Parc Ela is the largest natural park located in the Romansh-speaking part of Graubünden, Switzerland, covering around 600 kilometers2 of stunning landscapes and unique flora and fauna. The park offers a variety of outdoor activities and attractions that appeal to both tourists and locals. Its breathtaking views, crystal-clear lakes, and charming villages make Parc Ela an ideal destination for travelers seeking tranquility and adventure.
Parc Ela is one of Graubünden’s three stunning natural parks, along with Nature Park Beverin and Biosfera Val Müstair. Additionally, the canton of Graubünden is home to the Swiss National Park and a portion of the Sardona Tectonic Arena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With so many activities available in and around the region, you’ll definitely want to add it to your bucket list. For this reason, we will be discussing the 12 best things to do in Parc Ela, Switzerland.
Overview: Parc Ela
Here are some key facts regarding Parc Ela’s Area:
|Park Total Area||659 km2|
|Protected Area||375 km2 (around 57%)|
|Hiking Area (Trails in kilometers)||1,000 km|
|Percentage of Settlement Area||1%|
|Percentage of Unused Area||39%|
|Percentage of Agricultural Area||31%|
|Percentage of Forest Area||27%|
Here are some general key facts regarding Parc Ela1:
- The highest point is Piz Kesch (3,418 meters)
- The lowest point is Solis Bridge (756 meters)
- 6 Municipalities
- 10 Historical Villages: Alvaneu, Alvaschein, Bergün, Brienz, Filisur, Latsch, Riom, Salouf, Stierva, Stugl
- 3 Languages: German, Surmiran (Romansh), Italian
- 3 Mountain Passes: Julier Pass, Septimer Pass, Albula Pass
Best Things to Do in Parc Ela, Switzerland
No matter what you are looking for, Parc Ela has something for everyone. It is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, encompassing a variety of activities suitable for every taste and skill level. Whether you are looking for a peaceful hike, an adrenaline-pumping adventure, a charming village, or a train ride, you will find it in Switzerland’s largest nature park.
Here are 12 of the best things to do in Parc Ela, Switzerland:
1. Ride the Scenic Albula and Bernina Railway Line
The Albula and Bernina Railway Line is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world. The route connects the alpine city of Chur to Tirano in Italy. It is operated by the Rhaetian Railway (Rhätische Bahn in German). As such, riding the scenic Albula and Bernina Railway lines is one of the most recommended things to do in Parc Ela, Switzerland.
This breathtaking journey takes you through picturesque landscapes through the Albula Valley, over viaducts, and through tunnels. The Albula Railway line, in particular, is known for the architectural marvel of the Landwasser Viaduct. After crossing the Albula tunnel, one of the highest tunnels in the Alps, the train reaches the Engadine Valley.
The Bernina Railway also passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Swiss Alps. You will see the Bernina Massif, Alp Grüm, all the way to Val Poschiavo.
It is recommended that you ride the panoramic Bernina Express train to get the best experience. In spite of this, you will still be treated to breathtaking views of mountains, glaciers, and valleys if you take a regular train. This train ride is a popular tourist attraction that draws in thousands of guests every year. It is a fantastic way to experience the natural beauty of the region.
If you would like to learn more about seeing the Landwasser Viaduct, you can check out this article: The Best Landwasser Viaduct Viewpoints and How to Get There.
2. Discover Tranquility in Alp Flix
For those who prefer a more secluded and peaceful experience, I can highly recommend Alp Flix. This remote alpine meadow is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna and beautiful lakes where you can swim in. If you want to do something peaceful and relaxing in Parc Ela, then this is one of the best options for you.
The Alp Flix (Alp Flex in Romansh) is a high mountain pasture in the Surses Valley. At an altitude of 1,900 to 2,000 meters, the Alp Flix moorland is a treasure trove of biodiversity. Alp Flix, located above Sur, is a place of outstanding beauty and national importance. It’s my favorite destination in the entire Parc Ela.
Alp Flix has three small moor lakes called Lais da Flix (Flixer Seen in German). You can also call them Lais Blos. You’ll see perfect reflections of the mountains and trees behind the lake if it’s a quiet day. These are great spots for a picnic or a short swim if you like cold mountain water.
By coming to Alp Flix, you can be sure to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and connect with nature.
If you would like to read more about Alp Flix, you can check out Discover Alp Flix in Val Surses, Switzerland.
