Best Valposchiavo Travel Guide – A Hidden Gem

Best Things to Do in Valposchiavo + Travel Tips

Have you ever considered visiting Valposchiavo in Switzerland? If you haven’t, you should seriously add it to your bucket list because Valposchiavo is beyond stunning! Actually, is so stunning it has become one of my most favorite areas in the world.

I have seen quite a bit of Switzerland – I regularly visit and I regularly fall in love with places. I can say, I am used to spectacular sceneries, but what I saw in Valposchiavo was beyond all my expectations.

So, today I share my tips for a trip to Poschiavo and Valposchiavo – find some basic information about this stunning region + tips for the best things to do in Valposchiavo.

Valposchiavo Travel Tips

Let´s find out more about Switzerland´s best-kept secret.

Valposchiavo Facts

Val Poschiavo or Valposchiavo is a valley in the southern canton of Graubünden (Grison), close to the Italian border. Its remote location might be why it hasn’t become one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist spots. Given its natural beauty, there cannot be any other reason.

Its main town is Poschiavo, which lies about 1000 meters above sea level, with a population of fewer than 4,000 inhabitants.

The valley is drained by the Poschiavino River, flowing through the main lake of Lago di Poschiavo.

In Switzerland, there are four official languages.

Valposchiavo is in the mostly German-speaking canton of Graubünden.

  • However, in Valposchiavo, Italian is the primary language.
  • The locals speak another regional language at home, so the places have so many different names. 
  • For us visitors, this comes in handy because many locals speak Italian, German, and (some) basic English.

Disclaimer: Graubünden Tourism and Valposchiavo Tourism invited me to this trip as I blog regularly about Switzerland. However, the opinions and posts are all mine, and I can genuinely say that Valposchiavo has stolen my heart.

How to Get to Poschiavo (Valposchiavo)

It is, however, easily accessible via train (the central train station is Poschiavo) or car. Postautos (the yellow buses that run through the mountains in Switzerland) also get you there.

The easiest way to get to Poschiavo is via Zurich, so when you plan your Switzerland itinerary, you could plan your trip for a few days after visiting Zurich.

How to Get Around Valposchiavo

I would suggest making Poschiavo your base. From there, it is easy to hop on a train/bus and explore the rest of this gorgeous area. 

You could also easily get around by car – however, it is actually easier to explore Valposchiavo by train.

How Long to Stay in Valposchiavo

I think you could explore Valposchiavo for several weeks without getting bored. I stayed three nights and found so many beautiful places and got so many great impressions – I recommend staying for at least two nights, but if you can stay longer than even better.

If you book your stay in Poschiavo for at least two nights, you will get the Valposchiavo All-Inclusive Guest Card from the hotel, which you can then use for train and bus rides (for free). With that card, you can also get free guided tours for the Glacier which I will talk about later.

Where to Eat in Valposchiavo – 100% Valposchiavo

If you visit Valposchiavo, you will realize that restaurants offer 100% locally sourced Valposchiavo ingredients. I love the idea of having dishes with ingredients only from the region. It is fresher, with fewer chemicals, and it‘s better for the environment, so I would look out for restaurants that offer 100% Valposchiavo.

Meat and cheese lovers will love the food in Valposchiavo. Though Valposchiavo is no heaven for vegetarians or vegans, I, a vegetarian who tries to avoid dairy products as well, was able to find dishes I could eat. The choices weren’t endless, but I had no real difficulties finding yummy options.

Vegans might find it difficult because cheese is basically in every dish. But you can always opt for pasta with vegetables, I guess.

PLACES TO VISIT IN VALPOSCHIAVO

Ozpizio Bernina – Lago Bianco – Sassal Masone – Alp Grüm 

This hike from Ozpizio Bernina to Alp Grüm is probably the best hike I have ever taken, so I truly recommend it to you. You surely will be as amazed as I was and will thank me later for the great tip. Here are the stops and tips for the hike. Though the hike is short and actually takes only an hour or so, there are some incredible places you should stop by.

Ozpizio Bernina

I suggest getting to the starting point of the hike by train. The train ride goes from Poschiavo to Ozpizio Bernina, which takes about 45 minutes. It is a highly scenic train ride that gives you a great first impression of the municipality of Valposchiavo. 

Valposchiavo train station highest in Europe
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This is train riding at its best in Switzerland – passing Alp Grüm, and Lake Palü and Lago Bianco is a treat for the eyes.

Have you heard of the famous “Bernina Express” train ride? This panorama ride includes the stops mentioned here. There is a reason why it is known as one of the best train rides in the world – and once you enjoy the window views, you will easily see what the fuss is about!

