Sils-Maria : Sep 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th
Where we stayed:
“Hotel Seraina” via da Marias 37, www.hotel-seraina.ch/
5N, CHF 1660 including half board (CHF332PN ) room with balcony (not the cheapest option in this hotel). This was the most expensive of our stays per night; I was not ready to try a FeWo (wanted half board). Nice to have a holiday without the grocery shopping/ meal prep this time and husband likes to ‘mingle’ with people.
This hotel also offered the ‘free mountain railway and transport card’ which was useful for our various cablecar rides (3 cablecar rides would have cost CHF 84 each) and bus trips. Our spacious room had a mountain view, 2 tub chairs, table and more seating, very modern bathroom, underfloor heating, a heated towel rack (easy to dry our hand washed clothes). Overall, a wonderful splurge. Recommended.
On rental apartments: (This was an option I considered, www.en.e-domizil.ch/vacation-home/225563/holiday-apartment-chesa-alvatern-5-sils-maria-upper-engadine-engadine-switzerland/ or the ‘Chesa Munteratsch’ apartment, Silvaplana, or in Bever www.kubusre.ch/ferienw ohnungen-bever/ and I think we will try something like this on a future trip but instead based in the lower Engadin - read melnq8 ‘s TR’s on Fodor’s)
Sils was recommended on Tripadvisor by Hambagahle and Ingo in several postings, great choice (grateful thanks!) because, oh my, did I love Sils Maria!
Elevation 1800m in the valley! Sils population 700. Situated between lakes, at base of mountains, cablecars nearby, a few shops and museums, on bus route, charming houses, town is off main road so is quiet, entrance to Fex valley, perfectly sited for our 4 full days of excursions. Sils Maria is so well connected with public transport, is a gorgeous village, has lovely hotels, yet few tourists compared to Bernese Oberland. So it is very peaceful and gentle and calm, without tour groups and crowds.
Many hotels offer a guest pass, often for local transport and/ or cablecars,-
Check which hotels participate www.engadin.stmoritz.c h/sommer/en/bergbahnen -inclusive/ There is a city tax which funds these passes.
Bus information: www.engadinbus.ch/buss top/SilsSegl_Maria_Pos ta.php
Interactive trail map here:
Tripadvisor Engadin forum was invaluable (read lots of responses from Engadiner, Ingo, Hambagahle, swandav, melnq8).
What we did:
Our first afternoon, lovely glimpses of peaks, and some sun! Itching to explore this gorgeous area, we wandered to Sils Baselgia, lovely buildings, river, church, and soaring mountains sweeping up from the valley. Followed a path to the Chaste Peninsula with all the walkers enjoying the sun. Incredible. Had a beer in the Grond cafe (thanks hambagahle), checked out their menu, we will definitely be regulars.
Half board dinner...way too much food, soup, pork, spaetzle, brussels sprouts, we declined cheese plate/ dessert. Chatted to our neighbouring tables, my German getting better by the day. Then went for a brisk walk in the cold light rain, so refreshing after a heavy meal...got back to our room, to look out balcony and….snowing! Hooray. Could the day get any better?
The kids back home had been to grandma’s for dinner, and she sent them home with a lasagne and a cake, as well - hubby reckons they’re getting half board too.
Overcast in the morning, but forecast shows sun mid morning. Our hotel is right by the Sils Maria Posta bus stop, so jumped on the bus (free with pass) to Silvaplana (8 minute ride), what a bus ride..road wedged between mountain and lake, soaring mountains both sides of valley, pure joy, then walked toward the Schloss Crap da Sass, so picturesquely sited by the lake. Early morning calm waters, snow on mountains, blue sky. Perfect.
Walked up to Corvatschbahn (free with pass) for an amazing cablecar ride to Murtel, over pine trees, then snow covered pine trees, then above tree line, with a lake and mountain panorama that is unbelievable. Lots of snow up on Corvatsch, so a few photo ops, before back to Murtel station, again, a lot of snow, so no chance for us to walk to Fuorcla Surlej. Never mind, we returned by bus to Sils Maria and had pizzocheri for lunch at Grond cafe, a hearty regional dish, quite rich and sustaining. We sat in the sun, enjoying the moment.
Took a walking trail that lead us along a gorge, very pretty, a waterfall and a few switchbacks uphill, then enters the Val Fex. Again, so lovely. It’s such a peaceful place, and such stunning beauty at every turn.
Coffee and nusstorte back at Grond cafe, to celebrate.
Tonight’s dinner was more controlled, we make our choices at breakfast for dinner that night, so we shared a salad (fresh fig, raspberries, green salad, feta..really nice combination), both had the duck breast, pasta, beans (excellent), shared a mousse dessert. Waiter seemed concerned we chose so little (!) or maybe he thought we misunderstood the ordering system. No way could we eat the full meal. Chatting to our fellow diners, all European.
The bus was late! We could sense the agitation at the stop. Despite best efforts of the driver, he was unable to make up the time and we missed our connecting train (hourly), so had an unplanned look at St Moritz, nice location with a lake and mountains, but busy with a lot of ugly buildings. No charm. So happy in Sils Maria.
