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Bernina Express and Grindlewald-Help PLEASE!!

Bernina Express and Grindlewald-Help PLEASE!!

Apr 2nd, 2007, 01:29 PM
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Bernina Express and Grindlewald-Help PLEASE!!

Please, please, help. I have chosen to station my son and I at a youth in Grindlewald. We have five days and one of those days I want so badly to experience the beauty of the Bernina Express. If I am figuring this correctly (which I don't think I am) I will have to get the train in Chur and from there it is a four and half hour trip to Tirano. Is this a plausible trip in one day (albeit, one very long day)? We are scheduled to be in Paris and wonder if I shouldn't stay overnight in Tirano but it doesn't seem to be a big town and I'm not sure about the schedule to get back to main station to get to Paris. Seems like a lot of work! I don't think I'll ever be back in Switzerland and just don't want to miss out on this raved about Express. Any tips, suggestions, help is GREATLY appreciated!
giggles36kd is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 01:56 PM
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Well, the Bernina Express is a pretty trip, but it is by no means unique.

Were I in Grindelwald and wanted to see some great Alpine scenery I would make sure I went to the Jungfraujoch.

For what the Bernina Express would cost you, why not rent a car and take the Three Pass Drive: the Susten, Furka and Grimsel. If that road does know knock your socks off, I don't know what will.

Or, take the Golden Pass route from Interlaken to Montreux. That is more doable in your situation. The section of the route between Meiringen and Sarnen which traverses the Brünig Pass is not as spectacular in my view.
Perhaps I have done it so much by both road and train that I am inured.

But every time I drive the Susten, Grimsel, and/or Furka Passes, I am thrilled. They are all different and all spectacular.

bob_brown is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 05:14 PM
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Thanks Bob. I have heard such wonderful things about the region the Bernina traverses I'm even thinking of changing some of my plans to make it possible. Do you have any suggestions on a good region to stay in to make this doable?
giggles36kd is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 06:44 PM
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While I think the Bernina Express is a great train ride, and certainly probably the best of the scenic train rides in Switzerland, it is a pain to get to from the Bernese Oberland, as the Bernina Express train departs from Chur at about 8:30 or 9 am in the morning. To get to Chur by train from Grindelwald takes about 4 hours, so you would have to go to Chur the night before. Chur actually has a very nice little old town area that might be interesting for an afternoon and evening. Another place you might consider going the day before is Arosa, which is up in the mountains above Chur and has some great walking and lovely Alp areas. It is a very fun twisting train ride of about 30 minutes to get to Arosa from Chur. (You can leave your big bags at the Chur train station.) Go to rail.ch for schedules.

There is not really a need to overnight in Torino, as you can quite easily get back to either Chur or Zurich the same day, albeit you would not get to Zurich until about 8 pm or so, a long day but certainly doable. The Bernina Express is designed to be done as a day trip from Zurich, which is how many people do it.

Torino has hotels if you want to overnight there, but as the Bernina Express will put you into Tirano at about 12:30 pm and then departs again at about 2:30 pm for the return trip, there is no need to overnight there. Go to rhb.ch for the schedule of the official Bernina Express (i.e. the one with the panorama cars). You can also just take a “regular” Swiss train between Chur and Tirano, not the official Bernina Express, these don’t have the panorama cars and will require some changes, take a look at rail.ch. However, if you take a “regular” Swiss train, you could take any train departing Chur at any time in the day (light permitting), which means you do not have to be in Chur at 8:30 am, which might make this a more attractive option. It would also probably be cheaper than the Bernina Express, certainly cheaper than the first class panorama cars (which are pretty great I have to say but I have taken the regualr Swiss trains for large portions of this route many times and you get great views just the same).

If you did not want to make the return trip from Tirano back into Switzerland, another way to do the trip would be to go on from Tirano to Milan (3 hours) and then take an overnight train to Paris, there are several that go without any changes required. However, I like the return trip as you get to see the whole thing again and parts that you may have missed (i.e. the other side of the train). I am also not a huge fan of overnight trains, but an 11 year old may think it is cool. (Warning, my 12 year old niece and nephew did not think that night trains were cool at all...)

In order to answer your question better, could you tell me:

--How and when are you going to Paris? By train or air?
--What is it specifically about the trip that you want to see? The glaciers, the train or just the mountain scenery? There are ways to achieve any of the three without going on the Bernina train.

I agree that if you are in the Bernese Oberland, and want to do a great train ride, the ride to the top of the Jungfrau is one of the great ones.

