Discover Engadine, Switzerland, with a hike through Swiss National Park, a drive along the Bernina Pass, a White Turf horse race in St. Moritz, an auto-train ride through the Vereina Tunnel, a glimpse of the 17th century painted houses at Guarda, and many more scenic Alpine wonders.
Guest post by Roger Timbrook
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Discover Engadine Switzerland
You may have heard a bit about Switzerland, a land of chocolate and towering peaks right in the center of Europe. You may have even heard of some of its more well-known spots like Lucerne, Zurich, the Matterhorn, and Lake Geneva. If not, just watch a few James Bond or Bourne movies, and you will certainly see Switzerland at least once.
Most people only scratch the surface of this country when visiting or passing through. After living here as an Aussie expat for more than 15 years, I have seen almost every corner of this country, and I thought I would share a little secret with you: the Engadine Valley.
I can’t actually remember the first time I went to Engadine, but now I visit multiple times a year. Yes, it’s that good! Engadine is tucked away in the southeast corner of Switzerland and is one of the highest areas of the country. In winter, as a result, it gets very, very cold. But don’t let that put you off, because the rest of the time, it is a pleasure to visit.
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Swiss National Park
Engadine is home to Switzerland’s one and only national park. And it is no surprise because this area of the country is sparsely populated. It’s a great spot to see some the country’s wild animals, if you are quiet that is. And every now and again, we even get a bear or a wolf passing through. Animals that were almost wiped out in Europe centuries ago, are now making a comeback. In fact, there is a bear in Switzerland as I write.
Down in Engadine, there are also endless hiking trails. Even in winter, you can go snowshoeing, like we did last year, and get away from the crowds and enjoy the stunning views, alone. If you like to stick to the road, the Ofenpass route through the park is one of the best I have seen.
The Bernina Pass
One of the most stunning Alpine pass routes in Switzerland is also here, the Bernina Pass.
Starting from Pontresina, just around the corner from St. Moritz, it takes you up to an area where you can see glaciers and epically blue lakes. Then, it continues down to Tirano, Italy, where you can experience a taste of the Mediterranean right on the Swiss border. You can do it by car, by motorbike, or you can sit back and relax on the train.
If you get a chance to stop at the top, grab a coffee in the Albergo Ospizio Bernina or, for a quieter and more scenic experience, try the Cambrena just across the road. We sat on the back terrasse, and it was inspiring, and quiet, to say the least!
The Iconic St. Moritz
Not nearly as famous as Interlaken or Lucerne, St. Moritz is where the rich come to play. Not only that, it is actually the place where winter tourism was invented around 150 years ago. Why is it so enticing? Well, it sits on one of a few lakes that run down a wide and picturesque valley, which means it has spectacular views and great outdoor options like hiking, skiing, and cross-country skiing.
They even host a horse race every winter where the racers ride behind horses on skis. Sound crazy? It is! It’s called White Turf, and not only do you get to see the insanity of the horse races on the frozen lake, but also observe the rich and famous wearing over the top fur coats and sipping expensive champagne. Most of us will never be part of that world, but for a few hours, you can pretend.
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The Lesser-Known Towns
Engadine has features and locations most people know about, such as those listed above. Yet, if you go a little off the beaten path, there are some hidden towns we like to visit where you feel like you have stepped back in time.
My favorite Swiss small town is Guarda. It is not far from the famous spa town of Scuol, but most people never head up the hill to see it. Their loss, I say!
Guarda is a small town of only a few small streets, but each of them is lined with beautifully painted houses, which are typical of the region. There are only three or four places to stay, and a similar number of places to eat. And, depending on the time of year, very few people.
To get here you have to come via Davos, famous for the World Economic Forum, either by car or by train. If you come by car, and it’s a drive worth doing, you can either take the train through the Vereina Tunnel or drive over the Fluela Pass, one of the many great pass roads in the country. If you opt for the train, you and your vehicle are loaded on the car transporter for a surreal 18-minute ride through the tunnel from Klosters to Sagliains. Now that I think of it, do both (once either direction). It is worth the experience!
So, if you like to get away from it all, and enjoy the true Switzerland, this is somewhere you will never forget. Surrounded by mountains and with views to die for, you can come here to relax, to hike, to eat, or just to read a book. You can walk from town to town along the mountain, which is an easy walk. And you never know what you will see. Last time we were there we saw a calf being born and a local cow massage machine! That is rural Switzerland for you, always full of surprises.
Getting Off The Beaten Path
I love traveling to places where no one goes. It is like things were before Instagram and the flood of travelers you see everywhere you go these days. If you also like such things then Engadine, Switzerland, is the place for you.
Epic scenery, friendly people, great food, and maybe a wild bear or two!
We Would Love to Hear From You
We enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Have you ever visited Switzerland’s Engadine Valley? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!