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PONTRESINA

BERNINA ALPS — GERMAN-ROMANSH-ITALIAN-SPEAKING SWITZERLAND

ALTITUDE: 5,922'  •  POPULATION: 2,161

CANTON GRAUBÜNDEN • EASTERN SWITZERLAND

 

LOOKING SOUTH ACROSS PONTRESINA & UP VAL ROSEG
Photo © HOME AT FIRST

The High Playground of the Upper Engadine

          TODAY, MANY REMOTE, MOUNTAINOUS SWISS PLACES ARE ALPINE PLAYGROUNDS. BEFORE SWITZERLAND WAS "DISCOVERED" BY TRAVELERS IN THE 19TH CENTURY, MOST OF THESE LOCATIONS HAD STRUGGLED TO SURVIVE VIA SUBSISTENCE FARMING. It was MOUNTAINEERING that BROUGHT INTERNATIONAL FAME TO ZERMATT (THE MATTERHORN) AND THE JUNGFRAU REGION (THE EIGER). But IN THE UPPER ENGADINE VALLEY OF SOUTHEASTERN SWITZERLAND, IT WAS GAMES THAT BROUGHT THE VISITORS: SKIING, POLO, curling, BOBSLEDDING, ICE SKATING, GOLF, sailing, riding, AND MORE. THE SUNNY, SUBARCTIC MICRO-CLIMATE OF THE UPPER ENGADINE is PERFECT FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS, SO MUCH SO THAT THE WINTER OLYMPICS HAVE TWICE BEEN HELD HERE IN ST. MORITZ (1928 & 1948). ST. MORITZ — PRINCIPAL TOWN OF THE UPPER ENGADINE — HAS BECOME ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST FASHIONABLE PLAYGROUNDS FOR INTERNATIONAL JET-SETTERS. AROUND THE CORNER FROM ST. MORITZ, just five miles away IN THE BROAD BERNINA VALLEY, PERCHES the equally high, equally sunny, but significantly less HIGH-SOCIETY small town of pontresina, HOME AT FIRST APARTMENT LOCATION AND HIGH PLAYGROUND OF THE UPPER ENGADINE. pontresina lies on a shelf above the valley floor. its southern exposure on a gradual slope provides the town with extensive views south to the bernina. its narrow lower main street has several historic engadine houses and hotels from  the 19th century. its broader upper main street is now a mostly car-free pedestrian zone lined with newer hotels, restaurants, and shops.

WHERE WE STAY IN PONTRESINA — APARTMENTS & LOCATIONS

CHESA PIZ CORVATSCH
BALCONY VIEW OF
THE ALBULA ALPS
ABOVE ST. MORITZ

APARTMENT BALCONY VIEW OF PONTRESINA & THE ALBULA ALPS
(Click here to see a larger, panoramic version of this view.)
Photo © HOME AT FIRST

          Balcony view from a Home At First Chesa Piz Corvatsch apartment in Pontresina, Switzerland. The view looks west across Pontresina to the Albula Alps. Not visible in the photo, but at the foot of the Albula Alps is famed of St. Moritz, just five miles west of Pontresina, principal town of the Upper Engadine, twice venue of the Winter Olympics, and alpine resort for the rich and famous.
          This corner of Switzerland is walled off from the rest of the country by the Albula Alps (
MAP). Only two high mountain roads cross the Albula Alps from the Upper Engadine, and both can be dangerous, with steep climbs and ascents, numerous hairpin curves and switchbacks, reaching heights of over 2,200m (approx. 7,500'), and subject to closure due to ice and snow any month of the year.
          But the Upper Engadine is connected with the rest of Switzerland by a man-made wonder: the Rhaetian Railway from Thusis on the west side the Albula Alps up, around, over, and through the mountain barrier to Bever, Samedan, Celerina, St. Moritz, and Pontresina. The railway is one of the few of modern engineering marvels to be awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO, but not just for its Albula crossing. After Pontresina the line continues daringly upwards, crossing the high (2,253m, 7,390' — the highest non-cog rail line in Europe) Bernina Pass almost in the shadow of the region's highest mountains before plunging precipitously down the Poschiavo Valley to end just across the Italian border in Tirano (441m, 1,447'; 1.125 vertical miles below the Bernina Pass). The combined Albula and Bernina Lines of the Rhaetian Railway have themselves become a reason to travel to the Upper Engadine. The spiral tunnels, spiral viaducts, and daring assaults of sheer vertical walls testify to the drive and imagination of the railway's designers.
          There are good roads in the Upper Engadine, and it isn't necessary to travel about by public transportation. But public transportation — the trains and regional buses — go most everywhere frequently and reliably, and when you arrive at your destination you need not worry about finding parking, which can be difficult in the old town and village centers constructed long before the advent of the motorcar. Our recommendation: use public transportation. Enjoy the magnificent scenery from the large windows of the trains and buses. Hop on and off at will. Hike from point A to point Z, not from a parking place back to the same parking place where you started. Stay safe in the high alpine environment by leaving the driving to trained Swiss professionals.
          Pontresina is beautifully situated as a base for touring the Upper Engadine, but exploring beyond this isolated part of Switzerland requires long day-trips. However, it is possible to travel throughout Graubünden (the large Swiss canton of which the Upper Engadine is a region) and into neighboring parts of the Swiss canton of Ticino, and into the neighboring areas of Italy and Austria. Rainy day in Pontresina? Take the train southeast across the Bernina Pass to the end of the Bernina Line at Tirano, Italy, to see some of Switzerland's most dramatic scenery and to escape the wet weather and find dry adventures in very-reachable (about 2 hours), sunny Northern Italy.

