Experience Graubünden: Hikers have free use of the cable cars which launch them directly into the Alpine world. Long distance bikers can benefit from the luggage transportation and language lovers will be enchanted by the public announcements in Rhaeto-Romansh aboard the Rhaetian Railway. Excitingly, the latter is now part of UNESCO’s world heritage. The world famous whiter than white snow is guaranteed in the higher ski resorts. Therefore over 40 top ski regions such as Laax and Samnaun are eagerly sought out by winter sports enthusiasts. Even cross-country skiers and hikers can indulge their passion on beautifully prepared paths and runs which remain frozen the whole season.
There is the farmer in Safiental, who provides overnight accommodation in straw for the whole family . Or the St.Moritz hotelier who keeps a close eye on the luxury buffet specially set up for the traditional “Winter Turf” horse races. Over in Disentis there is the successful gold hunter, who is happy to share his secrets when gold-panning. Watch a miracle in motion, as the young waitress weaves her way through a ski lodge while deftly balancing different trays on her arms. Or the skipper who, just as skilfully, negotiatesthe rapids of the Rhine Gorge “Ruinalta”, bringing his ecstatic passengers safely to dry land. The fisherman in Stieva who shows his guests the best fishing spots in the canton. The hunter who proudly boasts that the meat from his kill is prepared for the table by the best cook. The nuns of the Müstair monastery, who carefully maintain this jewel of UNESCO’s world heritage. They all greet their guests with the most pleasant Rhaeto-Romansh greeting, Allegra! Enjoy yourselves!
10,000 km of hiking paths and 4,000 km of bike trails open wide this world to the intrepid guest. For example, hiking through the bizarre intriguing landscape of the Rhine Gorge, better known as the Swiss Grand Canyon. Or an excursion to the glaciers of the Upper Engadin, which can be reached on foot in one hour.
Bikers enjoy themselves on a demanding terrain in the Arosa district or on the Glacial Garden Path of the Valposchiavo, which in the Italian part of Graubünden sounds much more romantic - Via del Giardino dei Ghiaccciai.
For those who prefer less energetic ways of crossing the Alps there is a better solution. In the larger holiday destinations you can hire an electro-bike, which doubles the strength of every turn of the peddle. And for the free rider the cable cars of the canton offer a tremendous launch into the mountain before charging wildly back down. And all this is possible without breaking the bank, thanks to the “all inclusive” offers provided in many of our holiday destinations, where the use of the cable cars is included in the price of an overnight stay.
Naturally, the “all inclusive” offer extends to hikers, too. What better way to begin a hike into the world of the ibex (Graubünden’s emblem – this needs to be more descriptive. Emblem is not really the right word). This majestic animal that never seems to be a hurry can be observed on a guided tour or on your own hike into the world of mountains.
For the hard-bitten sports enthusiasts there are the long distance tours and bike trails with multiple stages. The choice is extensive and because the special hotel offers include packed lunches, and luggage transportation all logistic headaches have been removed, leaving the ardent trekker to just sit back and enjoy their surroundings.
Even in winter hiking in Graubünden is possible, along specially designed paths through snowy forests or with snow shoes above the tree line. In Graubünden there are 1,400 km of these particular winter paths. Just in Arosa alone there are 60 km of paths, while in Savognin seven snow shoe tours are linked together with GPS’s and are available online. Because winter hiking is growing in popularity, a long distance tour with luggage transport has begun in the Engadin. The tour “Via Engiadina” has three stages from Susch to Sent.
How enjoyable a winter trek can be! But most people who book a winter holiday are looking for something with a bit more tempo like cross country skiing, for example. In Splügen alone there are more than 40km of ski runs, sport centres, and idyllic forest paths. Skiers and snowboarders can choose from an excess of 40 different ski resorts. Renowned resorts such as St.Moritz, Lenzerheide, Davos, and Saumnaun have outstanding ski arenas with over 150 km of ski slopes. Then there are the small and economical destinations such as Heinzenberg, where the whole family can have fun and parents can easily keep an eye on their youngsters. Whether you choose a top resort or a smaller destination, Graubünden always delivers in the winter season! Most destinations within the canton can guarantee snow throughout the entire season, due to their altitude. This is not always the case for every Alpine region.
Laax enjoys plenty of snow and nowhere else in Switzerland can you find so many trendy skiers and snowboarders in action. But it’s not surprising. Laax is one of a kind: 4 snow parks and the biggest half-pipe in Europe, stylish lounges, exciting clubs and a very original backpackers hotel. And if that wasn’t enough, there is the Freestyle Academy complete with Europe’s first freestyle indoor arena.
Graubünden is also the land of the quick lightening curves. The most famous of all is the bob run in St.Moritz, where national and international competitions regularly take place. Not so well known, yet often frequented are the long and fast toboggan runs everywhere in the canton. One great example is the Albulastrasse from Preda to Bergün. This road over the pass is closed to traffic on beautiful winter days and thousands take to their sledges and race down towards the valley. The thrills and spills are all part of the action and the fun is electric. But for sheer speed nothing beats December in St.Moritz when the world ski cup takes place. Between Christmas and New Year Davos is in uproar – literally! Here the famous ice hockey tournament “The Spengler Cup” is at its peak. Later in March the world famous Engadin cross country skiing marathon takes place between Maloja and S-chanf.
What links the winter and summer seasons is pure pleasure. In many places “wellness” is at the top of the list from the spa resort made famous by architect Peter Zumthor to the Roman-Irish baths of Bad Scuol. The natural elements of stone, water, warmth and light combine to provide both excitement and relaxation. Museums in Chur, Davos and St.Moritz let visitors into the world of Graubünden’s great artists such as Segantini, Giacometti and Kirchner.
The outstanding cuisine of Graubünden reflects itself in just how many places bare the designation of the Michelin stars and the Gault Millau point system, which also applies to the young chef Andreas Caminada in his restaurant Schloss Schauenstein. Caminada is the only Romansh-speaking three-star chef in the world. There are hundreds of cooks in his shadow who focus all their creative energy into inventing exquisite specialities from Graubünden’s rich Italian, Romansh and German heritage.
Next to this beacon of Haute-Cuisine there are many small delightful places which might not make the headlines, but are just waiting to be discovered. In the Viamala, there are remnants of an earlier time. Here you find wood posts where the pack-animal drivers used to tie up their precious cargo. On the Greina plateau between the Bündner Highlands and Bleniotal human presence is reduced to just a few hiking paths. In the Swiss National Park in the Lower Engadin the chance of seeing wildlife is high, whether it’s a beard-vulture or an ibex. And just a few kilometres away lies the medieval monastery at Müstair, which is now part of UNESCO world heritage.
Graubünden has 15 superb golf courses tucked away behind picturesque landscape. Here a fight for air has little to do with altitude and a lot more to do with the breath-taking countryside in which these courses have been skilfully laid. You never have to hurry to complete your round, and you also have a great deal of choice as there are double the amount of courses available than in the UK!
Graubünden also has a very special railway. Its red carriages are just as much part of the landscape as the ibex. The train seems so small as it winds its way through the valleys. Despite this not being the original design. The plan was for much large carriages, but then the finances failed to materialize. The solution was a narrow gauge railway, which has since proved to be a major success. Today, Graubünden has the Rhaetian Railway, a transport system that so many other regions would certainly love to have. The RhB, as the locals describe it, is so well embedded within the landscape that is hard to imagine that Albula / Bernina weren’t always there. The UNESCO definitely thinks so, since the rail network is now part of its world heritage. With its astounding viaducts, innumerable tunnels and the glorious spiral bridge at Brusio, this really isn’t much of a surprise.