Best Things to Do in Valposchiavo (a Stunning Hidden Gem)
Have you ever considered visiting Valposchiavo in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland?
If you haven’t, you should seriously add it to your bucket list because this place is beyond beautiful and it has become one of my most favorite areas in the world. Seriously, as a regular Switzerland visitor, I am used to spectacular sceneries, but what I saw here was beyond all my expectations.
Find out why Valposchiavo should be on your Switzerland itinerary and why it is Switzerland´s best kept secret – 5 reasons to visit Valposchiavo.
Travel Guide Valposchiavo – Important Travel Information
Location – How to Get to Poschiavo (Valposchiavo)
Valposchiavo is located in the canton of Graubünden, close to the Italian border. Its remote location might be the reason it hasn’t become one of the most popular tourists spots in Switzerland; given its natural beauty, there cannot be any other reason.
It is, however, easily accessible via train (main 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 Posciavo is via Zurich, so when you plan your Switzerland itinerary, you could plan your trip for a few days after visiting Zurich.
Where to Stay in Valposchiavo
I would suggest making Poschiavo your base when visiting the region. From there, it is easy to hop on a train and explore the rest of this gorgeous area.
P.S. If you stay in Poschiavo for two days, train rides are free for Valposchiavo (more on it later).
How Long to Stay in Valposchiavo
I think you could explore Valposchiavo for weeks without getting bored, but I stayed three nights. I found so many beautiful places and got so many great impressions that I recommend staying for at least two nights.
Also, 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.
Where to Eat in Valposchiavo – 100% Valposchiavo
If you visit Valposchiavo, you will realize that there are restaurants that offer 100% locally-sourced Valposchiavo ingredients. I love the idea of having dishes with ingredients only from the region. It is fresher, with less chemicals, and it‘s better for the environment, so I would keep a 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.
In Switzerland, there are four official languages. Valposchiavo is located in the mostly German-speaking canton of Graubünden, however, in Valposchiavo, Italian is the main language, though the locals actually speak another regional language at home – which is why the places have so many different names.
For us visitors, this comes in handy because many locals speak Italian, German, and (some) basic English.
Top Things to Do in Valposchiavo
Hike to One of the Most Beautiful Places in Switzerland
Ozpizio Bernina – Lago Bianco – Sassal Masone – Alp Grüm
This hike is probably the best hike I have ever taken, and 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.
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 an extremely scenic train ride that gives you a great first impression of the municipality of Valposchiavo.
This is train riding at its best in Switzerland – passing Alp Grüm and Lake Palü, as well as Lago Bianco. The train ride is free with the Valposchiavo All Inclusive Guest Card. (If you are lucky, you can even open windows and take great pictures. I say lucky because that’s only if you don’t sit with people in a train who complain about 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.
Lago Bianco, a whitish lake in a rough mountain area, will welcome you right at the train station. And if you like, you could have your first snack at the guest houses at the station, or just sit next to the lake and immerse yourself in the beauty.
Lake Bianco 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.
While I saw many heading to Alp Grüm directly, I truly, truly, truly recommend 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 slowly head towards Sassal Masone. The hike to Sassal Masone is not difficult, though it is uphill.
It probably took me about 60 minutes (but I did not rush) from the train station to the top of the Sassal Masone mountain.
I was very lucky 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 water color, 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), and while I did not get to spend time at the lake, I assume it is very fresh, but also very cold.
So, though it is not the best place to take a dip, it is surely great to 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 and will make it on my list of the best places to see in Switzerland.
I have visited Switzerland often and extensively, and so I can say that I am used to amazing scenery.
I know what Switzerland looks like and there is a reason why it has become my favorite travel destination.
However, I had no idea. Never ever did I expect such a view in Vaposchiavo – the glacier, the lake, and the whole scenery.
There is a Refugio that wasn’t open at the time of my visit (starting in October), but the stonehouse looked really beautiful, 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.
Plan in enough time for a break. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would have planned in 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 (as I did 🙂
The hike doesn’t end here – you could either hike the same way back to get to Ospizio Bernina or you could hike down the other way (behind the little stone houses, well signed) and arrive at Alp Grüm (My tip: take the downhill hike because it is beautiful, as you have great views of Palü Lake and Palü Glacier).
Alp Grüm is a train station (if you got to Ozpizio Bernina from Poschiavo by train you have passed it on your way), but also a good place to have lunch/coffee as there is a restaurant there that comes with a view.
I was short on time and after that “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god“ moment up at Sassal Masone, my head was still going crazy.
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 did not end up going to the lake, but if you are planning your itinerary, I suggest adding one or two hours to walk down to Palü Lake and spend time there.
I really have to make sure to add this to my “Most beautiful places in Switzerland” post as it definitely belongs there.
