Photo: Val Bever
Due to Covid it seemed easier to stay domestic this year. Not the worst thing as far as I am concerned (though I am hoping to finally get further away again next year).
The plan was to just rent a place, make a list of ideas, and hit them as the weather allowed. I don’t think I have spent 2 weeks purely on holiday in a single place since I was a child. It wasn’t a problem to fill the time; I still have a list of things to do there that would easily fill another week.
I have already written up a few of the more interesting days as separate posts, in these cases I have provided a link for them.
- Best place: Alp Suvretta. A little Alp farmhouse way up the Val Bever selling a few basic bits of food and drink. It is barely even marked on the maps as a building, there are only a few handwritten signs to invite you to pop in for refreshments (and zero internet presence that I can find). A wonderfully relaxed and beautiful spot which felt utterly detached from the world. I spent two 1.5 hr sessions whilst on MTB tours just sitting and slowly eating/drinking. I was invited to keep sitting for longer after finishing and paying, but would have fallen asleep in my deckchair if I stayed any longer (not that it would matter as a few of the other handful of guests were already doing so).
- Most touristy: Val Roseg. There seemed to be a fairly constant stream of people and bikes going to/from the Restaurant Roseg and Pontresina. Given the glacier views at the end it isn’t a surprise, but I had thought this would be quieter given that it is a 7km through the narrow part of the valley to where the view opens up by the restaurant. Bikes, and especially ebikes, make the approach up the (relatively) gentle climb much easier for lots of people, and quite a few people on foot seemed to be doing the full round trip and surprised by the length.
- Best surprise: S-Chanf. A classic Engadin style village which I just went to for the train station but was very impressed with it as I walked through. There is quite a large old village core with hardly any newer buildings around the outside – a rare mix.
- Best view: Munt Pers (via Diavolezza cable car). Unbeatable view of the highest peaks and glaciers of Graubünden, with an extensive view of other peaks and off into Italy too.
- Favourite side valley: Val Bever, especially past Spinas station when it gets much more wild and rugged. However, you generally can’t go wrong with any of them.
- Most “Oh god why am I doing this to myself?”: Climbing up the Scaletta Pass with a bike on MTB Route 90. A steady 14% climb for 600m over loose and rocky ground. I pushed/carried pretty much the whole bleeding thing.
- Best MTB downhill: Kesch-hütte to Chants. Not the most interesting from a technical point of view, but pure good fun. Starting eye-to-eye with a glacier, then charging down with a fantastic view of distant peaks whilst Piz Ela increasingly towering overhead.
- Ohrwurm: A mix of this and this.
- 31-July to 15 August 2021.
- Started with bad weather (as has been the theme for much of this year). Highs of 16C in the first week of August, with fresh snow visible on the mountains above 2500m each morning. Thankfully it turned much nicer after a few days, and the 2nd week was filled with dry sunny days in the mid 20s.
- The Oberengadin is a popular tourist region and the first two weeks of August are clearly as high as the summer season is going to get. Samedan itself didn’t feel any busier than it had done in October. Some of the places we visited were very busy, others almost deserted. The only moments which felt truly crammed were Val Roseg, the Postbus coming down from the Bernina Pass, and taking the cable car up to Diavolezza in the morning rush.
- International tourism still seemed to be very low. Almost everyone was either Swiss-German or (Swiss?) Italian speaking. There were a fair few Germans and Italians too, but very few people who weren’t clearly local or from a neighbouring country. Though I probably skewed that somewhat by spending more time in less well known places – I am sure central St Moritz would have been very different.
- Covid. Vaccinated with both shots but still taking it seriously. Mixed levels of mask wearing and precautions from other people, though some took an impressive extreme of wearing masks on even quiet trails.
- A nice little town with a beautiful old-town core that serves as a good base for the region. It has all you need and good transport connections in various directions. The more famous St Moritz 10 minutes away has slightly better connections that save a change of transport going to a few destinations, but unless you like people watching rich Russians it really lacks charm.
- I have stayed in Samedan a few times before, including a week in October (see that link for some more detailed information and resources on the area) and an Easter trip (which I might finally write up one day).