If you are lucky and sit in a compartment with windows, you can even open windows and take great pictures. I say “lucky” because that’s only if you don’t sit with people on a train who complain about open windows. Yes, I have had discussions with locals about the open windows. 

You can start your hike at the Ospizio Bernina train station. The train station is the highest regular train station in Europe, at more than 2,250 meters above sea level. 

Getting here is an experience in itself, and standing on the platform when you get out of the train gives you an impressive view. 

  • The train ride is free with the Valposchiavo All-Inclusive Guest Card. It is also free with a Swiss Travel Pass.
  • This train ride is also absolutely incredible in the winter months!

Lago Bianco

Lago Bianco, a whitish lake in a rough mountain area, will welcome you right at Ospizio Bernina train station. It is a reservoir at 2,234 meters above sea level, and the water is used for generating electricity. And while it is not a natural lake, it is a beauty.

And if you like, you could have your first snack at the guest houses at the station or sit next to the lake and immerse yourself in the beauty.

Lago di Bianco in Valposchiavo
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Strolling the lake is very easy since it is a flat area – even if you are not a hiker, I suggest, getting out at this station and enjoying a walk around the lake.

Sassal Masone

Then it is time for s shortish but steepish uphill hike. While I saw many people heading to Alp Grüm directly, I truly, truly, recommend making a short detour and heading to Sassal Masone first because that is the real highlight – for any Switzerland trip!

Paths are well signed, but you could also use the Graubünden Hiking App to head towards Sassal Masone slowly. The hike to Sassal Masone is not strenuous, though it is uphill.

Valposchiavo Palü Lake in heart shape
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It probably took me about 60 minutes (but I did not rush) from the Ospizio Bernina train station to the top of the Sassal Masone mountain. 

I was fortunate with the weather – the view on a clear day is probably one of the best views you can get. 

Up there, you have the most impressive view of the mountain ranges around, including the Palü Glacier and Lago Palü (Palü Lake). Palü Lake, with its heart shape and incredible watercolor, made me fall in love with the place. The water comes from the Palü Glacier (which you also have a great view of from Sasal Masone).

I have been at the lakes a few times – I must admit that on my last visit, the watercolor looked totally different. Maybe it rained a lot – and thus the water seemed more grey.

While I did not get to spend time at the lake, I assume it is very fresh and very cold. So, though it is not the best place to take a dip, it is undoubtedly great to just look at from above. In 1926, a dam was built, and the water is now used for generating electricity. While it is a dam, it is still a beauty!

Sassel Mason in Valposchiavo
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TIP: There is a Refugio at the top. It wasn’t open at the time of my visit (beginning of October), but the stone house looked charming, as did the two stone buildings in the shape of an igloo/tent.

Though the refuge was closed, there was a surprising amount of people on Sassal Masone, and many (mostly Swiss) seemed to know that this was THE place to rest and soak in the views.

Valposchiavo with a dog
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I have visited Switzerland often and extensively, so I can say that I am used to the fantastic scenery. However, I had no idea. I had no idea, Valposchiavo is that perfect! I just had never expected such a view in Vaposchiavo – the glacier, the lake, and the whole scenery left me speechless.

Plan in enough time for a break. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would have planned more time for here.

In this region of Switzerland, water fountains are not as common as in other parts of the country, so pack enough and don’t rely on fresh mountain water.

Alp Grüm

The hike does not end at Sassel Masone. You could

a) hike the same way back to get to Ospizio Bernina,

or b) you could hike down the other way (behind the tiny stone houses, well signed). Then you will arrive at Alp Grüm.

My tip is to take the downhill hike because it is beautiful and you have great views of Palü Lake and Palü Glacier.

If you got to Ozpizio Bernina from Poschiavo by train, you have passed Alp Grüm already. It is a train station and an excellent place to have lunch/coffee as there is a restaurant there that comes with a view. 

From Alp Grüm you could also walk to Lake Palü. I did not do it, but if you plan your itinerary, I suggest adding one or two hours to walk down to Palü Lake and spend time there.

You could end your day and take the train to get back to the hotel. Depending on your speed, you most likely still have time for one more activity that day. I recommend adding the following place to your itinerary – Cavaglia Glacier Garden.

I added Sassel Masone to my “Most beautiful places in Switzerland” post as it definitely belongs there.

Cavaglia Glacier Garden

If you want to visit the Cavaglia Glacier Garden you can either get there from Alp Grüm by train or via a hike. The easiest and fastest option is to hop on the train and get off at Cavaglia train station. From there, it takes about five to ten minutes to walk to the Cavaglia Glacier Garden.

I kept hiking down –  from Alp Grüm station to the Cavaglia train station. However, I don’t recommend it, as it was quite steep at times and honestly not that spectacular. Hiking down takes about 60-70 minutes.

