Allegra, Grüezi and Ciao. Do you fancy two unique adventures in one of the most beautiful regions of the Alps? Do you find strenuous climbs and fast descents fun? Then, the Graubünden Route is absolutely the right choice for you and invites you to discover Switzerland's largest canton on two wheels. On your way, you will meet friendly people who will greet you in Swiss German, Romansh or Italian, depending on the valley.
You will ride through tiny villages that have retained their centuries-old charm with their sgraffito-decorated facades. And last but not least, you will cross alpine passes that tower over 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) and experience breathtaking landscapes in pristine nature, that will keep your legs going up the hilly stages. You will be able to recharge your batteries along the way at the countless mineral springs. You can also stock up on spicy mountain cheese in the villages and relax in the evening with a glass of Graubünden wine.
Both routes start from the capital Chur in the Rhine Valley, a city tour between tradition and modernity. You can reach Chur easily by train and get to the middle of the mountains in no time.
From Chur you will ride along the Rhine as the wild river roars through the east of Switzerland. It's hard to imagine that, 750 miles (1200 kilometers) later, the river flows into the North Sea. The Graubünden route splits in Thusis. The choice is yours: ride up the 2315 meter (7595 feet)-high Albula Pass into the Engadin (tours 2a to 4a) and get to know the Romansh culture or conquer the 2067 meter (6781 feet)-high San Bernardino Pass (tours 2b to 4b) and experience la dolce vita in the Italian-speaking part of Graubünden?
Graubünden is still an insider tip for touring cyclists. The routes are consistently marked "Route 6" and very versatile. The infrastructure is excellent: in many places you will find inns, hotels and campsites. We recommend booking early as the cycling season is short in summer. Grisons is better known as a winter sports resort for a reason: according to a saying, "it has eight months of snow and four months of cold". You should bring warm clothes even in the summer as snowfall can never be completely excluded, especially over 2000 meters (6500 feet). If the weather in the usually sun-blessed Canton turns uncomfortable, you can hop between all the stages by bus or the Rhaetian Railway, the ride on the narrow-gauge railway is also a special experience.
The two routes through Graubünden begin in the capital Chur, which you can easily reach by train. In the largest town in the canton people settled down 13,000 years ago. In addition to numerous historic buildings, Chur is surprisingly urban and modern. A warm and lively little town between the rivers Rhine and Plessur, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Here it pays to arrive one or two days before the tour to get to know the place and its people. If the Churians do not immediately understand you are not alone. Even Luther had a hard time with the local dialect, which he called Churer-Welsch, gibberish.On small roads you cycle out of Chur in the Rhine Valley. Soon the first climb through the forest begins. From the narrow Polenweg you have a great view of the confluence of Vorderrhein and Hinterrhein, which form the Rhine from Reichenau. A wildly roaring stream that flows as a mighty river after more than 1,200 kilometers in Holland in the North Sea.In Rothenbrunnen you can fill your water bottle with ferrous mineral water from the village well. This is where Domleschg, one of the most densely populated areas in Switzerland, begins: The passageway to several Alpine passes had to be well guarded for centuries.Until your stage destination in Thusis you cycle comfortably and usually only slightly uphill past hemp fields and flower meadows and enjoy the unique mountain panorama in the background. In Thusis you can decide: Do you drive across the Albula Pass into the Engadin (tours 2a to 4a) or do you follow the Rhine over the San Bernardino Pass into Ticino (tours 2b to 4b)?
