As I went home to Switzerland during the pandemic, I decided I wanted to explore some areas that I only went to when I was a kid. Lower Engadine was one of them. I visited when I was very little, but the only memories I have are those that I have been repeated over and over. So what better way than using the Thanksgiving break to go on a quick 4-day adventure?
Lower Engadine (or Basse Engadine in French), is located on the very Eastern part of Switzerland, in the Canton Graubünden (Grisons). It is mostly mountains and extraordinary ski opportunities but also small towns and gorgeous landscapes. Lower Engadine is one of the very few regions in Switzerland where people still speak “Romanche”, which is one of the 4 national languages of Switzerland, along with German, French and Italian.
DAY 1 and 2
Drive time to Flims from Lausanne was 3.5 hours. If you are coming from Geneva, add 45 minutes and from Zürich, it should only take you 1.5 hour.
We stopped in Einsiedeln, in the Canton of Schwytz to split the drive to have lunch (yes, you will notice that this itinerary revolves mostly around making sure there is time to eat). Einsiedeln is famous for its abbey. If you enjoy visiting religious sites, Einsiedeln is a great stop. The abbey is absolutely gorgeous. You can walk around and visit the horse stables or if you are in the mood for a digestive walk, you can walk up the hill behind the abbey and see it from a vantage point.
You are now only 1.5 hour from Flims.
In Flims, we stayed at the Hide Flims Hotel. The rooms are fantastic with a balcony facing the village and mountains in the background (of course). It has a couple of restaurants, a lovely bar area (it is actually the entrance of a small movie theater) and a Spa with sauna and hammam. Due to Covid, restaurants options were pretty limited, so we chose to eat at the hotel restaurant, which serves Mediterranean food. We thought it was alright but wouldn’t recommend putting it at the top of your list if you have other options.
On the following day, we ate dinner at an Italian restaurant, about 10 minute walking distance from the hotel. The Pomodoro restaurant is part of the Waldhaus Flims Wellness hotel and the food was absolutely delicious.
On our first day in Flims, we drove to Crestasee. In the wintertime, it is easy to find spots in the parking lot closest to the lake (just drive past the first couple of parking lots and follow the signs to Crestasee), but I heard that it gets very busy in the summer, so you may want to go earlier in the morning during that time.
From the parking lot there is a 15-minute walk to the lake. Once there, you will be welcomed by a lake with the clearest water, surrounded by pine trees and mountains. I could continue describing it but I think the pictures below speak for themselves.
From Crestasee, you can hike up to the lookout point Il Spir, or the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. It will take you about 45 minutes to 1 hour to get there. It is not a steep hike but rather, a walk on man made paths for the most part with a bit of incline at the end.
Since the hike to the Il Spir platform wasn’t too bad, we decided to still check out Caumasee on the way back to the hotel. It is a quick 10-minute drive outside of the village. There again, there is a parking lot. It is rather small so I am not sure how busy it gets in the summer but I would definitely check on options nearby or walk from the village instead of driving.
From there you can walk down to the lake. Which is what we thought… We ended up walking all the way to the lake, however, once down there, we realized that there is an elevator that will bring you up and down. I guess it is better we realized that before having to climb back up to the parking lot!
The next day, we left after breakfast, direction Scuol. On the way to Scuol, we made a quick stop in Chur (Coire in French). I do not think it is a must see but Chur is the capital of Canton Graubünden and as a swiss citizen, I wanted to see it at least once in my life.
After wandering around the city of Chur for an hour or two, we continued our Lower Engadine road trip, direction Scuol.
DAY 4 and 5
After visiting the castle, we drove west, to the last step of our little Lower Engadine road trip: Sils Maria. On the way there we stopped at the famous and fancy ski resort St. Moritz. We were hungry so decided to stop for a quick bite and walk in town.
It was during the pandemic and way past lunch time (Switzerland does not typically have restaurants open all day), so we didn’t have a lot of options. But we found a hotel restaurants where we ate a delicious Flamenkuch.
My opinion, unless you are looking to ski in a very expensive resort and buy luxury items (Valentino, Cartier, Dior,…) continue straight to Sils Maria, just 15 minutes away.
Sils Maria is located near a lake named after it. It is a very small town but the walk to the lake is a must. The view of the mountains in the background offer the most perfect reflection on the lake.
We stayed at the Hotel Cervo for one night and it was absolutely lovely. It is a modern day chalet style with most of the decor in wood. If you walk all the way up the stairs, there is a lounge area with a fire place and access to the terrace with sun beds. They do not have a hotel bar, however, you can order a bottle of wine and bring it upstairs to the lounge, which is what we did and it was lovely.
We ended the trip with a quick walk around town and by the lake before heading back home.
I didn’t know the region very well and overall I found it beautiful. I think a lot of people who visit Switzerland often focus on central Switzerland with Mount Pilatus, Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken but if you want to try somewhere less touristy, Lower Engadine should definitely be added to your list.