Sonnenaufgang Piz Languard: Julia Wunsch / @wunschengel im Engadin


Between peaks and pleasure: Hiking in the Engadine

The Engadine was calling – and I had to go. More precisely, to hike – on the Via Engadiana and up Piz Languard, between wild flower meadows, rugged mountain peaks and through fragrant larch forests. Follow me on a little journey through a beautiful landscape, deeply hidden in the canton of Grisons…

Wanderung Muottas Muragl: Panoramablick / @naturallymichaela
On the way to Muottas Muragl

A journey through time to a small paradise

The Rhaetian Railway takes us to our starting point – Bever, a small town in the Upper Engadine. We, that is Larisa, Michaela and I – we are on the road for Engadin Tourism for the next few days. The journey there alone is pure joy – with the windows open, my hair flutters in the wind as wild rivers and picturesque villages rush past me. And it continues that way – we check-in at the Hotel Chesa Salis, a 430-year-old jewel, which is lovingly restored and our home for the next night. Can I move in here, please? The floor of the wooden loggia that belongs to my room creaks invitingly under my feet, the warm afternoon sun floods through the large windows through which I can see into the extensive garden. Oh how I would love to lie down on the divan now and just…BE.

One time summer scent to go, please!

But the first hike is calling, stage 4 of the Via Engiadina from Bever to Zuoz. 11 kilometres lie ahead of us and on small paths we will reach our destination in shallow ups and downs. Once again I wish I could capture smells and take them home with me – the scent of the resinous conifers, for example, or the fresh, damp smell by the next river, a welcome cooling from the summer sun. After many cows and even more flowers, we finally arrive in Zuoz, where a short walk through the small, historic alleys finally leads us to the train station – and back to Bever.

The Via Engiadina, the Engadine High Trail, stretches in 12 stages from Maloja in the Upper Engadine to Vinadi in the Lower Engadine. Flowery meadows, beautiful panoramic views, old villages and impressive mountain peaks line the path and are more than worth the tour in its entire length or just on parts of it. And by the way, you also walk past the former Heidi scenery. More about the Via Engiadina and other hiking options on the Engadin Tourism website, all stages in detail including altitude profiles can be found on this website by Switzerland Tourism.

The part that we hiked was 11km long and had an elevation of approx. 530m up and 490m down. With a loot of photo stops it took us 3h 45min to arrive in Zuoz.

A dinner in prison

For our dinner something very special is planned – we are visiting the Dorta Restaurant, the foundations of which date back to the 11th century.

Restaurant Dorta - Tschliner Ziegenkäse auf warmen Quinoa, Saisonsalat, Vinaigrette und Nüsse
Tschlin goat cheese on warm quinoa, seasonal salad, vinaigrette and nuts - my starter at Dorta.

With great attention to detail, countless small rooms that once belonged to a stable, barn or residential house have been converted into a restaurant here. A leather slide even leads into an old dungeon – today you can enjoy local specialities such as capuns or pizokels here, illuminated only by candlelight. If you are looking for a special place for dinner, this is definitely the right address!

A breezy ascent and a difficult evening

The next day welcomes us with bright sunshine. After a delicious breakfast, we set off in the direction of Alp Languard at 2600 metres – while we conquer the first few metres by gondola, we soon face the real ascent – on foot, of course. Slowly the path winds its way up the mountain, shallow at first, then steeper and steeper. The air is noticeably thinner here, but the breaks come in handy anyway – the panorama is wide and spectacular. Down in the valley the Morteratsch glacier shines, up above crowned by the gleaming white Piz Palü, Piz Bernina and Piz Morteratsch (in the picture) at the national border. 

Aufstieg Piz Languard: Aussicht Piz Morteratsch
The mighty Piz Morteratsch

After arriving at Chamanna Georgy at 3175 metres, the sky and the mood soon darken. A small hailstorm makes us flee inside – and me to bed. Despite all preparations, the thin altitude air has caught up with me and laid me flat. Three hours pass with nausea, headaches and chills – until suddenly, from one moment to the next, everything disappears as quickly as the clouds above our heads. Relieved, I sink into bed, because tomorrow the sunrise on the peak behind the house is coming up – and I don’t want to miss it under any circumstances.

Altitude sickness is caused by a reduced oxygen content in the air and the parallel drop in air pressure and can set in individually already at 2000m. From 3000m, 30% of mountain climbers are affected. The body needs time to adapt to these changed circumstances, so when ascending to higher altitudes, plan for intermediate stops with overnight stays and drink plenty of fluids. If the problems intensify (e.g. very severe headache, vomiting or coughing), descend immediately – the condition can be life-threatening. The first signs must therefore be taken seriously. More information here.

Bathing in pastel shades

The alarm clock rings at 4.30 the next morning. Sleepily I rub my eyes, which don’t really want to stay open. The night was not really restful at this altitude, but I know exactly what will wake me up immediately. I slip on my shoes and spin around the corner of the hut – and sure enough, the first dawn is already caressing the horizon. That works better than any coffee!

In a few minutes I have grabbed my backpack with cameras, put on all my warm clothes and my hiking boots and am on my way to the summit. Panting, because I still feel the altitude and also the 13kg on my back. But the excitement is more powerful… When I finally reach the top I don’t know where to look first. The full moon, just bathing in pastel shades above a mighty glacier? Or the endless peaks that spread out before me in the first golden tones like an oversized 3D map? Hours pass and even when the gold has gone, I can hardly tear myself away.

A visit to a special kind of throne

After breakfast, one last visit is scheduled – to Helmut’s throne aka the local plum toilet. Because at this altitude there is no running water, that’s the way it works up here. Food and drinking water are flown in by helicopter and are therefore particularly valuable. I’m already looking forward to the shower that awaits me in the afternoon. But first a stony path leads us back down the mountain and then in a traverse of about 9 km to Muottas Muragl, the funicular that will take us down to the valley. In the depths I can already see the blue lakes around St. Moritz glistening, into which I would love to jump straight in!

A truly crowning finale

When we finally check in at the last place of our trip, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, the contrast could hardly be greater. A gigantic bed invites me to rest, fresh fruit tickles my palate and my feet relax wonderfully in the hotel’s own spa. In the newly designed hotel lobby, we are pampered with fresh fruit juices (Goji Mule!) and the evening meal leaves nothing to be desired. In the building, historical murals are skilfully married with modern, cosy furnishings. I close my eyes for a moment and see young ladies in opulent gowns gliding through the stately rooms, accompanied by delicate harp music… I would love to travel back in time for a day. But after a (finally!) restful night, I’m already on another journey – home. Engadin, you are beautiful! I’ll be back, for sure.

Disclaimer: This article is part of a paid collaboration with Engadin Tourism. However, it fully describes my own impressions and feelings.

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