The Bernina Express – By train and bus from Chur to Lugano (+ side trip to Italy)

The Bernina Express train

Do you like to do a spectacular train and bus ride? How about the Bernina Express.

Traveling by train is nothing special for people living in Switzerland. About 1.3 million people use the train daily, most of them to go to work. We did lots of train rides the last four weeks and two of them in the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express. These two panoramic train rides are breathtaking.

Before we left Switzerland to travel the world a few years ago, we went to work by train. It was a daily routine and we didn’t like it too much. We are road trip lovers and there is nothing better than having the freedom to travel on our own pace. But, traveling by train can also be super nice, especially in a panoramic train. We started to like it a lot. The best of traveling by train is: You just sit back, relax and enjoy the amazing view.

Cruising through mountains and valleys in the Bernina Express

In winter 2014/2015 we did the Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano. It was a great trip even if it was snowing on and off. Seeing Switzerland’s mountain region covered in snow is really special. And how does it look like in summer? We then thought, we would love to do the same trip in summer too.

We still can’t believe our luck. This summer we had the chance to do the Bernina Express again. And even better, because we can do the complete tour with the Bernina Express train and bus that goes all the way from St. Moritz or Chur via Tirano to Lugano.

In the Bernina Express Panoramic wagon from Chur to Tirano

Our goal was to take a ride on the Bernina Express once in our life. We achieved our goal, well, we even did the train ride twice. Once in winter and once again this summer.

We board the Bernina Express train in Chur and the next four hours we enjoy the view. This is how it looks like:

The Bernina Express train ride

One of the mountain villages we pass by on the Bernina Express train ride.

Morteratsch glacier Bernina Express

Montain scenery with the Morteratsch glacier in the background.

Morteratsch glacier

The Morteratsch glacier in summer.

Lago Bianco Bernina pass

Amazing scenery at the white lake (Lago Bianco).

Lago Bianco Bernina pass

The white lake (Lago Bianco) on the Bernina pass.

Valposchivao Bernina Express

Great views of the Valposchivao from the Bernina Express.

Lake Palu Bernina Express

The milky colour of Lake Palü comes from the glacier.

Spiral loops in Brusio

The famous spiral loops in Brusio. Probably the most photographed spot of the Bernina Express ride.

Spiral loops in Brusio Bernina Express

The spiral loops in Brusio are quite impressive.

Spiral loops in Brusio Bernina Express

Finally we are on the bottom of the spiral loops.

Poschiavo Bernina Express route

We pass the village of Poschiavo on the Bernina Express route.

You find lots of details about the highlights and stops along the way in the post here (and photos of winter wonderland): Bernina Express in winter

One night in Tirano

Bernina Express in Tirano

The Bernina Express train travels through central Tirano.

We arrive in Tirano before lunch. Many people stay for lunch only and take the Bernina Express back to Chur or St. Moritz. Others go further to Lugano by bus.

For us the Italian city of Tirano is more than just a place to stop for a coffee. We like the atmosphere and therefore we stay for a night. The day we arrive we first go for an Aperitif. Italy is famous for Aperol Spritz and great espresso.

Tirano Aperitif

Enjoying life in Tirano. Ahhhh, we are in Italy.

Next we do a short city tour. We first stroll along the main road called Via Italia and check out the Santuario della Madonna di Tirano.

Church Madonna di Tirano

It looks impressive, the Church Madonna di Tirano.

Old building in Tirano

On our city tour through Tirano we spot some great old buildings.

Tower in Tirano

On our sightseeing tour we spot this tower in Tirano.

Museum in Tirano

The weather is too good to go to the museum.

Tirano is a relaxing Italian city in the Valtellina. The city is surrounded by mountains and lies on 429 meters above sea level. The Adda River is flowing through the city all the way to Lake Como. That’s also the direction the Bernina Express bus is going.

If you do the whole tour from St. Moritz or Chur to Lugano we recommend staying a night in Tirano. It’s a great way to enjoy the Italian hospitality and the great food and wine.

Should you be short on time you can also do the whole tour in one day. The Bernina Express train is arriving in Tirano at 12:45 and the Bernina Express bus is departing at 14:25. That’s enough time to go for lunch. There are plenty of options to have a nice meal or a snack. Within walking distance you will for sure find a suitable restaurant or café.

