St Moritz, Swtzerland
St. Moritz, located in Engadin Graubuenden Switzerland, is one of the world's most famous holiday resorts. Chic, elegant and exclusive with a cosmopolitan ambiance, the 'town at the top of the world' is one of Europe's classic winter holiday destinations. It was here, 1,856 metres above sea level, in the heart of the spectacular Upper Engadin lakes district, that the notion of winter holidays was born. This Alpine village has also hosted the Winter Olympics on two occasions. It is linked to Milan via rail, the journey involves travelling on the Bernina Express, without doubt one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world, and can be done there and back in a day via an organised tour using a combination of train and coach.
Rail Travel Times:
Milan to St Moritz: 5 hrs 51 mins
Plan and Book:
St Moritz: See and Do
St. Moritz, which is in the Upper Engadine, at an elevation of 1,856 m, boasts plenty of sunny days. It was exactly this sun that was legally protected as the emblem of St. Moritz in 1930. St. Moritz was often ahead of the times - for example, the first electric light went on at Christmastime in 1878, the first golf tournament in the Alps took place here, in 1889 and one of the first ski lifts in Switzerland began running in 1935.
Visitors from all over the world appreciate the modern Alpine lifestyle, characterised by top-class restaurants that can satisfy gourmet demands even by the side of the slopes, hotels that set standards in every category, and events of international calibre. The Via Serlas guarantees great shopping in a small space, though you can also find local specialities like the famous Engadine nut tart just around the corner.
Sights such as the leaning tower, a remnant of the Mauritius Church from around 1500, or the Segantini Museum, offer a change from the life of luxury and the jet set.
St Moritz in Winter
For winter sports enthusiasts there are 350 kilometres of pistes with a state-of-the-art infrastructure in the surrounding area. St. Moritz's 'house mountain', the Corviglia, boasts the steepest start slope in Switzerland with the Piz Nair Wall's 100 per cent vertiginous drop. Toboggan riders plunge down the icy run which is one of the oldest natural ice bob runs in the world. For winter hikers there are 150 km of winter walking trails and for cross-country skiers there is a track network of about 200 km. The snowboard fun park, curling and altitude training are just some of the other winter sports facilities.
St Moritz in Summer
As well as traditional hiking and mountain biking, guests can also try their hand at sailing, rowing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, tennis, minigolf or horse riding. The Ludains Ice Arena is also open to skaters throughout the summer, while golfers will find an Alpine paradise with four courses in the surrounding area. Romantic carriage rides around the lake, through the Staz forest or the grand town itself are among the highlights of a stay in St. Moritz. Mountaineers also have plenty of options in Upper Engadine and there are 17 climbing gardens of various difficulty levels to complete the facilities.
Milan to St Moritz By Rail
Most travel magazines and websites list this as the most scenic railway journey in the world and we were given no reason to question their judgement. Prehps only the train ride through the Canadian Rocky Mountains would be on a par with what passes by outside the windows of this magical train ride. Once you cross the border into Switzerland, ust about every minute is stunning. Passengers are treated to a smorgabord of alpine scenery - snow-capped peaks, deep valleys, pretty towns, mountain lakes, plunging waterfalls, glaciers.
The first leg of the journey is on a regional train to the town of Tirano, which is two hours by train from Milan, and right on the border of Switzerland where the Bernina Express train terminates. The train journey is very picturesque and passes along the shores of Lake Como on its way up the mountains. Lake Como has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times, and a very popular tourist attraction with many artistic and cultural gems. It has many villas and palaces and many famous people have or have had homes on the shores of Lake Como, such as Matthew Bellamy, John Kerry, Madonna, George Clooney, Gianni Versace, Ronaldinho, Sylvester Stallone, Julian Lennon, Richard Branson, Ben Spies, and Pierina Legnani.
Once Lake Como is left behind, the railway line follows the Adda River valley past farmlands, vineyards, orchards and numerous town on the river plains or clinging to the hillsides. Tirano itself is a pleasant town that is a service centre for the local agricultural region though in recent times it has become the stepping off point for the picturesque Bernina Pass railway. It's a pretty place located in a beautiful mountain setting, and runs very much at its own pace. Snow covered peaks in the distance form the perfect backdrop for the hillsides with terraced vineyards that surround the town. We recommend allowing an hour or so to wander around the town before heading off up the mountains of Switzerland.
The second leg of the journey is the trip aboard the Bernina Express from Tirano to St. Moritz. The Bernina Express is one of the most spectacular ways to cross the Swiss Alps. Along the way, it traverses the 65-meter-high Landwasser Viaduct, the signature structure of the Rhaetian Railway and the UNESCO World Heritage site. Altogether the train passes through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges on its way to the top of the Bernina Pass. Travellers are treated to marvellous sights during their journey, like the Montebello curve with a view of the Bernina massif, the Morteratsch glacier, the three lakes Lej Pitschen, Lej Nair and Lago Bianco, the Alp Grum and the Brusio Circular Viaduct.
By the time you finally leave the string of towns to the north east of Tirano behind, the rugged, snow capped mountains all around become the main focus of the journey. Waterfalls, glaciers and a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees (the latter were shedding their autumn leaves on our last trip) surround you, though the latter all but disappear by the time the train reaches 2,000 metres and the village of Ospizio Bernina, which has given the train its name. Every twist and bend, every bridge and tunnel reveals a vista different to any you have seen on the journey thus far as the narrow gauge train climbs its way to the top of the Bernina Pass, 2,256 metres (7,406 feet) above sea level. From there the line begins its long, winding way down the other side past some of Switzerland's most popular ski resorts and ski runs.
The journey from Tirano to St Moritz takes around two and a half hours. If you would rather keep going all the way to Zurich, Switzerland, you will need to take a train from Tirano to Chur, rather than St Moritz. It goes almost as far as St Moritz, but turns off before reaching the alpine village, and continues north, stopping at Poschiavo, Pontresina and Samedan. The journey from Tirao to Chur takes between 4 and hours, depending on how many station the train stops at. From Chur, there is a regional train to Zurich (1 hr 1 mins to 1 hr 43 mins).
What travellers along this incredible route are rarely told is that as well as the Bernina Express, ordinary domestic Swiss trains also service the towns on the route. Both trains are airconditioned, take the same amount of time to make the journey and apart from lacking an audio commentary, the only difference appears to be the price. And if you are travelling on a Eurail Pass, travel on the local train is included in the Pass at no extra charge. Being a local train, there is no need to book in advance, you just climb aboard with your rail pass, sit back and enjoy the ride.
Berina Express Day Tour
An alternative to doing the whole journey totally by train is to take an organised tour which includes travel both on the train and a coach. The tour begins with a coach ride to Tirano via Lake Como where it stops for breakfast, having left Milan early in the morning. Upon arrival in Tirano, guests have an hour and a half to enjoy Tirano and have lunch before boarding the Berina Express to St Moritz.
There is around an hour to look around St Moritz before a coach takes guests back to Milan via a different route, which includes traversing the Maloja Pass. With the road twisting and turning its way down the hillside with barely room for cars to make the tight hairpin bends, not to mention a giant coach, the 3 hour dive down to Milan is as memorable as the journey up was a few hours earlier.