- I had never been here in summer before. So I was curious to see spots like the Bernina pass not covered in snow.
Accommodation – AirBnB 11702385 ‘Cozy apartment with great view’.
- A flat in a beautiful old house sitting a bit above the centre of the village in a quiet area. The host was nice and very helpful, and the kitchen was well stocked which made it feel much more welcoming than just being given a sterile flat.
- It was nice just sitting in the garden admiring the mountain views whilst squirrels ran around in the trees (and even on the walls of the house).
- Odd bit of noise from airport and trains, but neither are very busy (especially not the tiny airport).
- The only slight downsides were squeaky floors and the sofa in the living area not being the most comfortable.
- Transport (with half-fare card). Train to/from Samedan 50 CHF + 20 CHF bike shipment each way (with a 15 CHF 1st class upgrade for Zürich-Chur on the way out). Transport around Samedan – 125 CHF. Cable cars – 65 CHF. Total 660 CHF (combined for 2 people).
- Food. Supermarket and bakery etc (500 CHF or so, I tend to lose track a bit). Eating out, usually at least one stop for a drink and snack at a cafe per day (30 CHF or so), and two restaurant meals (105 CHF each). Total 500 + 630 = 1130 CHF.
- Accommodation. 2175 CHF for 15 nights (145 CHF per night).
- Total: 3965 CHF for 2 people. 132 CHF per person per day for 14 whole days and 2 half days.
As ever quite a bit of the cost could be knocked off by staying somewhere cheaper and eating simpler.
Bringing my own bike and being able to borrow an e-bike for free helped do some day trips for free or very cheap.
If you stay somewhere with the guest card then that would save quite a bit of the transport costs, there is also an Engadin hiking pass which could save lots of money if you really plan to hit a cable car every day.
Hike, mountain bike, and relax.
Even with flawless weather everyday there is more than enough in the area to keep me busy the whole time and then some.
Below are the ideas I had in mind. Transport times are from Samedan.
- Soglio – A village which is meant to be one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. The steep valley it is in (the Bergell) limits what you can do around there without a very large climb. A 1.5hr ride with a train and 2 buses from Samedan.
- Corvatsch cable car, back to the middle station, then drop into Val Roseg and on to Pontresina. 13.5km +162m, -1090m. DONE
- The triple watershed at the Lunghin pass.
- Bus to Maloja then walking part way back along the lakes. DONE
- Bernina pass around the Hospiz and lake. There are various ways to make this as long or short as you want. Alp Grüm to Diavolezza Talstation is a good middle ground 10km, +220m, -220m. DONE
- Alp Languard. Cable car from Pontrassina then over to Bernina Diavolezza. 19.8km, +620m, -860m.
- Maljoa pass. Up to the Forno glacier and back. 16km, +/-800m.
- Spinas station – Abula Pass – Preda station. 12km, +800m, -800m. DONE
- Along to the Morteratsch glacier from the Morteratsch station and back. Either in the valley floor (6km, +150m, -150m) or to Boval Hut (10 km, +680m, -680m)
- The Saoseo and Viola lakes beyond Bernina. Postbus to then 12km, +/- 550m return, or there is a bus that runs up to Alp Camp closer to the lakes for this round walk.
- Cable car up to Diavolezza and see the glaciers from above. Hike down or around a bit. DONE
- Funicular up to Muottas Muragl then hike around there, including possibly going over the pass and down a long valley to Chamues-ch which has a bus back to Samedan (18km, +600m, -1400m).
- 5 lakes hike in national park. 21km, +1600m, -1600m. This would be doable as a single tough day (though overnight would mean having to sleep rough), but I would want good clear conditions in cooler weather to do it in.
- S-chanf and Val Trupchun national park loop. 18km, +/- 650m. DONE
- Up to Piz Nair and then down Val Beverin. 35km, +1200m, -1200m DONE
- MTB route 90 from Davos to Bergün. 38km, +1600m, -1700m. DONE
- Train to Scuol and back through the main valley.