Decided to just have a slow day after a late start and the missed train, so did the Morteratsch glacier walk. An easy 50 minute walk, but we were enjoying ourselves with lots of stops to watch the changing pattern of sun and cloud playing on the mountains, and a nusstorte break. A wonderful walk, interesting facts on posts en route, spectacular sight, we could see and hear occasional rockfalls as we sat and marvelled at the glacier.
Our returning train to St Moritz was filled with tour groups, so glad we don’t travel this way. No improvisation, no spontaneity.
I have added photos of the information boards at the Sils Maria Posta stop, just to highlight how easy it all is with public transport. The announcements forewarn of stops and connections.
Had a mid afternoon bowl of gesternsuppe (barley soup) on a sunny terrace as we missed lunch.
I sit in my hotel room writing my diary, sun pouring in, mountain view right there. Incredible.
Went for a walk pre dinner, admiring the charming homes, the now fading flowerboxes, the elderly going for their evening stroll, the gentle late afternoon light on the mountains, and boy, was it fresh….that breeze is icy. Winters must be ferocious here.
Tonight was the first time we regretted half board and not opting out… luckily due to being lost in translation we both received soup as a starter, as main was pizzocheri (yep, had that yesterday) too cheesy and rich, and neither of us felt like it, had not ordered anything after but was served a cheese plate and a dessert, so we picked at those until we were sated. So all ok in the end. But we could have just ordered off restaurant menu.
Today was a bucket list item for me...day trip to Soglio
As most mornings, our surrounding mountains start the day hidden under cloud, then slowly reveal themselves throughout the day. They tease us.
We took the bus that heads to Chiavenna, needing to change in Promontogno (free with hotel pass).
Quite grim and windy, really cold. Our bus filled with older walkers. Once past Maloja, the hairpin road is really dramatic, something out of Top Gear. Amazing driving skills. Wonderful valley views, and the full sized bus nearly takes out the windboxed geraniums on its’ way through the narrow lanes of these little hamlets. Vicosoprano looks lovely. The devastating landslides near Promotogno evident as we pass through.
Arrival at Soglio is via the mini bus that takes us back up a mountain. What a village. Stone houses, barns, meadows, on a mountain, surrounded by mountains. A step back in time. Very picturesque. Oh, but living here in winter, can’t imagine.
We wandered in a few different directions, a number of hiking options possible from here. We had an excellent lunch at Palazzo Salis (2x lamb bratwurst, cabbage salad, fried potatoes, Aperol spritz, beer, 2 coffees 67CHF), and visited their garden terrace. See
www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/trip-report-bregaglia-valley-soglio for useful tips.
Back in Sils Maria...snow! Wonderful.
A group at our hotel are cousins (from Germany and Switzerland) who meet here every year for their catch up, what a fabulous tradition. We compared our days, they were happy we had such a fantastic day. Funny how we get joy out of other people’s delight.
We thought the 6 lakes walk from Furtschellas might be tricky, given the snow line we could see from the bus, and the helpful TI confirmed this. So we walked to Isola, a tiny farming hamlet, then on to Maloja, took about 2 hours. Just stunning, as the trail follows the lake and occasionally offers elevated views, the mountains and lake constantly in sight.
Checked the bus timetable at Maloja Posta stop, so we had a clear idea of timing. Then sat in the sun terrace of the Schweizerhaus, as they were bbq-ing bratwurst and hubby was lured in. Delicious lunch for me was a rösti, egg, bacon, very calorific and scrumptious (2 meals and drinks, 68 CHF)
TI informed us of damage to the Bernina train track, 2 days to repair, so our planned regional train ride will need to be changed to a shuttle bus instead, Pontresina to Poschiavo. Disappointing as it is one of the world’s great train rides.
What we didn’t do: Original plan...was to visit the Lower Engadin..and fortunately I was very gently steered away from my over ambitious plan (thanks, Engadiner, for reminding me to enjoy the beauty at my doorstep, rather than trying to squeeze too much in).
Another trip with a Scuol base might be in the future, and of course, a return to Sils Maria, which I felt enormously sad on leaving.
5 nights was too little (only 4 full days) for upper Engadin, much of interest to us in the area…lots of walks and charming towns in this area. But we achieved a fabulous ‘taster’ visit of the region.
Leaving Switzerland - Bernina route:
Even though we were diverted from this route, it is worth noting that it is not necessary to do Bernina Express, the regional train covers same route, more often and you can alight where you like, eg an hour between trains so stop at Ospizio Bernina and just walk around that lake a bit, or stop at Alp Grüm for lunch, or Poschiavo. Don’t have to whizz through. Some of the best advice we read: slow down and enjoy it.
(leaving Sils: usual route would be bus to St Moritz, train to Tirano ½ fare= CHF20, what an incredible fare for one of the most scenic journeys in the world!), it will have to go back on my bucket list.
After some thought, I reconsidered our route and returned to the TI to see if they could confirm if the Palm Express via Maloja and Chiavenna, might be a better option for us, given the problems with the train line. Fortunately, the once a day bus had availability, and we were booked (22 CHF each, half fare). A much simpler journey of a single 2 hour bus ride to Gera Lario on Lake Como, near our next bnb, where our hosts would pick us up.
And a stunning bus ride it was, after the repeat ride to Promotogno, which we did en route to Soglio the other day (hairpin roads, lovely villages, steep mountains), the bus continued on to Chiavenna in Italy where we had a short break. I bolted into the old town, for a quick look. A substantial town, looked interesting.