3. Explore the Enchanting Triple Water Divide
The Triple Water Divide in Lunghin Pass is the only triple watershed in Europe.
The Triple Water Divide (Die dreifache Wasserscheide in German) in Lunghin Pass is a unique feature located in Parc Ela. At the Triple Water Divide, a fascinating phenomenon occurs where water droplets take on a significant journey. As such, it is one of the most unique things to do in Parc Ela, Switzerland.
Depending on their landing point, these droplets can find themselves cascading into one of Europe’s three prominent rivers, each carrying them along a unique course towards the vast expanse of the sea. The waterdrops can flow to the directions described below:
- the waterdrops in the Inn River will flow east into the Black Sea
- the waterdrops in the Maira River will flow south into the Adriatic Sea
- the waterdrops in the Julia River will flow north into the North Sea
A hike to the Triple Water Divide allows visitors to observe three rivers flowing in different directions. You have to hike four hours from Bivio to reach it, as it is located on the Lunghin Pass (2,645 meters above sea level), right above the Septimer Pass. You can also reach it from Engadine via Maloja.
4. Experience Thrills on the Preda Toboggan Run
In winter, the Preda-Bergün toboggan runs through many kilometers and offers spectacular views of snow-covered mountains. In the dark, it makes the floodlit toboggan ride even more exciting, especially when you go under the railway line. Additionally, it is well-prepared and safe. If you are looking for a thrilling activity in winter in Parc Ela, then going on the Preda-Bergün toboggan run will be fun for you.
The toboggan run winds down the pass road between Preda and Bergün. Due to the closure of the Albula Pass in winter, you can safely ride your toboggan here.
Sleds can be rented both in Preda and in Bergün. Getting to the starting point of the sled ride requires taking the train. You can check the train schedule at the station, but you typically get two trains an hour that shuttle through Preda and Bergün. One is a regional train that goes to St. Moritz and one is a sled train (Schlittelzug in German).
You can use the Preda-Bergün path daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the sled season. There is even night sledding available Tuesday through Sunday until 11:00 p.m.
5. Immerse Yourself in Charming Villages
Alongside its diverse range of outdoor activities, Parc Ela boasts a collection of delightful villages that harmoniously blend intact historical buildings with the authentic mountain way of life. These villages are known for their traditional architecture, local cuisine, and unique cultural traditions. For those who want to discover authentic mountain life in Parc Ela, then visiting one of these villages will be the perfect thing to do.
Parc Ela’s charming villages offer visitors a glimpse into Switzerland’s rich history and culture, as well as its stunning mountain scenery. Here are a few of them:
- Bergün is one of Graubünden’s most beautiful villages. The village is known for its railway tradition, well-preserved architecture, and its stunning mountain views. Visitors can take a stroll through the village’s narrow streets and alleys, and admire the traditional Engadine houses and barns. Bergün is also home to a fascinating Railway Museum called Bahnmuseum Albula that’s worth checking out.
- Filisur is a small village that’s located in the Albula Valley. The village is known to be the best starting point to discover the Landwasser Viaduct, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk along the viaduct or view it from one of the panoramic viewpoints above.
Created in 1681 by Carlo and Antonio Nuvolone from Milan, La Gloria Paradiso is the biggest 17th-century baroque painting located in Switzerland.
- Savognin is a picturesque village that’s located in the Surses Valley. The village is known for its beautiful mountain scenery and its excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Worth checking out here is the Baroque Church of Son Martegn, where the impressive ceiling frescoes called La Gloria del Paradiso will welcome you.
- Wiesner Alp is a Swiss Alp that’s located in the heart of Parc Ela. Located above Davos Wiesen at 1,940 meters above sea level, Wiesner Alp is considered one of the most important alpine settlements in Graubünden with Walser-style stables and huts. It is well-known for its stunning mountain scenery and hiking trails. You can reach Weisner Alp on foot from Davos Wiesen.
6. Hike the Majestic Kesch Ducan Glacier Region
The Kesch Ducan Glacier Region is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. The region is home to Piz Kesch, a 3,417-meter-high mountain, and the Porchabella Glacier. This beautiful destination is one of the best things to do in Parc Ela, especially if you have the energy and skill to do it.
