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The Bernina Express: The best way to travel through the Alps

31 July 2015

The highest open-air railway in Europe, the Bernina Express was completed in 1910. Travelling through the Alps, the line passes through 55 tunnels and over nearly 200 bridges, the world's "slowest express train" offers stunning scenic views through panoramic windows on its 76 mile journey.

Beginning in Chur, Switzerland's oldest town, the train travels across the Alps and into Tirano, Italy. The journey is one of the most scenic in the world - part of the line is registered as a UNESCO Heritage site - and a must-see on train holidays in Europe. Enjoy informative commentary in English as the train passes by some of the line's most spectacular features.

Taking roughly two hours, the journey from Switzerland to Italy was designed as a scenic tourist route, and can be enjoyed on Rail Discoveries' Glacier Express All-Inclusive tour. The trains run hourly, allowing ticket holders the freedom to alight and enjoy the scenery before re-boarding the train to continue their journey. 

Luxury in the AlpsBernina Express

St. Moritz should be on your list of places to visit along the Bernina Line. The birthplace of Alpine winter holidays, St Moritz owes its fame to an 1864 bet. Hotelier Caspar Badrutt bet his English guests that St Moritz was equally pleasant to visit in winter, and invited them to stay at his resort over Christmas - guaranteeing that he would pay their return travel expenses if they didn't enjoy themselves. They ended up staying until the next Easter, and thus began the trend for a seasonal St Moritz holiday.

The highest summit in the eastern Alps, St Moritz is known for attracting well-off and fashionable clientele. Its popularity is somewhat thanks to the 300 days of sunshine it receives a year, as well as its perfect winter sports conditions. Nearby is the famous Cresta Run toboggan course, and every winter St Moritz hosts the 'White Turf' horse race. This is run on a track set up on the frozen lake, and attracts the international elite.

Not to be missedBernina Express

Soon after the Bernina Express leaves Tirano, get ready for the Birso Circular Viaduct. Opened in 1908, The Birsio Circular Viaduct was designed to limit the railway's gradient between Tirano and Poschiavo. Without the decrease in gradient, it was feared the train would slip on the way up the slope, or lose control on the way down. A spiral tunnel was originally planned at the location, but could not be built due to geographical restrictions. Considered a wonderful place for photographs, have your camera at the ready as you pass this famous feature.

Equally stunning is the Landwasser Viaduct. This incredible single-track railway viaduct spans the Landwasser River in Switzerland. The Bernina Express crosses here between Schmitten and Fillisur, and the views through the valley are magnificent. Shortly after Fillisur the train passes through several spiral loops to gain height as it ascends into the Alps.

The highest station on the Bernina line, Ospizo Nernina is perched 7,391 feet (2,253 metres) above sea level. The area around the station is the perfect place for hiking, and the vantage point from the train offers awe-inspiring mountain vistas. After this point the Bernina Express begins its descent down to Tirano, passing by the Palu Glacier and down the curving tracks towards the Italian border.

Experience the spectacular beauty of The Bernina Express for yourself on holidays by train with Rail Discoveries. 

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