— HOME AT FIRST LODGINGS IN PONTRESINA —

         HOME AT FIRST offers vacation apartments in several locations in the small town of Pontresina. Some apartments are decorated and comfortably furnished in traditional Swiss alpine style. Others are quite modern in multiple-unit buildings purpose built for vacation apartments. All apartments are clean, well cared for, and well-equipped. Most are within short walking distance (5 minutes or less) to stores, services, several restaurants, and to the nearest bus stop. A few are 10-15 minutes walk from the principal grocery store, the last 5-7 minutes being mostly uphill. All apartments have secure entries, and those on upper stories have elevators. Pontresina is a safe, prosperous, upscale, resort community that welcomes guests. Importantly, all HOME AT FIRST Pontresina apartments come with caring, English-speaking hosting on-site or very close by.

SAMPLE HOME AT FIRST LODGINGS IN PONTRESINA

   

CHESA PIZ CORVATSCH

— TEN PREMIUM APARTMENTS —

• Three 1-bedroom (queen bed) apts., 1-bath with shower, balcony with view. 2nd, 3rd, & 4th floors.

• Five 2-bedroom apts.: 1 queen bed; 1 bunk bedroom. Master bath with tub/shower; 1-bath with shower. Patio or balcony with view. All floors.

• Two 3-bedroom, 3-bath apts. 3rd & 4th floors.
1 queen bedroom; 1 double bedroom; 1 bunk bedroom. Master bath with tub/shower. 2 bathrooms with shower only. Balconies with view.

Chesa Piz Corvatsch Facilities: elevator; private garage; spa, sauna, and fitness room. Walk 2-8 minutes (2-min. downhill) to main street shops, grocery store, and restaurants of Pontresina. English-speaking hostess/manager close by.

CHESA PIZ ROSATSCH

— FIVE PREMIUM APARTMENTS —

• One queen bedroom apt. 1-bath with shower. Powder room. Patio with view. Ground floor.

• Three 3-bedroom, 3-bath apts. 2nd, 3rd & 4th floors. 2 queen bedrooms; 1 twin bedroom. Master bath with tub/shower. 2 bathrooms with shower. 2 Balconies with view.

• 4-bedroom, 3-bath apt. with loft. 5th floor. 3 queen bedrooms; 1 twin bedroom. 1 bath with tub/shower. 2 baths with shower. Balcony & view.

Chesa Piz Rosatsch Facilities: elevator; private garage; spa, sauna, and fitness room. Walk 2-8 minutes (2-min. uphill) to main street shops, grocery store, and restaurants of Pontresina. English-speaking hostess/manager close by.

   

CHESA PIZ BERNINA

— PLUS APARTMENT —

One 2-bedroom, 1.5-bath, 3rd-floor apt. 1 twin bedroom. 1 with twin beds pushed together. Living room opens onto furnished balcony with view. Big eat-in kitchen. Bathroom with tub/shower plus powder room. Elevator. Walk 1-8 minutes (1-min. downhill) to main street shops, grocery store, and restaurants of Pontresina. English-speaking host/manager close by.