Bernina Express bus from Tirano to Lugano

Before we board the bus we have a last drink in one of the cozy cafes. At 14:25 it’s time to say goodbye to Tirano. The Bernina Express bus is leaving on time from the train station and we are crossing the Piazza Basilica, where we can get a last glimpse of the Santuario Madonna di Tirano. We are driving through the Valtellina all along the Adda River until we reach Sorico at Lake Como. In Sorico we have a coffee stop and time to take a few pictures of Lake Como.

Bernina Express bus in Sorico

The Bernina Express bus stops in Sorico right at Lake Como.

The landscape is changing completely. We’re passing small fishing villages like Domaso and Dongo. This region is very popular for camping holidays.

In the village Menaggio we leave Lake Como and just a few kilometers later we already see Lake Lugano. We are now at the eastern part of Lake Lugano which is still part of Italy. This region is called Lombardia. It’s a stunning ride along the lake and our trip soon comes to an end. The driver announces „Prossima Fermata“ – „Next Stop“ Gandria. We are back to Switzerland.

We drive along Lake Lugano and arrive at 17:30 at the Lugano train station.

Bernina Express train and bus – Form glaciers to palms

If you ever visit Switzerland we highly recommend doing the Bernina Express especially the combined trip by train and bus. You can do the tour in both directions. We really enjoyed the ride, especially the stopover in Tirano.

Useful travel information for the trip with the Bernina Express train and bus

How do you get there?

  • From Zurich to Chur: approx. 1:5 hours
  • From Zurich to Lugano: 2:45 hours
  • From Zurich to Davos Platz: approx. 2:20 hours
  • From Zurich to St. Moritz: 3:00 to 3:30 hours

The Bernina Express routes:

  1. Chur – Tirano – Chur
  2. Davos Platz – Tirano – Davos Platz
  3. Moritz – Tirano – St. Moritz
  4. Tirano – St. Moritz – Tirano

In summer the Bernina Express bus is operating from Lugano to Tirano to Lugano.

The Regio train connects St. Moritz with Tirano every hour (travel time approx. 2:30 hours). From Chur there is also a connection every hour and the train ride takes 4:00 to 4:30 hours.

We did the route Chur to Tirano in the Bernina Express. If you want to do the ride in a Panoramic train, check out for the Bernina Express. Additionally to the ticket price you have to pay a seat reservation fee. It’s worth to pay the extra money for a greater experience. You find details about the costs later in this post.

Where can I buy tickets and what’s the best option?

For tourists with residence outside of Switzerland we recommend to buy a Swiss Travel Pass. With the all-in-one travel ticket you can discover many highlights of Switzerland by train, bus and boat.

The Swiss Travel Pass is available for 3, 4, 8 and 15 consecutive days. A Swiss Travel Pass costs from CHF 210 / USD 217 to CHF 440 / USD 455 in 2nd class and CHF 336 / USD 348 and CHF 704 / USD 728 in 1st class. The all in-one-ticket allows you free travel by train, bus and boat including panoramic trains and public transport in more than 75 cities. Additionally you get free entry to more than 490 museums and on most cable cars and mountain railways you only pay half the price. Are you below 26? Lucky you, you get a 15 % discount on the Swiss Travel Pass.

More flexibility with the Swiss Travel Pass Flex

The Swiss Travel Pass Flex is also available for 3, 4, 8 and 15 days. The difference to the normal Swiss Travel Pass is that you are more flexible. Within 30 you can choose the days you want to travel. That means if you buy a Swiss Travel Pass Flex for 3 days, you can travel 3 days within the period of 30 days. A Swiss Travel Pass Flex for 3 days costs CHF 239 / USD 247 in 2nd class and in 1st class you pay CHF 382 / USD 395. You find all prices here: Swiss Travel Pass Tickets

How much does a single ticket for the Bernina Express cost?

From Chur to Tirano in 2nd class you pay CHF 62 / USD 64 (return CHF 124 / USD 128), in 1st class CHF 109 / USD 112 (return CHF 218 / USD 224)

The trip with the Bernina Express train from Chur to Tirano and by bus from Tirano to  Lugano in 2nd class costs CHF 87 / USD 89 (return CHF 174 / USD 178) and in 1st class CHF 134 / USD 137 (return CHF 274) (exklusive compulsory seat reservation)

You can buy tickets online at the Rhätischen Bahn. Here you find more information and the www.rhb.ch/en/home.

