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The Bernina Express

I'm totally confused about the route of the Bernina Express.
The Frommer's Guide says the 4 hour route begins in Zurich and ends in Lugano. But when I Googled the Bernina Express, it said the route was from Tirano to Chur! WHICH IS IT - AND WHY ARE 2 SUCH DIFFERENT ROUTES UNDER THE SAME NAME?
Thanks!

Posted by
16683 posts

There is only one Bernina Express train route and it goes from Chur to Tirano.

There is a bus connection to Lugano if you want to end up back in Switzerland:

https://www.rhb.ch/en/panoramic-trains/bernina-express

This page on Frommer's is simply wrong:

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/switzerland/798091#sthash.rnGRCihe.dpbs

While you can travel from Zurich to Lugano using the Bernina Express train and bus for the part from Chur onward, it would take considerably more than four hours.

But this one has it right ( last paragraph):

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/ticino/798032#sthash.BcQazyAN.dpbs

Posted by
20309 posts

If you start in Zurich it is 2 more hours, connecting in Chur. The Rhaetian Railway, which operates the Bernina Express promotes a continuation on a bus from Tirano to Lugano. They call it Glaciers to Palms.
Frommers got it confused perhaps, with the William Tell Express which goes from Zurich/Luzern with a boat ride to Fluelen then train to Lugano over the Gothard Tunnel route.

Posted by
32244 posts

roxanne,

It's surprising that Frommer's got it wrong in this case.

As the others have mentioned, the Bernina Express travels between Chur and Tirano. Which direction are you planning to travel in, and are you wishing to continue to Lugano?

Depending on when your trip will be taking place, as I recall the Bernina Express Bus only operates in the "peak season" (I can't remember the dates). so that may not be an option for you. If your destination point will be Tirano, it's very easy to travel from there to Milan in a few hours. If you'll be ending the trip in Chur, you could carry on to Zürich or other locations but as I recall the train doesn't arrive until late afternoon so you may want to spend one night in Chur.

Posted by
11 posts

My husband and I only have a few short days in Switzerland. We would like to travel directly from either St. Moritz to Lake Garda (ideal) - or take the Bernina Express from St. Moritz to Tirano - then directly to Lake Garda.

Does anyone know the fastest route to Lake Garda? It could be ideal to fly - but I can't find flights from St. Moritz (or Tirano) to Lake Garda.

Posted by
5258 posts

Does anyone know the fastest route to Lake Garda? It could be ideal to
fly - but I can't find flights from St. Moritz (or Tirano) to Lake
Garda.

Roxanne,
Keep in mind that Lake Como is much closer from Tirano than Lake Garda.

Unfortunately due to the terrain (mountains) there is no fast route from Tirano to Lake Garda.

You can take a Regionale train from Tirano to Milano Centrale then transfer to another train to Desenzano or Peschiera which are the 2 ports on the south end of the lake.

Check this website for train schedules:http://www.trenitalia.com/

Here is the website for ferry schedules:http://www.navigazionelaghi.it/eng/g_illago.html

Have a great trip!

Posted by
8889 posts

Roxanne,

Does anyone know the fastest route to Lake Garda? It could be ideal to fly - but I can't find flights from St. Moritz (or Tirano) to Lake Garda.

None of those places have airports, they are way too small. The nearest airport to St. Moritz or Tirano is Zürich or Milan, to Lake Garda it is Venice. But it is much quicker to go direct than to double back to a major city with an airport. Lake Garda and Lake Como are lakes, you need to decide where on the lake you want to stay.

There are few routes across the Alps, that is why the few routes, like the Bernina Express, attract so much attention. From Tirano you will have to go south to the plains (Milan), then east to Lake Garda, then north into the mountains again. I suggest you find a rail map (not a road map), such as this one, but bear in mind it is still only showing the main rail routes.

Posted by
11 posts

I wonder what your opinions are.

My husband and I have a total of 13 nights for our European vacation. We are flying into Milan and leaving via Venice. Since we love Lake Como, I thought we'd get re-acclimatized to the new time zone with 3 nights in Varenna to begin. We thought we'd have our last 2 nights in Venice.

We had planned on staying at the 3 major lakes (Como, Maggiore, and Garda) - maybe 2 nights in the last two spots.

