Hidden gem – St Moritz without the glitz – walking in the beautiful Engadine
The Engadine, the 'valley of the Inn people', is a high valley of contrasts, and home to one of Switzerland's national parks. In the Upper Engadine between Maloja and St Moritz at around 1800m, several large lakes almost fill the valley floor, while the snow-peaks of the Bernina Alps rise nearby, and shapely mountains like Piz Palü, Bellavista, Piz Roseg and Piz Bernia spawn glaciers that hang like frozen cascades. In the Lower Engadine, which runs northeastward and gradually loses altitude between Chinos-chel and Martina, the valley narrows. Through this region the River Inn squeezes through tight gorges, wild and foaming in cataracts on its journey northeast to join the Danube.
In his guide Walks in the Engadine, Kev Reynolds has selected more than 100 of his favourite routes that not only reveal breathtaking views, but take the walker into secretive inner glens and onto remote alp pastures bypassed by the 21st century.
The scope of the area covered in his guide is huge, ranging from the southern approach through the Val Bregaglia, throughout the Upper Engadine valley area in the lakes region and around to the Val Bernina, and finally the Lower Engadine, both in the north eastern area and the national park. The walks in the guide are mostly relatively short outings ranging from lakeside paths to full day routes which may be either circular, or point to point using the excellent public transport and lift systems in the area. There are also a few multi day routes in the high mountains staying overnight in a mountain hut.
Author Kev Reynolds enchants you with this promise; 'graceful Piz Bernina, glacier-hung Piz Palü, the bold granite form of Piz Badile – these form part of the backdrop. But there are other peaks too that the modest walker can climb, and snow-free passes that link one enchanting valley to another.'
Following an extended debilitating illness, we were looking for an alpine destination with an abundance of relatively short walks, plenty of mechanical assistance should it be needed, and opportunities for fantastic alpine experiences and views within the reach of someone recovering their strength and fitness. Kev Reynolds recommended that we stay in Pontresina, and explore from there. It was to be a different kind of alpine holiday, but we all had a ball, and the joy on our daughter's face to be out in the mountains again was fantastic. The only disappointment was that there was still plenty of snow lying at mid altitudes in June that year, so some of our picnic spots were decidedly unwelcoming!
what is so special about this region and the book?
The answer is that you have a perfect mixture of walking and mountain challenges to suit everyone, and many of the routes an be enjoyed either as full routes by the fitter members of a party, or aided by the many lift and transport options if energy or time is short. It's also worth knowing that most accommodation providers give guests unlimited lift passes for the duration of your visit.
Access is usually from Zürich, although you can also fly to Milan and drive up through the Val Bregaglia.