The Goldenpass train between Interlaken and the Lake Geneva area is a very scenic train ride, and you get to see some good high passes, and it is certainly easier to access than the Bernina. While I think the Bernina is more stunning, in your case the Goldenpass may make a lot more sense, and it is certainly a very memorable ride. This is also a very good way to get to Montreux from where you can connect to the great fast TGV to Paris in 4 hours and skip the overnight train. I think this is a very good option overall. Go to goldenpass/ch for info. You can also see this same route by taking a “regular” Swiss train between Interlaken and Montreux, making sure you route yourself via Gstaad and/or Chateau-d’Oex (and NOT Berne; use one of those two towns as an intermediate point when picking schedules on the website). You can stop off in one or both (and send your luggage ahead of you on the train to wait for you in Montreux, you need about 8-10 hours for this, go to http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/reisemarkt/...isegepaeck.htm)

Also, an interesting train ride might be to make a day or overnight trip to Zermatt. This would involve some very scenic rides, a long tunnel ride through the Lotschberg Tunnel, the lovely ride up the valley to Zermatt and of course the wallop of the Matterhorn. In Zermatt, there is a great train ride up the Gornegrat and the cable car ride up the Kleine Matterhorn. For a day trip, this would be about 8 hours on the train, so it is a long day, but in the summer in Switzerland you will have a lot of daylight, so you could start early and stay late (go to sunrisesunset.com for daylight hours). You could also overnight in Zermatt, and then take a day or night train on to Paris (about 8 hours; night train schedules appear to require several changes so don’t look too great).

While renting a car to drive the three passes mentioned above is an option, I know you are on a budget and this may not be within it; however Swiss Post Bus run on all these passes, and this would be a quite thrilling and inexpensive way to go up and over one or more of these passes, IMO. The passes are twisting and fun and the way the big buses manage to manoeuvre them is amazing. The scenery above the treeline is like a moonscape.

Cicerone is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 07:00 PM
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If you want to stay in an area accessible to the Bernina Express, then go to the Engadine area and stay in St Mortiz, Pontresina, Celerina, Samedan or Sils-Maria. You could also stay in Guarda, IMO the most lovely village in Switzerland, and easily access the Bernina Express, which departs from St Mortiz or Pontresina about 10:30-11 am daily for Tirano. (Guarda is about 1 hour from St Mortiz). This area is not nearly as touristed as the Jungfrau area. If you give me a hotel budget I can recco some hotels. St Moritz is expensive for hotels, but most of the other surrounding towns are not. There are many national parks here and some great walking and cable car rides. Near Guarda in the town of Tarasp there is a castle you can visit.

Note that the St Moritz to Tirano section of the Bernina Express is the more glacial, high mountain pass section. If you take the train from Zurich airport to the St Moritz area, you will in fact be taking a portion of the Bernina Express when you travel between Chur and St Moritz; and this portion is one of the most beautiful portions of the ride, IMO, so don’t miss it, esp between Fillisur and Samedan. If you stay in Guarda you won’t do this portion of the ride, but you can get over to it and take the ride. There is also a very, very good walk down through the Bever valley here, which is mostly under and/or in view of the famous Landwasser train viaduct, this walk is about 10 miles. (The part of the train route is the Bernina Express route.) This walk is easy, is mostly on a road and is downhill virtually all the way. You take a train to Filisur, and then walk between Filisur and Davos.

Cicerone is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 06:45 AM
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Cicerone, thank you, thank you, thank you!! You have given me food for thought. My son and I will traveling from Fussen to Switzerland. I am thinking now perhaps I should go straight to Chur (or a town closeby) and spend a night there. But it seems if the Bernina Express is eight hours we will have to spend two nights, right? I have five nights reserves in Grindlewald for us and really wanted to have a "hub" to work out of. This would blow that plan out of the water but if it's worth it then I'll do it. To answer your questions, we are really wanting to take in as much of the scenery as possible including the waterfalls. I have already planned to pay the extra money to see the Jungraujach. I am on a strict budget which is another reason the Bernina is appealing as it is included in my Swiss Rail pass. I suppose the question now is do I alter the plan to include the Chur region or stick to rides in the BO area. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated!
giggles36kd is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 06:50 PM
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Going to Chur from Fussen first makes a lot of sense. The trip will take 5.5 hours, there are some trains that only require 2 changes. (Versus 9-11 hours to Grindelwald with 4-8 changes, not a fun day...)

With your longish train trip from Fussen, I agree you will have to overnight in Chur. You can take a late afternoon train from Fussen to Chur and there are hotels quite near the train station so you can then depart on the Bernina in the morning. I can’t stress enough that the Bernina Express trip can easily be done in a day from Chur, and is designed to be done that way. It’s four hours out in the morning (no changes), a break for lunch in Tirano, and four hours back to Chur (no changes). Going on to Grindelwald from Chur is possible, but its 4.5 hours from Chur, requires 3-4 changes, and trains only run once an hour, so that is more of a haul and means a late evening arrival, not sure about doing this with an 11 year old. There is NO reason to overnight in Tirano , which does not offer very much to see or do beyond some churches and a tower. Tirano also does not really offer many Alp vistas, it is in a rather narrow valley with very limited views.