CHESA PIZ ROSEG

— TWO STANDARD APARTMENTS —

Two one-bedroom, 1-bath (shower) apartments. Building has garage & elevator. Walk 2-5 min. steeply downhill to main street. Supermarket: 10-15min walk. English-speaking host on-site.

• 2nd floor apt.: Queen-size bed frame but 2 separate mattresses. Balcony with excellent view.

• 3rd floor apt.: Queen bed. Balcony with good view (on side of house – see photo).

AMBIENCE: Our Pontresina apartments are comfortable, quality lodgings. Each is unique. All come with private balconies or patios with alpine views. Apartments are of different sizes and capacities: 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments, sleeping from 2 to 7 persons.

FLOORS & ENTRIES: The apartments are on the ground, 2nd 3rd, and 4th floors. Reaching them requires climbing a flight or two of stairs or using an elevator. All our Pontresina apartments are well-located, safe, and very livable. Pontresina does not have through automobile traffic, so car noise is minimal. Pontresina's excellent bus service — buses at least hourly in each direction from dawn until late in the evening — is within walking distance from all HOME AT FIRST Pontresina apartments. (Note that the railway station, being 10 minutes downhill from Pontresina's main street is not difficult to reach on foot, however, returning by train at the end of a long day means facing a 10-minute climb back up into town. However, bus service connects from the rail station into town at least twice hourly.)

CHESA PIZ ROSEG APARTMENT —
STANDARD LIVING ROOM WITH BALCONY ACCESS

Living room of Home At First's Pontresina standard-quality Chesa Piz Roseg Apartment. Note the doorway to the balcony. Solid, well-maintained furnishings  make our standard-quality Pontresina apartments practical and comfortable.

Photo © HOME AT FIRST

CARE AND CLEANLINESS. All Pontresina apartments have been thoroughly cleaned prior to your arrival, but are not maid-serviced during your stay (maid-services available at the premium apartments by special request). Apartments are non-smoking and do not permit pets. Basic starter kitchen and bathroom supplies are provided.

CHESA PIZ BERNINA APARTMENT — PLUS QUALITY LIVING ROOM, SHOWING
ACCESS TO EAT-IN KITCHEN AND ACCESS TO FURNISHED BALCONY

Living room with access to the eat-in kitchen & furnished balcony of Home At First's plus-quality Chesa Piz Bernina apartment. Practical, solid, comfortable furnishings plus multiple bathrooms gives this spacious,
better-quality Pontresina apartment its upgraded value.

Photo © HOME AT FIRST

WELL-EQUIPPED: HOME AT FIRST's Pontresina apartments have, as a minimum, at least one bedroom, 1 bathroom with a shower, living/dining room, and well-equipped kitchens. Bed, bath, and kitchen linens and towels are provided. Flat-screen TV and WiFi are included. Laundry machines are provided. Additional services are available at Pontresina's Plus and Premium grade apartments.

CHESA PIZ ROSATSCH PREMIUM APARTMENT —
OPEN-PLAN LIVING ROOM, DINING AREA,
AND KITCHEN WITH TERRACE

Open-plan living room, showing a portion of the kitchen (left), plus the wrap-around terrace of Home At First's Pontresina superior-quality second-floor apartment at Chesa Piz Rosatsch. The dining area, to the back
of the photographer, is included in the apartment's open-plan design. Personal touches, including
stylish furnishings are found in these spacious, purpose-built, high-quality Pontresina
apartments, giving them a distinctive near-luxury  character.

Photo courtesy the property owners — used with permission

HOSTING: Importantly, all our Pontresina apartments come with the welcoming, enthusiastic attention of your host &/or hostess, who is/are committed to making your stay in their accommodation delightful and problem-free. Your English-speaking host(-ess) meets you upon your arrival at Pontresina's rail station and introduces you to your apartment and its operation. Your host(-ess) is available throughout your stay for any questions, problems, or emergencies, and to advise you when you wish to organize activities.