After passing the Cavaglia train station, you head to the glacier garden.

Glacier Garden in Valposchiavo
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The Palü Glacier doesn’t only feed Lake Palü, but also the glacial mills of Cavaglia “were hewn into the rock by the Palü Glacier. Over the course of thousands of years, gravel and debris, transported by the pressurized glacial water, have ground giant holes into the bedrock.“

While going through the garden, I and some others were looking for the glacial mills (also known as Giant Pods) with water flowing, and it took us some time to find a hole that was not “empty.“  There are signs, but as it wasn’t only me but many people feeling a bit lost, we were starting to wonder if water was flowing at that time of the year.

Valposchiavo Glacier Garden in Switzerland
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Good news: Yes, it does, and it looks great once you find it. So don’t give up immediately and stroll the whole area and you will find such a glacial mill with water.

TIP: There are water fountains at the Cavaglia Glacier Garden (the only one I can remember during that hike).

  • From May to October, there are guided tours for the Glacier Garden several times a week (free with your Valposchiavo All-Inclusive Guest Card), but you can also explore the garden by yourself. There is no entry free.

If the weather forecast predicts rain or clouds for the morning, you could do this part first because it is nice even in rain, too. Keep the view from Sassal Masone for the clear and sunny part of the day.

Poschiavo

Poschiavo, the valley’s capital, is a small village with a charming market square and picturesque buildings. Admittedly, it is not very big, and strolling Poschiavo (also known as Borgo) will not take you forever, but it is still worth it. 

Visit the market square, the Piazza Comunale, and its few buildings. This includes the Hotel Albrici and La Tor (the stone tower where witch trials were discussed and now used as a city hall).

Valposchiavo Market Square
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Valposchiavo Things to see
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Museo Poschiavo has two parts that are worth a visit. One is Casa Tome. Casa Tome is a popular tourist attraction in Poschiavo. Built in the 14th century, this old house has not undergone many restorations.  The house expanded in 1450, but if you visit the house now (which is open to the public from May to October, free with your Valposchiavo All-Inclusive Guest Card), you get an idea of how people lived back then. Actually, three sisters lived there until a few years ago. 

Visit the Via da Palaz to see some colorful buildings financed and bought by Swiss immigrants in Spain, and add a visit to the churches and the convent to your list. Also, pay attention to the little garden in front of the buildings. This is where the locals grow their own vegetables and fruits.

Visit the Palazzo de Bassus-Mengottii, where you can learn a lot about Valposchiavo´s history.

  • TIP: A guided tour, available from May-October, is probably the best way to learn about Poschiavo´s history and present. I would suggest planning in 3-4 hours for Poschiavo if you visit both the museum and the church.

Hike to Lagh da Saoseo (Lago di Saoseo)

Hike to Lago di Saoseo and see some more gems.

Switzerland has some of the prettiest lakes, which are very well-known. Switzerland also has some amazing lakes that are hidden gems. And you will find one of those beautiful lakes, which is Switzerland´s best-kept secret, on the hike today. Spend a day at Lago di Saoseo! Getting there is a bit complicated but it is well worth it!

You can travel via Postauto (yellow buses that drive in the mountains). Get from Poschiavo station to Sfazu/Fermata station (about a 15-minute bus ride).

From there, you can either start your hike or take another Postauto to bring you to Alp Camp. 

Normally, you can use Postautos like any other public transportation. There is no reservation needed and included in your GuestCard or Swiss Travel Pass. However, if you decide to take the Postauto now, you have to pay for the drive, and you have to reserve your seat (at least one hour before departure is required).

Tip: If you are a good hiker, you could skip the Postauto and hike up the whole way. Or you can use the Postauto for one way only.

  • The Postauto from Poschiavo to Sfazu/Fermata station is included in your GuestCard/ Swiss Travel Pass.
  • For the route from Sfazu/Fermata station to Alp Camp you have to pay around 12CHF, one-way.

Alp Camp

Hiking from Sfazu/Fermata station to Alp Camp should take about 90 minutes (an easy uphill/downhill hike). Hiking down later takes about one hour. This gives you more flexibility because the minibus doesn’t run often.

The path is good and quite easy, and you will see lovely stone houses along the way. And if the weather is great, I suggest spending as much time as possible outside.

Beautiful stone houses in Alp Campo
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At Alp Camp, there is a little restaurant. Then continue to either Lagh da Saoseo (Lago di Saoseao) or Lagh di Val Viola (Lago di Val Viola) – we start with Lago di Saoseo.

Lago di Saoseo

While most headed to Lago di Val Viola first, I decided to start the hike at Lago di Saoseo. It takes about 10-15 minutes (downhill hike) from Alp Camp.