Rather than going on to Grindewald or back to Chur, I would take the Bernina back from Tirano to the St Moritz area and stay overnight there (just 2 to 2.5 hours from Tirano) which is a beautiful valley area with stupendous views. I would spend the next day and actually even a third day here in this lovely area before going on to the Jungfrau. You can take cable car rides here, which you will find to be a bit cheaper than the ones in the Jungfrau (fewer tourists). That would only give you 2 nights in the Jungfrau, perhaps you feel that is not enough, maybe there is some time you can take from another part of your itinerary. From St Moritz to the Grindelwald will be about 7 hours and a few changes. There isn’t really any way to avoid this. Even stopping in Lucerne isn’t going to help a lot, as you still have 3 hours plus a bit from there, but you could stop there for lunch and to stretch your legs and see the little bridge and the old town (store your bags in the lockers of manned luggage room in the basement, or send your bags on from St Mortiz area to Grindelwald as unaccompanied baggage).

From Grindelwald, you then have to go on to Paris, if you are taking the train, that is 7 hours on the day train. Not sure if you are flying or not. Door to door flying from Zurich is not going to be really any faster than training from Grindelwald IMO. A night train may not be a bad option. There is a night train that leaves Zurich at 11 pm arrives 7 pm in Paris and requires no changes. You can take a train to Zurich from Grindelwald at about 7:30 pm and make it in time for the Paris night train.

Although Switzerland is small, because of its topography, it is really difficult to have a “hub” to stay in and see the country from. Even with a car, you would have longish drives. With trains, rides are even longer. You do have to have several bases IMO, to really see and enjoy the country and not spend most of your time on trains, pleasant as they are.

Cicerone is offline  
Apr 5th, 2007, 03:24 AM
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Hi giggles36kd,

Cicerone above has suggested that you take some time to visit the Engadin Valley if you're interested in the Bernina Express -- a great idea!

Just to help spur you on for this idea, here's a link to a magazine article on the Engadin:


I just happened to see this last night and thought you might enjoy seeing it.

Now maybe more Americans will include this little-known area on their itineraries!

swandav2000 is online now  
Apr 5th, 2007, 04:44 AM
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About two years ago (October 2004, I think) my husband and I spent two nights in Chur at the Zunfthaus Rebluta (sometimes spelled Rebleuten).


If you decide to spend the night in Chur, I recommend this little place.

We were charmed with the old town area of Chur, and the Bernina Express trip was wonderful. It fully lived up to our expectations.

If you are interested in the hotel, I can tell you more about it. The website is in German, which you may be able to read better than I could.

I'm certainly not a Switzerland expert, but I hope to be one day. It is the most beautiful and amazing country.

Byrd is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 12:53 AM
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you should have a security system installed in your house before you go on your trip.
bonnbonn765 is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 10:08 AM
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A huge "thank you" for all the valuable information! I am going to check out the websites you sent me. I am just thrilled to go to Switzerland and you reaffirmed that for me with all your excellent suggestions.

Bonnbonn----what does your response have to do with my posted question????
giggles36kd is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 11:00 AM
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I really was not sure how to respond to this question because of the fact that the two objectives are almost within the logical category of "mutually exclusive."

In that sense, they are two separate trips, or two distinct phases of the same trip depending on how you see it.

If you want to do the Bernina, then you will need to make a major modification as others have indicated.

My suggestion would be to do the Route Albula part of it with the spiral configurations.

You can get to Chur for the trip to Tirano if you are willing to leave at 5:20. Arrival is in Tirano at 13:11.

You could return via Milano Centrale and get back to Interlaken by 10 pm that evening.

That would mean about 17 hours of train riding.

If you wanted to travel from Tirano to Paris, the schedule is straight-forward.

Go from Tirano to Milan to Geneva to Paris. There would be 2 changes of trains: Milan and Geneva.

The schedule I looked at takes 12 hours, 41 minutes from Tirano.

You could do it, but it is a lot of train riding.

I guess I am one of those guys who will eternally be of a different opinion about train rides in Switzerland. Unless a road does not go there, e.g. Jungfraujoch and Gornergrat, I can see more and see it better from my car.

But different strokes for different folks.
bob_brown is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 12:43 PM
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Cicerone (and other Swiss experts):

I'm hoping that giggles36kd doesn't mind if I temporarily hijack this thread and as for a recommendation as follows. My husband is an experienced mountain climber and has not had an adequate mountain-hiking fix since we moved to France a few years ago. Just before we move back to North America, we're going to take a short trip to Switzerland to walk in the mountains. I am not a mountain climber, although I can enjoy walking in the mountains if a) it's not terrifying; b) we can cheat a bit with cable cars etc and c) I get to stay in a very nice, comfortable hotel at the end of the day. Can you suggest a base for a mountain hiking holiday that is thrilling enough for my husband, accessible enough for me and offers a charming, comfortable hotel (less than 200 euros a night)? We'll have 4 full walking days, plus two travel days (from and back to Paris). Thanks.
Kate_W is offline  
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