Prices for the compulsory seat reservation

Reservation of all seats is compulsory. You can make reservation earliest three months in advance. Die Reservation der Sitzplätze ist obligatorisch. Sie können frühestens drei Monate vor der Reise online, an allen Bahnschaltern in Europa oder telefonisch unter Tel. +41 81 288 65 65 getätigt werden.

CHF 14 for the Bernina Express im Sommer vom 05.05.-23.10.2016

CHF 10 for the Bernina Express im Winter vom 24.10.-04.05.2017

CHF 14 for the Bernina Express Bus vom 25.03.-23.10.2016

The prices above are additionally to the ticket price for a single trip and person.

Prices are subject to change. Check out at the Rhätische Bahn website www.rhb.ch/en/home.

Ticket recommendation

You want the easy way to travel around Switzerland? With the Swiss Travel Pass you have a great option. The all-in-one ticket allows you to travel by local transport like trains, buses and boats. The Swiss Travel Pass is available online at Swiss Travel System

Where you can buy a Swiss Travel Pass

There are many outlets all around the globe where you can buy the Swiss Travel Pass. You find information on individual countries and sales offices here: Swiss Travel System – Where to buy

What’s nicer: Bernina Express in summer or winter?

We did the Bernina Express in summer and winter. Both trips were sensational. Which one is better? It depends what you like. Do you love to see mountains, meadows and glaciers covered in snow? Or do you love to see meadows, cows and green as far as you can see? If you can’t decide, do both. It’s really worth it.

What train ride have do you recommend to do? We love to hear your travel experience by train.

 

We traveled with our Swiss Travel Pass and used the ticket for our trip on the Bernina Express. The ticket was sponsored by Swiss Travel System. Thanks a lot for supporting us.

We assure our readers that we write about our personal experience and opinion.

 

7 thoughts on “The Bernina Express – By train and bus from Chur to Lugano (+ side trip to Italy)

  1. These are absolutely stunning photos. I cannot believe how beautiful Switzerland really is! Must be a relief for you two to come back home every now and then to recharge your batteries before venturing off to another part of the world. I know I would be with only one week here.

    • Hi Ray

      Thanks for your message. Well, yes. Switzerland is a country to fall in love with. The landscape, the mountains, the lakes – very beautiful. It was awesome to be back home for a while, seeing familiy and friends. And now we are back to the other end of the world – in Australia. Love it here.

      Cheers,
      Reni

  2. Hi Reni and Marcel,
    What you wrote was fantastic,inspiring and informative. Your pictures are professionally high class. Based on your experience, my wife Sriyanee and I (both seniors) would be taking this exact route from Chur to Lugano on Tuesday the 16th May.You two being regular globe trotters, please keep posting your experience for others, benefit.

    • Hi Lakshman and Sriyanee,

      Thank you very much for your positive feedback. We really appreciate it.
      For your trip on the Bernina Express in May we really wish you a good trip and great, sunny weather that you can enjoy the beautiful landscape along the route.

      Sunny greetings,

      Marcel and Reni

  3. Hi Marcel & Reni,

    I have enjoyed reading of your adventures! We are traveling from Australia in August/ September. We have 4 days on French Riviera, after this, we will spend 4 days in Bellagio, Lake Como.
    My husband is older than I am (late 70’s) I am 52. He has all ways wanted to do both the Glacier Express & Bernina Express. He has some breathing difficulties& lung issues, so I am worried about the altitude.
    I’m thinking from Chur to Tirano sounds nice. We would need to make our way from Zurich to Chur. My husband doesn’t want to be on a train for 8 hours or similar so we would probably concentrate on the Bernina.
    Do you have any suggestions for us?

    Thank you so much!

    Jane Wood 🙂

    • Hi Jane,

      That sounds like a very intresting trip you have planned.
      Both train rides are really worth doing and the landscapes that you will pass are very pretty in summer and in winter time.
      If your husband does not want to spend too much time in the train I would definitely recommend doing the train ride on the Bernina Express. It’s a shorter ride and the landscapes an the features along the ride are breathtaking. You may consider staying a night in Triano before doing the return journey. Another option would be the round trip to from Chur to Tirano and further on to Lugano and then back to Zurich.

      Best Regards,
      Marcel

  4. I’m so sorry! This was meant to read:
    French Riviera followed by 4 days in Zurich, then onto Lake Como 🙂
    Thanks,
    Jane

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *