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Friday, July 07, 2006

Rambles in the Engadin: Picturesque Romansch villages, wild valleys, and a fairy tale castle

The Lower Engadin Valley in Switzerland provides us with secluded valleys, traditional mountain hamlets, and scenic high meadows. We enjoy pleasant hiking through a variety of landscapes and explore the ancient Romansch culture.

This adventure tour leads us on gentle rambles in a sunny valley. It is an easy hike for all abilities. This is the way travel should be ... a real vacation.

Vulpera

We stay in a very unique villa in the village of Vulpera - near Scuol. This fairy tale castle is overflowing with warm atmosphere and the loving hospitality of its owner. It is the perfect base for our exploratory rambles throughout the Lower Engadin Valley.

Day 1 - Engadin sgraffiti and wildflowers

We take an easy hike to Ardez, a village full of superb examples of Lower Engadin architecture and sgraffiti. We ramble about for a while, hunting down fanciful creatures scattered throughout the village.

Taking up the trail to Guarda, we enjoy a wonderful walk through meadows that are masses of wildflowers. On a natural hillside terrace, Guarda is a village where it feels like time has stood still. Sturdy stone-walled houses with large arched doorways and deeply-set windows face each other across a cobbled square with a tinkling fountain.

Day 2 - A picnic feast in the wild Fuorcla Champatsch

We take the gondola up to Motta Naluns to start today's excursion into a high, desolate moor-like landscape set amongst walls of rock. We hike up through boulder fields to the Fuorcla Champatsch, a saddle from which we can look down into the forested Val Laver. Here in this wild, barren land amongst jagged, black peaks we enjoy a picnic feast.

Day 3 - Small mountain hamlet and a romantic wild valley

A short PTT bus ride takes us to the tiny, picturesque hamlet of S-charl - about a dozen houses ranged around a small square, a fountain, and a church dating back to the 12th century. We head into the Val Sesvenna, a wild, empty valley that rises to a notch in the mountains on the Italian border. The Fuorcla Sesvenna provides us with a peaceful setting for today's gourmet picnic lunch.

Day 4 - The Roman-Irish baths

We spend a quiet day closer to home - poking around the castle at Tarasp, refreshing ourselves in the Roman-Irish baths at Scuol, and sampling the Engadiner specialty - Nusstorte, a hearty nut cake that we can find at a small pastizeria in Ftan.

Day 5 - Into the quiet Val Mora and on to Santa Maria

We take the bus to Pass dal Fuorn and enjoy a thoroughly pleasant hiking experience through a quiet valley. In the Val Mora, we see only an occasional alp and partake of a sumptuous picnic in the splendor of nature. We descend via the narrow Val Vau to Santa Maria im Münstertal.
These two tiny valleys receive relatively few visitors and their gentle terrain makes for pleasant walking.

Day 6 - Cosy Berghaus in Val Sinestra

A PTT bus takes us into the quiet Val Sinestra to an intimate and cosy Berghaus where we enjoy a varied and imaginative menu. An easy hike takes us to the pretty hamlet of Vna with its long view across the Engadin Valley to the mountains of the National Park. We return to the Berghaus for a wonderful afternoon tea and classical music.

Day 7 - Farmer's breakfast and Alp Laret

We return to Motta Naluns to enjoy a hearty Bauernfrühstück (farmer's breakfast). A wonderful hike takes us across beautiful high meadows to Alp Laret. Fantastic, long views of the mountains across the Engadin Valley amaze us on this path. After refreshments and a chance to sample their cheese, we follow an easy trail down to Ftan-Grond.


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