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Plan B Revisions: Bernina Express, Pontresina and to Interlaken Ost [Murren]

This illiterate map reader is back again asking for more advice.

We are accepting that we won't be going to Lake Como, because our British Airways flight transfers in Heathrow, and that currently requires an Italian quarantine. [Suffering a little PTSD from the 2020 cancelations, as are all of you.] We are two vaccinated seniors.

Lucerne-3 nights

Lucerne to Pontresina - 5 hr train? - Sleep Pontresina

Pontresina - ride Bernina Express -[regular train cars] - eat lunch at a delightful very small town BEFORE the Italian border;
return ride on Bernina Express. Each way is about 2 hrs?
-sleep Pontresina

Pontresina- bike, hike, explore - sleep Pontresina

Pontresina train to Interlaken Ost [Murren]- there seem to be various routes- will be a long day.
Which way by train ? Pontresina to Chur 2 hrs - Chur to Brig 3.5 hrs- Brig to Interlaken Ost 1+ hr
There seem to also be routes thru Zurich and Bern
Is there a better way to Murren? What am I missing besides EVERYTHING???/

Murren - 4 nights- may add one night

Bern - 1 or 2 nights-

sleep Zurich - early morning return flight

Please gently point out my missteps and enlighten a traveler with no sense of direction or map reading skills. Once I have this itinerary finalized, my husband actually gets us around. HE has a sense of direction.
Thx to all!

Posted by
15950 posts

Since you seem to like scenic train rides, from Pontresina to Interlaken, go Chur (via Tiefencastle), to Brig and you will be taking the same route as the Glacier Express, which is quite scenic. Extra credit if you take the train to Spiez that goes via Kandersteg, over the mountains and using the high Loetschberg Tunnel. The standard way is quicker, but uses the new Loetschberg Base Tunnel that goes completely under the mountains. At Spiez transfer to Interlaken.

As far as the Bernina trip goes, use the local trains and avoid having to pay a reservation fee. If you take the 9:04 train it gets to Campocologno at 10:51, then you can get the train going back the other way at 11:08. Now you might want to stop of on the way at someplace like Alp Gruem, do a bit of exploring before taking another train to Pontresina. Also, seeing as you have 2 days in Pontresina, you can push the trip back a day if the weather looks like it will be better

Posted by
2980 posts

In Pontresina we enjoyed our stay at Hotel Engindinerhof - I'd suggest getting the half board as it's quite an experience. At least when we stayed there a Rail Pass for the region was included and that was great for hiking and exploring the towns and villages in the region. One thing to check though is their cancellation policy - if you decide to stay there, I wouldn't book until you're sure that you'll be able to go.

It sounds like a great trip!

Posted by
1288 posts

Sharon, that hotel looks delightful. I'm assuming its in the center of town?

Sam, I will look up the alternate routes you suggested.

Thanks so much to you both for taking the time to respond.

Safe travels!

Posted by
2980 posts

Hi Pat!
Yes! Hotel Engadinerhof is in the center of town - Pontresina is a small town. The hotel is walkable from the train station but if you’d rather not walk I believe that you can arrange for the hotel to pick you up at the station. There are many hiking trails nearby and it’s beautiful there in the Fall.

Posted by
25594 posts

at the top of the route between Chur and Filisur is the world (maybe universe) famous Landwasser Viaduct. Coming from the south back towards Chur you leave Filisur and will enter (yet another, it seems) tunnel but when you pop out you look out into space because you are on a viaduct, and then turn left across the river. You might even miss it.

Going south from Chur you can see it coming particularly if you are facing forward on the right side of the carriage. You will rise up in altitude and then as you look up to the front of the train and see it turning right, the over the viaduct and straight into a hole half way up a cliff. If you know what's going to happen it can be quite impressive.

Have a look at https://youtu.be/2IR0jqy7YnE and https://youtu.be/no4DocQ7C24 Both have good shots, the second one is a bit theatrical for me but good nevertheless....