The region offers several hiking trails and the Kesch Mountain Hut (2,625 meters). The hikes will take you through lush forests, and past crystal-clear lakes, and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please take note that some hikes in the region of Kesch are alpine mountain hikes and need the proper equipment. This means that you will require good mountain boots, weatherproof clothing, maps for orientation, a medicine box, enough food and water, sun protection, and hiking poles.
7. Marvel at the Spectacular Zügen Gorge
One of the best things to do in Parc Ela is to marvel at the spectacular Zügen Gorge (Zügenschlucht in German). The Zugen Gorge is a scenic three-kilometer channel carved out by the Landwasser River between Davos Monstein and Davos Wiesen.
The best way to see Zügen Gorge is by walking through the old Zügenstrasse that runs from Davos Monstein to Davos Wiesen via Schmelzboden.
If you start from Davos Monstein, you will walk past Schmelzboden and the Bergbaumuseum. The path will lead you through Zügenstrasse, always walking alongside the Landwasser River. Passing through Brumbänz (Brombenz, 1260 meters) and Chlei Satteli, you will find a small waterfall. Besides the Zügen Gorge, you’ll also see the Rhaetian Railway train line and a waterfall near Bäratritt (or Bärentritt).
If you would like to read more about Zügen Gorge, you can check out Zügen Gorge, Davos: What to Expect.
8. Step Back in Time on a Historical Train Journey to Filisur
The route from Davos to Filisur has its origins in the state assembly decision on December 6, 1903, when Davos sought a connection to the recently inaugurated Albula Railway Line. With the approval of a capital of 1 million Swiss Francs, construction of the railway line to Filisur began. Despite numerous challenges, as highlighted by Chief Engineer Peter Saluz, such as avalanches and wild streams in the excavation, as well as complex geology, the railway line was successfully completed.1
On July 1, 1909, a 19-kilometer-long railway was inaugurated, connecting Davos and Filisur. This impressive railway boasted 14 tunnels and 30 bridges. Initially powered by steam locomotives, it was later electrified in 1919.
The Historical Train utilizes a fascinating piece of history – the iconic crocodile locomotive engine dating back to 1929. Within the train, passengers will find meticulously restored train compartments spanning the years from 1903 to 1990, offering a captivating journey through time.
The train leaves from Davos Platz and stops in various Davos villages before ending in Filisur. Upon reaching Filisur, the locomotive disengages and moves to the opposite side of the train to propel it back to Davos.
If you would like to read more about the Historical Train from Davos to Filisur, you can check out Historical Train Davos to Filisur: All You Need To Know.
9. Drive through the Spectacular Julier Pass
Driving through Julier Pass is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Parc Ela, especially for those who love mountain trips. The mountain pass, 2,284 meters above sea level and located in the Albula Alps, connects the village of Bivio in Val Surses with Silvaplana in Engadine.
This breathtaking mountain pass is a delight. It is typically open all year round unless the weather does not permit it. Until August 2023, there will be a red tower on top of the Julier Pass used for the Origen Festival. Near the tower, there are several hiking trails and alpine meadows to explore. The temporary red tower will be dismantled in August 2023.
Whether you are driving or cycling, the road to Julier Pass is a wonderful journey that I can highly recommend. We have done this many times and it’s always really nice. With several hairpin bends and steep gradients, the Julier Pass can be tricky for some. But the rewards are well worth it.
10. Immerse in Serenity at Lai da Palpuogna
One of the most popular outdoor activities in Parc Ela is visiting Lai da Palpuogna, a stunning mountain lake that is considered one of the most beautiful in Switzerland.
Lai da Palpuogna as it is known in Romansh (Palpuognasee in German) is a mountain lake at Albula Pass. It is a really lovely lake with a blue-green color that is surrounded by a beautiful and peaceful environment. Lai da Palpuogna gets its water from the Albula River. You’ll find it just below Piz Palpuogna.
Visitors can hike or bike to the lake, barbecue nearby, or simply relax and take in the breathtaking scenery. You are not allowed to swim in Lai da Palpuogna.
If you would like to read more about Lai da Palpuogna, you can check out The Stunning Lai da Palpuogna in Bergün, Switzerland.
11. Hit the Slopes for Skiing Fun
Savognin is the largest ski resort in the region, with over 80 km of slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The resort also has a snow park and a separate children’s area called La Nars, making it an ideal destination for families. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors can also go ice-skating until February, snowshoeing, and tobogganing.
