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Varenna to Zurich via Train in 1 Day, May 22, Advice

We will be ending our first European "excellent adventure" by departing Varenna on May 22, 2014 on the earliest train out of Varenna & we MUST ultimately arrive in Zurich that PM to lodge overnight so we can head out the next morning for our 10:20 flight back to normal life in ATL :(

I've got our whole itinerary worked out, with the exception of the the trains & buses. I'm just gonna say it. I'm not very confident in my abilities to figure out the trains & am very intimidated to go about it. We plan to take the earliest train out of Varenna to Tirano.

At Tirano we will get on the Bernina Express Train #976 departing Tirano @ 10:03 Arriving St. Moritz @ 12:17. I have already booked our seat reservations through RhB & will purchase my train tickets in Mar when I am able.

From St. Moritz, I'm thinking I'd like to travel by train to Zurich via Chur. When I tried to reserve seats on the Bernina Express for the St Moritz to Chur leg, I learned via email response from RhB (If I understood correctly)that the panoramic cars requiring seat reservations do not travel between St Moritz to Chur at that time of the year. Therefore, I am unable to, & do not need to make reservations or buy tickets for any other component of the trip to Zurich.

QUESTION: Any suggestions for how to plan our sight-seeing & train itinerary from St. Moritz to ultimately end up in Zurich that night? I was thinking St Moritz to Zurich via Chur & had thought if we had time between trains we could walk around somewhere or take a cable car up into the mountains?

If not that's fine, I just figured we'd absorb as much as we can on our last day as we travel to Zurich, but certainly don't want create stress by feeling like we are rushing around.

All advice & input is greatly appreciated!

Dana (Novice Traveler)

Posted by
2829 posts

You can climb the cable car in St. Moritz to Piz Boè. You can also enjoy walks around St. Moritz. Then you leave St. Moritz around 16.00 to travel with good daylight on the Albula route.

Posted by
32264 posts


What you're proposing is relatively easy, but it would help to have some further information. A few thoughts and questions......

  • It appears that the first train leaving Varenna departs at 07:24, arriving Tirano at 08:50. That should allow you to connect with the Bernina Express.
  • You don't need to use the Bernina Express from St. Moritz to Chur. Just use the regular trains. How long are you planning to stay in St. Moritz?
  • For travel from St. Moritz to Zürich, there appear to be departures almost hourly. You could (for example) depart at 14:02, arriving Zürich at 17:23 (one change in Chur). Fares are currently listed as low as CHF 36.50 PP. That should give you some time to do a quick walkabout and have a look at the city while there's still some daylight.
  • What hotel are you planning to use in Zürich?
  • Have you researched getting from Zürich Hbf to the airport? It's VERY easy!

Happy travels!

Posted by
23 posts

Andre & Ken,

Thanks for your suggestions!

Andre, I'm not familiar with the route you mentioned.

Ken, in response to your message.
Yes, it is the Varenna train departing at 07:24, arriving Tirano at 08:50 that I was planning on.

In Tirano, we get on the Bernina Express Train #976 @ 10:03 which appears to arrive in St Moritz @ 12:17.

Good to know the trains depart St Moritz almost hourly. I think I go confused b/c I was looking at the RhB page & it didn't look like there were many departures from there. I believe now I understand I should just go the the regular Swiss Rail site to look that up. Thx! Like I said this whole train booking thing freaks me out a bit. I'm convinced I'm going to buy the wrong tickets somehow :)

Q: How long are you planning to stay in St. Moritz?
A: We don't care how long we stop over in St Moritz & we don't have to stop over & spend time there if there's somewhere else you'd recommend we go to as we "chug" toward our departure city. We just need to end in Zurich so we can catch our 10:20 flt from ZUR to ATL on 23 May 14. We are open to ideas about where & how we can spend our time getting for St Moritz to Zurich. We don't have a concept of what our options are & how much time would be required to do them. This is where I'm hoping all of you travel gurus can help out.

In the end, if the input suggests that we won't have time to do much except simply enjoy the scenery of train ride through the Alps, that's fine by us. That alone sounds like a lovely way to cap off our most excellent adventure. I just thought I'd get any ideas you all might have. Even if that idea is stick to the train :)

Q: What hotel are you planning to use in Zürich?
A: I haven't booked the hotel in Zurich. I just figured we stay near the airport, nothing fancy.

Q: Have you researched getting from Zürich Hbf to the airport? It's VERY easy!
A: No. I haven't. Are you suggesting we train into Zurich the AM of our flight from somewhere other than Zurich? That might make me nervous that we'd miss a train somehow & miss our flight.

Posted by
2829 posts

I think you are getting confused among all the names.

Let's clarify things then. You have the rather scenic rail tracks on the area, mostly between Tirano and St. Moritz and also between St. Moritz and Thusis (which is part of the route to Chur). The latter goes through the Albula railway, where there are many interesting features, tall stone viaducts and helix tunnels. Travelling over these tracks between Tirano-St. Moritz-Thusis will offer good views, and if weather is really good then spetacular views.

Now you have different trains running over these tracks. Between Tirano and St. Moritz you can use the Bernina Express trains with panoramic windows and special services, but there are also regular trains travelling over the exact same tracks.

Same thing goes between St. Moritz and Chur. The sector up to Thusis is traveled over by the Glacier Express special trains but also by normal domestic trains running there.

From Thusis onwards to Chur and the Zürich, the railway is mode modern and faster.

So what I suggested you to do is to spend some time in St. Moritz, climbing to the Piz Nair (I've confused mountain names on the previous reply) via cable car, enjoying the city a bit, and then leaving St. Moritz to Zürich (via Thusis and Chur) early enough so that you travel through the scenic Albula route (which is part of train itinerary anyway) while there is still some good angled sunlight to allow you to enjoy it. If you leave St. Moritz too late, you'll pass at that area at a time when too much shadow will detract from your experience.

Posted by
3203 posts

I believe what Ken is suggesting is that you stay in downtown Zurich, near the main station, instead of at the airport. The train to the airport only takes about twelve minutes and they depart frequently. Look on to see the schedules from Zurich Hbf to Zurich Airport.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! By George, I think I've got it now. Thanks & happy, healthy, & safe New Year to all!


Posted by
23 posts

OK. Our trip is just around the corner & I'm tying up loose logistical ends...

I've been looking on the St Moritz web-site to try to figure out how we get from the St Moritz train station to take the cable car ride up to the Piz Nair? Is it something we can walk to or do we need to take a taxi?

Do I need to buy tickets or make reservations in advance?

If so, what tickets do I need to buy & where do I buy them?

Also, how much time should plan for the round-trip cable car ride?

As always, thank you!