Switzerland - Engadine priorities?

Oct 4th, 2007, 04:38 PM
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Switzerland - Engadine priorities?

After reading a lot of posts, consulting maps, cutting down things to do and see, here is our rough plan for our next 2-weeks vacation (DH and I, first time visitors to Switzerland). We will go in the summer – probably at the end of July. We enjoy beautiful scenery, photography, quaint towns, architecture, good food and nature. We are not the hard-core hikers, but we like long walks, preferably without a lot of elevation gain (the flatter the better) – and Switzerland seems to have a lot of those.

We will have 13 nights to split between 3 areas. For now, we are thinking 4 nights in Engadine, 3 in Ticino and 6 in OB. A last 14th night will have to be in Zurich, for an early flight back home. If at any point in time we’ll decide 6 nights is too much in OB and 4 nights too little in Engadine, we’ll do 5 and 5.

This thread is for Engadine only - When reviewing the list of things we are interested in, please keep in mind that the 4 nights is actually 3 days only – the first day we’ll be tired and jet-lagged.

So, we would like to do some of the following – I’m aware that we cannot do everything, so based on our interests and the beauty of the scenery in each, how would you prioritize them? And how would you combine them in each day, considering that we generally leave home by 9:30 or 10 and always stop for lunch. We love spectacular views from above (so taking cable cars, funiculars, gondolas, etc) to get there is high on the list. Views of glaciers are a must, mountain lakes would be great, too.

1) Diavolezza cable car
2) Panoramic Trail from Casaccia to Soglio (or via Bregalia) + town of Soglio. I read that the Panoramic Trail is about 5 hrs – can we only do a portion of it (2-3 hrs)? If so, which portion do you recommend? Would the via Bregalia be a better choice?
3) Town of Guarda + walk Guarda to Ardez. I read that this is a beautiful and easy walk – how long is it?
4) Fex Valley + town of Sils and/or Silsersee
5) Funicular to Muttoas Muragl, hike from Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard
6) Gondola to Piz Corvatsch
7) Funicular from St. Moritz to Chantarella - then train to Corviglia – then gondola to Piz Nair (hope I got this right)
8) Hike Morteratsch trail (glacier views)
9) Town of Poschiavo
10) Landwasser Viaduct – maybe a hike (Filisur – Wiesen?) from where to get a nice view of it
11) Alp Gruem

We haven’t decided where to stay, yet. A lot of people on this board like and recommend Pontresina. Any thoughts on this? Would other town be a better choice? Maybe Samedan or Celerina?
Should we reconsider the train option and rent a car? Would that give us more flexibility?

I know that in the end we’ll love it all, no matter where we go, do and see – but what are your thoughts? Thanks a lot.
xyz99 is offline  
Oct 5th, 2007, 06:03 AM
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You say you've read a lot of posts - perhaps you've read some of mine on the Engadin. We too spent four nights there and we have interests identical to yours...

I'll comment on the items on your list that I'm familiar with:

2) I'd suggest a visit to Soglio and a round-trip hike from there. Go for an hour or two and then loop back. Gorgeous!

3) We walked (an easy 'hike') from Guarda to Ftan and had lunch in Ardez. Beautiful!

4) We went on a full day's hike to the Fex Valley. Up by lift from Sils and then (mostly) horizontal across to the Fex Valley, we returned to our car by way of the horse drawn wagon. Magnificent!

We stayed with a family in a ferienwohnung in Pontresina and it was ideal in every respect. Of course a car gives you the flexibility and that's important IMO.
TuckH is offline  
Oct 5th, 2007, 03:39 PM
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Tuck,
Thanks for your suggestions, I’m sure I read your post(s) of Engadine – there is just so much info on this board, makes planning so much easier (and so much harder, because now we are aware of so many more options).
Do you remember how long was the hike/walk from Guard to Ardez? How did you return to your car, which I assume you left in Guarda?

We are really reconsidering the train option in Engadine, but I haven’t studied the train schedule yet…we’ll see.
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Oct 5th, 2007, 06:00 PM
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>> Do you remember how long was the hike/walk from Guard to Ardez? <<
About 2-3 hours 10am-1pm.

>> How did you return to your car, which I assume you left in Guarda? <<

We took the post bus from Ftan to Scuol, the train from Scuol to Guarda and another post bus from the station up the mountain to the village of Guarda and our car.

Why would you not rent a car?

As we neared Ftan we inquired about the post bus schedule and then had to rush to barely make the last bus leaving that evening (about 6pm). I don't know what would've happened if we missed it!
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Oct 5th, 2007, 06:18 PM
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Tuck,
You have a good point, and this is my main fear – that we would need to depend on the bus/train schedule, and what if we miss it?
My original thought was to drive (we always drive in Europe) but everybody on this board almost convinced me that we don’t have to – that the Swiss train/bus system is so good and frequent, that it would be a much better choice.

