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Bernina Express questions

I know that if you are taking the Bernina Express from Tirano to Chur, you have the option to take the one departure each day that is the "official" Bernina Express, with the panoramic cars, or you can be on the same train tracks and experience the same scenery by just taking one of the many local trains that do that route each day. I've been exploring the pros and cons of the choices. The local trains don't require a seat reservation. They have more stops and you can get off, stay awhile, and then re-join the journey. They have windows that can be opened, so that you can take photos without glare from the glass. But the panoramic cars give you that wonderful view of the scenery without having to crane your neck.

The Man in Seat 61 page about the Bernina Express shows the timetable of the panoramic cars, each direction (Chur to Tirano and Tirano to Chur.) Starting in Tirano, the departure is at 14:24. Arrival in Chur is at 18:19. The timetable on his site shows that there are four stops along the way: Poschiavo (15:09), Alp Grum (15:44), Pontresina (16:21) and Tiefencastel (17:31).

However, my Rick Steves Switzerland guidebook, after explaining that the regional trains stop at all stations along the line, cautions, "The regular Bernina Express only stops at three important stations--Poschiavo, Alp Grum, and Ospizio Bernina."

We want to take the panoramic train, get off in Pontresina when it gets there in the late afternoon, and stay overnight, then finish the BE the next day, on a regional train rather than waiting for the panoramic train to come through again. Can anyone please confirm that the panoramic cars DO stop in Pontresina?

My hope was to get a reservation at the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl, but they are already booked for our night even though my trip is not until Sept. of 2022. (We have mapped out our itinerary for this trip and because we have some VRBO stays, already booked, there is not flexibility in the date on which we will do the BE).

Does this sound like a feasible plan: panoramic train Tirano to Pontresina, check into our hotel there (I'm looking at the Hotel Bernina, Hotel Garni Chesa Mulin, and Hotel Steinbock but would be happy to consider any others if there are recommendations), then use the local bus and Muottas Muragl funicular to go up to the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl hotel to have dinner and watch the sun set, return to the hotel via funicular and bus for our overnight stay, depart early the next morning on one of the local regional trains to complete the BE journey to Chur. In Chur, we will change trains to go to Lucerne. We want to arrive there by mid-afternoon if possible.

Posted by
28827 posts

The guidebook by definition is out of date when printed unfortunately so a more current source is likely to be better in this case.

I have a great respect for The Man in Seat 61 - thanks to him when I used to Eurostar a lot that was the small table I wanted - and he does a great job of keeping up to date.

But if the answer is critical I would always suggest to go to the source - in this case the Rhaetian Railway who run those red trains on the line you want. Their website in English is https://www.rhb.ch/en/home and they have the answers you need up to the minute.

For scheduling they will put you through to the SBB timetable.

Posted by
16964 posts

Since your talking about 2022, you should look at the schedule next year, because they can change. Looking at a random date in September this year (Sept 15) there are 2 afternoon Bernina Express trains that stop in Pontresina, one at 1:17 PM arriving at 3:34 PM, and one at 2:24 PM arriving at 4:21 PM. Next morning, there are regional trains to Chur at 2 minutes past the hour, with a connection at Samedan taking 2 hours and 2 minutes. This is the same track as the Bernina Express using the Albula railway line that does all the spiral tunnels and going over the Landwasser Viaduct. At Chur, there are trains to Luzern about every 30 minutes connecting either at Thalwil or Zurich taking about 2 1/4 hours.

Posted by
4723 posts

Important note regarding the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl: it is NOT booked out, it is just not open for Sep 2022 bookings yet... which isn't surprising at all! Check again in a few months, it is really worth a stay; I spent 3 nights there in Jan 2020 and it was an unforgettable experience, with great food to match. We arrived on a snowy day when the hotel was shrouded in clouds and woke up to the most glorious view I ever had from a hotel.

Also, the stop to get there is NOT Pontresina but Punt Muragl, for which you would need to get off the Bernina Express and change trains in Samedan (or take the bus) - not an issue at all!

Lastly, if you end up staying in Pontresina, some Bernina Express trains do stop there in 2021... but it might be more convenient to get off the train in Samedan and take the bus from there, because the station in Pontresina is downhill from the village. It is a quick bus ride.

Posted by
409 posts

Balso, unfortunately, the hotel IS fully booked. On their website, the booking calendar doesn't go out that far, so I did email. I've had great success in the past in getting advance hotel bookings by direct email prior to the time this can be done on the hotels' websites. The Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl replied to say that for our date, they are fully booked. They were also fully booked for the prior night, but could offer me the one before that, or the night after the one I had requested.

Posted by
4723 posts

How sad and surprising! Wedding, perhaps? In any case, I stand corrected :-)
As a silver lining there are plenty of great hotels in Pontresina anyway... and for the price of the Romantik you could get one with some nice amenities to unwind.

Posted by
409 posts

My assumption is that the early sell-out of rooms for some Sept. 2022 dates in this hotel has everything to do with covid. I'll bet that a lot of people with 2021 bookings changed their minds about trying to travel this year, but instead of cancelling altogether, asked the hotel to move them to a new date in 2022. Or that people who miss travel are satisfying themselves with travel-dreaming by making their 2022 plans way in advance.

Posted by
9 posts

It could be a wedding but also the Swiss are still going on holiday...just in their own country.