Sometimes I think that traveling by train might be the best way to travel. There’s rarely any traffic congestion or stress from battling other drivers, you usually get a nice view out the window and it’s generally pretty comfortable. You can sit back and relax. Traveling by train has been a favorite since the introduction of the locomotive. Even to this day, traveling aboard the Orient Express is still a magical and mysterious adventure that people are anxious to try. But there are two express train routes in Switzerland that I’d try before the famed Orient Express. The Bernina Express and the Glacier Express top my list of must see train trips.
Operated by the Rhaetian Railway, both express trains run right through the Alps and through and past a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes. Similarly, both the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express offer spectacular views that you can admire from the comfort of panoramic train cars, that is, the large windows extend well over your head so that you can take in all the sites.
A journey on the Bernina Express takes, on average, four hours and will take you from Chur (the oldest town in Switzerland), Davos or St. Moritz to Tirano, Italy. It’s the way you get to Tirano that’s exciting, through landscapes that boast Europe’s highest density of castles. Rhaetian Railway’s website also quotes some impressive technical statistics: “The train makes short work of the 55 tunnels, 196 bridges and slopes of up to 70 millimetres per metre of incline that are found along its route.”
If you’re not tired of train trips yet — and I’m not quite sure how you could be — there’s the just as impressive and slightly more deluxe Glacier Express. The Glacier Express is advertised as the slowest express train in the world (the route takes approximately eight hours from start to finish) as it travels from St. Moritz or Chur to Zermatt past picturesque sites including the legendary Matterhorn and the Rhine Gorge. But the folks at the Rhaetian Railway offer not only a feast for the eyes, but also the stomach. The Glacier Express also has a chef on board preparing gourmet food.
The Bernina Express and Glacier Express may not have the popularity in pop culture that other rail travels like the Orient Express. But who cares? The spectacular landscapes and adventures that await on the Rhaetian Railway are intriguing and definitely on my must see list.
Photos from Rhätische Bahn. Top photo is Bernina Express. Bottom photo is Glacier Express.