I think we’ll rent a car for Engadine and Ticino, and use trains in the BO. It’s too much to do and see in Engadine, we need the flexibility a car would offer. Thanks a lot.
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Oct 6th, 2007, 02:08 AM
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Hi xyz99,

Oh gosh, that's too bad. I spent a week in Zuoz and didn't use or need a car. Ingo, who visits the Engadin often from his home in Dresden, usually drives to the valley and then parks his car, using trains and busses to get around.

I don't think you'll ever get "stuck" without a car. Just take a look at the schedules before you start your day so you'll know what your limits are.

I didn't add my comments on your priorities because I didn't do as many of the cable car and heights as you did; I spent two days biking the valley (it was lovely!). But I also can attest that Soglio and Guarda are both great, great choices, incredibly scenic and picturesque villages set in a stunning landscape. I also just loved Poschiavo and really wanted to go back to spend a few days there (haven't made it yet). And I know that Ingo always recommends the Muottoas Muragl walk.

Ingo is now visiting the US for the first time and won't be back home in Dresden until after the middle of the month. If I were you, I'd top this again at the end of October and try to get his attention.

Good luck!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Oct 6th, 2007, 06:26 AM
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Swanda,
I know you don’t like driving in Switzerland – and I think that if you stay locally, that would be fine. But we would like to cover more territory, and not sure if we can by train/bus. Anyway, before deciding one way or the other, I will put together itineraries for each day, study the train schedule and see then. We might do a combination of car and/or train…

Thanks for commenting on Soglio, Guarda and Poschiavo. We’ll try to see them all, in the 3 days we’re there. And I’ll bring this post up again for Ingo, when he comes back. Hope he enjoys the US.
xyz99 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2007, 07:00 AM
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>> I will put together itineraries for each day <<

Another factor to consider is the fickle nature of the weather in the mountains. You can't readily count on fixed itineraries...
TuckH is offline  
Oct 6th, 2007, 07:12 AM
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Hi again,

Not sure why you say you can't cover more territory by train/bus. I usually limit my day-trips to two hours by train in each direction. But, yes, I do tend to stay local and explore one area in depth. I prefer that to a quick once-over. I've been able to return often enough to explore other areas if I want -- still lots of places to get to.

For TuckH -- I also don't like fixed itineraries. I usually have a list of activities I'd like to do and the train schedules for each one. Then, when I wake up and see the weather and my mood, I decide on the day's jaunt and go!

I've never understood the advantages for using a car -- unless one just wants to "collect" a bunch of villages in one wide and fast swipe.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Oct 6th, 2007, 07:36 AM
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swandav, please...

I hope you're not inferring that because we prefer to have the use of a car - and you don't - that we're running around "collecting" villages.

Far from it: witness the two examples I gave in my post: the all-day (without car) treks of Guarda-Ftan and the Fex Valley.
TuckH is offline  
Oct 6th, 2007, 09:25 AM
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Tuck, Swanda,
I don’t think I was too clear in my previous post – about putting together those daily itineraries, Tuck, you are right, weather is a factor. We don’t like set itineraries either (that’s why we don’t do big tour buses) – what I meant was put together a list of things/places in a certain area (for example in one day, we could get to Guarda, explore the town, wall to Arez or maybe Ftan, come back). For something like that, I would get the train schedule in advance, just to be sure. Then I would get a plan B and even a C for the same day – that would allow us to do things based on the mood of the day and the weather.

And talking about weather – this is another reason why a car sounds like a good idea. If it’s raining, we would not have to worry about the walk to the train station, the wait there, etc. We could drive to let’s say Guarda, still explore the town but not get soaked wet. We went to Ireland this year (yes, it rains a lot there, more than in Switzerland) but on the rainy days, we could still see things, even though maybe just from the car. But we were not stuck in the B&B or hotel room

Swanda, my concern about trains is the schedule – if they run every 15 minutes, than it would not be an issue. But if they run every 2 hrs and we miss it, then what? Or like Tuck mentioned, the last one is at 6 pm and we miss it? We only speak English, and from what I understand, English is not too widely used there.

We don’t want to ‘collect’ villages, but would like to see the area and enjoy it. We might go back to Switzerland some day, but who knows when? We live in US and don’t get as much vacation days as Europeans, so a trip to Europe does not happen that often…
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Oct 6th, 2007, 10:35 AM
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Hi again all,

I would hope, TuckH, that you wouldn't be one to travel like that. But I've seen lots of posts like that, especially on this board: "rent a car and you can get to A, B, and C on day one," etc.

Yes, xyz99, if this is your first time using or depending on trains, I can understand your fears. But I do hope you take the plunge and use this opportunity to try something new and different. It's really fun. FUN! I enjoy people-watching at the stations and on the train, and I like seeing the locals as they putter off to the office or come home from shopping in the city, etc. It's also nice to bring along some wine & cheese or chocolate and enjoy the scenery.

