Bernina express towns

Apr 15th, 2007, 03:38 PM
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Bernina express towns

Ok. I've been reading posts about the Engadine area and it sounds great. But which town to hang out in? Pontresina? Chur? Davos? Zernez? Is there one place that attracts young travelers more than another?
travelbird is offline  
Apr 15th, 2007, 10:33 PM
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Chur is on the edge of Graubünden and at the foot of the mountains but not high up like the others.

Please take a look at a map to help you see the difference. Remember, there's a pass separating some of the places so they're really aren't that close together.
kleeblatt is offline  
Apr 16th, 2007, 03:08 AM
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Hi travelbird,

One way to make a choice between attractive options is to find images of each. Use google images or a photo search at -- use the town name for the search. You may find yourself attracted to one of the towns, and it'll be easier to make the decision.

swandav2000 is offline  
Apr 16th, 2007, 04:10 AM
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The youngest crowds are to find in Silvaplana (surfers e.g. - it's the 'sports' place), but it's relatively small, so not a good place to hang out. It also depends on the time of year you are travelling.

St. Moritz and Pontresina have the most places to 'hang out'.
Ingo is offline  
Apr 16th, 2007, 04:26 AM
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I'll throw in a word about St. Moritz and please remember this is strictly subjective.

I found the main "village" area of St. Moritz to be about as "sterile" as anywhere I have ever been. The area around it is wonderful but that's one of the few Swiss towns I would not stay in again.
Dukey is offline  
Apr 16th, 2007, 04:44 AM
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I second what Dukey says about St. Moritz.
Cimbrone is offline  
Apr 16th, 2007, 04:57 AM
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You might like the article in the March 2007 issue of hidden europe magazine entitled 'The Bernina Connection'. Of the towns along the route the three that are my favourites are Pontresina, Poschiavo and Tirano. Anyway, the full article is online (and readable in a full colour 'pdf' file). However, chances are it might be taken down in the next couple of days, so best perhaps to check it out now. Just go to and look under the table of contents for the March 2007 issue.
hidden_europe is offline  
Apr 18th, 2007, 09:19 AM
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Thanks for your helpful advice. I think we'll stick to Pontresina. And thanks for the Hidden Europe article.I'm reading Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad. Starting to get a sense of the place. What a hoot. Travelbird
travelbird is offline  
Apr 18th, 2007, 10:29 AM
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triple Dukey's take on St Moritz. In winter all resorts attract lots of youthful travelers but in summer it seems an older hiking crowd interested not in nightlife.

Only Pontresina and St Moritz are Bernina Express towns - the fabled Bernina Pass train line starts from either.
PalenQ is offline  
Apr 18th, 2007, 06:24 PM
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You donít necessarily have to stay in a town right on the line, as train or Post Bus service can take you quite quickly between most towns in the region, so you can get to and from the official Bernina Express. For example, you could easily stay in Guarda, IMO the most lovely village in the Engadine, and get to Pontresina in an hour to start the glacier portion (i.e. the Bernina Pass) of the Bernina route which departs most days around 11 am for Tirano. Also, IMO the most lovely non-glacier portion of the ride is between Chur and Celerina, in particular the portion between Fillisur and Celerina as it winds up the valley, so while there is no reason to stay in Chur, if you stay in Pontresina and are travelling from say Zurich or Lucerne to Pontresina on a ďregularĒ Swiss Rail train, bear in mind that from Chur (where you will switch trains to the little red Rhatischbahn trains) you are actually ON the Bernina Express route, so admire the beauty at the regular Swiss Rail rates....

Chur is in the flat valley leading to Engadine valley and has some great mountain views in the distance, but is quite a large and industrial town and is the major rail hub for eastern Switzerland, although it does have a nice old town area. The little town of Arosa, up on top of the mountain and reached via a great 30-minute train ride is a very charming village good for hiking in summer and winter sports in winter (not on the Bernina route.

Davos is not on the Bernina route, and is not charming in any Swiss sense, but is quite lively most of the year as there are lots of sports activities here, some excellent hiking especially. Klosters, itís sister town, has a little more charm (just a little) and some better restaurants and hotels.

St Moritz has a lot of very high-end shopping and hotels and not a lot of the scraffito buildings for which the Engadine is famous (yes it is sterile, much like Verbier, there are actually quite a few unlovely Swiss ski villages).

Pontresina IMO is not really that charming a village, but does have a lovely setting and good access to winter and summer sports.

Celerina IMO has more of a town/village feel and more scraffito buildings than Pontresina and would be another good option. The Berinina Express goes through on its way up from through the Landwasser viaduct but does not stop (unless you are on the ďregularĒ Swiss trains which ply the same route as the Bernina Express trains but just donít have the Panorama cars, nor do they cost as much).

Samden also has a lot of scraffito buildings and would be another good choice for a quiet place to stay.

Madulain, a tiny village which is 15 minutes by train from Pontresina, has a very nice village feel and some great views and walks and would be a great place to stay if you wanted a real Swiss experience, IMO.

