Switzerland is well known for its chic resort towns, beautiful valleys, and breathtaking landscapes, but the idyllic Valle Verzasca stands out even among the stunning Swiss landscape. Crystalline emerald waters, smooth gorges, natural pools, evergreen forests, mountain trails, ancient churches, and James Bond’s bungee jumping spot are only a few of the attractions this valley near the Italian border has to offer. With its unspoiled natural beauty, outdoor sports opportunities, and quaint architecture, Valle Verzasca has something for everyone to enjoy, from thrill-seekers, adventurers, nature lovers, and romantics.
Valle Verzasca, The Magical Swiss Valley At The Border With Italy
Valle Verzasca is a valley in Locarno, in the Canton of Ticino, in the south of Switzerland, bordering Italy. Expanding for 35 km of vibrant nature dotted with picturesque villas, the valley is completely surrounded by mountains in a circle; this geographically isolated characteristic made the region politically unimportant for most of its history but also ensured that its mountainscapes remained largely wild and untouched, and the idyllic charm of the municipalities was preserved.
The valley is at the north of Lake Maggiore and is cut through by the enchanting, color-shifting Verzasca River. It’s composed by the villages of Mergoscia, Vogorno, Corippo, Lavertezzo, Brione, Gerra, Frasco, and Sonogno.
What To See And Do In Valle Verzasca
From outdoor sports, mountain hiking, romantic walks by the river, or exploring medieval villas, there is always something to do at Valle Verzasca.
Enjoy The Verzasca River
Possibly the most quintessential aspect of Verzasca is the Verzasca River. Winding through the mountains in hypnotizing, ever-changing tones of blue and green in crystal clear waters, diving and swimming are almost irresistible, especially when the marbled rocks create several natural pools to sit and relax in. Visitors beware, though: the water is very cold, even at the height of summer.
The most popular point of the river, as well as the whole valley, is Ponte di Salti, a Roman stone bridge connecting the river in Lavertezzo. The stone arches above the gorge set the scene for a truly perfect picture. As the name Ponte di Salti (jumping bridge) suggests, jumping into the river is a favorite pastime.
It is also essential to pay attention to the signalization; there are areas of the river where the current is treacherously strong, and fatal accidents have occurred over inattention.
Hike Your Way Through The Valley
Valle Verzasca has multiple trails amidst the forests and the mountains, suitable for hikers of all ages and experience levels. It’s the perfect region for hiking, biking, mountaineering, and mountain climbing.
Travelers can cross the valley and reach the different municipalities through the footpaths, such as the popular Sentiero Verzasca trail. A historic trail that follows an ancient mule track, it leads all the way around the valley, 24 km of mountain tracks, small bridges, old stone buildings, birch woods, waterfalls, and enchanting meadows. Visitors can tailor the Sentiero however they wish, and the path is relatively easy and never strays too far from the towns. One of the most popular options is the hike from the charming village of Sonogno to the more popular Lavertezzo, in about 14 km.
The Myth Trail is a great option for families and takes the fairytale-like beauty of the valley to a whole new level. Located in Gerra, the trail of legends is a 2-hour circular hike through the woods, exploring the places that shaped the stories and myths of Verzasca for centuries. Witches, devils, talking animals - of the friendly and unfriendly kind - crüsc elves and saints will accompany hikers through the woods in this truly magical experience across woods, sculpture gardens, caves, dips, and valleys.
Bungee Jumping Like James Bond At Contra Dam
The entrance to Val Verzasca is sure to leave an impression: a 220 m / 721 ft high arched dam built in between the mountains. The Contra Dam, also known as Verzasca Dam, became worldwide famous due to the 007 franchise, when James Bond jumped off it in the 1995 007 movie GoldenEye, in what is often considered one of the best movie stunts of all time.
Today, any visitors who are brave and adventurous enough can feel like 007 in the Goldeneye bungee jumping experience right there at the Contra Dam. A thrilling 7.5-second free fall that is sure to be the ultimate adrenaline rush. Special 007 tours of the valley, including the ride to the damn and the bungee jumping, are available.
Learn And Play In The Cultural Scene Of Verzasca
Though Valle Verzasca is the perfect destination for outdoor lovers, the villas and towns along the valley offer a lot to explore as well. The small village of Sonogno features beautiful medieval stone houses and flowery window beds, as well as the Val Verzasca Museum, detailing the living history of the valley, and the Wool Center, where the colorful wool of the region is produced. The municipality of Corippo has been deemed a national historical monument due to the perfectly preserved architecture of the medieval mountain town; it cannot be reached by car.
In Vogorno stands the oldest church in the region, the Church of St. Bartholomew. Built in Byzantine styles with frescos dating back to the 1200s, it is a church as a museum at once. In Brione Verzasca, the 18th-century noble home of Marcacci Castle has been transformed into an escape room, with riddles and clues making a truly picturesque puzzle.
How To Get To Valle Verzasca
Valle Verzasca can only be reached by car or bus; there are no trains in the region. The closest city to the valley is Locarno, in Ticino, 30 minutes away by car, followed by Lugano, an hour away.
The road can get steep and has jagged curves, but the path in between the mountains is absolutely beautiful. To reach the valley by public transport, travelers can take the bus from Locarno to Sonogno, which has many stops in the Valle in between.