My never ending love affair with the Swiss Alps keeps on intensifying with every passing year. Last year it was St. Moritz and I will always remain grateful to my childhood buddy and a world famous mountaineer – Ang Tshering Lama, who had recommended me to pay a visit to this one-of-a-kind Alpine tourist destination. St. Moritz by the way is one of the world’s foremost mountain tourist destinations and has played host to the Winter Olympics twice, which in itself is stupendous. Today St. Moritz is a brand synonymous with everything that is classy and elegant.
Here, in this stunning Swiss mountain city, you will witness dramatic Alpine panorama and gorgeous ski slopes. This incredible city was the brainchild behind the concept of “Winter Olympic Games”, which has over the decades nicely evolved into one of the world’s most prestigious winter sports platforms. What’s more, St. Moritz was the first city where the present day electric tram made its debut. Also, the contemporary “Spa” and “Wellness” phenomenon was first introduced in this Swiss city that dates back to 3000 years, courtesy the highly invigorating baths and mineral springs which St. Moritz is blessed with. So compelling is the charm of this place that it has attracted innumerable world famous film directors to choose St. Moritz as a locale for shooting and one sterling example is the James Bond blockbuster – The Spy Who Loved Me, wherein James Bond is seen elegantly dashing down the stunning ski slopes.
Here, in this vintage Swiss city, I was advised by the local tourist guide to savour one of the world’s most outstanding mountain rail journey operated by Rhaetian Railways. I had previously travelled on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, but in terms of sheer class and high end rail technology, riding on the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express is truly unlike anything else on planet earth. What spurs many visitors to embark on the classic rail journeys from St. Moritz is the fact that the Rhaetian Railways, like India’s very own Darjeeling Himalayan Railways has been conferred with the accolade of World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
As a travel writer, what amazed me was the high degree of “originality” that the Swiss tourist authority stands for in terms of marketing. I was told that the famous sun logo of St. Moritz has been in use for 80 long years and I reckon, this logo must rank amongst the oldest tourism advertising logos anywhere in the world. On a sunny afternoon, I took a leisurely stroll along the Via Serals, which is a lot like Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive. Impeccably maintained art galleries and high end shopping centres abound at the city centre. The Segantini Museum in particular has won worldwide fame for the manner in which it has showcased the Alpine history of St. Moritz. After dinner at Badrutt's Palace Hotel, possibly, the most renowned hotel in the Alps, I ventured inside the St. Moritz Casino and the electrifying ambience, I must confess is pretty infectious.
For outdoor sports aficionados, St. Moritz offers legendary sporting events like the White Turf horse races and Snow Polo World Cup on the icy St. Moritz lake. The snow and mountain topography of St. Moritz is ideal for winter sports and no wonder that this incredible city has played host to as many as five World Ski Championship. First time visitors to St. Moritz would do well to get in touch with Swiss Tourism prior to their departure and check the exact dates of sporting events during the calendar year.
By the way, The Leaning Tower is St. Moritz's most sought after tourist landmark. This outstanding tower dates back to 1570 and at the inception served as the tower of St. Mauritius Church. By 1890, the bells were taken off so as to make it top-light. Till date, this tower has been renovated five times and today it is a lot straighter then what it was at the inception. This incredible tower is all of 33 meters and it tilts to 5.5 degrees. This iconic tower is ideally located to the opposite of the world famous heritage hotel – The Kulm.
When it comes to rejuvenating your senses, can the ancient bathing heritage of St. Moritz be far behind? Let me tell you, the thousand year old mineral springs of this Swiss city achieved stupendous heights, particularly during the Medieval era under the stewardship of Pope Leo X and master rejuvenator – Paracelsus. Make it a point to visit the Forum Paracelsus, located strategically close to the St. Moritz Spa. This is the place from where the concept of “Spa” originated some 3400 years back. Thanks to Swiss ingenuity, one can still savour the antique “Pump Room” dating back to 1866 which has been converted into a museum.
Visitors to St. Moritz are advised to embark on a mind blowing audio tour that offers significant insight to the times immemorial mineral springs that have been an integral part of the Swiss Alps. What is more, visitors are welcome to taste the “holy grail”- Seltzer Water from a cascading fountain. My guide informed me that the venerated Mauritius well dated back to 1411 BC. From the rejuvenating atmosphere of Forum Paracelsus to the futuristic facade of Chiesa Futura is quite amazing. This magnificent work of architecture is the brainchild of the renowned British architect – Norman Foster who has been instrumental in restoring many of St. Moritz’ historic edifices. The Chiesa Futura is a remarkable architectural facade and innovatively designed like an UFO, which is intricately covered with 250, 000 shingles.
