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The Remarkable Viamala Gorge in Zillis, Switzerland

(Last Updated On: September 21, 2023)

The Viamala Gorge (also spelled Via Mala) is the deepest and most impressive gorge in Graubünden. It has a stunning stretch of rock and water that attracts tourists. It is called ViamalaSchlucht in German. 

Image by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Viamala Gorge falls between Andeer and Thusis. It was excavated into the enormous rocks by the water of the Hinter Rhine and glacial ice several years ago. The rocks, which rise to altitudes of 300 meters, constitute the Viamala. 

History of the Viamala Gorge

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Viamala Gorge is not only beautiful but also historically significant since the Romans used it some 2,000 years ago. This route was used by mountain travelers to access Splügen and San Bernardino. Apart from the narrow confines, the danger of subsiding rocks, and dangerous waters, the Viamala Gorge offered travelers and mule drivers the largely immediate entry to the Alpine passes of San Bernardino and Splügen.

People weren’t fond of Vialama Gorge because of its wild nature back then. Mule drivers called the deep, rough gorge the “Evil Road”. Its name literally means “bad route” in Romansh, Switzerland’s fourth language. Viamala Gorge has become a popular tourist destination since then.

During the end of the 19th century, writers and philosophers like Fontane and Nietzsche visited the gorge. They were blown away by the natural splendor. Later on, a courageous project was initiated to construct a tunnel that was blasted into the rock face.

Viamala Gorge Visitor Center

Image of one of the many staircases at the Viamala Gorge Visitor Center by TouringSwitzerland.com

Access to the Viamala Gorge is possible through a visitor center along with a stairway. At the end of the road leading to the ravine, the new visitor center sits on the edge of a cliff. There’s a 359-step staircase that leads to the canyon center.

Once you pay an entry fee, you’ll find long steps leading to the gorge. The staircase leads tourists to the visitor platform. Everywhere you look, you’ll see breathtaking rock formations. 

You don’t have to worry about bringing small kids here since the stairways are secure. Various parts of the staircases show the levels of water at different points in human history. Having said that, those with limited mobility may not appreciate all the stairs.  

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It’s a quick visit, but it’s totally worth it. You’ll see high cliffs, millennia-old swirl potholes, and fast-flowing water. Alternatively, you can do the hiking route if you have more time or wish to stay in the area longer.

There’s also a tour guide you can hire or you can go on your own. There are Viamala Gorge tours every Thursday in July and August at 2 p.m. 

Prepared with a treasure map, kids can learn about the Viamala gorge and its intriguing history and explore the gem of the Viamala. 

Hiking to Viamala Gorge

Image of Roffla Gorge by TouringSwitzerland.com

If you like hiking, you can go through the old ViaSpluga pack mule track. It starts in Thusis. It is an extraordinary hike that goes to the Roffla Gorge along with the Viamala Gorge. It also passes through the stony routes over the Splügen Pass to Chiavenna (in Italy). The ViaSpluga is 65-kilometre that is usually hiked in four one-day stages.

If you would like to read more about Roffla Gorge, check out our article Rofflaschlucht – Little-known Gem In Andeer.

Nearby is the hanging bridge called Traversinersteg II. It was built by Jürg Conzett and spans the largest and wildest ravine between Sils im Domleschg and the Viamala Gorge.

How to Get to Viamala Gorge

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You can get to Viamala Gorge by car or bus. Parking is limited on the street if you come by car. We had a hard time securing a parking spot. The Viamala Gorge is open from April 1 to November 1.

By BusZillis, Viamala Schlucht
By CarZillis Viamala exit

Final Thoughts: Viamala Gorge

Image by TouringSwitzerland.com

Visit the Viamala Gorge to witness the striking panorama and narrow confinement.  The journey is memorable even when the weather is not very good. You can even stop by here on the way from Switzerland to Italy in case you use the route via Splügen and San Bernardino.

The Viamala Gorge, carved via the waters of the Rhine and glacial ice thousands of years ago, still holds living proof of its wonderful past for you to see today.

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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.

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