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Located in Graubunden, the easternmost and largest of Switzerland’s cantons, the town of Pontresina is a charm. This picturesque resort town with its excellent hotels is one of the most popular summer destinations in Switzerland.
Nestled in the green lush valley of Engadine, Pontresina offers quintessential alpine views and hosts a laundry list of leisure activities as well as thrilling adventures.
Here are some of out Cultured Kiwi recommended fun things to do in Pontresina in summer and winter:
A Day on the Piste
Of course, one of the top reasons people are drawn to Pontresina it the alpine sports. There is plenty of opportunity for regular ski-ing as well as cross-country. From a base in Pontresina there are three major ski areas:
- St Moritz is the closest to the town and offers ski-ing for all levels of experience as well as snowboarding
- Diavolezza/Lagalp is most appealing to demanding skiers
- Mt Corvatsch has a good range of slopes as well as being able to offer summer skiing.
For cross country skiing, Pontresina is one of the best destinations in Switzerland. The Upper Engadin Valley is crisscrossed by 220 kilometres of ski-ing tracks including the famed Engadine Ski Marathon route. There’s the added attraction of the Cuntschett Trail which is illuminated for night ski-ing between 17:00 and 21:00 each day.
Take a Hike
While there are plenty of regular alpine hikes both summer and winter, there’s nothing quite like a glacier hike. You’re best advised to use a guide for the more adventurous routes such as the Glacier Hike Diavolezza Morteratsch in St Moritz, where the journey takes you to the Morterasch and Pers glaciers.
The adventure begins with a train ride up to Bernina – Diavolezza followed by a gondola ride up to an altitude of nearly 3000 metres. From here the valleys of Bernina provide jaw-dropping views and a fascinating trek across the icy surfaces.
Ride the Rails
A fun way to see the beauty of the mountains is to take an alpine train. The Bernina Mountain Railway runs through the Bernina Pass between St Moritz and Tirano in Italy. The route passes through Pontresina, crosses the Landwasser Viaduct, and through Chur, with 25 stops in total along the route.
With an elevation of 2253 meters at its highest point, 196 bridges, and 55 tunnels, the views are stupendous, and the train is a wonderful way to experience the iconic alpine scenery of Switzerland. The highest rail pass in Europe provides fabulous photo opportunities for posting on Facebook and Instagram.
Have Dinner in the Sky
There are some specifically Swiss dishes that must be tried when in the country on holiday and there is probably nowhere finer than the Diavolezza Berghaus Restaurant to try rosti. The fried cake of grated potato comes with a side order of spectacular views courtesy of an elevation of 3000 meters.
After a buffet lunch, you can visit the viewing deck for a close-up view of glaciers with icefalls, crevasses and moraines, as well as a panorama of peaks of the Bernina Massif. Diavolezza is near to St Moritz, a scenic 40-minute drive or bus ride from Pontresina.
Go Straight to the Top
The views of Swiss mountains are always better the higher up you go, so if you fancy a climb, the Diavolezza is calling. Suitable for novices and the more experienced, here you can do Via Ferrata climbing, a method in which the climber is secured to a cable that is permanently fixed to the mountain, limiting the risk of slips and falls.
Via Ferrata routes open up areas that inexperienced climbers and hikers would not otherwise have access to. Climb the 2973 metres of Diavolezza to reach the viewing platform and enjoy breath-taking views as you climb.
Enjoy a Relaxing Spa Day at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof
The sublime mountain scenery makes Pontesina a haven for spa and wellness holidays. The town and surroundings are blessed with some top hotel spas and retreats and among the most impressive is the Hotel Kronenhof. Open to non-residents, the 2000 square metres of the Kronenhof spa offers a relaxing pool with stunning views over the mountains, saunas, solarium, Jacuzzi, salt grotto, fitness room, and a full menu of treatments.
Visit Ibex Valley
If you’re in Pontresina in April through June, you have the opportunity to commune with the unique population of Ibex. During spring, the ibex migrate down into the valley from their winter home in Piz Albris. There’s a special hike through Ibex Valley to see and learn more about these mountain goat-like animals. The path runs for one kilometre and is marked by placards providing interesting information about the ibexes.
For other wildlife, the Roseg valley, to the southwest of Pontresina is known for the deer that inhabit its forest and trails.
Take an Hour in Pontresina’s Museum
When you have an hour to kill between some time on the slopes or before your next mountain adventure, the Museum Alpin is a little delight.
In a tour that can last from 20 minutes to an hour, you can walk around an old Engadiner house to learn about the population, mining, hunting, and wildlife of this region. You can see how people lived from the original furniture, fittings, and other ethnographical ephemera, and can also learn about the development of tourism in and around Pontresina.
Do Some Sightseeing
You aren’t restricted to mountain scenery when it comes to sightseeing. The towns of the Graubunden canton all have their charms and attractions:
Pontresina – the mountain town is known for its traditional Swiss ambience created by traditional Engadine stone houses with their decorative facades and its stylish Bell Epoque hotels. Must-visit attractions are the medieval wall paintings of the Burial Church of Santa Maria and the ruins of the Spaniola Castle, a Swiss heritage site of national significance.
Chur – known as the Gateway to the Alpine Passes, Chur is also considered to be the oldest city in Switzerland. The Old Town dated back to the 13th Century and its winding streets are car-free. A notable attraction is the Cathedral of the Assumption, a church with three naves. As well as being a stop on the Bernina Railway, Chur has the Brambrüesch aerial cableway which takes visitors to a plateau with winter ski slopes, hiking trails, and of course, stunning panoramic vistas to admire.
St Moritz – a name synonymous with alpine luxury, St Moritz is just 5 miles from Pontresina. A mecca for winter sports, the pistes of Corviglia, Diavolezza and Corvatsch are superb. It has the Cresta Run (bobsled) and an outdoor ice rink. The town’s frozen lake plays host to cricket, polo and horse racing. Beyond the sports, the town is home to beautiful boutiques and also the Segantini Museum, a celebration of the Italian artist.
Pontresina is a stunning place for a holiday in Switzerland at any time of year. The beauty and history of the town and the surrounding environs are a fitting backdrop for a holiday of adventures on the slopes, mountains, trails, and winding streets. A quintessential Swiss alpine paradise.
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!