Cavaglia Glacier Garden
From Alp Grüm, you could hop on the train and go to 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 but I don’t really recommend it, as it was quite steep at times and honestly not that spectacular. Also, before I got into the hiking mood, I really thought downhill hikes were easier, but I guess if it they are steep enough, they might actually be the opposite.
If you have the energy, go for the hike, but you will not miss out on much if you take the train.
Hiking down takes about 60-70 minutes. After passing the train station, you head to the glacier garden, which is free to enter.
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 glacier with water flowing and it took us some time to actually find a hole that was not “empty.“ While the “empty holes” also look very interesting, this one if probably the highlight. And doesn’t it also look like a heart? It seems Valposchiavo is a very romantic place!
There are signs, but as it wasn’t only me but many people feeling a bit lost, we were starting to wonder if the water was actually flowing at that time of the year.
Good news: Yes, it does and it looks great once you find it, so don’t give up immediately and stroll the whole area before using the stairs on the other side of the entrance to find the main attraction.
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 are water fountains at the Caviglia Glacier Garden (the only one that I can remember during that hike).
If the weather forecast predicts rain or clouds for the morning, you could do this part first because it is nice, too (and keep the view from Sassal Masone for the clear and sunny part of the day).
Poschiavo, the valley’s capital, is a small village with a very cute market square and picturesque buildings.
Admittedly, it is not very big and strolling Poschiavo (also known as Borgo) will not take your forever, but it is still worth it.
The market square, the Piazza Comunale, and its few buildings should be on your list. This includes the Hotel Albrici and La Tor (the stone tower where witch trials were discussed. Not it tip: is now used as a city hall).
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 that were 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.
The other part of the museum is the Palazzo de Bassus-Mengottii, where you can learn a lot about Valposchiavo´s history.
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 4-5 hours if you visit both the museum and the church.
More Activities in Valposchiavo
Hike to One of Switzerland’s Most Beautiful Lakes – Lago di Saoseo
Sfazu – Alp Camp – Lago di Saoseo – Lagh di Val Viola
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.
To get to this lake, you can travel via a Postauto from Poschiavo station to Sfazu/Fermata station (about a 15-minute bus ride).
This ticket is included in your Valposchiavo All Inclusive Guest Card, and from there, you can either start your hike or take another Postauto to bring you to Alp Camp.
If you decide to take the Postauto, you have to pay for the drive (around 12CHF, one-way) 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 little Postauto to get up and then hike down.
Hiking up to Alp Camp should take about 90 minutes (an easy uphill/downhill hike), and hiking down later takes about one hour. This gives you more flexibility because the minibus doesn’t run often. The way to and from is great – the path is good 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.
At Alp Camp, there is a little restaurant. From Alp Camp (either via bus or hike), you can continue to either Lagh da Saoseo (Lago di Saoseao) or Lagh di Val Viola (Lago di Val Viola).
Lagh da Saoseo (Lago di Saoseao)
While most headed to Lago di Val Viola first, I decided to start the hike at Lago di Saoseo. From Alp Camp it takes about 10-15 minutes (downhill hike) and I am not sure that the pictures do the lake justice and I was too curious to see the lake and I was sure it couldn’t keep up with all of my other favorite lakes in Switzerland.
But I was wrong. The lake was prettier than any of the images I had seen had led me to believe, and it was a perfect combination of Lake Carezzo and Blausee.
With the yellowish trees around it, it looks absolutely amazing. 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).
You can bring your own Stand Up Paddle or floating boat and enjoy time on the water.
Valposchiavo was so full of Swiss hidden gems that I was blown away.
Lagh da Val Viola
There are two ways to get to Lagh da Val Viola and I chose the longer one. Signs and the hiking app said it takes a bit more than an hour, but I ended up needing two hours. And people I met along the way also needed about two hours, but it was worth it – despite the narrow path and a lot of up and downs.
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.
The lake looked grayish from afar (even though it was sunny), but the closer I got, the more greenish it looked.
Getting to the lake actually 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 – and though this lake is a beauty, I was still flashed by the Lago di Saoseao.
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 mini bus (required, if you don’t want to hike), you could hike to the place 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.
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.
Valposchiavo is probably a 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.
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. This is a perfect place to visit – whether you visit for the first time or a regular Switzerland visitor. 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 fall, then Valposchiavo it is!
Are you looking for more hidden gems in Switzerland? Then read about my tips for underrated places.
Here is another gorgeous place in Grabünden – click here to find out more.
Disclimer: 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 truly say, that Valposchiavo has stolen my heart. I am happy to come back one day at my own expenses because…well, hopefully the pictures speak for themselves.
Planning a trip to Switzerland in the winter? Then read more about the best winter activities in Switzerland.