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Pontresina: "Off the Beaten Path"

On our last trip to Switzerland, we spent 3 nights in Pontresina (Sep.16-19, 2022) after reading Pat's trip report, as well as positive comments on the area by Lola, Laura, and Rolandp954, and RS' guidebook on Switzerland. It was a convenient stop between Varenna on Lake Como and Lauterbrunnen, our destination after Pontresina.
We had previously spent 3 very crowded weeks in Italy. We were ready to trade the heat and humidity and crowds for the trails and natural beauty of Switzerland.
Husband and I boarded the train in Varenna, an hour before the transportation strike began that day. We changed to the SBB regional train in Tirana, stopped for a very scenic lunch at Alp Grüm, which was possible because we were not on the Bernina Express train.
Arrival in Pontresina: We got off at the Surovas' "stop and demand" train station (thanks, Pat); and after a short walk, arrived at the Chesa Mulin Hotel (discount for seniors), conveniently located near the COOP, bakery, and bus stop. The small valley town is at the 6,000 ft. elevation, surrounded by mountains. We immediately set out for a walk to check out the town; that is, after digging out our jackets from the bottom of our suitcases. A cold front had just moved in, so we purchased a ski hat for my husband from one several outdoor sport stores. One thing we noticed was the lack of stand-alone restaurants; most are connected to individual hotels.
A HUGE benefit of staying in Pontresina is the Engadine card given to us to use for the duration of our stay. The card entitled us to free transportation on trains, buses, lifts, and funiculars in the area.
Our first full day was cloudy, so we chose to take the train to the Morteratsch stop, and walk the 2-mile paved path to the foot of the glacier. There are numerous signs along the path marking where the glacier had been decades ago. There were families with young children, even a couple of bicyclists on the trail. The hardest part of the walk was the freezing temperatures that day, especially as we got closer to the foot of the glacier (The Engadine card would have also allowed us to get off at another stop and take the lifts to an overlook at the top of the glacier), but we wanted to get back and have something warm to drink and eat at the bakery close to our hotel.
Weather was slightly better the next day, so we rode the bus to Punt Muragl, then walked to the funicular which goes up to Muottas Muragl (8,105 ft). The view was spectacular at the top (clouds gave way to sunshine), but our goal was to hike the trail to Alp Languard, a distance of about 4 miles. I need to mention here that we are in our late 70s, so we weren't sure if the trail was "doable" for us. However, we observed people who "looked close to our age" beginning the hike. So off we went...equipped with our trekking poles.

It was a fairly easy hike; not much elevation gain or loss...and lots of "WOW" views, which we could appreciate because we are slow, but steady hikers. In the distance, you could see lakes, and the towns of St. Moritz and Samedon, and the surrounding mountains.
And...our reward at the end of our hike: Lunch on the deck of the restaurant at Alp Languard, while looking at the gorgeous scenery in the distance: The snow-capped mountains and valleys. That is my idea to a perfect end to a day of hiking!
The best thing about this hike: The trail ends at the ski-lift which takes you down to Pontresina...and a short walk back to our hotel.
Our Engadine card/pass entitled us to other mountain lifts, one close to St. Moritz, but since it was Sunday, buses didn't run as frequently as other days, so we decided we didn't want to chance not being able to return to Pontresina by evening. But if we return, I'd like to take advantage of other destinations using the card.

Posted by
16914 posts

Nice report, Carol. Would you recommend the Chesa Mulin hotel?

Posted by
11368 posts

We also had a wonderful visit to Pontresina and highly recommend this charming town for a stay. The folk design painted buildings are beautiful. Our hotel was La Collina which we enjoyed.

Posted by
11491 posts

Uh-oh, the secret is out! We enjoyed a week in Pontresina in 2018 and reflecting on that we have already booked a week there in 2024. We did not take the hike to Alp Languard in 2018 so it is high in the list for next year. So happy to hear it was “doable.”

Thanks for your excellent report!

Posted by
2856 posts

Hi Carol. Sounds like you had a fabulous few days in our favorite country, Switzerland. 😊 I’m glad you were able to return and experience a new area. I want to go back so bad but I’m trying to convince myself that I need to visit some other countries first.

Posted by
648 posts

Lola: Chesa Mulin hotel: Yes, if we went back to Pontresina, we would stay there again. Location is great...IF you use the Surovas "stop and demand" train station, if coming by train. We had a higher floor so the view from our room looked out over several rooftops as well as the mountains in the distance. One unusual feature about the room is the rectangular glass between the bathroom and the rest of the room, such that if someone is taking a shower, you can see their head.

Laurel: sigh I know. I felt compelled to write a report on Pontresina because it was so refreshing to be on the uncrowded trail to Alp Languard, with people dressed sensibly for the trails. No one carried a Gucci handbag or wore a Hermes scarf, like we saw later on the trails in the Lauterbrunnen area (Forgive me; it was my pet peeve in tourist-filled mountain trails). I am in awe that you have already booked a week in the area. May I ask if it is a private rental? As I mentioned, restaurants are in short supply, so finding somewhere to eat dinner took more effort.

Hi Carrie: Yes, when we left Italy, traveling through the the mountains of Switzerland, I felt like I could "breathe and renew my soul." The wonderful thing about Switzerland is it borders so many countries, so it is easy to "add on" to your trip. Since COVID, I feel more certain that I want to spend the majority of time outdoors, and not in buildings. In fact, our first trip to Switzerland was after a river cruise which ended in Budapest. From there, we flew to Geneva with another couple, and spent a week in Switzerland. That trip ended in Paris!

Posted by
11491 posts

We rented the same apartment we had in 2018, across the river from Surovas. One can eat in the hotel restaurants, but reservations are a good idea. We ate in two during our prior week there, but cooked most evenings since lunches are always out while hiking.

I cannot say I noticed Gucci bags or Hermes scarves on the trail in Lauterbrunnen, but more than a few tulle skirts with lugged sole boots!