You have decided in Thusis for the trip to the beautiful Engadine. The plateau of the Bündner Inn valley lies at around 1700 meters altitude, which is why you already mastered some meters in altitude right at the beginning. The first bit is a bit exhausting and there is no bicycle lane on the road through the narrow Albula Valley. If you do not like it that way, you can easily cross the stretch by train, for example from Thusis to Tiefencastel.From Tiefencastel the trail leads you steadily uphill. Soon you leave the road and cycle on a good mobile gravel road through the narrow, wild romantic valley. Filisur is the next bigger town along your way. Here you can fortify yourself for the last eight kilometers. If you want to see something very special, then make a short detour into the Landwasser Gorge in Filisur. There, the world-famous Landwasser Viaduct has been spanning the deep ravine for some 120 years in a curve that leads directly into a tunnel. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is an impressive motif.Continue up through the Albula Valley. Shortly before your waypoint, the path becomes a bit steep again. But the ride on the road, which was built adventurously between the rocks, is a great experience. The stage ends in Bergün / Bravuogn. The pretty village is full of typical Engadine houses whose facades are decorated with elaborate sgraffito. But beware: The whole place is prohibited from taking photos. Anyone who violates this must reckon with five francs fine. But the rule is not strictly executed. Interesting - not only for railway fans and traffic engineers - is the Railway Museum about the history of the Rhaetian Railway and the associated economic boom of the Albula Valley.
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Today you can expect a breathtaking ride through a unique mountain world. Between the lush green of the steep meadows and forests, the Rhaetian Railway winds its way through the landscape with its bright red wagons. She accompanies you throughout the day. And because of the many vertical meters you will sometimes look a little jealous of the train.And of course you can also get on the train and cross a few meters, for example to Preda or Spinas. Then you do not experience the Albula Pass, but you roll down the wild and romantic Bevertal to the Engadin.Back to the bike course: You start in Bergün / Bravuogn and it goes first on 14 kilometers about 1,000 meters uphill. The impressive scenery around you makes you forget the effort. On about two-thirds of the ascent, shortly after Preda, you reach one of the most beautiful spots in Switzerland, the blue-green shimmering Palpuogna Lake. Enjoy the idyllic peace amid larches. Because soon you have crossed the tree line and drive in a barren, inhospitable scree landscape until the climax of your journey, the Albula Pass.On the way you will still pass bunkers. They are impressive testimonies of the Swiss military. Finally you did it. You arrived on the 2,315 meter high Albula Pass. Now you have earned yourself a little refreshment at the Gasthaus Albula Hospiz.Then it goes down the small pass road over several kilometers. And again, you will not be amazed by the unforgettable landscape. After a few hairpin bends you reach the village of La Punt-Chamues-ch and have arrived in the Engadin. In many places, Romansh is still spoken here. From now on you follow the Inn Cycle Path to your destination Zernez. On the way it is particularly worthwhile to leave the Inn Cycle Path in Zuoz and to explore the excellently preserved center of the Engadine village.
On the last stage on the Engadine branch of the Graubünden route, new scenic impressions await you again. You follow the still young, wild Inn through the narrow Lower Engadine. Incidentally, Engadine is the Romansh name of the Inn Valley.Start is in Zernez, which is also called "the gateway to the National Park". In the National Park House you can find out about the oldest National Park in Central Europe, which extends east of Zernez to the Italian border. You cycle on tarmac or good mobile dirt roads always near the Inns. The route is always slightly hilly. In Lavin begins the first long climb up to Guarda. The place is a real gem and one of the best preserved villages in the Engadine. Especially the pretty houses with the sgraffito decorations are cut out of a picture book.From Guarda you roll on a scenic lane to Ardez and go to the next slope. At the end of the climb you will reach Ftan. The place was hit several times by avalanches, once even so violently that it was divided into two parts.With a view of Tarasp castle, you will dash down to Scuol, the center of the Lower Engadine. Many cafes and restaurants invite you to take a break here. At the innumerable mineral water sources you can fill up your water bottles. As in a buffet, you can choose between about 20 mineral water sources with and without carbonic acid, with or without iron, sulphate and magnesium.The path continues from Scuol along the Inn. Here, above all, the landscape is the highlight of the route, but also culturally something is offered: In Strada is the small, interesting Stampia printing museum (stamparia.ch).The Graubünden route ends in Martina, on the border with Austria and not far from the Italian border. If you want to go back to Chur, you can take the post bus to Scuol (the bus will take bicycles with you, but you have to reserve a place in advance: postauto.ch/de/ausflugstipps/zernez-martina) and there change to the Rhaetian Railway to Chur. Or did you have the cycling fever and you want to follow the Inn to Passau? No problem: komoot.de/collection/887647/vom-plaetschernden-bach-zum-maechtigen-fluss-der-innradweg
