Van journey – week 3 – chasing the sun in Switzerland

Hi, and thanks for taking the time to read this post. I’m on a road trip through Switzerland at the moment, capturing moments and sharing them back here and through Instagram.

You can view week one here: Going full circle – a campervan adventure into Europe. Week one.

You can view week two here: Going full circle – a campervan adventure into Europe.  Week two – Switzerland.

Now onto week three…

After a few days of Luzerne in the rain, I figured my next move. As both West and South looked wet, I aimed east. There was a place in the far corner on the border with Austria which showed the sun. The area was called Graubünden. 

I did some research, read it was ‘sparse with deep valleys and thick pine forest’. It was also higher up – I hoped this would be better weather so decided to go for it. 

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Two hours later I was in Chur. It was a nice city, dubbed ‘the oldest inhabited city in Switzerland’.  Romansh is a recognised language here and has its roots in Vulgar Latin. As if I wasn’t confused enough…

I had a quick explore before continuing along the Julier pass (2284m) toward the Upper Engadine region. The sun appeared, and there was plenty of stopping for photos. 

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The road then led me to Silvaplana (famous for kitesurfing) and to the resort of Saint Moritz – a holiday playground for the rich and famous.

I didn’t hang around long, instead, I stopped at a small town called Celerina.  It didn’t take long to find a tourist office and, with the help of a lady behind the desk, decide on hiking options. 

There was a lot to choose from and I opted for a hike up to ‘Piz Padella.’ It took about 3 hours up, and the views over the small towns, nestled into the valleys were incredible. 

I met a few friendly local hikers at the summit (2884m), signed the book (most peaks here have these books in which you write your thoughts/wishes/aspirations) before working my way back down to another village and back to my start point.

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Mornings! Just sharing a short video from a #hike I did a few days ago. It doesn’t really do it justice but I hope it gives a sense of the area. Lots of villages line the #Engadin valley here (#SaintMoritz / #Celerina / #pontrasina / #Samedan) making it easy to start in one place, hike over a #mountain, and catch the train / bus back. There’s also lakes to walk round / villages to explore / spend time in St. Moritz. After the rain, I was so happy to be able to hike (2800m) In the sun! Other photos taken are views from the summit / signing the book (all the peaks seem to have these) / views from the villages. I hope you enjoy them and recommended as a place to spend some time. #roadtrip #switzerland #travel #outdoors #nature #vanlife #vanlove #freedom #freedomtoexplore #exploremore #hiking #Camper #campervan #campervanlifestyle #engadinevalley #solotravel #adventure #graubuenden

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To say hiking is easy and well organised here is an understatement.

Even out of season there are routes to do. Trains / buses are still running and tourist info is still open. You just have to be mindful of times. With the weather, I had questioned if this was a good time to be here. But it is – just in a different way to the busy tourist season. 

A few days later I moved east along the valley. 

Stopping at a local shop to pick up food I got chatting to a group of local farmers roasting chestnuts and drinking beers. One of them mentioned a town in the far corner of the country called Scuol.

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I’d not heard of it but read it was ‘a lively town in the Lower Engadine region, with a spa complex well known for its health benefits.’

Three hours later I was there. 

It was quiet and cold, and even though it rained for one day, the views over the surrounding valley as the mist was burnt off by the sun to reveal a church stood on a rock will stay with me forever! 

I could see how it could be lively in season. There are a few bars, restaurants, and a multitude of hikes you can do from the area.

The skiing is supposed to be good in winter, and there’s a spa (bogn engiadina) consisting of a salt-water pool, heated outdoor pool, various jacuzzis, all fed by natural mineral water from the mountains. There’s also a mixed sauna. Swiss rules apply here, and that was quite an experience!

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These were taken early morning, overlooking the old-part of the lively town of #Scuol (pronounced shkwol) as the sun burnt the mist from the valley. Located at the end of the trainline in a (sometimes) sunny valley, this is part of the lower #engadine valley, is beyond the highest-spine of the alps in the far corner of Switzerland, and has a distinct #Romansh culture. The #river here forms the ‘inn’ which flows toward #Innsbruck, eventually becoming the #BlackSea! Quiet, but very very #beautiful. I hoped to stay a few more days but the weather gets very very cold this week, and mountain passes are not good at -10’c. #roadtrip #nature #outdoors #health #lowerengadinevalley #engadinevalley #tourist #vanlife #vanlove #campervan #campervanlifestyle #hiking #exploring #exploremore #peaceful #switzerland #swisstravel #graubünden #travel #adventure #lovenature

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The weather then caught me up and I decided to leave. I could have stayed longer but didn’t fancy driving a mountain pass at -10’C and the forecast was bad for the week.  

I had a quick stop at a garage to check my brakes were ok. They had been grinding (there’s always something) but the garage assured me they were fine and it’s perhaps just a small stone that had got stuck. 

They were actually really helpful guys, didn’t charge me for disrupting their time and gave me a friendly ‘good journey’ as I left.  It’s little moments like that which make me smile when I’m on the road. 

Rather than retracing my steps back through Saint Moritz and the Julier Pass, I looped north and then west along the Flüela Pass which took me through the ski area of Davos and Klosters, and then back to Chur. 

The drive was stunning with a few feet of snow already on the side of the road. Much more dramatic than the Julier Pass and well worth the effort. I was glad I didn’t leave it another day. I wouldn’t have made it across in my campervan!

Being back in Chur gave me the chance to explore more and, following a recommendation from a friendly gardener, I sampled the local food Pizokel (Buckwheat pasta with vegetables).

It was delicious and a nice way to end my time in this region.

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To wrap up this week I’d say this whole area was worth a visit. Perhaps it’s off the usual path for tourists but it’s well recommended and yet another place I would return. 

And now, I head south to the Swiss-Italian region of Ticino…

Top tips

  • Solo travel is great but it’s nice to have others to bounce ideas off. It’s easy to get stuck procrastinating on different ideas.
  • A plan is good and I like to have something to aim for, but flexibility is also key – especially if traveling in the off-season. 
  • There are no French-style ‘camping-aires’ here. Instead, I am using carparks. It’s a bit of a ‘timing-game’ as most are free after 7pm. You just have to make sure you have a ticket that covers the morning.
  • There’s no doubt campervan travel is harder in the wet and cold.  But it’s all about layers and grabbing a shower when you can. Plus, it adds to the adventure. 

 

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