Lakes.

    Click here to download a full PDF itinerary.

    Hotels

    At Zurich, St Moritz, and Lugano, you can choose between a range of different luxury hotels, details of which can be found below.

    Zurich 
    Hotel du Theatre – 3 star

    This three star option in the centre of Zurich offers sophisticated and quirky accommodation in a hotel that adopts a cinema theme. Rooms are therefore suitably glamorous, with wholly unique features and excellent access to Lake Zurich and the city’s important cultural sites.
    Hotel Ambassador a l’Opera – 4 star
    As a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, the Hotel Ambassador a l’Opera prides itself on the high quality of its service, its seasonal and locally-sourced food, and the very particular, serene style of the rooms. It is well-placed for enjoying Lake Zurich, the Limmat River, and the small marina at the end of the street.
    Hotel Storchen Zurich – 4 star
    Since the beginning of its hospitality 650 years ago, the unique and charming Hotel Storchen Zurich has offered an authentic insight into Swiss culture, design, and lifestyle. A pavement café lines the riverside, and behind the distinctive pink façade are high-ceilinged, tastefully decorated rooms, and the Rotisserie Restaurant, the ceiling of which is decorated in frescoes.
    Hotel Baur au Lac – 5 star
    Set on the banks of Lake Zurich, the Hotel Baur au Lac is equipped with a Michelin-starred restaurant, extensive tranquil parkland, and a rich, warm interior design. Guests can enjoy the beauty of the lake from the promenade or from a boat cruise, before returning to the hotel to enjoy the serene gardens, the chic luxurious indoor spaces, and the circular restaurant the juts out across the water.

    St Moritz 
    Hotel Hauser – 3 star

    This family run hotel is a hub of social activity in St Moritz, providing excellent food on a pretty outdoor terrace that caters for visitors and local residents alike. The guestrooms have a simple elegance, and are the perfect base from which to get out and explore St Moritz.
    Hotel Schweizerhof St Moritz – 4 star
    Dating from over 100 years ago, the Hotel Schweizerhof St Moritz is a sophisticated hotel built in the Belle Epoque style. Fresh, bright, and luxurious rooms are accompanied by multiple dining options, including a picturesque garden and a selection of relaxing spa facilities.
    Suvretta House – 5 star superior
    At the foot of the mountain that gives it its name, Suvretta House is a stunning, palatial hotel that offers its guests excellent regional cuisine, including some Swiss favourites, a tranquil spa with 25m swimming pool, and spacious, refined accommodation with a regal touch.

    Lugano
    Hotel Lugano Dante – 4 star

    Built around traditional Swiss elements, this hotel provides simplistic luxuries in an area rich with gourmet restaurants. Inside the hotel, guests experience cosy, warm rooms, sleek, monochrome suites, and an unrelenting attention to detail.
    Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola – 5 star
    Housed within a late 19th century mansion, the Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola channels aspects of Mediterranean culture in its pale-peach façade, its summery garden, and the dining experiences on offer. Guestrooms have wholly unique touches to ensure that every stay here is different, and the swimming pool, lounges, and bars encourage guests to keep returning.

    Click here to download a full PDF itinerary.

    The Bernina Express rail journey

    Passing through some of Switzerland's most popular cultural sites, the Bernina Express is a distinctive and varied rail experience.

    Route Length: 7.15 hours and 268km from Chur to Lugano, or vice versa; including 156km rail travel and an optional 112km by bus
    Stops: Chur, Tiefencastel, Davos, Filisur, Bergun, Samedan, St Moritz, Pontresina, Ospizio Bernina, Alp Grum, Poschiavo, Le Prese, Tirano, and Lugano
    Facilities: There is no dining car, but carriages do have panoramic windows

    In one of the distinctive red trains, with their tall, angular windows, and comfortable, airy interiors, the Bernina Express rail journey takes you from Chur south through the winter resorts of Davos and St Moritz to Tirano on the Swiss-Italian border. Here, you may end your journey or continue on through Italy and past Lake Como to Lugano. Though it is possible to disembark at any of the journey stops, we recommend that you bear in the mind the infrequency of the trains.

    Begin your rail journey in Chur, the oldest city in Switzerland, affectionately named the ‘Alpine City.’ Twisting streets, historic buildings, restaurants, bars, museums, galleries, boutiques, and a pedestrianised Old Town provide days of cultural entertainment to those staying for longer, so you may wish to stay for a while before embarking. You can also take the Dreibundenstein Panorama Path from Brambruesch to Dreibundenstein and Feldis if you wish to appreciate a selection of Alpine flora and more fantastic views. Nearby Heidiland was home to the eponymous character, and still retains its chocolate box feel, and the thermal waters springing from the earth in Bad Ragaz make for a very enjoyable spa destination. The waters reach their warmest, at 37 degrees, in the atmospheric Tamina Gorge.