Bergün is a smaller ski resort with 25 km of slopes, but it offers a more intimate and authentic experience. With 5 lifts (2 chair lifts, 3 drag lifts), as well as a children’s region and a sled run, you can be sure to enjoy a couple of hours on their slopes. They also have a long toboggan run from Preda, as mentioned above.
Bivio is a hidden gem for winter sports enthusiasts, with 30 km of slopes that are perfect for skiing and snowboarding. It has 3 drag lifts going as high as 2,560 meters above sea level. Bivio is ideal for those who want to avoid crowds and enjoy a more peaceful winter sports experience.
As you can see, the Parc Ela region also offers a range of winter sports activities for visitors of all levels and interests. Whether you are a seasoned skier or a beginner, there is something for everyone in this beautiful region. I highly recommend trying out one of the three ski resorts once you are there in the region.
12. Embark on Adventurous Hikes and Excursions
One of the best things to do in Parc Ela is to explore the diverse landscapes on its extensive network of hiking trails. Visitors can also choose to take a guided tour or excursions to learn more about the flora and fauna that call Parc Ela home.
Parc Ela is also home to a number of moorlands and forests, which offer visitors a chance to explore the region’s unique ecosystems and wildlife. In fact, 43% of Parc Ela is a protected forest. Some of the nature reserve forests in Parc Ela include Val Faller in Mulegns, La Niva in Savognin, Crap Furo, and Crap Alv-Ervedi.
Some of the best hikes in the region include Exploratour Bivio, Zügen Gorge, and Alp Flix. Parc Ela offers a variety of excursions that allow you to discover and observe a range of fascinating wildlife, including red deer, black grouse, birds of prey, ponies, donkeys, and goats.
You can also discover Parc Ela in 17 daily stages with the Parc Ela trek: https://www.parc-ela-trek.ch/.
From easy walks to challenging hikes, there is something for every level of hiker. For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, the picnic areas and scenic spots are marked in the local Parc Ela Map.
Hiking Time Calculator
Plan your hikes with ease using our Hiking Time Calculator. Calculate estimated hiking times based on distance, altitude, terrain, and average speed.
Final Thoughts: Best Things to Do in Parc Ela
Parc Ela, located in the breathtaking Graubünden region, offers a myriad of exciting activities and attractions for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. One of the highlights is the Albula and Bernina Railway Line, a scenic train journey that takes you through picturesque landscapes and captivating mountain vistas. Another must-do experience is hiking in the majestic Kesch Ducan Glacier Region, where you can marvel at the impressive glaciers and immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of the alpine environment.
For those seeking tranquility, Alp Flix is the perfect destination. This serene plateau invites you to discover its peaceful atmosphere and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains. For a thrilling adventure, head to the Preda Toboggan Run, where you can experience the exhilaration of zooming down the track. Charming villages dot the Parc Ela region, offering a glimpse into the traditional Swiss way of life and providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere for visitors.
Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the spectacular Zügen Gorge, a natural wonder that will leave you in awe of its sheer beauty. History buffs can step back in time with a historical train journey to Filisur, where you can admire the preserved heritage and architecture. Drive through the remarkable Julier Pass to appreciate the stunning alpine scenery, or find serenity at the enchanting Lai da Palpuogna, a picturesque mountain lake. With skiing opportunities and a range of adventurous hikes and excursions, Parc Ela promises unforgettable experiences for every outdoor enthusiast.
Overall, Parc Ela is a fantastic destination for anyone who loves the outdoors. So whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, embark on a hike, or simply relax and unwind in the natural beauty of the park, Parc Ela has something for you. Enjoy your stay!
- 1 Gebiet. Entdecken & Erleben / Scuvreir & resanteir. Parc Ela, 2023.
- The Scenic Village of Bergün, Switzerland
- The Best Landwasser Viaduct Viewpoints and How to Get There
- The Charming Village of Davos Monstein, Switzerland
- Exploring The Beautiful Village Of Filisur
- Zügen Gorge, Davos: What to Expect
- Historical Train Davos to Filisur: All You Need To Know
- 8 Best Day Trips from Davos, Switzerland
- The Stunning Lai da Palpuogna in Bergün, Switzerland
- Discover Alp Flix in Val Surses, Switzerland
- Savognin – Family Ski Destination in Graubünden
Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.