I am not sure that the pictures do the lake justice.  It is a perfect combination of Lake Carezzo in Italy and Blausee in Switzerland.

Valposchiavo where to stay
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Valposchiavo Lake Saoseo
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If you visit in fall, lie I did, you will get to see some beautiful fall foliage. With the yellowish trees around it, it looked absolutely amazing. But I am pretty sure, it looks great at any time of the year!

The mountains reflect perfectly in the lake. The lake color is more of a stunning green, and since getting here is not that easy, you don’t have to share it with too many other people (though it might be different during peak season).

Lagh da Saoseo
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You can bring your own Stand-Up Paddle or floating boat and enjoy time on the water.

So, you have learned about some of Valposchiavo´s gems but there is more to Valposchiavo – there is more!

This lake is accessible only after a long walk/or drive but there is no difficult hike included. To see the next lake, you will need to be more active.

Lagh da Val Viola

Though Lago di Saoseo is the more stunning lake, there is another lake close by to visit. Lagh da Val Viola!

There are two ways to get to Lagh da Val Viola which is another beautiful mountain lake in the area. I chose the longer hike. Signs and the hiking app said it takes a bit more than an hour, but I ended up needing two hours. I do not know why I did that.

Anyhow, the people I met along the way also needed about two hours, but it was worth it – despite the narrow path and many ups and downs. 

Valposchiavo best places to see
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The scenery is wildish and rough, and it looks insane and unreal. Thanks to perfect weather conditions, the hike was amazing, though not very easy – but doable.

Trekking poles are probably good, as it is a lot of steep hiking up and down. Sometimes, I even had to walk through small streams. But if you have the time and energy, opt for the longer hike. 

Valposchiavo Lago di Val Viola
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Lagh da Val Viola looked grayish from afar (even though it was sunny), but the closer I got, the more greenish it looked.

Getting to the lake takes another 10-15 minutes, and down at the lake, you have some options for sitting right next to the lake and taking a break. 

At the lake, I was reminded a bit of the popular Oeschinensee. Though this lake is a beauty, I was still flashed by Lago di Saoseao.

Hiking Back 

From there, you can hike back to Alp Camp or Saoseo Refugio, which takes less than 30 minutes. You could also hike back to Lago da Saoseo (which I did just because I had some time and wanted to see the beauty again). 

If you have made a reservation for the minibus (required, if you don’t want to hike), you could hike to where you will be picked up. Otherwise, head to Alp Camp and then slowly head to Sfazu bus station.

The hike down to Sfazu Station is a lovely and easy downhill hike that takes about one hour – the stone houses along the way are just so unique (I can’t remember having seen so many in other cantons of Switzerland).

Extra Tips for Valposchiavo 

If you have two full days in Valposchiavo, your itinerary will probably be quite busy with the above-mentioned activities, but here are a few more tips for your stay in Valposchiavo.

Lago di Poschiavo / Lake Poschiavo 

If heading to the south, very close to the Italian border you will find the biggest lake in the region: Lago di Poschiavo. In summer, you can take a boat cruise and swim in the lake. Walking around the lake is probably a beautiful thing to do at any time of the year.

Poschiavo lake
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You might have heard about the project “Swings the World” “Swing the World“ which is a project by two young people from Ticino with a goal in mind: encouraging people to spend more time outdoors. The homemade swings are in unique spots around Ticino – and now also outside in the beautiful area of Valposchiavo.

Swing the world in Valposchiavo
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This is really a beautiful tranquil place which 

Hike San Romerio – Tirano

If I had more time, I would have done another hike, probably from San Romerio to Tirano (Italy), which promises beautiful views.

Cycling

Valposchiavo is probably heaven for mountain bikers. I like cycling more than mountain biking, but some people seriously biked Sassal Masone. If you are a bike fan, you should find out more about cycling routes in the area.

Cycling in Valposchiavo
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Is Valposchiavo Worth Visiting?

I hope you are convinced why to visit Valposciavo now. I never expected to see so much beauty in Valposchiavo. I was surprised that I hadn’t even heard of these places before. As someone who regularly visits Switzerland, I had thought I knew it all, but apparently, I was so wrong.

Valposchiavo is a perfect place to visit – whether you visit for the first time or are a regular Switzerland visitor (or even a Swiss resident). I am sure it will get busier eventually, and it will not be s hidden gem forever, so I recommend visiting as long as it isn’t crowded yet!

October was the perfect time to visit – the “crowds“ had gone, but most shops and restaurants were still open. Fall presented its best side, and while we never know about the weather (which is unpredictable in Switzerland), even the weather in October was great. If you are looking for a beautiful place to visit in the fall, then Valposchiavo it is!

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