 

APARTMENT LOCATIONS & PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

PONTRESINA

PONTRESINA'S TRAFFIC-FREE MAIN STREET LINED WITH SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS

          Pontresina's Main Street (Via Maistra) in the evening. The shops are closed, but the restaurants are busy. Home At First's Pontresina apartments are all located within 8 minutes or less walk to Main Street. Three bus stops are found along Main Street. The train station is 10 minutes walk from Main Street in the valley below town. Note the characteristic Engadine architecture of the buildings. Visitors come to Pontresina to play in the mountains and enjoy the micro-climate and the micro-culture of the Upper Engadine, a surviving stronghold of Rhaeto-Romansh culture, where residents may speak the ancient Romansh dialect, Italian, German, and/or Swiss-German. English is commonly spoken in Pontresina's restaurants, shops, and railway station.

Photo © HOME AT FIRST

          HOME AT FIRST's vacation apartments are located in three areas of central Pontresina, one to five minutes walk from the town's main street, where most of the shops and restaurants are located. Three bus stops — Schlossgarage, Rondo, and Post — are located at the two end points and the middle of Pontresina's mostly traffic-free Via Maistra main street. Each HOME AT FIRST apartment area is a short walk from one of the three bus stops of town.

THE BERNINA RAILWAY

THE ALBULA-BERNINA RAILWAY WORLD HERITAGE SITE

PONTRESINA-BOUND TRAIN AT BERNINA-DIAVOLEZZA STATION

          Southeast of Pontresina, the Bernina Line — amidst glorious scenery — makes the highest alpine rail crossing in Europe before plunging down dramatically to the Italian town of Tirano. Pontresina is a major station stop on the Bernina Line of the Rhaetian Railway, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Hourly trains in both directions stop at Pontresina, providing service locally north and west to St. Moritz and other Upper Engadine towns, and south and east via Bernina Diavolezza (above) and 4 other stops up and over the Bernina Pass — high point of the railway. Trains continue northwest through the Albula Alps to the western end of the line at Chur (Switzerland's oldest town) and southeast steeply down the Poschiavo Valley to the eastern end of the line at Tirano, Italy. Pictured is an early-afternoon local just west of the Bernina-Diavolezza stop. Note the two yellow open cars at the end of the train that are put on during fine weather for the scenic crossing of the Bernina Pass between Tirano and St. Moritz. Note, too the buildings (right center) which are the valley station for the Diavolezza cable car that ascends to nearly 3,000 meters and provides sensational views of the region's highest mountains and glaciers. Note, also, that the train is crossing grassy meadows with a wild stream above treeline. Here during the warmest two months of the year cows graze on open range, producing rich milk the local farmers turn into luxurious cheese. This is wonderful walking country for people of all fitness levels.

Photo © HOME AT FIRST

          Pontresina's principal rail station — a major stop on the World Heritage Site Bernina Line of the Rhaetian Railway — is ten minutes walk downhill from the town center. Walking down is easy, but coming back up at the end of an active day is perhaps better accomplished by taking the bus from the station or from many other points in the Upper Engadine to the three bus stops along the Via Maistra. HOME AT FIRST guests in Pontresina will have a transportation pass valid on the trains and the buses operating throughout the Upper Engadine region.

ALP LANGUARD

ABOVE PONTRESINA

          Almost 1,600 vertical feet above the center of Pontresina is Alp Languard, a broad, sunny, meadowed area at 7,600' above sea level. A chairlift (operates June through mid-October) carries folks from central Pontresina to Alp Languard. The chairlift ends at this building, the Bergrestaurant (mountain restaurant) Alp Languard. The dining here — indoors and out — is delightfully and traditionally Swiss. The views — deep into Pontresina's valley below, and to St. Moritz, as well as of the distant Albula Alps and the closer Bernina Alps — are dramatically and quintessentially Swiss. From the end of the chairlift, mountain trails lead in all directions, making Alp Languard a hiker's paradise, and helping people burn off some of the calories consumed at the Bergrestaurant.

Photo © HOME AT FIRST

          HOME AT FIRST's vacation apartments are ideally situated for touring throughout the Upper Engadine region of Switzerland. They are also conveniently located for other activities: golf, horseback riding, hiking, and mountaineering. Leave it to the efficient, practical Swiss to develop an infrastructure to make adventures to the highest reaches of the Bernina Alps accessible and user-friendly. Expect cableways operating into the heights. Expect restaurants every couple of hours along the major hiking routes. Expect guides, maps, signposts, and GPS availability throughout the region, even to the highest points reached by cablecar, at Diavolezza by the dazzling Bernina alpine group. (SEE PANORAMIC VIEW.)