The two Sils, Sils-Maria and Sils-Baglia are not on the Bernina Express route and are very tiny and I agree may be a bit too small and perhaps a bit isolated, other than the fact that the great Waldhaus Hotel is in Sils-Maria.

Tirano is at the end of the line in Italy. Surprisingly, it does not have great views as it is at the bottom of a narrow valley. I have never found a lot to do there beyond having lunch and waiting to return on the afternoon Bernina Express.

If you are looking for a place which attracts young travellers, you might consider camping in one of the national parks, that in my experience is where many of the younger people tend to be.
Cicerone is offline  
Apr 18th, 2007, 10:43 PM
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Cicerone, Wow thanks for the details. Now I'm totally overwhelmed. I've been talking to friends about what to see in my very short 3 (I'm considering making an extra day and stretching it to 4) and I'm getting so many suggestions. So now I'm second guessing my choices.
I like the idea of smaller towns but my son is not into hiking unless maybe its riding up a gondola and walking(Not hiking)(I know! We're in Switzerland). Maybe mountain biking? down to the next town. Anyway we come from Lugano. So where we go needs to be sort of close and accessible to there.
Somone suggested Lucerne was a good place for teens. Boat ride cog wheel train up Pilatus etc.
Another said no, the best place is Interlaken. Staying in Murren and going up Schlicthorn. The train to Interlaken is 4 hrs and 36 min vs 2hrs 8min to Lucerne and well we know about the Bernina express route..

So what now...From a teen point of view, where's the fun?
We are traveling from June 29 to August 3rd.
travelbird is offline  
Apr 18th, 2007, 11:26 PM
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Donít second guess yourself too much, it is hard to go wrong. EVERYWHERE in Switzerland is beautiful. There are lots of outdoor activities in lots of places (there is great walking and hiking virtually within the city limits of Zurich and good biking too). I agree that it makes sense to pick a place that is easy to get to from Lugano, as you have to go back and forth from there.

St Mortiz/Pontresina is only 4 hours from Lugano, so really is not a bad trip at all, and only two changes required. (A good bit will be by bus and you will go through a tunnel rather than over the San Bernardino pass, but still a pretty trip). Interlaken is 4.5 to 5 hours with 1-2 changes, but remember that if you want to go up INTO the mountains (i..e Murren) you are looking at about another hour on the train. Interlaken sits at the center of two huge lakes and is not in the mountains. I donít like this town at all, and while the flatter valley area may be better for biking, if you choose to stay in the valley, I would choose Thun or a small village like Obereid instead. Thun is just over 4 hours and only requires one change from Lugano. You can take ferry rides on the lovely lakes (stupendous views, sorry IMO these views just so much beat anything Lucerne could offer), and also go up to the mountains for the day or overnight if you want to break up the trip. There are some cog train journeys you can take from the lake side of Thun as well.

I know you are on a budget, have you looked at for short term apartment rental in any of these areas? That might be a better solution. There is an apartment in Wengen for CH50 a night per person that looks interesting at

I was never into mountain biking when I lived in Switzerland (and still am not), so I donít have a lot of helpful advice I am sorry to say. You do however see bikers on all roads, including the high mountain passes (truly the Swiss are crazy), so he does not necessarily have to go off road for mountain biking, as the mountains are everywhere.

I am the wrong person to talk to about Lucerne. I donít like it and think it is way overrated. I would never pick it over the Engadine or the Jungfrau valley. If you want to go this area, please please stay down along the lake in Weggis or Vitznau and make a day trip to Lucerne.

There are many places in Switzerland for flat and easy walking, and many places to take a gondola or train up and either have a flat walk there or walk down. The Mannlichen to Kleine Schedeg walk in the Jungfrau (above Wengen, across the valley from Murren) is a good case in point.

Your daughter, after a semester in Lugano, will probably have some very good ideas as well, and you might want to consider those. She may suggest going into the Italian Alp areas, which are also beautiful.

FYI, August 1 is National Day in Switzerland, a good day to be there, flags flying everywhere and in the mountains there are usually big bonfires.
Cicerone is offline  
Apr 19th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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Great advice from Cicerone - i agree anywhere in Suisse will be great.
PalenQ is offline  
Apr 19th, 2007, 03:45 PM
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Cicerone, You've been so helpful. Allow me to pick your brain further. I found a backpackers lodge in Wengen that is more within my budget than anything I could find in Thun. Or There is one called Valley Hostel in Lauterbrunnen. Do you have an opinion of one town vs the other town in terms of fun, beauty or teen activity?
travelbird is offline  
Apr 19th, 2007, 06:33 PM
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Wengen is as quiet as a church mouse. That's why older folks love it.

Lauternruune, though sans the rave vistas Wengen offers, has a bit more nightlife - especially in summer when youth-oriented bus tours like Contiki brings in dozens of young folk from all over the world - if young and looking for typical youthful excitement, Lauterbrunnen defintately over somnolent Wengen,at least IMO
PalenQ is offline  

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