Welcome to GRAUBÜNDEN
This mountainous canton, bordered by Italy and Austria, is Switzerland’s epicentre of Winter sports and Summer walks. Packed with natural wonders, quaint towns clinging to Alpine heights , and winding river valleys, it’s a magical landscape of Roman settlements and spectacular scenery, roamed by ibex and dotted with ancient castles.
The Engadine and Rhine valleys carve their way through Graubünden, while rivers flow out to the North, Black and Mediterranean Seas. The capital, Chur, is a tiny, ancient city of cobbled streets, churches and painted shutters, whilst the surrounding countryside offers skiing, golf, tobogganing, snowboarding, paragliding and cross-country skiing- and in Summer, some of the most beautiful and exhilarating hikes to be found anywhere.
This is a region that resonates with history, where the ancient language of Romansch is spoken, alongside German and Italian, and where it’s possible to take the train across the border to Austria or Italy and be back in time for dinner at one of Graubünden’s gourmet restaurants.
Trains run regularly from Zurich and Milan, whilst “PostBuses” run from the stations of the Canton up to the mountain villages, often alongside cable cars.
6 THINGS TO DO
1. VISIT THE THERMAL BATH IN VALS
This amazing spa complex is attached to the Therme Vals hotel, and is built over the only thermal springs in Graubünden. Back in the 80s, after the original hotel went bankrupt, the village itself bought the five hotels in the development and commissioned a hydrotherapy centre. The remarkable building was designed from rock by Peter Zumthor who received the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize.
The baths are now a world-class attraction, with two main pools, and a series of smaller bubble pools, whirlpools and plunge pools of different temperatures. The outdoor terrace, for relaxation, has panoramic views over the mountains.
The ski resort beloved by celebrities, St Moritz is a glittering resort town, at the top of the En valley. Separated into two by a lake, the best-known area is St Moritz Dorf, full of après ski bars, nightclubs and expensive boutiques. St Moritz Dorf is the fashionable main town. Beside the lake is the more ordinary spa resort, St Moritz Bad, where the Corviglia skiing area is reachable directly.
There are ice activities (including greyhound racing) on the lake in winter, while cross-country skiing in the upper Engadin is a hugely popular pastime. Klosters is expensive (and often full of Royals), but, visitors may stay in the charming little town of Davos, near to six different snow sport resorts; The Jakobshorn, the Parsenn/Gotschna resort and better for beginners, the mountains Pischa, Madrisa and Rinerhorn. There’s 320 km of pistes, and for non-skiers there are walks, horse drawn sleigh rides, tobogganing and trekking- or just sitting in a café with a hot chocolate.
3. ADMIRE THE SCENERY
Graubünden is so scenic it’s like an i-Spy book of outdoor beauty. Waterfalls, rugged peaks, gentle valleys, silver lakes and twisting streams, smooth white slopes, tiny villages with snow-covered church spites and painted shutters, pine trees and alpine deer, cloudscapes and wild flowers.
The whole area is a dream of Switzerland, the chocolate box to end all chocolate boxes. And while hiking – with 580 miles of hiking trails- and skiing can offer wonderful views, the best, and most relaxing way to see the area’s natural wonders is by train and cable car.
The areas of Corviglia-Piz Nair, Corvatsch-Furtschellas, Diavolezza and Muottas Muragl-Alp Languard all have mountain railways or cable cars up to the mountain’s highest areas, or for those who prefer a gentler experience, the train from Zurich to Chur offers wonderful views, as do the trains to Turin, which run across the border. It’s also easy to drive around the lower slopes, and in summer, there are some spectacular drives over the Graübunden Mountains.
4. ENJOY THE FOOD
The food of Graubünden is not slimming- it’s made for people who have spent all day outdoors, trekking up mountains or skiing down them. It is, however, delicious, and there are very good several restaurants in and around the ski resorts. Foods to try include Pizokel- a buckwheat flour tagliatelle, made with greens and potatoes- rosti; a cake of grated fried potato served with cheese, and Bundner Nusstorte, a dense, nutty cake and a local speciality.