    Travel through the Ruinaulta, or Rhine Gorge, taking in one of the most picturesque landscapes in the Alps. The winding river changes altitude beside the railway tracks, passing sheer white cliffs, hilltop towers, and slinking under arched viaducts. The first stop on the journey is at Tiefencastel, which has ochre-fronted houses, stunning, narrow stone bridges, and is crowned by a solitary tower.

    Your next stop, Davos, is beautiful both when covered with snow and when graced with summer sunlight, Davos lies on a flat area of land between domed mountains. Small chalets sit beside unique modern buildings, winter resorts, and the tall narrow spire of its church.

    The Bernina Express will then take you through the Domleschg Region, the area with the most castles and palaces in Switzerland. Some areas of this lush region resemble fairytale English countryside, with paths sheltered by trees and shady groves. One of the highlights of this stretch is the towering curve of the Landwasser viaduct, built in 1901. This route takes you on through Filisur towards Bergun, where you may wish to stop to visit the Bergun Railway Village, home to the Albula Railway Museum and the Railway Adventure Trail. Otherwise, ensure you take in the sight of the crystal clear blue waters that run in the rivers.

    From Bergun, the train continues on to Samedan, a small town hemmed in by lakes and the lower verdant banks of the mountains.

    Hurtle on towards St Moritz, passing the Cresta Run in Celerina, one of the St Moritz area’s most famous attributes. At 1856m above sea level, visitors are welcomed by stunning views across the lakes of the Upper Engadine Valley, and the refreshing dry, clear, Alpine climate. Navigate the local peaks via railway, reaching the Piz Corvatsch, Chantarella, and Corviglia, where a cable car takes you up to Suvretta’s most famous viewing point. If you stay overnight in St Moritz during the summer, you may wish to enjoy the water sports at the sublime Lake Sils and Lake St Moritz, or the windy Lake Silvaplana.

    Less than 10km from St Moritz is Pontresina, the next stop on the rail route. It sits at the entrance to the Val Bernina on a sloping mountainside terrace, which adds to the village’s quaint majesty. The next leg of the journey, however, passes two exceptional sights: the Montebello Curve and the Morteratsch Glacier. The curve itself has a minimum radius of 45m, turning a total of 180 degrees, and remains one of the most photographed sections of the track.

    After this brief descent, the Bernina Express gains higher ground; the highest ground, in fact, on the whole of the Rhaetian Railway, reaching 2253m above sea level at Ospizio Bernina, your next stop. This secluded station is a beautiful sight in itself, with soft light stone walls and distinctive red shutters on its windows. During the winter months, the building is often cloaked in a blanket of snow.

    From here, move on to perhaps the most unique stop on the Bernina Express route: Alp Grum. This restaurant is the only restaurant that is exclusively accessed by rail. As a result, the dining experience is equally exclusive, with unrivalled views of the Val Poschiavo all the way to the Bergamo Alps. The journey then takes you on to Poschiavo itself, a town surrounded by rich, deep green vegetation, with a serene lake on one side. The houses, peaceful streets, and pavement cafes have a particular regalness, with very grand facades and manicured plants that are all superbly maintained. Then, the train will stop in Le Prese, a small village captured in a bubble of peace and quiet.

    Next, the Bernina Express takes you through to Brusio. Though not a stop, this particularly unique viaduct stretch has a novel way of negotiating the changing altitudes. After coming along the mountainside, the track spirals back on itself, allowing passengers plenty of time to take in the views before they descend under the viaduct they have just passed over.

    The Bernina Railway ends across the Italian border in Tirano, after passing orchards and vineyards, where the influences of Italy can already be seen in the architecture of the townhouses lining the riverside. Disembark here, either to spend a few nights in Italy beside the famous Alpine lakes, or take the dedicated Bernina Express bus across to Lugano, the largest town in Ticino, back in Switzerland. The bus journey itself passes scenery that rivals that in Switzerland, with lakes separating the mountains, reams of fertile green land, and picturesque, ancient towns and villages. Lugano is the 3rd most important financial and business centre in Switzerland, making it a livelier place to spend a night before returning to the UK than peaceful Tirano. Parks, grand villas, and sacred buildings line the streets, blending a definitely Mediterranean feel with the reputation and glamour of a world-class city. Over 30 different lake cruises are available, as well as more active pursuits in the mountains.

    Click here to download a full PDF itinerary.

    Bernina Express Holiday Map


     Bernina Express Holiday Map

    Bernina Express Route Map


    Bernina Express Route Map

    Click here to download a full PDF itinerary.

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