We are seriously talking about getting away here. Switzerland’s Engadine region is, in many ways, stuck in time. Spend a couple nights in tiny Guarda and it is like going back to a simpler age. Guarda is a charmingly preserved village with beautifully etched floral decorations on its homes, a strong Romansh culture, and a commanding view. There’s not much to do there, but that’s the point, isn’t it? Then it’s 4 nights in Pontresina, the stylish, low-key resort village in the St. Moritz lakes region, dominated by the glacier-clad Piz Bernina range and the best base for mountain hikes in the region.
In general, the mountains in the Engadine are not quite as overwhelmingly large as in the Jungfrau, Matterhorn or Mont Blanc regions, so this isn’t the tour for iconic white-capped peaks. But the Engadine has other charms. It moves at a slower pace, the atmosphere is authentic, bucolic even, and the region is home to Switzerland’s only National Park, the best place in the Alps to spot wildlife. Unforgettable lakes, gorgeous villages and a real sense of peace bring diversity to the wonderful hikes in this region.
Guarda – Arrive in Switzerland, and transfer by train to Guarda. There is a train station in the Zurich airport, and transferring to Guarda will be an beautiful introduction to Switzerland. Don’t forget to press the “stops on request” button to make sure your train doesn’t pass this tiny outpost by.
Guarda is an enchanting little village perched on the hill above the valley. Hop on the bus up to town, find your hotel (there are only 2), and settle down for a relaxing evening. After you arrive, take a short walk through town, enjoy the crisp mountain air, and enjoy a delicious dinner at your lovely hotel.
Guarda – There are a number of lovely hikes in the area, including an energetic climb to the rugged mountain views of the upper Tuoi valley. Here you can visit a small alpine hut, delight in the myriad wildflowers, and enjoy dramatic views of the local peak, Piz Buin.
Most of all, enjoy the peaceful pastoral atmosphere of the region. Guarda has a population of 150, many of them farmers, most speak Romansh, Switzerland’s 4th and smallest national language. The nearby village of Scuol is also a noted spa resort, with a great spa (yes, we’ve tested it) and makes a great rainy day destination.
Pontresina – Transfer by train to the lakes region of the upper Engadine, to the mellow and pretty resort town of Pontresina. The hiking here is amazingly varied, and you’ll have numerous hikes to choose from. If you like, you can stop at the Swiss National Park and hike into a scenic valley. Keep your eyes open for Gemse (antelope), Marmots and the mythical Bearded Vulture – the largest bird in the Alps.
Pontresina is quite a bit larger than Guarda, but still small and mellow. They have a car-free main road and a handful of very high quality hotels. To the south, you’ll see the Piz Bernina range, the largest mountains in the region and dazzling with their glacier peaks. Settle into our favorite local 3-star hotel and don’t forget to try out their pool and spa!
Pontresina – One of our favorite hikes anywhere is the panoramic Muragl traverse above Pontresina. Boasting quiet wooded stretches, abundant wildlife, and surprising views of the giant Piz Bernina and the paternoster lakes of St. Moritz, this hike is a highlight in the region.
An optional detour leads you up to the vertiginous Georgy hut, perched on top of the Piz Languard peak. Or stay low for a more moderate day. Stop in at the appropriately name Paradis hut for a piece of pie and amazing views. We can think of few better things to do than spend a couple hours at the Paradis hut soaking in the scenery. Dinner will be on your own tonight.
Pontresina – The mighty Morteratsch glacier is an impressive destination, and an interesting one too. Signs along the path take note of where the glacier reached in years past, so you can trace it’s disappearance. It’s still big though, and this is a great place to walk right up to a glacier and touch it.
From the valley, a moderate climb to the Boval hut rewards you with panoramic views of white-capped giants in every direction. On a rainy day, a mellow walk through the woods and along the lake of St. Moritz is another option.
Pontresina – If you’d like to see something a bit different, one possibility is a morning bus transfer down to the charming, Italian-steeped village of Soglio, where you can take a rising traverse route back to the Maloja pass. Broad-leaved beeches, medieval villages, welcome waterfalls, and sunny views of the Piz Badile and other mountains accompany you along the way.
For a shorter day, stop at the Maloja pass and make the pretty walk up to the Cavloc lake. Return to your hotel for some time to relax at the spa and savor a final evening in the Engadine.
depart – Today we say a revair (good-bye in Romansh), and depart for our post-tour destinations. If you have more time you might take the famous Glacier Express between the Engadine valley and Zermatt, or take the Bernina Express down through Italy and to palm-lined Lugano. Or simply head back to Zurich for your flight home.
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