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From the Alps to the Palm Trees: The Red Train Connects Wintry Switzerland with Tropical Italy

From the Alps to the Palm Trees: The Red Train Connects Wintry Switzerland with Tropical Italy
photo: Geoff Cooke / Flickr/Bernina Express
01 / 01 / 2024

The routes through the Swiss Alps and St. Moritz definitely rank among the most beautiful railways in the world. Add to this the Italian romance and the historic city of Tirano, and you have a fairy tale journey.

The Bernina Express is an engineering masterpiece that connects the Italian terminus of Tirano with the renowned Swiss resort of Engadine in St. Moritz. The railway, which opened in 1904, includes parts that are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The motto of the Bernina Express is "From the Glacier to the Palm Trees," because in just four hours, passengers travel from the Swiss Alps and winter to the warmth of sand and palm trees.

Nunzio D. / Flickr

Bernina is also known as the Red Train due to its fiery-colored carriages. Along the journey, passengers often stop at ski resorts in the Alps or St. Moritz. The route crosses the Landwasser Viaduct, which is nearly 65 meters high and features six curved limestone arches. The end of the viaduct, standing above a high cliff, leads directly into the more than 200-meter-long Landwasser mountain tunnel.

The route also includes the Albula Tunnel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During its journey, the train passes through 55 tunnels, crosses 196 bridges, and travels a total of 122 kilometers. The red train climbs gradients without using a cogwheel, offering passengers steep ascents and descents. The train runs relatively slowly, allowing everyone to enjoy a relaxing, scenic ride amidst perfect and pristine nature.

François Pobez / Flickr

It is the highest railway in Europe, starting from Tirano at an altitude of 429 meters above sea level, climbing to 2253 meters at the Ospizio Bernina station, before finally reaching St. Moritz. The railway beautifully complements the majesty of the mountain landscape.

During the journey, passengers can enjoy sights such as the Bernina Pass, the highest station; the Alp Grum station with its stunning views; Lake Poschiavo, which closely skirts the Bernina Express route; the Brusio circular viaduct, the most striking attraction, overcoming the elevation with two turns, each 100 meters in diameter. They can also experience the small Italian town of Tirano with its beautiful 16th-century church and Lake Lugano. The modified carriages of the red train allow passengers to admire the route, large glaciers, viaducts, and even palm trees, all from the comfort of their seats.