Recommendation: Scenic Train
Wow! what an experience I will never ever forget, the Bernina Express line leaves Tirano and climbs over 2200m above sea level to reach the top of the Bernina Pass. Depending on when you travel on this line, the scenery can be very different, and it does operate year-round. As we traveled in May we picked the perfect time to experience this.
As you climb in elevation you leave Tirano and other mountain valley villages, so quaint and fertile. Winter was not finished up here and as we moved above 1400m we started to see snow and ice on trains coming down the same line. Continuing up to where the train stops for 15mins at Alp Grum at 1824m. Here it was windy and snowing, we were able to get off and view a glacier and ravine from this station. Everything was covered in white and it was very cold. Shortly after this you cross the tree line, and then reach the top of the pass and being it was snow covered you’re blinded by just pure white as far as the eye can see. No trees, no rocks, no water, just stunning bright white thick snow, so bright you need to put your sunglasses on just to be able to withstand it.
At this point at the top of the pass you are at 2253m, that’s nearly 6,800ft. We then descend slightly into the Pontresina valley and end in St. Moritz. While it seems that you may be at a much lower elevation, you are not. St. Moritz sits in a valley high up in the Swiss Alps. The town is located at 1700m. The locals like to call it the Top of the World. Upon exiting the station our chauffer was awaiting our arrival to take us to our hotel.
Hotel: Schweizerhof, St. Moritz – 4 Star Superior – Traditional
In May all the 5 star luxury hotels in St. Moritz completely close down for the season. Some will open for the summer season of tourist in June, but most will remain closed until the winter ski season returns. May is officially the end of ski season. The cable cars in St. Moritz also all close for the season, only one remains open and its about 20mins outside of town. St. Moritz is very quiet in May. Knowing this we decided to still go to St. Moritz for the night and opted for the best 4 star hotel. The Hotel Schweizerhof. It goes for a more traditional classical feel but does offer all the modern comforts a traveler at this level would expect. We were very pleasantly surprised by just how nice our room was, we booked a Jr. Suite with Piz Corvatsch view. Piz is the word for peak or mountain. Our room had 5 windows that all opened and offered great clear views to the lake and mountain above. We are of the opinion this was our favorite room assignment on this entire trip, including all of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The Jr. Suite had a living room area off to the side of the bedroom, and the bathroom was all marble and tile. We were very impressed for a 4 star hotel.
We felt like we practically had St. Moritz to ourselves. The village is extremely empty in May. Only a few hotels and restaurants remain open, and being it was a Sunday, every single shop was closed. With the lifts being closed, there really was not much we could do with our day here. We walked around the empty village & along the lakefront. St. Moritz which I’m sure in season is thriving as the Monte Carlo of the Swiss Alps, was in full on hibernation.
With our choices limited to only a few places for dinner we were happy to see one of our preferred choices was open The Hauser. Which is in the Hotel Hauser just across the square from our hotel. This place gets great reviews online and has a nice indoor/outdoor seating area. A lively bar scene, which in winter has open log fires. The food was very good, and they have a great & varied selection to choose from.
The next morning not so bright, but early 4am! Our driver was waiting for us in the lobby for service to Zurich Airport. To be honest, this driver blew us away. I was concerned with a driver not from St. Moritz, coming all the way to St. Moritz to get us. I had my doubts beforehand that he would not show up or would be an issue. To my relief I was very pleased with how it was handled. They emailed me the night before to reconfirm everything and assured me he would be there. Our driver could not have been nicer.
Upon getting in the van, which was a Mercedes Benz. I asked the driver for the scenic route, and if he would take the Julier Pass, and if he’d be ok with stopping for some fantastic photo spots along the way. He had no objection and did just as I requested. He made our drive through the Swiss Alps an incredible one. Stopping off numerous times to take wonderful photos of our journey. Pointing out the best places to stop and where to get the best photos from at each place. Our driver informed us he left his home in Zurich at midnight to come get us…it’s 3.5 hrs to St. Moritz, and we were his only fare for the day. He had us at Zurich Airport in plenty of time for our midday flight on Swiss Air to Copenhagen.