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Need help: Sils vs. Pontresina as base for hiking?

Need help: Sils vs. Pontresina as base for hiking?

Mar 28th, 2013, 05:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 21
Need help: Sils vs. Pontresina as base for hiking?

We will have 4 days in the Engadine in mid June. Is Sils or Pontresina a better home base for day hikes? What wld be the main difference between the two?
i can't tell if Pontresina is a busy city.

We want a charming village/small town with someplace where we cld walk after dinner, maybe a few shops. Easy access/short times to get to hikes. Not much driving needed. We probably will have a car. We loved Wengen.

Is Sils or Pontresina a better base? I'd also love to get hotel recommendations for each place. We'd like half board and around $300/nite.

If Sils, which hotel? We'd like one with half board. Don't need a spa, etc. is there anything around the Hotel Chesa Randolina? It might be too isolated. is a hotel in Sils Maria better located?
sel16 is offline  
Mar 29th, 2013, 12:03 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi sel16,

Either one would be a wonderful base for hiking, but each has a different ambiance.

Pontresina has a population of around 2,000 -- it does look and feel like a busy little town. The town sits on a sort of ledge overlooking a deeply forested valley, and the train station is down in the valley. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the town to the station. It's a lovely location for hikes and excursions in both the Bernina Valley as well as the Engadin Valley.

Sils is a very, very picturesque village that sits on a lake; it has a population of 805. I have to admit that I've never set foot inside the village and have only seen it as an acquaintance was showing me around the area. However, its situation and the beauty of the scenery made me decide to stay there on any future visit to the Engadin.

As with most of Switzerland, you don't need a car, as trains and busses will make all your trips easy and fun. No need to hike in loops to pick up a car. In fact, I believe Sils is another car-free village --

swandav2000 is online now  
Mar 29th, 2013, 03:32 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Swandav basically answered your question, but I'd like to add my 2 cents.

You mentioned "where we cld walk after dinner, maybe a few shops" - Sils is too small and quiet for that. If that's a criterion, then better head to Pontresina, which has a (not very busy) main street with some shops, cafes, restaurants and lots of hotels. However, as in every mountain town in most of Europe, shops will be closed after dinner, so it's just window shopping.

Personally I prefer Sils, though. Swandav mentioned the location - it's actually between two lakes (lake Sils and lake Silvaplana), closer to the first one. Also, the valley is much wider than in Pontresina, I love that. Sils is not totally car-free, but a cul-de-sac, so very little traffic there.

As for hotels - rates are very similar in Pontresina and Sils. Chesa Randolina is a great choice, especially if you get a room with view of lake Sils. But that might be not in the $300 range. A nice 3star hotel in Sils is Hotel Privata, right on the tiny main square. Avoid the rooms to the back, they have no view (toward the road up the hill on which the upscale Hotel Waldhaus is). Also, this hotel only offers free public transportation, not free cable cars, while Chesa Randolina has the cable cars up the mountains also included. Big difference!

Hotel Seraina is also a good choice IMO, heard good things and it looked nice, although I must admit I haven't stayed there myself.

I stayed for two weeks at the Hotel Edelweiss in 2008 and totally loved it. If you splurge a little or have a look at their arrangements, maybe it would be in your budget. Public transportation AND cable cars included.
Ingo is offline  
Mar 29th, 2013, 08:08 AM
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I agree with everything above. But be careful: Sils (called Segl in the local Ladin language) is split in 2 parts:
Segl Baselgia (literal translation: Sils Church), along the main road from Milan to Austria and not such pitoresque
Segl Maria, the fine quiet place where most hotels are.

Segl Maria and Pontresina (Puntraschigna in the local Ladin language) are linked by a beautiful hiking trail over Fuorcla Surlej (Pass above the lake.)
The 2 cableways linking Segl Maria and Surlej with this trail will run from June 15th; so does the horse drawn carriage from Roseg (at the other end of the pass) to Pontresina .
There are also scheduled boats plying Lej da Segl (Lake Sils).
neckervd is offline  
Mar 29th, 2013, 08:56 AM
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We will arrive june 13th. i hope some of the cable cars
Thankyou for all your helpful info.

