It is one of the most beautiful villages in Canton Graubünden (Grisons) – Guarda in the Lower Engadine Valley.
Guarda is a small picturesque village perched on top of a sunny terrace, surrounded by forests. Stunning views of Lower Engadine, pretty houses, flowers, cobbled-stone streets, and a peaceful atmosphere make Guarda a true fairytale village in Switzerland.
It’s so pretty that it won a Wakker Prize back in 1975. The houses in Guarda village have been designated as protected architecture.
Let’s take a look at Guarda village and what you could do when you get there.
Guarda: What’s in a name
With over 60 historic homes in this small village, there could be no more exciting location. At 1,653 meters above sea level, the village is like a guard post.
Its name is a testament to this fact – for Guarda means to guard (“Warda”). Because of its high altitude, it is indeed the most suitable place for guarding the valley of Lower Engadine.
Guarda: The Fairytale Village in Lower Engadine
Surrounded by hills and meadows, Guarda offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Silvretta Alps and Lower Engadine Valley. The Inn River courses through the entire Engadine Valley. After flowing through the valley, the Inn River enters Austria, where it flows into the Danube.
Aside from Guarda up the valley, there’s a hamlet on the valley floor called Giarsun. Giarsun is officially part of Guarda.
As of 2015, Guarda merged with Tarasp, Ardez, and Sent to become part of Scuol.
There’s nothing like exploring Guarda, one of those small Swiss fairytale villages. Guarda, a historic village in the sunny Engadine Valley in eastern Switzerland, sits on a mountain plateau high above the valley. Amidst enchanting nature and stunning mountain views, it is the perfect place to visit if you are in the region. It would be worthwhile to do a day trip here from other towns in Graubünden, such as St. Moritz or Davos.
Lower Engadine Valley
In addition to its beautiful villages, hiking trails, and mountains, the Lower Engadine Valley is also worth visiting. There are picturesque villages and fountains in the Lower Engadine Valley. The water fountains are not only a source of fresh water for the residents but also add to the aesthetic appeal in the area. Churches are often built in the Roman style and date back to the 17th century.
The Punt Ota Stream separates Lower Engadine from Upper Engadine. The Lower Engadine Valley is home to the Vallader dialect, a melodious that is enjoyable to listen to. Italian speakers will also be able to understand it easily.
If you would like to read more about the Romansh language, check out our article here: Romansh Language in Switzerland.
In addition to the language, Lower Engadine differs from Upper Engadine in other ways. Lower Engadine’s right side is heavily forested and rocky. The left side of Lower Engadine has a gently sloping valley floor. The Lower Engadine villages, such as Ardez, Guarda, and Sent were all developed here in an area less steep than the other.
Its mild climate and mineral-rich waters make Lower Engadine ideal for land and vegetation. Sort of like South Tyrol and the Donau. It also has less wind compared to Upper Engadine.
Best Things To Do in Guarda, Switzerland
Explore Guarda Village
It goes without saying that exploring the village already makes the trip worth it. With the beautiful houses, you can easily spend an hour or two roaming the streets.
The Church in Guarda is from 1494 and its wooden ceiling from the 18th century.
If you walk towards Bos-cha, there is the Casa Viletta from 1830 as well as remnants of a water mill.
Engadine Houses and Architecture
Engadine Architecture is relatively free. By this, I mean that they do not have many rules on how to organize rooms, doors, and windows. Yet, the houses built still have this harmonious look to them.
The harmonious appearance of the houses makes the village seem so picture-perfect. In fact, many of the homes were restored to their original appearance by a specialized restoration team. As a result, Guarda has preserved its charming village appearance, replete with Engadine houses and graffiti (sgraffito) murals.
Sgraffito is a technique of scratching or patterning the outer layer of plaster to reveal the inner layer of stucco in contrasting colors. Sgraffito is used primarily as an ornament and is a style that was inspired by the Italians.
The use of wood is done inside. And the quality of houses is generally high. This is necessary to protect the residents from cold.
The village of Guarda is considered one of the best-preserved in the Engadine due to its rich and beautiful houses. Villages in this region are also known for their wooden fountains and churches.
Switzerland’s most well-preserved and characteristic villages are confirmed by the Wakker Prize, which Guarda won in 1975.
Some ancient traditions remain alive in many Engadine villages. Chalandamarz is undoubtedly one of the most important traditions they still keep alive in Guarda. With the crash of large cowbells, the winter is ushered out.
In Engadine, Chalandamarz is a festival for children. On the first of March, school children ring their bells throughout the village to wake everyone up. The biggest bell is traditionally given to the oldest child in the village. The oldest child typically leads the entire group of children around the village.
Each family gives them money and gifts for their school trip. The boys and girls then perform traditional songs, typically the most popular by Otto Barblan. Each village may celebrate Chalandamarz differently to reflect their diversity.
The sound of bells and songs signal the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Following in the footsteps of Schellen-Ursli
The story of Schellen-Ursli was set in Guarda. Written in 1945, this popular children’s book has been translated into multiple languages since then. Eventually, this book was translated into English as A Bell for Ursli. The illustrations in the book are also based on houses found around the village of Guarda.
The author of the Schellen-Ursli book was a kindergarten teacher named Selina Chönz. In Guarda, she lived in House Number 47.