And, as I said above and as you note above, just be aware of the train/bus schedule for that day's excursion and don't let it surprise you at the end of your day. The train agents and conductors will speak English.

Hopefully your hotel or B&B won't be so far away that you'd get drenched as you walk to the train station! And all train stations have covered platforms.

Anyway, didn't mean to start a contest, just wanted to speak out about the benefits of ditching the car.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Oct 6th, 2007, 10:55 AM
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Swandav,
I understand exactly where you’re coming from and what you’re trying to do – and I really appreciate it. Our last vacations were great because of people like you, thank you, and thank them all.

I guess we’ll just have to make a list of interests, figure out the train/bus schedule to get there and back, see how/if to combine a couple in a day and take it from there. If the train/bus seems fine, we’ll use it. After all, after driving in Ireland, I’m sure DH would like a non-driving vacation. But if not, a car might be the answer, at least for some days.

As always, I’m sure the list would be enough to give us things to do for a week, but we’ll just need to prioritize. That’s the hardest thing to now…thanks again.

xyz99 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2007, 04:49 PM
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Hi all,

yep, I am in the US right now (White Mountains in the Northeast). Will be back 16 Oct. Not enough time to respond to this thread at the moment. The car vs. bus question is hard to answer. I personally prefer train/bus but now I see that Americans LOVE to drive ... too much IMO, well, but it's up to you.

More later,

Ingo
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Oct 7th, 2007, 03:14 AM
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I have spent 10 days in Zuoz just 2 weeks ago (trip report follows when I'm finished with the pictures). The emphasis was on hiking. We did not have a car. I have not felt it was any disadvantage - all train and most bus lines run exactly hourly from early till late. In the lower Engadine the high slope villages may have less than optimal bus connection to the train, but we didn't go there. If it is one or two times that you feel restricted, a taxi to the station will probably be easier and cheaper than renting the car.
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Oct 7th, 2007, 03:27 AM
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We'll be doing 10 days next July, splitting the time between Soglio and Lake Lucerne. With the excellent bus and train connections in the Engadine, we are going to rely on those.

xyz, you will love the Bregaglia Valley. We passed through it all too briefly and my dream, ever since, has been to return.

Ingo, you are a very wise man to be in New England this time of year. I look forward to an extensive trip report upon your return. Let us on the Europe board (and maybe even this thread) know that you've posted it!
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Oct 7th, 2007, 06:22 AM
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Ingo, hope you enjoy the Northeast – we have an unusually hot fall (upper 80s), hope temperatures there are more bearable there. The car vs train decision is still up for debate, it will depend on the things we’ll want to do, places we’ll want to see in these 3-4 days.

altamiro, looking forward for the trip report and the pictures.

Cimbrone, with only 3 full days in Engadine, I realize we’ll only scratch the surface. Another good point (in my mind) for a car is that if we don’t get to see Bregaglia Valley during these 3 days, we might be able to do it on our way to Lugano (or Locarno), wherever we decide to stay there.
xyz99 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2007, 07:17 AM
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I haven't read the whole thread thoroughly, but if you're more comfortable renting a car, then, by all means, do it.

I loved our hotel in Lugano--the Hotel Federale. Friendly staff, great breakfast buffet, lovely views of the old town (with the lake beyond). If you do decide on Lugano, be sure to take the funicular to the top of Mt. San Salvatore and hike down to Morcote (2 1/2 hours). It's a charming village where we had a terrific lunch right on the lake. You can bus or boat back to Lugano from there.
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Oct 7th, 2007, 08:09 AM
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Cimbrone,
Thanks for the Lugano hotel recommendation – the funicular to the top of Mt. San Salvatore and the hike to Marcote is definitely in the plan for one day, then the Olive Walk and Gandria for the other day we have in Ticino.
We would also like to take a boat trip on the lake – would the boat back from Marcote be enough? How long is it? We were thinking of taking a cruise on the lake, hopefully in the late afternoon (or a dinner cruise), not longer than a 2-3 hrs, do you know anything about such a cruise?

In terms of car vs train, I was originally thinking to drop the car when we get to Lugano, but maybe we’ll keep it for another day or two, and if we have time one afternoon, we can take a drive to Ancona and explore the town a little bit. Then drop the car after that. How does that sound? Thanks

xyz99 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2007, 08:39 AM
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Now that you've moved the discussion on to Lugano, I've a thing or two I'd like to add...

We spent a week with a family in a ferienwohnung halfway up Mt Bré. We had private use of their swimming pool and a wonderful view out over the town, the lake and San Salvatore.

We took day trips from there in all directions, visiting each of The Lakes and Soglio too.

We took the San Salvatore-Morcote hike mentioned by Cimbrone. I must say it was a bit of a disappointment for us - especially when compared to some of the other hiking experiences we had. (The lake views were few and far in between.) Morcote is lovely and we too had lunch there right on the lakefront and then took the boat back to our car [sic].
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