I hadn't thought about when cable cars start running in summer. we arrive june 13th. Hopefully most of the cable cars/gondolas will be in operation.

I will look into the hotels and prices. Chesa Randolina is in Sil Baselgia which Neckervd says is not so picturesque. It looks like a nice location--any thoughts?

There are 4 of us. Cld you give me an idea of cable car costs so I can figure out how valuable it is to have them included in the room price?

If we decide on pontresina, any hotel suggestions?
sel16 is offline  
Mar 29th, 2013, 09:56 AM
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You can find out about operation times and ticket prices of cable cars on the Engadin St. Moritz website www.engadin.stmoritz.ch Click on "Summer" on top of the page, and you'll find all info under "mountains".

Most interesting for you will be the funicular Muottas Muragl, the chair-lift Alp Languard (both from 8 June), the Diavolezza cable car (from 21 May) and the cable cars Furtschellas and Corvatsch (from 15 June).

Furtschellas cable car up is CHF 20, for Corvatsch look into the hiking tickets, which are CHF 45 (includes the ride to the top station, then hiking from the middle station Murtel).

A must is the Panorama trail Muottas Muragl - Languard, ticket for this one is CHF 33.

Diavolezza up and down is CHF 33.

I think the Corviglia/Piz Nair area is not idea for hiking for a first time visitor, so I'd skip that.

I wouldn't say Sils-Baselgia is less picturesque than Sils-Maria. It is even less overbuilt with quite modern apartment houses than Sils-Maria. Actually, the location of Chesa Randolina is pretty much in the middle of the valley, excellent views in all directions, and it is far enough from the main road on the northern edge of the valley so there's no traffic noise there. As I said, the rooms with lakeview are great (sunset!) The only small problem I see is that in Sils-Baselgia the wind coming from Maloja pass can be a nuisance.

In Pontresina I can recommend Hotel Engadinerhof. A 2star hotel with old-world charm, decent food and very reasonable rates for the area. www.engadinerhof.com
Ingo is offline  
Mar 29th, 2013, 06:27 PM
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Thank you for the cable car info.

I checked into train schedules and there are two routes back from pontresina to zurich. is going via Chur the most beautiful?

Is the route the same if we go by car? I read that the train ride between zurich and pontresina is beautiful?
sel16 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 01:59 AM
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I still have to find a drive or train route in Switzerland that is *not* beautiful. LOL

From Pontresina to Zürich (by train) you can either go via Albula route (Bergün - Thusis - Chur) which is spectacular for the viaducts and spiral tunnels of the Albula pass route or via Vereine tunnel route (Sagliains - Klosters - Landquart), which is IMO equally scenic, but lacks the viaducts and spiral tunnels.

By car you can choose from several routes over passes to get from the Engadin to the Rhine valley: Julier (not recommended, too much heavy traffic), Albula (my favourite, you can see these spiral tunnels and viaducts of the train route), Flüela (not much traffic, rugged "moon"-like landscape around the pass). Or load your car on the train in Sagliains for the ride through the Vereina tunnel, get off the train in Klosters (substitute for the Flüela pass). But the latter costs extra money.

Ingo is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 05:50 AM
Join Date: Mar 2013
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I agree with everything above. You may also use the Albula railway for your outward travel and go back via Bernina - Lake Como or via Maloja - Chiavenna - Splugenpass, for example
Pontresina dp 10.09 - Bernina - Tirano - Sondrio - Bellano ar 14.32, dp by Lake Como boat 15.05 - Como ar 17.50, dp by train 18.48 - Zurich ar 22.51
Segl Maria dp 14.29 - Chiavenna 15.50/16.40 - Monte Spluga 18.00 - Chur 20.09 - Zurich ar 21.23
neckervd is offline  

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