This stage is not very long, but it goes steadily uphill. And in total over 1,000 meters in altitude. The majority of the route you drive on the main road, usually without bicycle lane, but due to the highway, which is hidden under and next to you in the mountain, the traffic is manageable.Immediately after Thusis we enter the infamous Via Mala gorge. Here, the Hinterrhein has dug deep into the mountains and left a breathtaking gorge. Already the Romans used the gorge for the crossing of the Alps with their trageseln. Today you will ride your bike on the approximately eight-kilometer road through the Via Mala. The name means "bad way" and has been called that since the 13th century, because the road deteriorated noticeably and was damaged by floods. An information center on the way informs you about the exciting history of the gorge.From Zillis, the Rhine Valley gets a bit wider and for a few kilometers the trail only climbs slightly. In the village awaits you a surprisingly interesting church with 153 artfully crafted ceiling paintings.You are now at over 1,000 meters and around you are mountain peaks that tower twice as high in the sky. Together with the wild Hinterrhein this results in an extraordinary alpine scenery. Behind the Roflaschlucht it is again tight and it is steep again uphill until you reach a huge reservoir in Sufers. A few flat bike kilometers further awaits you your stage destination Splügen, an idyllic pass village with a well-preserved villagescape. Between Palazzi and Walserhäusern there are some hotels where you can spend the night.
The next breathtaking stage will not be long in coming. Even today, you will experience unique mountain panoramas as you drive to the San Berardino Pass. Overall, you overcome today but significantly less altitude.From Splügen you could also drive to the Splügenpass, an equally important crossing of the Alps, but you continue to follow the Rhine upriver. The first twelve kilometers to Hinterrhein are relatively flat. Then you leave the Rhine behind you and start with the driveway to the pass. The pass road is not too steep, but it goes well uphill for several kilometers, until you have overcome the tree line.Due to the slow pace you can not only leisurely count the many hairpin bends, but especially enjoy the panorama. After every hairpin bend, a different perspective awaits you on the magnificent Rhine Valley.Now you have done it. You arrived at the 2,067 meter high San Bernardino Pass. Enjoy the moment and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Now it's just downhill. Through numerous serpentines you roll into the Misox valley and thus into one of the three Graubünden valleys south of the main Alpine ridge and into the Italian-speaking area. Your stage destination, San Bernardino, awaits you with an interesting mix of houses from different eras. You can also find some hotels in town.
Since you have already crossed the Alps, your calves enjoy the sheer endless descents on the last leg of the Graubünden route to Bellinzona. Just make sure your brakes are okay and that you keep taking breaks to shake your wrists so you do not cramp.Let's go to San Bernardino. You drive as yesterday on the main road, but because of the parallel highway is not too busy. First, it's a short uphill, before you still down the valley over the tree line in countless snaking lines between a breathtaking mountain scenery. Between Pian San Giacomo and Mesocco even on a small side street almost completely without traffic.As you descend hundreds of meters in the narrow valley of the Moësa, you feel like it is getting warmer, almost Mediterranean. Almost without noticing you leave Graubünden. Your stage destination Bellinzona is already in Ticino. It is the only purely Italian-speaking canton in Switzerland and has a unique flair. Like Norwegian fjords, huge lakes are surrounded by high mountains. On the shore you can drink a cappuccino under palms, which you then pay with Swiss francs. Pure holiday feeling.The tour ends at the station of Bellinzona. By train, you're in less than two hours in Zurich. The best way to get to Chur is by using the frequent post bus, which also carries bicycles. But maybe you also want to stay a bit and explore the charming old town with its many palazzi and piazzas. Or you drive across Lake Maggiore to Milano.