Map

Source: Bundesamt für Landestopografie; Drawn with schweizmobilplus.ch

Elevation Profile

Source: Bundesamt für Landestopografie; Drawn with schweizmobilplus.ch

Useful Links

Original Route
Bus Stop
Free Parking
Weather

Short Description

ViaCalanca (Calanca Road) is a one way, two stage route through the Calanca Valley in southern Switzerland. Being situated on the border between Graubünden (still German) and Ticino (The Italian speaking canton), the culture mix is evident, if skewing a bit to the Italian side.

Having been relatively isolated since it was populated thousands of years ago, this valley boasts authentic villages and a rich history hiding in every nook and cranny. You just have to look (it up).

There are numerous opportunities for small detours to visit hillside villages (featuring automated cable cars), which may be the main reason the route is officially split in two stages, though it is a bit on the long side for one day (see Impressions below).

The landscapes, meanwhile, reach from Alpine to Mediterranean and makes this tour as attractive to nature- as to history and culture fans.

Notes

  • Questionable signage. Pay attention and bring a map (don’t rely on GPS or phone reception).

Impressions

As mentioned, ViaCalanca is theoretically a two stage hike, but with a total estimated duration of 7 hours, I didn’t see a reason to not cram this into one day to fit it into my schedule and budget (no hotel room). Apart from the trail being about a 4 hour drive from home, and the last bus back to the starting point setting off around 7pm, that is.

In my hubris and based on past performance, I thought I could surely finish the route in 7 hours, including lunch, and planned to set off at 11.30, giving myself a bit of emergency wiggle room. Well, that may have been a lapse in judgement for a couple of reasons we’ll go into below.

(Very narrow) staircase to the top of the tower
(Very narrow) staircase to the top of the Santa Maria tower

Things started out well. I enjoyed the first and steepest ascent of the route interspersed with ancient stone roads. I loved the view both of- and from Santa Maria in Calanca and the whole atmosphere of the region.

Lunch on the medieval tower was nice too, not in the least because of the entertainment offered by Patrouille Suisse (Swiss version of the Blue Angels), presumably training for some show.

As cool as it was to watch the planes, it meant I spent way too much time on that tower, and was now already running behind schedule, after only about a fourth of the way.

Lesson Learned: Allow for longer breaks while planning. Alternatively: Stay focused.

So onwards…

View of Santa Maria in Calanca
View of Santa Maria in Calanca

Putting on a brisk pace, I still couldn’t help myself taking lots of pictures everywhere, both because I was enjoying my new camera, and because I wasn’t exactly great at handling it yet and needed a few tries to get it right, or just to experiment and see the results later at home.

Nevertheless, I was making headway and was soon on schedule again (just), all the while enjoying both the charming authentic villages, the clean air, the atmosphere, and the wonderful natural beauty left, right and center.

Bridge over the River Calancasca. Also, Arvigo / Funivia.
Bridge over the River Calancasca. Also, Arvigo / Funivia.

Well, after about halfway, the signage started getting a bit less clear and being in a bit of a hurry, I wasn’t paying enough attention. So I soon found myself ascending a hillside on a path that kept looking less and less like a hiking trail. I lost about 25 minutes by the time I got back on track.

I also had to patch up a minor injury because realizing I was on the wrong path put me in even more of a hurry and I slipped.

Lesson Learned: Stay attentive and don’t rush.

Finally, after another dead end and delay getting back to the trail, I had to admit defeat; that I wasn’t going to reach the final village of the route before the last bus was set to leave. So I settled on getting as far as I could and taking the bus from there.

After a valiant but futile effort to make it anyway, that point turned out to be Santa Domenica, an honestly rather unremarkable village about 30 minutes from the finish line.

Lesson learned: You’re not as fit and conditioned as you were before the winter because you didn’t do any long hikes. A.k.a., don’t overestimate yourself.

Despite failing to finish the route properly, despite being annoyed at the signage more than once, and despite contracting a minor booboo (and almost destroying my new camera), I enjoyed this hike immensely. Imagine how enjoyable it would be if you planned well and gave yourself enough time to finish, or if you stayed the night in one of the villages and used the extra time to explore additional ones along- but off the route.

I plan to try again one day soon. If need be, I’ll get up even earlier (argh) to give myself enough time. Maybe I’ll see you there. I highly recommend visiting 🙂


Route Report / Gallery

As mentioned in the post, this is one of my first hikes with my new camera, so obviously any good pictures are a matter of pure luck. Nonetheless, full size images without watermarks are available for licensing to interested parties. Check romans.pictures, or contact me for details.

  • View along the way (Phone)
  • View along the way (Phone)
  • Ancient stone road
  • View along the way
  • View along the way
  • Old stone mill
  • View along the way
  • Castaneda Village
  • Castaneda Village
  • View along the way
  • Santa Maria in Calanca
  • Santa Maria in Calanca
  • Mountains
  • Santa Maria in Calanca
  • Santa Maria in Calanca
  • Santa Maria in Calanca
  • View from Santa Maria in Calanca
  • Old Defensive Tower
  • (Very narrow) staircase to the top of the tower
  • View from the top of the tower
  • View from the top of the tower
  • View from the top of the tower
  • Helicopter
  • Lunch (Phone)
  • Patrouille Suisse putting on a show to elongate my lunch and put me in a bit of a spot later on.
  • Patrouille Suisse putting on a show to elongate my lunch and put me in a bit of a spot later on.
  • Patrouille Suisse putting on a show to elongate my lunch and put me in a bit of a spot later on.
  • Patrouille Suisse putting on a show to elongate my lunch and put me in a bit of a spot later on.
  • Patrouille Suisse putting on a show to elongate my lunch and put me in a bit of a spot later on.
  • View of Santa Maria in Calanca
  • View of Santa Maria in Calanca
  • View along the way
  • View along the way
  • Goats
  • Goats zoomed in a bit
  • View along the way
  • View along the way
  • View along the way
  • View along the way
  • View along the way
  • View along the way
  • View along the way
  • View along the way
  • Molina
  • I haven't quite mastered high dynamic range yet.
  • View from the Molina Dam
  • Smol Bridge
  • Buseno
  • Buseno
  • View along the (wrong) way
  • It was just about here that I realized I'm going the wrong way
  • This may still look like the wrong way, but it's the right one. I quadruple checked.
  • View along the way
  • Bridge over the River Calancasca. Also, Arvigo / Funivia.
  • #Instagramreality
  • Arvigo
  • Arvigo
  • Sora Cran (?)
  • View along the way
  • Another dead end. Took me a while to find the right path, despite the fork only being a few dozen meters back.
  • Selma
  • Yeah, HDR still isn't my friend.
  • Waterfall. Can you see it? ^^
  • ...
  • View along the way
  • Cauco?
  • Did I mention something about HDR yet?
  • Yeah, this is totally artistically on purpose.
  • So is this.
  • Aand this is as far as I got. Santa Domenica, about half an hour from the finish line.

Basic Data

Date of Hike:2021-05-07
Participants:Roman (Solo)
Technical Difficulty:T1: Easy

Stats

Roman’s Version

Km20.6
Net Hours (Est.)7.25
Net Hours (Act.)6.75
Ascent (m)1472
Descent (m)771
Max. Alt. (m)1033
Loop?No
Cable Car?No

“Official” Version

Km22
Net Hours (Est.)7
Ascent (m)1250
Descent (m)520
Max. Alt. (m)1070
Loop?No
Cable Car?No
Share this on Social Media

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.