Over the Alps by way of Gotthard Bernina Round Tour on the Bernina Specific

Linking Northern and Southern Europe, the Gotthard Bernina Round Tour is essentially the most spectacular strategy to cross the Alps by rail. It’s a marvel of engineering, utilizing a mixture of 55 tunnels and 196 bridges, mixing into the panorama so efficiently that it’s been recognised by UNESCO and is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its World Heritage award.

I fly into Zurich and take the practice to Lugano, a route solely made doable when the Gotthard Tunnel opened in 1882. There’s now a brand new tunnel, the 2016 Gotthard Base, which shaves 30 minutes off the journey time, reaching Lugano in simply over two hours.

The Bernina Line

It was a Dutchman, Willem Jan Holsboer, who first proposed a railway line from Landquart to Davos in 1888. His spouse was hospitalised in a Sanatorium and he grew bored with journeying by horse and cart. In 1895, Holsboer modified his firm’s title to the Rhaetian Railway and began increasing. The Bernina Line was lastly accomplished in 1910 and hyperlinks St Moritz to Tirano in Italy, crossing the Bernina move at 2,253m.

Sitting on the shores of the attractive lake the city grew to become established as a resort within the 19th century when railway vacationers began arriving. There’s even a piece referred to as Paradiso, well-liked with the Brits, which has a funicular as much as the highest of Monte San Salvatore with its wonderful views.

Bernina Express Train in Tirano

Bernina Specific Prepare in Tirano (c) Rupert Parker

There’s no time to linger as I’ve to catch the Bernina Specific. It begins in Tirano, 130km to the east, however sadly there’s no direct rail connection from Lugano. As an alternative I take the particular Bernina Specific Bus into Italy, previous scenic Lake Como, and into the Valtelinna Valley, lined with orchards, chestnut timber and vineyards earlier than arriving on the station. I simply have sufficient time to take pleasure in a wonderful Italian lunch earlier than boarding the practice.

The large panoramic home windows give me a great view of the Valposchiavo because the practice climbs, following the centuries outdated route which introduced wine to the tables of Graubünden and Vorarlberg. The primary landmark is the Brusio spiral viaduct, in all probability essentially the most spectacular building on the Bernina Line, opened in 1908. Its 9 stone arches assist a single observe which curves 360 levels to restrict the gradient to only 7%. Something increased than that then the practice would slip on the way in which up or turn out to be uncontrollable on the way in which down.

Brusio Circular Viaduct

Brusio Round Viaduct (c) Rupert Parker

As we attain Lago di Poschiavo, I get off at La Prese to take a ship journey to discover the lake. The Sassalbo is 100 years outdated and was introduced right here from the River Aare in 2015 over the mountain passes.

Lago di Poschiavo Valley

Lago di Poschiavo Valley (c) Rupert Parker

On board, they serve native sausage and cheese with a glass of Valtellina wine, as you sail move fishermen attempting to catch the considerable char and trout that populate the waters right here. It’s doable to rent a rowing boat and be a part of them. Should you’re profitable, then the resort will clear and vacuum pack your fish, so you may take it house.

One cease up the road, I spend the night time within the city of Poschiavo which punches above its weight, full of enormous homes within the Venetian fashion in-built 1860’s. Its wealth derives from its place on the route crossing the Bernina Cross and the outdated teaching inn, the Resort Albrici, nonetheless receives travellers in its lavished restored rooms. Reverse the church there’s a quite macabre show of skulls, collected from the catacombs beneath the church.

Skulls in Poschiavo

Skulls in Poschiavo (c) Rupert Parker

Subsequent day, I’m again on the practice, this time in an open carriage on the again, permitting me to get the complete advantage of the magnificent views, with the wind rippling by means of my hair. It’s noisy because the wheels squeal as they navigate the tight turns, however exhilarating. I cease for lunch at Alp Grüm, at 2,091m solely accessible on foot or by rail. Beneath me is Lago Palü and in entrance is Piz Palü and its icy glacier, with the Bergamasker Alps within the distance. The restaurant has typical native Swiss dishes and you’ll keep the night time right here, having fun with the tranquillity as soon as the trains have ceased.

View from Alp Grum

View from Alp Grum (c) Rupert Parker

It’s now too chilly to trip within the open so as a substitute I take a basic Pullman carriage, restored within the artwork deco fashion of the early 20th century. The roomy armchairs, bay home windows, and teak fittings add a becoming layer of luxurious. We move alongside Lago Bianco, fed by glacier water, earlier than reaching Ospizio Bernina, the summit at 2,253 metres. That is the watershed – to the south, the waters move into the Adriatic and to the east, into the Black Sea. It’s now downhill all the way in which to Pontresina the place I’m going to be spending the night time in preparation for the festivities celebrating 10 years of the railway’s UNESCO World Heritage award.

View from Pontresina

View from Pontresina (c) Rupert Parker

This can be a day for nostalgia, a delight for railway buffs. At Pontresina station there’s a set of classic rolling inventory and a working steam locomotive which pulls us for 15 minutes to the subsequent station at Samedan. In actual fact the entire day is dedicated to the age of steam and it’s again to trendy instances as I take the common Bernina Specific, crossing the spectacular Landwasser Viaduct, to Chur, then again to Zurich. In fact the festivities are distinctive however just a few instances a 12 months, the Rhaetian Railway runs particular photograph safaris pulled by steam engines. It’s a practice spotter’s dream.

Click on on the picture to enlarge. Images © Rupert Parker

Steam Train

Steam Prepare

Steam Engine

Steam Engine

Reality File

FLY: SWISS operates as much as 180 weekly flights from London Metropolis, Heathrow, Gatwick (seasonal), Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh (seasonal) and Dublin to Zurich, Geneva or Sion (seasonal).

STAY: Resort Worldwide au Lac in Lugano, is a historic resort, near the lake.
Albergo Croce Bianca makes for a cushty base in Poschiavo.
Resort Albrici is a historic teaching inn with glorious meals in Poschiavo.
Resort Le Prese sits on the sting of Lago Poschiavo with gorgeous views of the lake.
Resort Saratz is a trendy resort in Pontresina.

EAT: Merizzi Bistro is an effective spot for lunch in Tirano.


The Rhaetian Railway has details about practice companies.

The Swiss Switch Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and vacation spot. Costs are £112 in second class and £182 in firstclass.

The Swiss Journey Cross is the all-in-one ticket to journey by practice, bus and boat Three-15 days. Costs from £172 in second class.

Amici del Lago has details about Sassalbo boat journeys on Lago Poschiavo.

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