- Train to Scoul, up to S-Charl, over Ofen Pass to Zernez.
- Endless side valleys. DONE (well some anyway)
- Train to Bergün or Preda and over the Albula pass, following single trail down the south side. 25km, +600m, -700m.
- If you have a car then there are plenty of pass loops out of and back into the Engadin (Julia+Abula, Bernina then over to Ofenpass, etc).
- Day 1: Arrival by train, food shopping etc.
- Day 2: Gentle walk above the village and August 1st in St Moritz.
- Day 3: Walk from Samedan to Laj de Staz for lunch and back.
- Day 4: Bus to Maloja and walking along the lake to Sils.
- Day 5: Rain.
- Day 6: S-chanf and up Val Trupchun into the National Park.
- Day 7: Up the Corvatschbahn and down Val Roseg to Pontresina.
- Day 8: Over the Bernina Pass.
- Day 9: Bike up the Val Chamuera to Alp Prünella.
- Day 10: Bike from Davos to Bergün.
- Day 11: Preda to Spinas over the Crap Alv pass.
- Day 12: Bike Suvretta Loop (route 671) down Val Bever and down from the Bernina Pass.
- Day 13: Diavolezza and Munt Pers.
- Day 14: Bike up Val Bever.
- Day 15: Bike up Val Susauna and then back up the Engadin to Samedan.
- Day 16: Train home.
Day 1: Arrival
- Very quiet train to Zürich, then a very busy train to Chur. I had thought this would have been quiet given the time of day but it seems everyone chose that train to go on holiday with. We decided to upgrade to first class (on the SBB app select the route, then it will be listed under further ticket options). Going to the restaurant and nursing a coffee is also a good and cheaper option, especially in the evening when it is closed, but on the double decker trains the restaurant is tiny so there wasn’t enough room for that.
- Not much other than picking my bike up, taking a walk around the village, and getting some shopping in.
Day 2: Rain and Swiss national day
- Rainy start.
- Took a walk just above and around the village. Stuck to the bottom of the treeline and got some nice views and bits of meadow.
- Went to join some friends who were staying in St Moritz for whatever festivities might be going on. Not much with most events being cancelled or reduced in scope, but you can always trust the Swiss public to be busy with armfuls of fireworks on August 1st. There was a fire raft in the lake and a series of flaming torches around it which were a nice point.
Day 3: Walk to Lej Stez for lunch and back
Route: Samedan – Staz (station) – Lej de Staz – Celerina/Staz (station) – Samedan.
Length: 13km, +/- 280m.
- The weather was predicted to be cloudy but dry, it actually turned out quite nice and I even caught the sun a bit.
- A gentle walk along the Inn and through the forest. Probably a good idea at any time of year (though some of it might be cross country ski piste in winter).
- Lej de Staz is a popular spot that can easily be reached by foot or bike from St Moritz and other towns in the region, there were plenty of people but it was just on the good side of not too crowded.
- Lunch at the Hotel Restorant Lej de Staz (110 CHF). There are also a number of food stands offering cheaper/quicker options.
- Back through a quiet path in the woods which dropped down to Celerina/Staz station.
- After returning back to Samedan I headed up by Mountain Bike to Alp Muntatsch on route 672. I only went as far as the gravel road lasts and I cover the full(er) route in more detail in day 7 below.
Day 4: Bus to Maloja and walking along to Sils Maria
Part 1: Walk along the lakes
Route: Maloja – Belvedere – Maloja – Isola – Sils Maria.
Length: 9km, +/- 220m.
- Another uncertain day which started with drizzle but then eventually dried up late afternoon.
- Train to St Moritz then bus to ‘Maloja, Posta’ with the intention of walking as far back via the lakes as we could be bothered with (and as far as the weather would hold out). The villages on the way back have frequent buses back to St Moritz (and some carry further on with a direct connection to Samedan).
- Started out with a detour up to the Hotel Belvedere, a ruined hotel with what would normally be good views down the valley to the Bergell. Returned to Maloja via a series of holes bored into the rock by glaciers.