Here's what I had thought: 3 nights in Varenna - then over to Lake Maggiore for 2 nights. Then the rail/ferry Wilhelm Tell from Locorna to Lucerne (stay 2 nights); then to Zermatt (stay 1 night) to catch the Glacier Express to St. Moritz (stay one night), then Lake Garda for 1 night and Venice for 2 nights.

It seems though that travel from Switzerland to Lake Garda is a pain - and that generally the Switzerland itinerary is too ambitious. So now I'm wondering if we should just forget Switzerland and concentrate on the Italian Lakes. Alternatively, we could take the Wilhelm Tell rail/ferry from Locarno, stay 2 nights in Lucerne - then return again to Locarno with the Wilhelm Tell.

For those who have made the trip, what do you think?

I had hoped to go to Switzerland - but the links to all of these places

Posted by
5258 posts

Roxanne,

We are flying into Milan and leaving via Venice.

Here's what I had thought: 3 nights in Varenna - then over to Lake
Maggiore for 2 nights. Then the rail/ferry Wilhelm Tell from Locorna
to Lucerne (stay 2 nights); then to Zermatt (stay 1 night) to catch
the Glacier Express to St. Moritz (stay one night), then Lake Garda
for 1 night and Venice for 2 nights.

Did you already book your flights? Have you considered reversing the order of travel-- Fly into Venice then fly home from Milan.

Flights out of Venice tend to be very early in the morning.

Your itinerary as it stands is very rushed & you have too many destinations for your 13 nights.

You have too many one night stays which translate to only a few hours of sightseeing in said destinations.

I'd suggest spending your time in Italy & leave Switzerland for another trip.

If you decide to reverse your trip, you'd stay in Venice with possible day trip to Padua (26minutes via train) then travel to Verona with day trips to Lake Garda or stay in Peschiera & visit villages along the lake via ferry.

After visiting Lake Garda, you may travel to Lake Como or Lake Maggiore then spend the last night before your flight in Milan or travel from Lake Maggiore directly to the airport.

You may want to start a new post with your itinerary & this way you will get many other suggestions.

Happy planning!

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you so much for your reply, Priscilla!

I can't tell you how much I have been struggling with this travel itinerary!!!

Unfortunately our flights are already booked; we have to fly into Milan and out of Venice.

We had planned to stay at Lake Como (Varenna) when we arrived, because we are already familiar with it, and it seemed like the perfect place to adjust to the time zone change.

If we visit Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, Lake Garda (possibly Lake Orta) then Venice, does this mean that we should ideally start from west (Lake Maggiore) and go east from there? Is train the best way to go, or should we be looking at a car?

Posted by
20309 posts

If we visit Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, Lake Garda (possibly Lake Orta) then Venice, does this mean that we should ideally start from west (Lake Maggiore) and go east from there? Is train the best way to go, or should we be looking at a car?

That's the way I'd do it. I'd skip Lake Orta unless you do the car rental option. It is close to Malpensa, but a long way on the rails. You can get an Alibus from Malpensa to Stresa. From there, train to Varenna via Milano Centrale. Then Varenna to Pescheria via Centrale, then to Venice.

Posted by
32244 posts

roxanne,

"If we visit Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, Lake Garda (possibly Lake Orta) then Venice, does this mean that we should ideally start from west (Lake Maggiore) and go east from there? Is train the best way to go, or should we be looking at a car?"

Lake Como and Lake Maggiore are easily accessed by train, and having a car there may be of limited benefit. I haven't visited Lake Orta yet, but have researched it fairly thoroughly and it's also accessible by train. For Lake Garda, having a car is useful if you plan to visit the northern towns (Limone, Malcesine), however at the south end Desanzano and Peschiera have easy train access. The one exception is Sirmione, which is between those two cities and so can only be reached by Bus or Taxi. I was in the Lake Garda area in September and found it quite easy to travel using trains and boats.

For the lakes and Venice, you might consider a "combination approach", travelling to some by train and renting a car for a shorter period where necessary. Note that for driving in Italy, each driver will require the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. You'll also have to be vigilant to avoid the dreaded ZTL (limited traffic) areas that exist in many towns, as well as the automated speed cameras.

To answer your last question..... since your flights are booked and you're starting in Milan and ending in Venice, it would make sense to start in Stresa (Lake Maggiore) and then work your way towards Venice. Stresa is easily accessible from MXP so it will a nice place to get over jet lag.