Monday, April 20, 2015

A solo traveller’s guide to St. Moritz, Switzerland

Over 150 years ago, Engadin St. Moritz in Switzerland was already a popular summer destination for travellers from across the world. The Alpine valley today attracts cricketers, artists, surfers, golfers, vintage car owners and enthusiasts for international events that take place in the Engadin Valley. 

But St. Moritz and the Engadin also has a lot to offer to adventure enthusiasts during the summer months and budget travellers. 

Bathing in Engadin’s mountain lakes: The string of lakes scattered along the wide valley from Maloja to St. Moritz provides perhaps the most defining image of the Engadin. You can explore the beautiful, deep-blue Engadin lakes on one of the scenic lake hikes or a leisurely stroll.  In the summer, even the mountain lakes warm up to a pleasant 20 °C (68°F) for a good swim. Well-equipped with picnic areas, barbecue sites and children's playground, they are particularly ideal for families. 

Tandem hang-gliding flights: Take in the breathtaking panorama of the majestic Alpine range while you are up in the air at a height of 2,486 metres over the Engadin lake plateau. The landscape is beautiful! 

Equestrian sports: Discover picturesque side valleys on horseback, following mule trails through aromatic coniferous forests and across flower-filled alpine meadows. Engadin St. Moritz offers a wide range of chamring bridle paths and professionally managed riding stables for experienced equestrians with or without their own horse, as well as for less proficient riders who simply want to explore the valley from a different perspective.

Water sports: The superb condition on idyllic Lake Silvaplana at 1,800 metres is no more a secret among windsurfing, sailing and kite surfing fanatics. Although participation in the Engadin Wind Surf Marathon is open to everyone, the crème-de-la-crème of surfers also gathers here. If you are here to relax then simply hire a boat on Lake Silvaplana or Lake Sils or crossing Lake Sils with Europe’s highest regular ship service.

What and where to eat?
Mountain dining: Visit one of its mountain restaurants for a 360-degree view of the Alps. Visit Mouttas Muragl (at 2,500 meters) to get a spectacular view of just about all the peaks, valleys and lakes of the region and dine at the Romantik Hotel, a Plus Energy hotel built up in the mountains that overlooks the gorgeous panorama. Berghaus Diavolezza (3000 meters) treats guests to a fine selection of first-class regional and international specialties. Yes, it even serves up an Indian thaali. Guests can also take a dip in the highest jacuzzi built on the sun terrace of the mountain restaurant. 

Where to stay?
If you are looking for a comfortable luxury stay then try The Badrutt’s Palace and The Kulm Hotel that have hosted guests for over 150 years. Other famous hotels are the Waldhaus am See (also houses the largest whiskey collection in Europe), The Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, The Carlton and Survetta House.  

St. Moritz is not just a destination for the rich and famous but hosts many solo tavellers here for hiking, camping and budget travel. Budget travellers can stay at the St. Moritz youth hostel or one of the holiday apartments. A special 'Mountain Railways Included' offer allows guests staying for over 2 nights at 100 participating hotels to enjoy complimentary travel on 13 cable cars, funiculars and chairlifts in Engadin St. Moritz. (Validity: 1 May - 31 October, 2015)

With a 'Summer Special' for holiday apartments, that feeling of complete freedom is now also available at special rates, with the mountain railways and public transport in the holiday apartment offers.

Local specialties: The delicious Nusstorte has its origins in the Fuatscha grassa, a round, buttery cake that most Engadin families used to enjoy on a Sunday. Engadin walnut cakes of all sizes are available from the confectioneries of Hanselmann and Hauser in St. Moritz.

You must try the traditional dish called the Pizzoccheri, often mixed with vegetables (especially savoy cabbage, spinach and Swiss chard), topped with grated cheese, and sprinkled with melted butter. Certainly no dish for anyone on a diet – but a wonderful treat for the taste buds!

The barley soup is a must try as well. Anyone who degrades this wholesome soup to a starter will have learned their lesson after just a few spoonfuls. For the barley, kidney beans, pieces of 'Bündnerfleisch' cured meat and large quantity of vegetables that go into making it will curb their hunger for quite some time.

How to get there?
Without doubt one of the most beautiful train rides of all is the Rhaetian Railway’s Albula and Bernina lines. In summer 2008 they were jointly named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Rhaetian Railways will take you through many breathtaking locations and landscapes. One can also take the Glacier Express from Chur to St. Moritz as the train carves its way through deep gorges, tunnels and rolling grasslands. The PostBuses can take you on a fascinating discovery to various villages and towns in and around the Engadin Valley.

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