- Followed south side of lake to Sils. Sometimes smooth road, sometimes a rocky footpath, but pretty much always good views of the lake and mountains.
- Very good cake at La Passarella.
- Could have pressed on along the next lake or further, but it was damp and the drizzle had started again so took the bus back (either direct or with a change at St Moritz station).
Part 2: Exploring by bike
Route: Samedan – Bever – Val Chamuera – Samedan. 25km +/- 500m.
I dropped down the Engadin valley then up Val Chamuera. The side valley is rather long and a mix of expected rain and a horrible squeak when my drive system was under load made me turn around part way up. I went back and describe it in more depth in day 8 below.
Day 4: Rain
- Rain and low cloud all day.
- A day of relaxed reading and a walk to the shops.
- My wife went to the Mineralbad & Spa Samedan with a friend and assures me it is very nice.
- Thankfully this was the day of rain before the weather changed.
Day 5: S-chanf and up Val Trupchen into the National Park
Route: S-chanf – Varusch – Alp Trupchen – S-chanf.
Length: 17km, +/- 500m.
- Cloudy and with patches of rain but much better than the proceeding days (this was the last day with any bad weather).
- Direct train to S-Chanf (stop on request). The rest of the way to Varusch can be done by a tourist ‘car train’ which stops at S-chanf and Zernez stations, coming from the UK it is very odd seeing one outside of the promenade of a seaside town
- S-chanf was only somewhere to get off the train, but it is a really beautiful little village.
- The walk across the valley is a little dull as you are just on the road. But there is very little traffic and the views are good at least.
- From the car park at Varusch the route up the valley can be done on either side with a loop taking in both sides suggested by route 811. We took the side which stays by the stream up figuring that would have clearer views up the valley. It was really beautiful the whole way; forests and absurdly perfect flowery meadows filled with butterflies.
- This route passes into the strangely shaped Swiss National Park. Which on the one hand is beautiful, but at the same time you can expect to see more people than in the other side valleys because of the fame associated with it.
- There were lots of marmots who were clearly used to seeing humans. Especially around Alp Trupchen which was the furthest point we got to.
- Back down the same way at first, I figured the other route would be less interesting just in the forest.
- Coffee and cake at the Varusch hut.
- Switched to south side for the final section, which did give some nice views further down the Engadin, and then back across the valley to S-chanf.
Day 6: Corvatsch Bahn then into Val Roseg.
Part 1: Corvatsch Bahn then into Val Roseg.
Part 2: MTB above Samedan
Route: Samedan – Alp Muntatsch – Alp Clavadatsch – Marguns – Samedan.
Length: 16km, +/- 870m
- Basically the first quarter of MTB Route 672 so it is well signed and easy to follow. This was late afternoon/early evening after the cable cars had closed so almost nobody was around other than a few other mountain bikers.
- Leaving Samedan and entering the forest there are some nasty bits of steep climb. Once you pass a meadow with a hut it gets much easier.
- Reaching Alp Muntatsch the view opens up and you get fantastic views up and down the Engadin valley until the descent later on.
- The last part of the climb up to Alp Clavadatsch is on single trail paths which can be steep, and mud churned up by the cows didn’t help either.
- The descent down to the cable car station at Marguns was fun and flowy. There were one or two rocks to watch out for, but mostly just carefree flow.
- From Marguns I followed the footpath back to Samedan. Initially on the surprisingly steep Trotti route, then traversing across the forest through fun gravel paths.
Day 7: Hike over the Bernina pass
Route: Alp Grüm – Diavolezza Talstation.
Length: 10.5km, +265m, -270m.
This is a very flexible route with a number of train stops over the pass so you can easily extend or shorten it as you like.
- Train to Alp Grüm then grabbed a coffee at the Belvedere Restaurant above it which has fantastic views down the valley into Italy and of the Palu glacier.
- There are a few steep ramps on the climb up but mostly it is an easy hike up to the pass.
- You can follow the path on either side of the lake. Went with the opposite side to the train for a change.
- This was a rather windy and grey day – thankfully the wind was behind us. The wind, clouds, water, and fairly rounded peaks to the right gave a strange feel of being in Scotland.