It tells the story of Ursli and his anticipation of receiving the biggest bell for Chalandamarz. Ursli, however, received a small bell for the upcoming Chalandamarz and was made fun of by other children. As Ursli makes his way through the deep snow, he finds an even bigger bell in their mountain hut. During his journey, he encounters many adventures.
To get to know more about Schellen-Ursli, you can visit the Tinkle-bell Ursli museum in the village. It is quite small but very charming. It is also free to visit.
You can also opt to do the Schellen-Ursli Themed Trail that starts from the village.
Hiking Trails Around Guarda
There are many hiking trails from Guarda with hiking durations ranging from 30 minutes to 9 hours. Some of the most popular ones are the following:
- Guarda to Scuol: The tour going through Guarda, Boscha, Ardez, and Ftan to Scuol can be done in either direction. It can also be easily shortened by starting/ending in Ardez or Ftan.
- Schellen-Ursli Trail: To honor Guarda’s most famous young boy Ursli, the themed trail Schellen-Ursli Weg (Tinkle-bell Ursli Walk) was opened in 2016. You hike from Guarda to Plan dal Növ, Clüs, the lake Lajet, and back to Guarda. This circular hike is about 3.1 km long. You should be able to finish it in an hour and a half.
- Lavin to Guarda: It’s a nice hike from Lavin to the Inn bridge. Cross the Inn river and you’re in a forest that goes all the way to Giarsun. From the hamlet of Giarsun, you can continue to Guarda train station. Another half hour walk will take you to the Guarda village from the train station.
Did you know? The name Lavin comes from the word Lawine meaning avalanche. The village has been witness to avalanches.
Skiing Around Guarda
Although there is only a small drag lift in Guarda, the nearby ski resort of Scuol is a better choice.
The ski area of Scuol has 70 kilometers of slopes available for all levels. The ski resort lies above Scuol, Sent, and Ftan. You can take either one of the gondolas from Scuol or the chairlift from Ftan to reach the Motta Naluns Ski Resort.
They have a fun park for freestylers and snowboarders, as well as a large children’s area complete with magic carpets and tunnels. Furthermore, they also have a toboggan run. A 3-kilometer cross-country route is available for those who prefer this Nordic Sport.
Visit Neighboring Scuol
The village of Scuol is not far from Guarda. Do not hesitate to visit it. Scuol is comprised of Scuol-suot and Scuol-sur. This region is rich in mineral water. Health practitioners and doctors prescribed these mineral waters during the Middle Ages to cure various ailments. Nowadays, these waters are used in thermal baths.
Thermal baths are available from 25 mineral sources. Some minerals found in their waters are the following:
- Calcium Carbonate
There will be different mixtures of minerals from different sources, with higher levels of some minerals and lower levels of others.
Discover Nearby Ardez
A typical mountain village in Graubünden, Ardez has beautiful houses with a typical Engadin vibe. It is a village larger than Guarda, yet smaller than Scuol.
This whole village is protected. Among the charming houses in Ardez are the Claglüna house (the year 1647), Stupan house (the year 1676), Planta house (the year 1591), and the Ruins of Chanoua.
How to get to Guarda
How to get to Guarda by Car
You can take the car to Guarda. There is a parking lot right outside the village as shown in the image above.
There are also toilets available right by the parking lot.
How to get to Guarda by Public Transportation
To get to Guarda, you have several options:
- Via Chur: There are direct trains from Chur to Guarda. It is a Stop on Request. The train travel time from Chur to Guarda is 1 hour and 40 minutes.
- Via Landquart: There are trains from Landquart to Guarda. It is a Stop on Request. The train travel time from Landquart to Guarda is 1 hour 11 minutes.
- Via Samedan: If you are coming from Upper Engadine (ex. St. Moritz or Celerina), you will have to take the train to Samedan. In Samedan, you will change to the train going to Guarda. It is a Stop on Request. The train travel time from Samedan to Guarda is 55 minutes.
NOTE: Take note that the trains going to Guarda are often Stop on Request trains. This means that the train will only stop if you ask it to stop (Halt auf Verlangen in German). So do press the stop button once you see the signs that the next stop is Guarda. Otherwise, the train will happily move on to the next train stop.
From the Guarda train station, you have the option to walk up to Guarda village or take the bus. If you take the bus, you can get off at Guarda, cumün.
Where to stay in Guarda
There are several hotels in Guarda. But the most recommended one is Meisser Hotel. It is right in the middle of the village, in front of the Schellen-Ursli Museum.
In the enchanting midst of the Engadine mountains, the Meisser Hotel is located on a plateau. This is the perfect getaway.
Guarda: Final Thoughts
Guarda is a little village in the Swiss Alps that has old Swiss architecture and great views of the mountains. It has magnificent and well-preserved houses with graffiti and beautiful painted facades.
Guarda’s picturesque setting, lovely trails, panoramic views, and peaceful atmosphere make it an excellent place to visit while exploring the Engadine Valley. So don’t wait to go to the Swiss Alps and the Engadine Valley, and find out what this incredible place is like.
- Chalandamarz, Goodbye winter. Engadin. Accessed on 10 December 2021. https://www.engadin.ch/en/arts-culture/chalandamarz/.
- Children’s Book. Schellen-Ursli. Graubünden. Accessed on 10 December 2021. https://www.graubuenden.ch/en/schellen-ursli.
- M. Perego, Giuseppe. Ausflugsparadies Engadin. Wanderführer von Giuseppe M. Perego. Montabella Verlag AG, St. Moritz, 2000.