The most important historical building in the Lower Engadine is castle Tarasp. It is located on a hill right in the middle of the valley. Due to this exceptional location it is the dominating landmark and visible from many places.
The castle was first mentioned in 1040. From outside it looks like a medieval castle, but inside you find it to be very comfortable (but romantic). The reason is that Karl August Lingner, an entrepreneur from Dresden, bought the castle in 1900 and restored it. He also initiated the construction of an organ in the castle (by Jehmlich, Dresden). Magnificent interior from all over Graubünden and nearby Italy was bought and moved to the castle.
opening hours: June 1 - Oct 15: daily guided tours at 14.30 and 15.30
winter: Tue and Thu 16.30 guided tours
Bus connection hourly to/from Scuol-Tarasp train station.
Tarasp is the only municipality in the Lower Engadine that is located on the southern (right) bank of the Inn river. It consists of a dozen hamlets spread over the plateau above the river and at the foot of the impressive mountains with Fontana being the main place and the castle Tarasp on a hill being the main tourist attraction (building wise) of the region. The place is also a good base for hiking and walking - hourly bus connections to the train station.
Tarasp stayed catholic when the rest of the valley introduced the reformation. Thus a small catholic church was built in Fontana in 1567. The present tower and sacristy (former choir) date from that time. The rest of the present church was built 1674-78. As expected it is more ornate than the protestant churches in the region - altar incl. painting are beautiful Baroque works from 1678. Two side altars are from 1743 - also beautiful.
Most picturesque is the hamlet Sparsels half way up on the way to the castle. An upscale, charming hotel was opened in the typical Engadine style houses there - highly recommended. For the castle see separate tip.
Ftan is yet another village that nestles on a sunny terrace high above the valley floor - elevation is 1650 m. A road winds up to the village from the train station Scuol-Tarasp, a postal bus runs hourly. A chair-lift which links Ftan with the skiing area Motta Naluns makes the village a very good base for alpine skiing/snowboarding in winter but also for hiking in summer.
Ftan is not exactly as picturesque as other villages in the Engadine, think of Guarda, Ardez or Sent (a result of several fires in past centuries). But it has its charm. Especially the part below the church is well preserved and full of typical houses with sgraffito decorations, flower boxes etc.
A specialty is that the actual church and the church's steeple are separated like it is often seen in Italy. The present church dates from 1633/34, the choir is a bit older. It is a simple but nice, typical protestant church. The wooden interior (pulpit, pews, balconies) is from about 1800.
Lavin is a small village about 20 km west of Scuol, close to the Vereina railway tunnel. While being a quite nice place overall it wouldn't be worth to write home about if there wasn't the parish church with the stunning frescos.
The present church was built around the year 1500. It is small, cosy with the wooden ceiling and pews. The choir is totally decorated with frescos of an Upper Italian master, created at about the same time.
Very unusual is how the Holy Trinity is depicted: The Lord has three heads with four eyes, three mouths and three noses (on the ceiling of the choir). This Majestas Domini fresco is surrounded by the Evangelists with their respective symbols. Other scenes are Annunciation, the legend of St. George, the apostles ... all in all totally fascinating.
After reformation the frescos disappeared under white colour - only in the middle of the 20th century they were re-discovered. But the congregation didn't agree to completely uncover them, so it took until 2005 until the frescos could finally see the daylight again.
The church is open all year through 9- 18 h. Free. Guided tours upon request and once weekly (see schedule at www.scuol.ch). As the church is right by the train station it is very easy to reach.
The parish church in Ardez was built 1576/77, the steeple is older, from 1445. The two-nave church's architecture is a mix of late Gothic and early Renaissance style. Balconies are carried by tuscan pillars on the northern and western sides. The pulpit and sacrament's table are from 1577, quite simple works. Quite beautiful are the wooden pews from 1789 (Swiss pine).
The most famous Engadine style house in Ardez is right on the main street, close to the parish church. It is decorated with a stunning fresco depicting the story of Adam and Eve. The house was built 1647
Ardez is another charming village, quite similar to Guarda but not as famous. It is located between Scuol and Guarda. Ardez is somewhat livelier than Guarda and has the advantage of having the train station right by the village. It is full of sgraffito decorated old houses along the cobbled streets, nice fountains etc. I noticed many of the houses were restored recently.
