Autumn holiday to Pontresina, with a day trip on the Bernina Express

Read on for a delightful account of a holiday in this beautiful part of Switzerland.

So here we were, about to depart for Switzerland for the first time and making our way around the country by the famous Swiss railways, including a scenic rail journey on the Bernina Express. Exciting! 

We had a few worries before we left: would we have to climb stairs with our luggage when changing platform; would we have time to make our connections? Well fear not, the whole experience was seamless and completely stress free. No 'leaves on the line' problems here!

We stayed in a small resort called Pontresina, which was so pretty and typically Swiss. We had some lovely days out, taking the railways and cable cars up to the mountains and experiencing views like we had never seen before in our lives. We felt so lucky to be in such a beautiful place. The highlight of the whole holiday? It has to be the Bernina Express

Arriving in Switzerland

Albula landscape

Albula landscape

We arrived at Zurich airport and collected our bags. We couldn't believe how easy the onward journey turned out to be. It was just a few minutes' walk through the airport to the railway platforms, with plenty of helpful signs to follow. They've thought of everything and the luggage trolleys are specially adapted so that you can even take them on the escalator! 

The beauty of rail travel through Switzerland is how integrated the whole travel experience is, with trains arriving and departing on time, platform numbers shown in advance and even knowing where along the platform your carriage will be. So, from the departure boards, we knew we should wait in 'Sektor B' of the platform as that's where the 1st class carriage would be stopping. First class is lovely by the way - quieter carriages and larger seats - well worth the small upgrade price. 

There were a couple of changes on our 3½ hour journey to Pontresina, but it all went very smoothly. The itinerary we had been given by the holiday company showed which platform to head for each time. We also downloaded the Swiss Railways app which gave us plenty of information. And there were friendly and helpful staff at the stations if we looked a bit lost. There were escalators, lifts or ramps at each change so we didn't need to worry about lifting our luggage up staircases. 

The scenery along the way was fabulous, especially the last part of the journey, between Filisur and Samedan. This is the Albula railway and it's gorgeous! It links up with the Bernina railway to make one of only three railway journeys in the world which is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Line.

The friendly hotel porter met us at Pontresina station and we were whisked off to the hotel. 

Our stay in Pontresina

Mountain landscape near Pontresina

Mountain landscape near Pontresina

What a lovely little village! We were so glad we chose to stay in Pontresina. It's much smaller than glitzy St. Moritz down the road, but you can still go and visit all the same mountains. 

We stayed in the 3 star Hotel Bernina which has a brilliant position in the middle of the village. There was a great sun terrace where we drank our afternoon coffee, and for dinner we were treated to 5 courses! We'd booked half board, which is breakfast and evening meal, and with all that food on offer we thought it was very good value. 

As we were there in the summer season (which runs June-October), we were given Engadin Passes to travel for free on the cable cars and funiculars - amazing! It was all looking so beautiful, with the trees changing colour and snow visible on the top peaks. We're not really hikers, but we did enjoy some gentle walking trails and there were a lot of mountain restaurants so we could stop off for a bite to eat when we needed a rest. Muottas Muragl and Corvatsch were our favourite days out in the mountains. We chatted with other guests in the hotel who had followed a hiking trail on the Diavolezza mountain which sounded like a wonderful experience for more experienced hikers.

As well as the mountain visits, our travel pass let us hop on the local buses and trains so we could visit the lakes of the region. Lake Sils and Lake Silvaplana are both beautiful and we really enjoyed walking beside them and eating our packed lunch in such a gorgeously unspoilt landscape. It really was a very relaxing holiday in Pontresina. 

The Bernina Express

Bernina Express at Lago Bianco

Bernina Express at Lago Bianco

We'd pre-booked our excursion on the Bernina Express and were so looking forward to it as we'd heard it was one of the most scenic journeys in Switzerland! Other guests told us we'd be seeing staggering views - towering mountains, huge lakes, mountain streams, alpine pastures and even glaciers. 

The day of our journey dawned crisp and sunny, perfect for our day out. Just before 10am, the bright red train pulled into Pontresina station and we settled into our comfy seats beside the huge window. We linked to the 'InfoT(r)ainment' system which gave us interactive information about the route and also worked as an audio guide. 

We travelled through the glorious countryside, heading ever upwards, and had great views of the glaciers at Morteratsch and Bernina Diavolezza. Stunning! We ordered a coffee from the steward and were served at our seat just before we got to Ospizio Bernina at 2,253m - the highest point of the journey. We loved the views over Lago Bianco! We pulled in at Alp Grüm, then headed onwards on the twisting track as we slowly started to come down the mountain. Lake Poschiavo was another highlight, then it was the famous Brusio circular viaduct. We crossed the border into Italy and a few miles later, arrived into Tirano at midday. Stretching our legs, we had a wander around the town and then found a trattoria for lunch, with some delicious pasta and Italian wine. 

The return train left Tirano just after 2pm. We enjoyed noticing different things that we hadn't spotted on the way down and were pleased to be able to see our highlights for a second time. The autumn colours really were at their best, with landscapes full of vibrant greens and oranges. The Bernina Express is truly a unique experience and a very special train journey.

We had such a fabulous holiday in Switzerland and would definitely go again!

Read more about Pontresina and Bernina Express holidays

We can incorporate a journey on the Bernina Express into a number of holidays in Switzerland. Enjoy it as a return day trip from Pontresina, St. Moritz or Chur, OR, ask us about a two centre holiday. You can travel onwards from Tirano to Lugano and stay in this delightful lakeside resort. Please speak to our expert team on 0800 619 1200 if you would like to create your own tailor made itinerary. 

Hotel Bernina

4 nts from £732pp

3 star hotel Pontresina

Hotel Bernina

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Hotel Saratz

4 nts from £818pp

4 star + hotel Pontresina

Hotel Saratz

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Alp Grüm

From £44pp

Bernina Express day trip

Return day trip between Pontresina and Tirano

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