THE BERNINA GROUP

FROM DIAVOLEZZA

PIZ PALÜ                 PIZ ZUPÒ       PIZ BERNINA

3,900m                           3,996m            4,049m

          Fifteen railway minutes southeast of Pontresina is the station stop at Bernina Diavolezza (see 3 photos up), from which a 125-person aerial cablecar elevates passenger nearly 2,900 feet in 10 minutes to reach a point called Diavolezza where there is a modern mountain inn and restaurant at nearly 10,000 feet featuring the above view. Many visitors come for the view which — with its glaciated lineup of the three highest peaks in Switzerland's eastern Alps — rivals the best mountain views in Switzerland. Some visitors use the accommodations for hiking and climbing, including guided climbs of Piz Palü. There are several hikes in this rarified air, including guided hikes across two glaciers — the Pers and the Morteratsch — on the way to the Boval Hut and back down to the Bernina Railway at its Morteratsch stop just 8 minutes from Pontresina. The Bernina Alps comprise Switzerland's third highest range, reaching 4,049 meters (13,283') atop Piz Bernina. Numerous lower peaks surround Pontresina, extending across the Engadine region and across the nearby borders with Italy and Austria. Hikers and climbers consider Pontresina as much an outdoor playground in the warm months as skiers do in the winter.

Photo © HOME AT FIRST

          Despite Pontresina's small size and mountainous location, it is extremely well-served by public transportation. From Pontresina's busy railway station, hourly rail services carry passengers northeast in the Upper Engadine and beyond throughout Switzerland's large, eastern state of Graubünden (also called Grisons).

          Hourly trains also lead southwest across the Bernina Pass, down the Poschiavo Valley, to the Bernina Line's endpoint at Tirano in Northern Italy, about 2 hours from Pontresina.

ST. MORITZ

FROM MUOTTAS MURAGL

          Five railway or bus minutes northwest of Pontresina is the station stop at Punt Muragl, from which a funicular steeply ascends nearly 2,300 feet to the mountain house restaurant at Muottas Muragl featuring the above view southwest along the Upper Engadine valley. Visible are the northwestern edge of Pontresina (lower left), Celerina (lower right), and St. Moritz on its namesake lake. Many visitors come to Muottas Muragl for the view of the Albula and Bernina Alps and the Upper Engadine's three jewel-like lakes extended toward the Maloja Pass and Italy. Some visitors use the accommodations for hiking and climbing, including a panoramic trail that leads to Alp Languard above Pontresina (see two photos above).

Photo © HOME AT FIRST

          Pontresina's central position on the regionally important Bernina rail line makes it a convenient base from which to explore eastern Switzerland. But, Pontresina's central position in the Upper Engadine make it a great alpine destination in itself, with much to see and do: walking, climbing, swimming, golf, shopping, riding, cycling, touring, and plenty of fine dining. There's even a romantic horse-drawn coach trip from Pontresina's railway station up the Roseg Valley (see top photo, this page).

          Buses from Pontresina operate frequently (at least hourly) to points throughout the Upper Engadine and Bernina Valleys, stopping at or near the stations for mountain cableways in Pontresina, Diavolezza, Punt Muragl, and St. Moritz.

HIKING

Hiker at the Falls of the River Bernina near Morteratsch near treeline at 6,500' above sea level.

Photo © HOME AT FIRST

          Walkers of moderate fitness will find superb moderate hiking in the outstanding alpine scenery above Pontresina at Alp Languard, in the Roseg Valley, paralleling the Bernina Railway between Bernina Diavolezza and Morteratsch, and at Muottas Muragl.

          Adventuresome (and fit) visitors will want to consider hiking between Alp Languard and Muottas Muragl, between Murtèl and the Roseg Valley, high above St. Moritz on Piz Nair, from Diavolezza across the glaciers to Morteratsch (guide strongly recommended for this one), and (for experienced alpine hikers) up to the top of Piz Languard high above Pontresina.

NOTE: The public transportation pass you may receive is valid for almost all rail and bus transport in the Upper Engadine region, but may not be valid for the region's cableways or for trains and buses beyond the Upper Engadine into other parts of Graubünden, Switzerland, and below Alp Grüm on the Bernina Line to Tirano, Italy.

 

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