Photo courtesy of Rhaetische Bahn
One of only three trains in the world to have been recognized with UNESCO’s World Heritage status (the others are in Austria and India), this scenic passenger route was built in 1889 and stretches for 150 miles from Thusis, Switzerland, to Tirano, Italy, via 84 tunnels and 383 vertiginous bridges and viaducts. The rails don’t just connect this primordial landscape of sparkling teal rivers, hyacinth-blue glaciers, and jagged pink-hued rocks; they also serve a number of cities and towns, including St. Moritz and several Romansh-speaking villages in the stunning Engadine Valley. Keep the camera on, because the train zips past Roman-era chapels, Celtic archaeological sites, modernist thermal baths, and numerous Hapsburg-era castles—some crumbling atop mountains, others perfectly built into the Alps like something from Tolkien's Rivendell. Highlights include the C-shaped Landwasser Viaduct, a 213-foot-high, six-arch viaduct spanning the Landwasser River, and the nine-arch spiral viaduct in Brusio that will have rail enthusiasts in a tizzy. Though this is not a sightseeing train, highlights are announced (somewhat annoyingly, in five or six languages) on the overhead system as the train passes them. Most trains have panoramic cars with curved glass ceilings and seats costing an additional five to 10 Swiss francs.
By Adam H. Graham, AFAR Contributor
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7270 Davos, Switzerland