The Alpine Ibex, or Steinbock in German, is a type of wild goat found in mountainous areas of the European Alps. Although the Alpine Ibex used to live only in Gran Paradiso National Park in northern Italy, now they’re all over the Alps. In fact, all Alpine Ibex in the Alps are said to descend from the ones that lived in the Gran Paradiso National Park.
Nowadays, the Alpine Ibex can be found throughout Europe’s alpine ranges, including Italy, France, Southern Germany, and Switzerland.
Alpine Ibex in a Nutshell
The Alpine Ibex (Capra ibex in Latin) is an impressive mountain creature with long horns. The horns can grow up to a meter long and weigh up to 6 kilograms. It’s used to impress and fight their opponents. Horns can tell you how old an ibex is since it grows between 2 to 10 centimeters in one year. They get longer horns as they get older. Females have more delicate horns, while males have longer, heavier ones that grow up to a meter long.
Although Alpine Ibexes were extinct in Switzerland 200 years ago, they have since been reintroduced. Currently, around 17,000 Alpine Ibex live in the Swiss Alps1.
As opposed to the goats we see every day, alpine ibex have long, curved posterior horns. These wild goats like to graze and climb, so they can get away from other predators that can’t. Their sharp, concave hooves help them grip steep rocks and rocky cliffs. These animals live in the rock areas between the treeline and snowline of the European Alps. The species can live up to 20 years and can go up to 3,500 meters above sea level.
You can see them in many mountains in Switzerland. Graubünden’s flag, in particular, features an Alpine Ibex in the lower half. The Alpine Ibex is considered the heraldic animal of the bishops of Chur. In Pontresina, however, one special herd lives in Piz Albris.
Alpine Ibex at Piz Albris
Alpine Ibexes move to higher ground in summer when it’s hot. In late afternoon and evening, the Alpine ibex descend from steep terrain to feed in the alpine grasslands below.
In the Swiss Alps, one of the biggest alpine ibex colonies lives just outside Pontresina. On the slopes of Piz Albris (3,166 meters above sea level), a mountain southeast of Pontresina, you can find one of the largest populations of ibex in the Alps. There are 1,800 Alpine ibex in the mountains around Pontresina.
As soon as the meadows turn green after winter, the herds of alpine ibex go down into the valley. This usually happens between late April and early June. It’s usually late in the afternoon when they come. You’ve got a good chance of them coming if you’re here during this time.
Pontresina’s Ibex does not seem to mind people around them, but you shouldn’t bother them. You can see them coming down to the village and feeding on the grass.
Alpine Ibex Promenade (Steinbock Paradies Pontresina)
The Ibex Promenade is just a short walk away from the Church of Santa Maria. There’s a wide trail one kilometer long that you can push a stroller on. There are seven stops on the promenade to tell kids and adults about ibices. Take a walk around the area and you’ll find the animals eventually. You can also access it near the Languard chairlift.
Alternatively, you can find it by following the sign on Via Maistra and walking up. It is near Hotel Schweizerhof Pontresina and Bellavita Erlebnisbad and Spa.
There are also guided tours in the Spring, from the end of April to the beginning of June. Rangers also come to tell you more about the animals. Winter ibex tours are every Tuesday from February to April.
Practical Tips: Steinbock Paradies Pontresina
- Stay on the marked path.
- Do not come closer to the Alpine Ibex.
- Do not feed nor pet the Alpine Ibex.
- Do not bring your bike. Bikes are not allowed here on the Steinbock Paradies.
- Dogs need to stay on the leash.
Final Thoughts: Steinbock Paradies Pontresina
You can walk to Steinbock Paradies Pontresina Promenade from Pontresina. Even smaller kids can come; it’s a wide and safe trail. For older kids, there’s a quiz you can take and a lot of information boards along the trail.
We’ve never seen them earlier in the day, so they tend to come later in the day. We’ve been three times and seen the animals whenever we came around 4:00 PM. You’ve probably got the best chance of seeing the animals during spring, preferably between 4:00 and 5:00 PM.
But even without seeing any alpine ibex, you’ll have a fantastic view of Pontresina and the surrounding mountains. So I would recommend going, even just for a short walk and the chance of seeing some Alpine Ibex.
If you would like to read more about all the things that you can do in Pontresina, check out Visiting Pontresina, Switzerland: 8 Best Things To Do.
- 1 Capra ibex Index. Engadin Magazin Nr. 6 Stein: Sommer – Herbst, 2021. Engadin St. Moritz Tourismus AG.
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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.