A cultural hiking trail from Switzerland to Italy
The Via Spluga is a cultural hiking trail in the Central Alps that for two centuries connects the towns of Chur, Thusis, and Chiavenna. Almost exactly at the centre of the Alps, the Splügen Pass (2115m) has played a central role in the history of trade and communication between the two sides of the Alps: it is also the most direct connection between Southern Germany and Northern Italy. Today the Via Spluga is a stunning hiking route from Thusis to Chiavenna, passing mountains and crossing gorges.
The human presence in the pass area dates back to prehistoric times, but the transit over the Splügen-pass becomes a historical fact during Roman times. Spluga thus became (along with the neighbouring passes of San Bernardino and Seventh) a major crossing point to reach the newly conquered regions. From Como, along the western shore of the lake along the Strada Regina, Chiavenna was reached. Along the Val San Giacomo climbed up a carriageway that probably reached today’s town of Campodolcino. From here goods were transported by pack animals or small carts.
Most of the Via Spluga runs along mule tracks, which for the biggest part is preserved or restored. The route is not only historically important, but it is a marvellous way to get in touch with a unique mountain landscape and the local population. This part of the Via Spluga has a total length of 65 km. Starting from Thusis (720 m) it crosses the famous Via Mala Gorge to arrive at Splügen (1457 m). Then the route turns towards the south, going up to 2115 m crossing the Spluga Pass, which is the highest point of your journey. From here it begins to descent, crossing the entire Val San Giacomo to Chiavenna at 333 m a.s.l..
The daily program of the 7-day tour
In the hotel will be handed over your travel package. Thusis is situated 720 m above sea level and is the main centre of the Hinterrhein district, in the Canton of Graubünden, at the northern exit of the Gorge of Viamala, at the confluence of Nolla with the River Hinterrhein. Just like Chiavenna, Thusis is the gateway to some of the most important Alpine passes of which the most important ones are San Bernardino and Splügen, but also Albula, Julier and Septimer. Its location has helped the development of the area over time: today Thusis with about 2700 inhabitants, is the biggest centre of the region.
Overnight with breakfast in Thusis
Today the first walk. You climb up out of the valley of Thusis and will have a nice view of the village behind you. It is an exciting walk passing the impressive Viamala-schlucht and you cross a valley with the Traversiner suspension bridge. Interesting is the church in Zillis. You reach the village of Andeer after a satisfying walk and could relax some in the thermal bath.
The village of Andeer developed mainly after the improvement of the Viamala way in 1473, and with the opening of a staging point for the goods in transit. The presence of thermal waters and related activities is one of the most important tourist attractions of Andeer.
Overnight stay with breakfast in Andeer
Ascent-Descent: +889m –605m
Distance 17,5 km/11,2 miles
Walking time about 6-7 hrs
A highlight of today is certainly the Rofflaschlucht, a narrow gorge modelled by river Hinterrhein over millions of years, digging two deep gorges into the rocks. You pass the Crestawald forest museum and walking through the woods and among meadows you approach the beautiful village of Splügen (1457 m). The pass and the walking trail have been named after this lovely village. Originally, Romansh settlers inhabited it; then, at the end of the 13th century, the Walsers came and brought their typical architecture, which can still be seen in part of the village.
Overnight stay with breakfast in Splügen
Ascent-Descent: + 783m /-305m
Distance 14,5 km/9 miles
Walking time about 5-6 hrs
A long climb brings you up to the famous Splügen-pass. You cross small mountain streams, walk through woods and meadows. After the mountain pass starts your descend and you come to the small village of Montepluga (1908 m), upstream from the homonymous artificial lake (the biggest of the valley, formed in 1931 at the end of the construction of the dam). The small centre still preserves its ancient structure, with houses in row along the main street (that leads up to the Pass) and the little church dedicated to Saint Francis. There are some hotels and a visit is worth for a deserved break at the highest wine bar of Italy. You continue the walk passing lake Montespluga and an impressive descend will follow along a mule-trail through the gorge of the Val Cardinello. Walking here you can imagine yourself the difficulties the merchants had to cross the Splügen-pass. Coming out the woods you will have a stunning panaorama of Isola and its lake.
Overnight stay with breakfast in Isola
Ascent-Descent: + 688m/-829m
Distance 17,5 km/10,9 miles
Walking time about 6 hrs
The route continues descending along the Via Spluga. It is a shady walk today. It is a shady walk today. The first stretch is in the woods, and then you walk through chestnut woods along the river Liro, which is flowing down with great force. You pass the pilgrimage church of San Giacomo Filippo. Leaving the river, a short climb into the woods and then you have a deserved descent into the vibrant town centre of Chiavenna, which offer a typical Italian atmosphere.
Overnight stay with breakfast in Chiavenna
Ascent-Descent: + 142m/-1080m
Distance 19,5 km / 12,1 miles
Walking time about 6½ hrs
Some suggestions of places to visit in the surroundings:
Visit the Bottonera mill (in the historic centre)
Palazzo Vertemate Franchi (in Prosto di Piuro, 1.5 Km from Chiavenna). This palace you can also reach on foot walking along the cycle / pedestrian path from Chiavenna to the Borgonuovo falls (about 20 minutes walking). It is a beautiful walk, easy for everyone.
From this Palazzo, you can continue along the cycle path and visit Acquafraggia waterfalls (15 minutes walking)
From here a beautiful trail leads to the village Savogno (an hour walking from the falls). We can suggest a visit, because it is an enchanting place, full of charm.
Another walk we can suggest is through the national park: Parco Marmitte dei Giganti. This is a circular route, which starts from zone ‘crotti of Chiavenna’ and brings you to Piuro. You return along the cycle/pedestrian path we mentioned before.
After breakfast end your tour along the Ancient Merchandise route Via Spluga
3 medium-difficult for people with walking experience in mountain areas and good physical condition. You are walking in a mountainous landscape along trails with significant daily ascent and descent. Not suitable for children under 13 yrs.
Daily distances between 14,5 km / 9 miles and 20 km / 12,4 miles.
Total kilometres (miles): 65 km / 40,4 mi
Daily from 14th June to 24th October 2021
2 or more people.
START / FINISH:
Thusis (CH) / Chiavenna (IT)