By Noura Khan
Special to The Times Kuwait
Graubünden, the largest of 26 cantons, or federated states, that make up the Swiss Confederation, is arguably the most beautiful region in Switzerland. Located in eastern Switzerland, Graubünden is known for its dramatic Alpine scenery, charming old towns and villages, as well as exciting winter sports. Both, St. Moritz, the upscale resort town where the wealthy vacation, and Davos, where world leaders and decision-makers gather for their annual World Economic Forum, are in Graubünden.
Despite its fame and its bountiful natural beauty, this region is not familiar to many people in Gulf countries. When visiting Switzerland, most of us prefer to visit the usual cities of Geneva, Zurich, Lucerne and Interlaken. However, a visit to Switzerland without touring Graubünden is a missed opportunity to experience the Swiss Alpine environment in its finest elements that combine ancient history and alluring natural beauty.
Graubünden is located near the Alps, so visitors can enjoy a lot of outdoor activities or participate in a variety of winter sports as there are several ski runs, outdoor ice rinks and ski jumping. Incidentally, the region was also host to the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948. Forests cover a fifth of the region’s total area and consists of mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes that offer rejuvenating nature-hiking trips.
Graubünden is home to the longest toboggan run in the whole of Switzerland, with the length of this run being more than three kilometers. The region also encompasses the resort village of Vals, and the Vals Valley, which is one of the main areas for enjoying thermal baths and the source of the sparkling Valser water. The valley also has Bronze Age archeological finds that attest to human habitation in the area since ancient times. In addition, Graubünden contains a wide range of hotels, hotel apartments and Michelin-starred restaurants, which makes it an ideal destination for us as GCC nationals.
Earlier I had seen images of the railway bridge known as Landwasser Viaduct as a background image on computer screens, as well as in images posted by travelers on their social media accounts. This was one reason why I wanted to visit the city of Davos in the Graubünden region, and I made the city my first stop on my trip to Switzerland last year.
Others may seek to see and enjoy scenes of waterfalls and blue lakes, and the picturesque nature, which undoubtedly abounds everywhere in Switzerland, but as a person interested in history and heritage, the Landwasser Viaduct was on my list of priorities when visiting Switzerland. It is a tall, curved single-track railway viaduct with six arches made of limestone that spans the Landwasser River in Graubünden, Switzerland, and is considered one of the highest bridges in the Alps. The bridge leads directly into the Landwasser Tunnel at one end. Built between 1901 and1903, the famous Glacier Express with its panorama cars that offer majestic views of the surrounding landscape crosses the bridge daily, and is a scene I had always dreamed of experiencing.
Lovers of railway history can find their dream destination in Switzerland, which is home to both the Glacier Express and Bernina Express. Railway fans such as me can enjoy a number of different experiences and trips ranging from UNESCO World Heritage sites, steam trains, luxury Pullman cars and scenic open carriages, and luxury dining cars, during a trip to Switzerland and Graubünden.
As mentioned earlier, Davos is also located in Graubünden The city is one of the most famous Swiss cities as the world’s rich and powerful gather here for their annual confab, the World Economic Forum. The city is also considered one of the most famous tourist cities in Switzerland, due to the presence of winter resorts for lovers of winter sports.
There are many other tourist places in Graubünden with shopping venues lined with international brands, many restaurants and cafes, and some of the best entertainment and leisure areas in Switzerland. The closest major city to Graubünden is Zurich, with several flights and trains running directly to and from Zurich. Chur is the capital of Graubünden and also its largest city.
I arrived in Davos by train from Zurich, at the kind invitation of the Graubünden Tourist Board. The weather was very cold, contrary to my expectations. My trip was in August, and I was bringing summer clothes with me, but the temperature reached 10 degrees! I had to buy winter clothes from there.
Our stay at the Hard Rock Hotel was special because of the wonderful services and evening parties that the hotel provides. The highlight of the hotel is the indoor sauna which is a great retreat after a long cold day in the Alps. I stayed in Davos for three nights and did not feel satisfied, as there were many places that time did not allow me to visit. If you plan to visit Davos, do not miss visiting Davos Lake, and practicing various types of water sports in it, you have to rent a boat to enjoy the beauty of the lake.
After our visit to Davos, we went to St. Moritz, which is another major city in the same region, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Swiss cities and characterized by the abundance of its winter resorts and sports. The city of St. Moritz is near Lake Geneva, overlooking the Alps from the western end of the city. The people here largely speak German and it is one of the largest tourist attractions in Switzerland, as it attracts tourists and sports enthusiasts throughout the year from around the world.
One of the places I loved in St. Moritz was the city’s Lake Moritz, a prominent landmark of the city and one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland, but also one of the smallest lakes in the Engelden Valley. On both sides of the lake there are several famous hotels, restaurants and cafes, and snow-polo matches are held on the lake every year.
St.Moritz is a haven for shoppers, with nearly all international brands found along one street, and you will see types of luxury cars that are difficult to see in other places. This city is the place that the rich people of the world go to to enjoy their vacation and engage in luxury shopping. The rich and famous who want physiotherapy and relaxation always come to St. Moritz, and of course their main destination is the St. Moritz Center for Physiotherapy. At the Center visitors get to bathe in the crystal clear mineral waters from the Heilbat Springs, which are located on the highest elevations in St. Moritz, and whose waters are reputed to provide healing from several diseases.
While in St. Moritz, do not miss the fun of a horse-drawn carriage ride along the Hahnensee, and to go for hikes down walking paths through beautiful forests. St. Moritz is called the Top of the World City as it sits 1,800 meters above sea level, and is one of the most prominent Swiss cities that attract tourists throughout the year, summer and winter, as the sun shines for more than 300 days during the year.
Noura Khan, a travel influencer and content creator, is a Kuwaiti national, holds a degree in law from Kuwait University and has worked as a journalist prior to taking up a position in the government. In 2018 she started blogging on travel and has visited more than 57 countries since. She has more than 54K followers and her blog post @nourajtraveller is well appreciated for content and travel information. Noura writes exclusively for The Times Kuwait on her travel visits.