The local beer, Calanda Bräu is brewed in Chur, and benefits from the pure water of the area, whilst vineyards flourish in the valley areas of Malans, Jenins and Maienfeld and more than 70 wineries produce Graubünden wines. Good restaurants include Berghaus Erika in the hamlet of Schlappin, restaurant Stuevas Rosatsch in Celerina, and Gourmet Restaurant Kronenstubli in Pontresina.
5. EXPLORE THE NATIONAL PARK
The Swiss National Park; (Parc Naziunal Svizzera) is the only national park in Switzerland, and its largest protected nature reserve, in the Engadin and Munster valley area, reaching from1,400 to 3,200 metres. This year (2014) is its centenary, and the Park will be celebrating with a touring exhibition, open air theatre, and various events throughout the year.
Along the miles of paths that wind through the park, there are all kinds of Alpine plants, native trees and flowers, and the likelihood of seeing deer, marmots and golden eagles. Currently, six pairs live in and around the area.
6. THE MUSEUMS
Despite the low population and focus on sports and fresh air, Graubünden also offers a surprising amount of culture. There are more than 70 museums and art galleries in the area, including the Kirchner Museum in Davos, The Graunbünden Art Museum in Chur, and the Graübunden Natural History Museum with four floors celebrating the biodiversity, geology and fauna of the region.
There is also the Word’s Smallest Museum in St Moritz, and even the hotel Walhaus Sils has its own museum, housed in its former bakery. There are mining museums, Winter sports museums and folklore museums- so even if it’s snowing too hard to see, a little culture (and a café) will provide the entertainment.
TWO BRAND NEW HOTELS OPENED IN LATE 2013:
The luxurious Priva Alpine Lodge in Lenzerheide which features 96 apartments and chalets also has a swimming pool, woodburning stoves, and a general air of ski chic, (Dieschen sot 18, Lenzerheide 7078) while the dazzling new Intercontinental Hotel in Davos, designed by Italian architect Matteo Thun, has been likened to a ‘stylish golden egg.’
It’s exquisitely chic, with balconies overlooking the mountains, and any Bond villain would be delighted with its cool, mid-century furnishings and sleek lines. (Baslerstrasse 9, Stilli, Davos CH-7260, Switzerland)
PHOTO CREDITS: ALL PHOTOS, EXCEPT FOR IMAGE AT FOOT OF PAGE (ROADRAILANDSEA) COURTESY OF GRAUBUNDEN TOURIST OFFICE
REMEMBER THAT BUYING A SWISS PASS MAY OFFER YOU THE BEST DEAL WHEN TRAVELLING AROUND SWITZERLAND.
THERE ARE SEVERAL ALTERNATIVES FROM FULL PASS THROUGH TO A HAL-PRICE OPTION.
FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT THE SWITZERLAND TRAVEL CENTRE.
TAKING THE TRAIN IS THE ECO-FRIENDLY WAY TO TRAVEL.
The Rhätische Bahn (RhB) is the train system in Graubünden- it’s efficient and runs regularly to most inhabited areas. Post Buses take passengers up the mountainsides to the villages, and run from the stations.
Arosa and Lenzerheide will launch a new cable car at the end of January which will link the two resort’s pistes which are on different sides of the valley. This new link up will create 225 km of pistes, making the area one of the largest continuous skiing areas in Graubünden.
It’s a skiing paradise because around 90 percent of the area is above 1,200-metres. Avers, the highest town, is at 1,963 metres and Avers-Juf, the highest year-round inhabited village, at a dizzy 2,126 metres. Altitude sickness doesn’t usually begin until after 3000m, so it’s rare that anyone will suffer, despite the heights.
PostBus connections run between Bellinzona and Chur and Lugano and St.Moritz. The Bernina Express connects Turin on the Italian rail network with St.Moritz.
Information and the timetable of the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways): www.sbb.ch
Information about the PostBus in Graubünden: www.postbus.ch
Information and timetable of the Rhaetian Railway: www.rhb.ch NB: Seat reservation is sometimes required.
If driving, the A13 motorway is a major route through the Alps (via St Bernard) and passes straight through Graubünden.