Graubünden (the Swiss name for the Grisons) is crowned by St. Moritz but also shelters such fabled resorts as Klosters and Davos. The province covers more than one-sixth of Switzerland and many -- certainly the local residents -- consider it the most beautiful part of the entire country. Its geographic landscape has staggering statistics: 615 lakes, 150 valleys, and 937 mountain peaks.
Bordering it is the dramatically different Ticino, centering around Locarno and Lugano. This is Switzerland with an Italian accent, and the look of the resorts, with their date palms and manicured gardens, is Mediterranean. In its heart, the Ticino belongs to sunny Italy, but German-speaking Switzerland dominates the district politically. However, their culture and language are strictly Italian.
Day 1: Klosters: Prince Charles & Movie People
Begin your trip to the Grisons in the Prattigau Valley resort of Klosters, a favorite retreat for Prince Charles and his sons today, and, in the past, literary figures such as Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Treasure Island here. If you're driving here from Zurich, your gateway city can be Chur, which is 122km (76 miles) southeast of Zurich. Once at Chur, you still have a 29km (18-mile) drive east to arrive at Klosters. If you visit in winter, you've come to ski. But most visitors making these driving tours do so in the summer. In that case, you can spend the rest of the afternoon taking in the mountain beauty of the resort. Both the Madrisa and the Gotschna-Parsenn cable cars will take you to the most scenic points in the mountains, where you can hike through woods and alpine meadows along well-marked trails. Allow at least 4 hours for these treks. Overnight in Klosters.
Days 2 & 3: St. Moritz: The Ne Plus Ultra
On the morning of Day 2, leave early to get some sightseeing time in at Klosters's rival resort, Davos, 11km (7 miles) south of Klosters (many expat writers and artists have preferred Davos to Klosters). Take the cableway to Weissflühgipfel at a height of 2,778m (9,112 ft.) for the best panorama in this part of eastern Switzerland. Transit time is only half an hour.
After returning to your car, continue the drive 80km (50 miles) south of Davos to St. Moritz, where you can check in to a hotel for 2 nights. Although St. Moritz is at its ritzy best in winter, it also attracts summer visitors to the mountain beauty of the Engadine (you've left the Grisons at this point). After lunch in St. Moritz, you can visit the Engadine Museum to view artifacts of the history of the region. Part of the fun of a summer visit is selecting from an array of summer sports that include windsurfing on the lakes, golfing, tennis, hiking, and even fishing. Plan an activity that fits your interest or just spend the day walking around the streets of this posh resort window-shopping (or shopping-shopping, if your budget allows).
If you're into panoramas, you can go to Piz Nair, the highest skiable mountain at 3,251m (10,663 ft.). The trip up takes 30 minutes by funicular to Corviglia. You go the rest of the way by cable car and on foot. Your reward from the terrace of the upper cable-car station is to look down on the Upper Engadine and its lakes, a vast panorama embracing the Bernina Alps.
On the morning of Day 3, while still based in St. Moritz, set out to explore some of the mountain scenery and the satellite towns of Engadine. One of the great drives in the area is to head southwest from St. Moritz, going through the resorts of Silvaplana and Sils-Maria until you reach Maloja Pass at 1,786m (5,858 ft.). Hikers come to Maloja to begin one of the great walks in the Engadine -- or all of Switzerland, for that matter -- going for 14km (8.5 miles) to the resort of Silvaplana, taking about 3 to 3 1/2 hours for this alpine trek. If you'd like something less strenuous, take the 2-hour drive to the Bernina Pass, going 55km (34 miles) between St. Moritz and Tirano in Italy. This is one of the great drives in Europe, possible from June to September. Return to St. Moritz for a final night.
Days 4 & 5: Bellinzona & Locarno
Leave St. Moritz on the morning of Day 4 via the Julierpass, cutting across a broad stretch of southeastern Switzerland's great mountain scenery on your way. Follow the signs to the Passo del S. Bernardino, which you can take south into the Ticino, that Italian-speaking part of southern Switzerland. Your first stop can be in the town of Bellinzona, 152km (94 miles) southwest of St. Moritz. The town has three medieval fortifications. The best views are possible from Schwyz Castle.
After a lunch stopover, press on to the southwest to Locarno, a distance of 22km (14 miles) from Bellinzona. Plan to stay 2 nights in Locarno, a vacation resort opening onto Lake Maggiore. You'll probably arrive too late in the day for much sightseeing, but you can at least explore the main square, piazza Grande, and take a lakeside promenade.
On the morning of Day 5, visit the Santuario della Madonna del Sasso, lying on a wooden crag above the resort in Orselina, where you'll be rewarded with a panoramic view. For a dramatic drive, explore the Gambarogno Riviera, with its evocative Ticinese villages spread across a distance of 11km (6 1/2 miles) stretching to the Italian border. While still based in Locarno, and as part of the same day's activities, drive southwest to the resort of Ascona, a distance of only 4km (2 1/2 miles). You can spend at least 2 hours visiting its Old Town and wandering its narrow streets, checking out the botanical garden on the Isole di Brissago. If time remains, head for the little village of Ronco, lying along the corniche, a distance of 18km (11 miles). A Mediterranean-style village, it's one of the most evocative in the Ticino. Return to Locarno for the night.
Days 6 & 7: Lugano & Morcote
On the morning of Day 6, drive 39km (24 miles) southeast of Locarno to the even larger and more famous waterfront resort of Lugano, which tops even Locarno for natural beauty and architecture. Check in to a hotel for 2 nights. Before lunch, walk around the city park, Parco Civico, which opens onto Lake Lugano. There may even be time to duck into Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli to see its famous frescoes by Bernardino Luini.
In the afternoon, we suggest renting a bike (perhaps from your hotel) and getting a map from the tourist office. Set out to explore the nature reserve of Origlio Lake and the villages of Tesserete and Colla. In all, the 4-hour trips goes for 37km (23 miles) and will give you some real atmosphere of the Ticino landscape. Then return to Locarno.
On the morning of Day 7, drive to the town of Morcote, 11km (7 miles) south of Lugano. We consider this the most idyllic in the Ticino. You can also reach it by a summer boat. Spend at least 2 hours exploring this village and plan on an early lunch at one of its fine restaurants. In the afternoon, head back to Lugano where you can go shopping for Ticino crafts or participate in one of a dozen or so summer activities -- golf, tennis, boating, sailing, swimming, water-skiing, or windsurfing. From Lugano you can make connections the following morning for a long trip back home or else another destination in Switzerland or Europe.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.