Posted by
25594 posts

One other YouTube that would be good to see is called Great Railways Cabride St.Moritz Drivers POV (part 2 of 2) https://youtu.be/dSOMV0DU6z8 Each part is around 1:15 so you need a commitment of 2 and a half hours to go all the way from St Moritz to Chur, beautiful with no commentary in the driver's cab, with deep snow. Don't worry about the puffing sounds, it has recently snowed, the train is not a cog wheel train, so the driver has to shoot sand out between the rail and the wheel for traction.

I'd particularly like to show you the Landwasser Viaduct experience heading north. Filisur is at time 11:01, just north of Filisur is the tunnel and viaduct at time 14:24, and it is well worth watching until the arrival at the next station of Tiefencastel, from the time you approach the church at time 25:20. So with a 15 minute investment you can see a lot.

This area, from Thusis to Filisur or Bergun is my favourite part of this line.

Posted by
25594 posts

I understand that you will Luzern - Chur to start, but for the leg to Interlaken Ost and up the hill, in addition to the route via Brig noted above, there is a very scenic narrow gauge cogwheel train from Luzern via the Brünig Pass and Meiringen which goes all along the northern edge of Lake Brienz all the way from Brienz to Interlaken. That would be my choice. You would have some backtracking to Luzern though, probably via Arth-Goldau.

Posted by
1288 posts

Thank you all! I now have a few days to study all of this. Your input and expertise is invaluable.

We spent today attempting to re-book our canceled British outbound Airways flights. No comment.

Safe travels to all!

Posted by
22 posts

I thought that if you were just transferring through the London airport that it didn't count against you in entering Italy.

Posted by
1288 posts

Susan, Laurel posted a very helpful survey regarding Italy quarantine mandate.
https://infocovid.viaggiaresicuri.it/returningtoitaly.html

See if that answers your question , but it looks like transferring thru Heathrow would require you to quarantine, if you were in the Uk within 14 days of going to Italy .

This is causing us to revise our trip.

Safe and healthy travels!

Posted by
13 posts

A tip for watching long train ride videos on Youtube - I usually set the speed to 2x (under Settings), so I can cut the time in half.

More info on the 5 days of self-isolation for transit passengers from UK.
https://www.salute.gov.it/portale/nuovocoronavirus/dettaglioContenutiNuovoCoronavirus.jsp?lingua=english&id=5412&area=nuovoCoronavirus&menu=vuoto&tab=6
Apparently this went into effect July 12? Currently applies till July 30, but may be extended. There is an exemption for short trips by car (<36 hours) into Italy.

Posted by
12144 posts

Susan—-you must be thinking of Switzerland. They do not count an”airside” transit at Heathrow as time spent in the UK. Their required entry forms explain that if you depart the US on flight 1 to Heathrow, transfer there to your flight #2 to Switzerland while staying airside (meaning you stay in the secure international departure area and do not pass through passport control), then you are treated as having entered Switzerland from the USA.

But Italy apparently does not see it that way; they do not make an exception to the 5-day quarantine requirement for airside transfers at Heathrow, but treat you as though you have actually been in the UK.

Pat—-did you get your flights sorted out with British Airways? If not, might you be able to cancel your BA flights and get a refund, and re-book with an airline that will take you directly to Switzerland (or Italy) from the US? Then you could go to Lake Como after all. It might mean flying to the US east coast first—-that is what we may do.

Just today I found a non-stop flight from New York to Milan on Emirates (with our airline miles) that will get us to Italy without the “Heathrow problem”. While we generally fly with British Airways, we are thinking of changing our ways for this next trip to Italy so we don’t have to worry about quarantine requirements.

Posted by
1288 posts

Lola, we would have loved to change to a direct flight to Zurich, but the Business Class prices were double what we paid for British Airways. We did rebook with American [partner airline] thru Chicago, where we board a BA flight. We didn't have many options. And the crazy part is the the big air sale was about two weeks ago, and had BA canceled us then, we could have had better connections at less money.
After this mess, we discovered through Flight Aware that the flights we were sold hadn't flown since March, 2020. You may want to check your prospective flights before booking.
Good luck!