If you are looking beyond typical tourist places and off the beaten path, then head to Centovalli and Cardada in the canton of Ticino, easily reachable from Locarno.
The journey to Centovalli is as exciting as the destination itself, and the train ride through the scenic valley is out of this world! Your eyes will be almost stuck to the window as the views unfold one after another in a random order of colorful forests, stone villages, deep rivers, small lakes, marvelous bridges and tunnels.
As a tip, book your seats early on as this train usually gets overbooked. One more tip, open the window from time to time to enjoy the amazing breeze and unscreened views that your camera would love to capture.
When we reached Verdasio in Centovalli, we took the cable car to Monte Comino, the place for our first adventure and where we tried a new magnificent outdoor activity – lama trekking 🦙!! What a beautiful and friendly creature the llama! Even children from three years old can participate in this outdoor activity, and enjoy its company. And what an experience-called even adventure! Going through the meadows, up & down a few hills and inside the pristine forest. All while smoothly leading Vanir, our guide llama.
The magic of autumn filled the forest and covered the surrounding hills with shades of multi-colors. We were lucky, as by mid day, the sky cleared allowing for brilliant sunshine and warmth to overtake. I bet no tourist places or attractions could beat that!
On top of the trekking you can also feed the llamas, and pet them. It’s actually advised to do that at the beginning to build some emotional connection before the adventure and at the end to thank them for being the most friendly and collaborative animals during this outdoor activity!
Rasa & its stone houses, another local gem out of typical tourist places
After the lama trekking, we went back to Verdasio, and from there took a different cable car in the opposite direction to Rasa, our next adventure. Note that it’s two different stations a couple hundred meters apart. Rasa is a little gem of Centovalli, not part of the typical tourist places or attractions. The village itself is pretty small but worth a visit and a walk through its alleys. Here you can indulge in the pristine nature and untouched history.
Its church is around 250 years old, simple but impressive with its authenticity. Its characteristic stone houses stand out with their fences overlooking a magnificent pristine valley. If you want to relax a bit, there is a Grotto( Cafe) that serves great cappuccinos or you can simply sit on the wooden bench or stone wall next to the church and open your eyes wide to this authentic beauty.
Intragna, colourful alleys, bell tower and view, worth the adventure!
After a pause in Rasa, we took the cable car again to Verdasio and headed to Intragna for our next adventure, on the way back to Locarno. Intragna is bigger than Rasa and more colourful. It has a cute pebble square and colored alleyways that are worth exploring. But what’s most remarkable is its 165 stairs high tower where you can enjoy a great view of the surrounding valley. Here you can test your fitness level according to the number of stairs you can climb without losing breath :). But the tower responsible encourages you by leaving posters that indicate what’s left to climb! The view from the top is worth all the effort, 360 degrees of landscape that is limited only by the horizon! Take your time, before heading back and soak all of this beauty in!
If you didn’t have enough of the view, here’s some advice. Get to the Intragna train station about 15 minutes before departure. Next to the station there is a very nice Cafe, restaurant, & motel that has a fantastic view over the valley. Take your time to sip another Cappuccino while you rewind in your head all these beautiful local gems you have visited.
On the train back from Centovalli, we were tired from the adventures of the day, yet still very excited for the route. We were attentive to all the beautiful spots we noticed on the way forward and wanted to have a longer contemplation on them. The tower of Intragna from a distance, the bridges that cross the valley, the natural stone pools and stream of del ponti and many others. We were happy that we adventured off the beaten path and out of the typical recommended tourist places & attractions to explore the local gems of the valley. A smile came to our face when we remembered our latest friend, Vanyr, the lama.
Cardada Orsellina, the view that takes your breath away!
Locarno is not only about its beautiful bay and Grand Piazza, which are very known tourist attractions but it’s also about the surrounding gems that are as attractive if not even more.
Let’s head to Cardada Orsellina and Cimetta. Just above Madonna del Sasso, you can take the cable car for a couple of minutes up to Cardada. As a tip, take the side of the cable car overlooking Locarno as you can enjoy a wonderful view zooming out & in (on the way back) on Lake Maggiore shoreline.
Although the weather was still cloudy and gloomy in the first half of the day, but nevertheless the view was still impressive. It’s rare that you can have such a 360 degree view from one spot. Actually you can enjoy the view from multiple locations there but the best we found was the “bridge viewpoint” and Cimetta (which is further up and you can reach it by télésiège from Cardada). Even though the weather was not on our side then, it was compensated by the “Autumn colors” festival taking place at that time. Few restaurants were offering delicious dishes from the region. A castania stand with the most friendly owner was also there, a magic show and face painting for the kids, but the special activity was a unique alp horn show that revealed the tradition and culture of the region. The band had multiple performances so we were following them through the different locations of Cardada & Cimetta, taking a glance on the view from time to time, and nibbling on hot delicious castania!
From Cardada we headed down back to Madonna del Sasso. By then to our amusement the weather was turning summerish and the sky clear blue! So we visited the sanctuary and then headed to our location at Hotel Belvedere to sip a coffee and enjoy the wonderful view of the Locarno and Lake Maggiore shoreline, but that’s another post!