No visit to St. Moritz is ever complete without visiting the iconic Olympic stadium which is in close proximity to the world famous Kulm Hotel in the vicinity of the outstanding Kulm Golf Club’s academy. This one-of-a-kind stadium played host to the Olympic Games twice and serves as the torchbearer of St. Moritz’ Olympic legacy. The stadium owes a lot to the legendary Rolf Sachs, who has an intimate connection with this Swiss town as a culture and sports aficionado. Out here in St. Moritz, the mountain biking scene is full of surprises with new biking routes being added every year, thereby attracting the attention of the competitive global mountain biking community. Designer hotels, exclusive biking schools and biking competitions has meant that St. Moritz today ranks as one of the world’s most beautiful biking areas.
Here in the rarefied Alpine reaches, you can rest assured of being offered with every comfort. From tailor-made biking tours to biking hotels, you have every liberty and more importantly ample of time to truly immerse yourself in your biking activity. By the way, the professional manner in which me and my bike were transported upto the high altitude Piz Nair (3,000 meters) through the renowned Swiss mountain cablecar was truly Swiss ingenuity at its best.
The best place for biking is undoubtedly the Upper Engadine region, which offers a plethora of interesting trails and Corviglia in particular is the piece de resistance as far as biking in St. Moritz is concerned. The trails are varied – Foppettas Flow Trail, Corviglia Flow Trails and Olympia Trails have earned worldwide attention as outstanding biking circuits.
The best part of the mountain biking scene in St. Moritz is that most of the trails are family friendly. For an adrenalin pumping biking session, opt for the St. Moritz Railway circuit that will take you on to high altitude Corviglia and Piz Nair and provide you with a stunning plunge of 6,400 meters. On your way up, you can rest for some time, have food and drinks at the exclusive Alto Bar. We meet Luis Navarro and his team of dedicated staff who offered us burgers and delicious Swiss Chorizos, even at such rarefied Alpine elevation. While in St. Moritz try out the classic Bernina Express that takes you all the way up to Poschiavo. Other than that, you might also opt for the Suvretta Loop of the famed Val Bever as also the Trais Flours Tour to Celerina all of which are some of the world’s most amazing biking circuits. I opted for the singletrack that took me high enough from the lakes to marvel at the stupendous mountain panorama.
If you want value for money biking experience, try out the package tours that offer complimentary mountain railways ride. A select few hotels in St. Moritz also offer complimentary railway travel to as many as 13 railways routes, which is inclusive of free bike and gear transport to Corviglia. If you are travelling in the summer season, there is great news awaiting you at St. Moritz, vis-a-vis riding with a local partner. This idea is much preferred by foreign visitors as riding in the company of local bikers makes you feel at home in the alien surroundings and the Swiss by nature are bike-friendly. Herbert Bike is the perfect partner and they have tie-ups with leading hotels in St. Moritz and all you need to do is register yourself a day before your intended biking expedition. They operate Grand Tour of Corviglia every Fridays, Bernia Express Tours on Saturdays and the mesmerising Lake Rides every Sundays.
Apart from the exciting mountain biking trails, how about driving in some of the most spectacular mountain roads on planet earth? Yes, I am talking of Julier Pass, which is at an elevation of 2284 meters and strategically situated on the Albula Alps. Julier Pass is to Switzerland what the Khardungla La Pass is to India. During the Roman era, it used to be referred as “Passo del Giulia” and this serpentine road was built with the sole aim of connecting the valley of Engadin to Graubunden. The road is asphalt-built and has the dubious distinction of being closed without any notice whenever there is excessive snowfall. But on a normal day it is easily driveable. However, if you are driving in the harsh winter months, your vehicle will require Winter Tyres as well as chains in case of extreme snowfall. The dramatic Alpine panorama at the summit where this intimidating Mountain Pass crosses the basins of The Rhine and The Danube rivers, should rank as one of the world’s most spectacular Snow & Mountain vistas. Are you up for the RIDE?
St. Moritz is renowned for its grandiose hotels. One of the most sought after hotel is the Badrutt's Palace Hotel, which is located in the backdrop of ethereal Lake St. Moritz. This iconic hotel has played host to many celebrities and movers & shakers of the world. There is also the outstanding Kulm Hotel that can be bestowed with the accolade of being the pioneer of “Winter Vacations”.
There are innumerable other hotels of lesser repute, but all offer vintage Swiss hospitality and have played a significant role in St. Moritz’ evolution as one of the world’s most outstanding mountain tourist destination.
For further information and reservations, please feel free to get in touch with: St. Moritz Tourist Information.