This self guided walking holiday will take you through the southernmost part of Switzerland from the impressive castles of Bellinzona through lively Lugano and on to Mendrisio. You will walk at a leisurely pace and take in amazing views onto the countless lakes and valleys of Ticino, the highlight being the beautiful Lake Lugano.
Day 1: Bellinzona
Arrival at Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino canton. The town is famous for its three castles (Castelgrande, Montebello, Sasso Corbaro) that have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2000. Bellinzona is strategically positioned where the valley narrows at the southern entrance to the Alpine passes and is probably Switzerland’s most Italianate town.
Day 2: Bellinzona – Isone
You start today’s walk with a steep climb to the Cima di Dentro with great views of Piano di Magadino and Lago Maggiore. Take one last look at the castles of Bellinzona before you walk down towards Isone.
- Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, 10 km ↑840 m ↓315 m
Day 3: Isone – Tesserete
First, you walk through the marshes of Gola di Lago and then further on through a sea of ferns in a sparse birch forest towards Bigorio. The Santa Maria Franciscan monastery is perched like an eagle’s nest above Tesserete.
- Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, 11 km ↑525 m ↓740 m
Day 4: Tesserete – Cimadera – Lugano
Early in the morning, a short bus transfer (20 min) will bring you to Cimadera. The walk leads past the Denti della Vecchia rock formations over the Monte Boglia, through beech forests and high plateaux to Monte Bré, a vantage platform high above Lugano. The funicular takes you down to the city centre.
- Walking for the day: 5-6 hours, 13 km ↑1045 m ↓1265 m (incl. cable car)
Day 5: Lugano – Monte San Salvatore – Morcote – Serpiano
The hike from Monte San Salvatore to Vico Morcote is a classic for the whole family. Most of the walk is slightly downhill, woodlands alternating with well-kept villages, pretty grotti and scenic views. From Morcote, you cross Lugano Lake by boat and then by cable car to Serpiano.
- Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, 12 km ↑855 m ↓855 m
Day 6: Serpiano – Meride – Mendrisio
The Monte San Giorgio, also known as the ‘Fossil Mountain’, is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, tackled after a short boat trip. Dinosaur fossils dating back 230-240 million years can be marvelled at in the small museum in Meride.
- Walking for the day: 4 hours, 13 km ↑615 m ↓570 m
Day 7: Departure
Return home or individual stay extension.
Accommodation is in nice 3-star and country hotels, in double or twin private en-suite rooms. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.
Accommodation is on a bed & breakfast basis. Picnic lunches are optional at an additional charge and can be ordered locally. You can have dinner at your hotel or the restaurants in the villages.
Our recommended airports for this holiday are Milan or Zurich.
- By train: 2 hours from either Zurich or Milan to Bellinzona
- Parking: affordable parking close to the Bellinzona rail station, CHF 12 per day.
- Return travel by train from Mendrisio to Bellinzona: approx. 50 minutes, approx. CHF 15 per person
All hotel to hotel luggage transfers (up to 20 kg per person) on walking days are included in your package.
We strongly recommend protecting the cost of your trip and other non-refundable travel expenses with travel insurance. Our Signature Travel Insurance allows you to insure all of your expenses. While a Signature Travel Insurance policy can be purchased at any time, purchasing a policy within 20 days of making your initial trip deposit gives you the widest range of policy options, including a Cancel for Any Reason coverage. For complete peace of mind, we also recommend enrolling with Global Rescue, the worldwide leader in field rescue, evacuation and security extraction services.
Up-to-date travel advice on Switzerland is available here. Italian is the official language of the canton of Ticino, but all the languages used in Switzerland are spoken, and many people speak English. Detailed travel information and hints will be provided in your holiday information pack.
Difficulty Grade: Easy to Moderate / Moderate
This is a rather leisurely walk, but still, sure-footedness and good physical condition are mandatory (read more about difficulty grades).
We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to Go
This trip is available to depart on Saturdays only, from the end of March till mid-October. Departure on other days of the week is possible at an additional cost.
What to Bring
We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing no more than 20 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.
- Good hiking boots with ankle support
- Hiking socks
- Several t-shirts (preferably breathable/fast drying)
- Packable waterproof and windproof jacket / Goretex jacket with hood
- Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
- Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside the accommodation
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
- Hat for sun protection
- Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)
- A sheet or a sleeping bag sheet/liner to use in dormitories
- 6 overnight stays with breakfast in nice 3-star and country hotels
- Luggage transfer on all walking days (one piece of luggage per person, max 20 kg)
- Ticino ticket (includes free public transport, discounts on mountain railways and main tourist attractions)
- Entrance to the castles of Bellinzona
- Entrance to the museum Monte San Giorgio
- Detailed route notes (1 x per room)
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
Supplements and Upgrades
- Single room supplement: available at an extra cost
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; there is a solo traveller supplement as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses such as phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
- Cable car, funicular and boat tickets (approx. CHF 45 per person)
- Any items not specifically mentioned as included in the programme
- Extra charges applicable for Last Minute Bookings
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