Switzerland's year-round appeal

Graubünden may be famed for its winter sports resorts, but it is a destination for all seasons, discovers Anthony Lambert
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The Independent Travel

St Moritz is so well known throughout the world that it is a protected brand name in its own right, Davos is regularly in the news as the meeting place of the world's leading economists, and Klosters is the favoured skiing resort of royalty and the royally rich. The canton in which they lie is Switzerland's largest but also its least densely populated, home to the country's only national park and its fourth language, Romansch.

Almost entirely covered by mountains, Graubünden's landscapes can be best enjoyed from the windows of a PostBus or a narrow gauge train on the Rhaetian Railway, the network that links the principal towns. By the time the trains' ski racks are empty, walking boots and poles have replaced them, and for those in search of utter solitude, there are many mountain huts for hikers a day's walk from the upper station of cable-car routes or near the watershed of side valleys.

The canton's rivers are popular for canoeing and white-water rafting, particularly the River Inn through the Engadine and the Vorderrhein near Flims and Laax to the west of the cantonal capital at Chur. The most sensational part of the Vorderrhein is the Flims gorge, where off-white cliffs rise almost vertically above the river, the rock contorted into bizarre shapes. The network of 29 cable-cars and chairlifts built to serve the skiing resorts of Flims, Laax and Falera is of equal value to walkers. They provide access to 155m of signposted trails and 143m of bike routes. The same is true of the other ski resorts of St Moritz, Pontresina, Davos and Klosters, which all offer easy access to the heights above.

Davos has the highest funicular in the country, a unique double-deck car to Weissfluhjoch, from where another cable-car goes up to the top of the Weissfluh at 9,331ft. There are over 434m of hiking paths around Davos, and the higher paths can be reached by this and two other mountain railways free of charge, thanks to a new "Davos Inclusive" offer introduced this summer. It also covers the Rhaetian Railway as far as Klosters.

Klosters is one of 27 Swiss resorts which have the 'Families Welcome' accreditation, and this extends to a great summer sports programme. Among the activities on offer is a recently revived way of descending mountains: the 'Trottinet' is a scooter with powerful brakes and BMX tyres for freewheeling down traffic-free roads or tracks. Davos too has plenty of summer sports: swimming, skating on the open-air ice ring, golf and tennis, squash and badminton.

Further south, the Engadine valley has been branded 'Heidiland' by the tourist office in St Moritz because one of many film versions of Johanna Spyri's book was filmed in the Upper Engadine. In fact, the novelist set the story around Chur, but the choice of the Engadine reflected the unspoilt character of the valley. The art of sgraffito - painted decoration on buildings and doorways - is still practised in the valley, and its villages have a timeless air.

There is nothing timeless about St Moritz in the Upper Engadine, which instigated both winter tourism and sport and has remained a chic resort, reflected in occasional auctions aimed at the platinum card and Forbes set. Its 'dry, sparkling champagne climate' allows its inhabitants to boast that they see the sun on an average of 322 days in the year, and its lovely setting around a lake is also a year-round benefit - in winter its frozen surface is pounded by horses racing.

For tourist information about the canton contact Graubünden Vacation (00 41 81 254 24 24; www.graubuenden.ch/welcome), Davos (00 41 81 415 21 21; www.davos.ch), Flims, Laax and Falera (00 41 81 920 92 00; www.alpenarena.ch), Klosters (00 41 81 410 20 20; www.klosters.ch), Pontresina (00 41 81 838 83 00; www.pontresina.ch), St Moritz (00 41 81 837 33 33; www.stmoritz.ch). For Rhaetian Railways contact Rhätische Bahn ( www.rhb.ch).

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