For the first night of our Graubünden cycling holiday, Tanya and I booked a hotel in Wiesen that had a surprisingly good price. Wiesen’s a lovely town with everything you might need, except, as we discovered, a train station. The station named Davos Wiesen is a good 3 km away and down a steep hill. Arriving by train after having already riden from Chur to Thusis, we worked hard to get to Wiesen and thereby earned our well-priced accomodation.

Tanya on the descent from Wiesen.

Our aim for the week was to explore Graubünden, Switzerland’s wildest and largest canton and a jewel of the country’s far east. We did so mostly by bike, and with a fair bit of making it up as we went along. The great thing about staying high on a hillside is that in the morning you have plenty of potential energy to burn. On our second day we set off early to get onto the road to the Albulapass.

Schmitten, Graubünden.
Piz de la Blais, near Albulapass.
Piz Üertsch (3267 m).
The world’s most noble sheep. Near La Punt.
Sunset from Pontresina.

In Pontresina we left the bikes for a day to go take the panoramic railway down to Tirano in Italy, with a side trip up to Diavolezza to see the Bernina Massif up close. I think Piz Palü is among the most beautiful mountains out there, with its three vertical rock bands and impressive glacial flanks.

Piz Palü (3900 m).
Piz Bernina (4049 m).
Bouquetin paintings at Diavolezza.
From Munt Pers (3206 m); looking down the valley to Pontresina and Samedan.
The other way, to Lago Bianco.

From Diavolezza we continued by rail to Tirano, past Lago Bianco and Poschiavo. The train track is incredibly engineered, with lots of switchbacks, tunnels, and at one point a full circle at a constant gradient.

The circular piece of track near Brusio.
Sunset over Lago Bianco.
Train-set trains in Graubünden.

Our next full day of biking was from Zernez, across the Swiss National Park to Santa Maria. The national park (you can say “the” because there is only one in Switzerland) is another world: it is left entirely untouched and is fully protected. As we rode through, there were some rain showers around and some streams were running muddy, but we were lucky and avoided the weather. Just after the park we crossed the Pass del Fuorn, and from there it was downhill to Santa Maria.

The Swiss National Park.
Tanya in the Swiss National Park.

Our biggest day of riding was over the mighty Stelvio pass into Italy. We toiled up to Pass Umbrail, then up the last 3 km to the Stelvio at 2757 m. At the top there was quite a scene, with lots of cyclists, motorbikes, and people trying to sell touristy knickknacks. A giant bird was doing laps overhead — initially we thought it could be an royal eagle hoping to pick off a slower cyclist, but on closer examination it seems it was a bearded vulture. The view from the pass was incredible, with glaciated peaks and the sinew of the road heading down the other side.

A lonely postbus stop at Pass Umbrail.
Tanya arrives at the Stelvio pass.
Stelvio pass views.
Capable steed.
Tanya descending the Italian side of the Stelvio.
Ortler (3905 m) and Cime del Campo (3480 m).
Cime del Campo.

We stayed that evening in Laatsch, which is in Sud Tyrol — German-dialect-speaking Italy. The next day we rode back to Switzerland, and the road happened to pass through Austria, meaning that it was a three country day. We took advantage of the situation and stopped for a schnitzel lunch, and used schnitzel power to get to Scuol.

Relaxing in Scuol after a day’s ride.

The last day of our ride, and of our holiday, took us from Scuol back to Zernez, which closed an amazing loop, in which we rode through and around the national park, over five cols, and through three countries. Graubünden lived up to its reputation for amazing scenery, impressive local food, and more ibex imagery than it’s possible to describe.

Riding out of Scuol.
Graubünden scenery.
October 14, 2018


  1. This is such a great adventure! Shows what you can do with a little schnitzel.

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