- Easy and scenic walking along the pass to Diavolezza Talstation.
- Took the Postbus back to Samedan. The bus is less frequent and glamorous than the train, but when going to Samedan it is a little bit faster, cheaper, and direct.
- Stopped in at the Kunst Cafe in Samedan which I recommend as a nice little spot, especially the garden.
Day 8: MTB up the Val Chamuera and Val Bever
Route: Samedan – Bever – Chamues-ch – Alp Serlas – Alp Prünella – Bever – Spinas – Bever – Samedan.
Length: 45km, +1064, -1064m.
My wife borrowed an Ebike for this, which changed her opinion and view on the idea of riding bikes up mountains.
- Down the main valley along the bike paths to Chamues-ch up towards the Val Chamuera.
- The Val Chamuera starts as a very steep gorge like valley before smoothing out a bit and branching off to a few various Alps. There is a gravel road up and a few farm houses, but nothing else. Unsurprisingly there was barely anyone in the valley. Hiking takes some commitment to a long back and forth, or tough route going over passes from the neighbouring valleys. There were a few other riders (mostly on E-Bikes), but not many.
- Where the valley branches out there is a really big and beautiful Maiensäss (alp farmhouse) building at Alp Serlas. A shame it has not been turned into a guesthouse, would be a perfect base or overnight stop for a number of hikes
- Carried on up to the end of the road at Alp Prünella. Beautiful spot by a farmhouse looking up two valleys.
- Quick diversion on the way back to check out the old town in Bever. Requires about 30 seconds to ride through but it is very pretty.
- A few gentle km up the mouth of Val Bever to Gasthaus Spinas.
Day 9: MTB Davos to Bergün
Day 10: Spinas to Preda over the Fuorcla Crap Alv
Day 11: MTB Suvretta loop and down from Bernina pass
Day 12: Diavolezza and Munt Pers
Day 13: MTB up Val Bever
Route: Samedan – Bever – Spinas – Alp Suvretta – back the same way.
Length: 25km, +650m, -650m.
- First time going up the Val Bever by bike. The climb directly after Spinas is tough. Much easier afterwards once the valley opens out again.
- Relaxed lunch at Alp Suvretta. 35CHF for food and drinks for two people.
- Pushed on up the last bit of road. Up to the top of the climb and then dropping to the next corner where you get a good view up the valley. Steep but worth it for the views.
Day 14 – MTB up Val Susauna and back along the Engadin
Route: Cinuos-chel-Brail (train) – Chapella – Alp Funtauna – Chapella – S-chanf – bike routes back to Samedan.
Length: 39km, +900m, -900m.
- Very easy taking bikes on the train as ever, especially away from the more popular area at St Moritz and towards the Bernina Pass.
- The Val Susaune is quite wide and mostly very easy going at first. It narrows and opens out a few times with a few sharp bits of climb through the narrower sections then smoothing out again so the climb isn’t too intense. Though it is somewhat steeper and rougher towards the end.
- Not much to do at the top but admire the meadows and enjoy the peace at Alp Funtauna. Met the friendly horse again.
- Back down the road to Chapella, then followed the signed footpath to S-chanf to avoid the main road (wide and with nobody else around).
- Through S-chanf which really is one of the most impressively consistent old villages I have visited in Switzerland.
- Followed the marked bike route 6/65 back up the valley. Always nice views, but sadly a chunk of it runs alongside the main road.
- Stopped for ice cream at Chamcues-ch. Initially took a seat at a cafe/bakery, but were driven off by a drunk guy playing PolkaMusic via bluetooth speaker (some might call it a cultural experience with a local). Stopped again at the Restaurant/Pizzeria Palmisano’s which was much quieter and had a better view.
- Back on the bike path there is a beautiful and quiet section by a lake (Lej de Gravatscha) just before Samedan.
- Dinner at the very good Restorant Central in Samedan (105CHF) and one last walk up above the village..
Day 15: Homeward
Relaxed start and train home. Nothing too exciting.