A Perfect—and Easy!—Day Cycling in the Swiss Alps
Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2021
Story by: Ken Lovering | Travel Writer
With their dramatic terrain and dizzying heights, you might think the Swiss Alps are the last place you want to explore by bicycle. But amidst these soaring, snow-capped peaks, flat and easy bike routes delight both experienced and beginning cyclists. You just have to know where to look.
Well, we’ve done the looking for you. And we found not only one of the most stunning and scenic biking experiences you’re ever likely to have, but also a magnificent day of breathtaking exploration…and a ride on a historic train to boot. Guests can experience this day as part of our Italy: Lake Como & the Italian Lakes District vacation.
All aboard! Catch the Bernina Express in Tirano, Italy. The “red train,” as it’s affectionately known by locals and train aficionados, is a showpiece of engineering and delivers you to the highest railway crossing in the Swiss Alps. Incredibly, it’s been operating since 1910 and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its technical prowess in connecting previously isolated mountain enclaves.
As you get underway, the train crawls through Tirano’s city streets, mingling up close with cars and pedestrians. Then you climb the valley out of the city, passing splendid hills blanketed in fir. The famed Bruscio Spiral, a curlicue loop, helps the train gain elevation before you ascend further, passing glassy lakes, towering mountains, charming villages clinging to hillsides, and—at your highest elevation—stunning glaciers.
You reach Ospizio Bernina, the Bernina Pass, at 7,391 feet! If you wish, you can begin cycling from here, treating yourself to the thrill of riding through a mountain pass.
Before rolling out, you admire the red-shuttered stone stationhouse and the glimmering waters of Lago Bianco, or White Lake. From here, you pretty much coast to Pontresina along a 9-mile descent, though it’s nowhere near as steep as you’d expect for the Alps. Your spirit soars as you thrill to the fairly level spin amidst snow-capped peaks.
If you stayed on the train, you pull into Pontresina, greeted by an imposing statue of an alpine ibex. Keep your eyes peeled, and you just might spot one or two of these wild goats in the hills.
You alight the train, grab your bike, and follow your trip leader into the wide and long Roseg Valley, a cyclist’s dream of majestic spruce, vibrant wildflowers, turquoise lakes, and delightful streams and waterfalls. And, of course, clean alpine air. Cars are rare here, making this exceptional ride a tranquil one, too. In fact, you are more likely to pass the valley’s beloved horse-drawn carriages than a motorized vehicle.
After your delightful and scenic spin, you arrive at the Roseggletscher Lodge, the grand dame of the Roseg Valley steeped in Swiss alpine tradition. From here, take your pick of breathtaking walking trails, marveling at views of the Bernina Range and the glistening Roseg Glacier spilling through densely forested hills. From mid- June, the lodge is open, so you can treat yourself to thoughtfully prepared regional dishes and an unparalleled dessert buffet—the perfect respite after a spectacular morning immersed in alpine splendor.
Visiting earlier in the year? No worries! Pedal your way back just over four miles to Pontresina and the Station Chalet, a casual eatery serving up delicious fare like wood-fired pizza with pancetta and local cheeses. If you prefer to experience it all at a walker’s pace, leave your bike behind and rent a horse-drawn carriage from the lodge to return to Pontresina.
You end your extraordinary excursion into Switzerland just as you began it: with a magical two-hour train journey though the spellbinding Alps.
Among the many inspirational rides on our Lake Como & the Italian Lake District Bicycling Vacation, this one reaches new heights!