On a nearby hill you are remains of the old castle Steinsberg (ruins). Ardez is also a good starting place for hikes/walks.
Guarda is probably the most beautiful Engadine village. Its location on a sunny terrace about 200 metres above the valley floor allows breathtaking views of the valley and the more than 3000 m tall peaks vis-a-vis. The entire village is like an open-air museum (but alive!). Magnificently decorated (Sgraffiti) houses form wonderful ensembles around well proportioned small square with fountains. Flowers are everywhere.
Most houses were built in the 17th century after a firestorm. Almost all of them are preserved originally. Don't miss to stroll through the cobbled little streets, sit down, watch the locals (and tourists :-)) and enjoy the stunning scenery. See my Accommodation and Restaurant tips as well.
To get to Guarda by public transportation take the train (line Scuol - Pontresina or Scuol - Landquart) to the station which is about 200 m below the village. A small postal bus links the station with the village - arrival/departure times of trains and buses are co-ordinated but the bus doesn't run hourly. So better check the schedule on www.sbb.ch and plug in "Guarda cumün" for the village. "Guarda" alone means the train station.
Sent is another of the charming villages. It nestles on a sunny terrace about 400 metres above the valley floor. Its dominating landmark is the neo-gothic tower of its parish church. Sent was able to preserve many beautiful old houses in local style, decorated with sgraffiti and a specialty called "Senter Giebel" - a Baroque gable. Sent is not overrun with tourists at all - I have no idea why. It is fun to stroll along the cobbled alleys, watch the different sgraffiti decorated houses, the blooming flowers in the gardens, enjoy the stunning views of the mountains vis-a-vis, rest at a bench on a small square with well ... etc.
Sent is about a ten minutes bus ride from Scuol, buses run hourly. Three times a day a bus continues to Hotel Kurhaus Val Sinestra. Plenty of hiking trails start/end in Sent.
A unique, 10 km long ski run far away from lifts leads down to Sent from the skiing area. It is very popular and one of the best (and most scenic) runs I know. I LOVE to ski down to Sent in the afternoon, have a drink in a cafe there and go back by bus to Scuol.
This is the biggest thermal bath in Scuol.
Warm mineral water pools, Sauna, Massages, Light-Therapy, Colours- Therapy.
The core of it is the "Roman-Irish Bath" (Römisch-Irische Bad), that tries to connect two old european thermal cultures in one bath ritual: the old Romans created their therms wkith hot water steam baths, while the old Irish achieved the same goal with baths in warm and dry air.
Here you start with a hot air bath (54 C), and a hotter one (70 C). Then you get a massage, followed by two different steam baths and finally you can completely relax in two pools, one Jacuzzi filled with mineral water and the last one is just mineral water.
The complete cycle is no shorter than 2,5 hours. This treatment costs (2006) CHF 66, ca. Euro 44.
Another street fountain and usual house along the streets of Guarda. The fountains are used by dogs and farm animals who passby. The water from the faucet can be used by humans. Water in Switzerland is safe for drinking from the tap.
Some of the houses in the villages have barns in the basements with cattle, goats and sheep inside. These houses are built on the side of a hill whereby the animals can be taken in and out on the ground level. This farmer allowed us to go inside to watch him hand milk his cows and see his lambs. Milk is taken to the bottom of the mountain for processing in a nearby town.
One rainey day we decided to take the train to Scuol and visit the Tarasp Castle. We learned when we got there the castle was closed. We decided to walk around Scoul but it was Monday and all the stores are closed that day. We had lunch at a sports center and returned on the 10 minute train ride back to Guarda. Remember when traveling around Switzerland on Monday most stores and businesses are not open.
The highest mountains around Guarda are Piz Buin and Piz Silvretta. The Tuoi Hut is a two hour hike from the village. There are also hiking trails along the hillside connecting the villages of the valley. During the winter months the villages are great locations for cross-country skiing. It is fun to hike and ski to a distant village for lunch and then return.
The restaurant opening had music for entertainment . The songs sounded like traditional music played with an accordian and violin. Some of the people started dancing in the street which was difficult due to the cobblestones. It was a lot of fun for we foreigners on visit.