This is that time of the year. Your bike is probably still sleeping in the garage, yet you may be already planning your road trips for the upcoming season. That is why we thought, why not give you some inspiration? Thus, in this article, we take you on a road trip in a magical place Eastern of Switzerland. Well, no spoiler as it already says where exactly in the title. So let’s explore Eastern Switzerland, i.e. Graubünden to be specific, by motorbike!
Graubünden, Grisons, Grischun or Grigioni: 4 different names for a very unique place in the very east of Switzerland. Yes, we wanted to take you there, as it is a place we particularly adore. So, we prepared a road-book, that should come handy: where to stay? where to eat? which scenic roads are worth taking? You ask it, we have you covered. So, hop on and… enjoy the ride!
Countries: Switzerland – Austria – Italy
Starting point: Chur (CH)
End destination: Chur, Bern or Lausanne (depending on the options you chose)
DMS: 46°51’0” North | 9° 32’ 0” East
Duration: 3 to 5+ days
Main sights: Albula Pass, Julier Pass, Silvaplana, Stelvio Pass, San Bernardino Pass, Nufenen Pass, Grimsel Pass, Furka Pass, Laggo Maggiore
Stage-book: at the end of the article
Whether you come from Geneva, Fribourg, Basel or Zürich, we chose Chur as a starting point. Why Chur? Not only because it is the capital of the canton but mainly because it embodies the perfect starting point to explore this vast area. Note for you: Graubünden with 7.105 Mio km2 is the largest canton in Switzerland. And if you happen to live in Romandie, then you can leave mid-afternoon and reach Chur before the night. And so, you eventually will not need to take a full day off. Quite handy! explore Graubünden by motorbike
How to get to Chur?
Well, it depends on where you’re starting your journey from. And eventually, it will depend of course on how many days you have at your disposal for the whole road trip. But if you’re running tight on your schedule, we recommend you, even if we’re not big fan of it, to take the fastest route to have more time in Graubünden. And that is…most probably via the highway.
Visiting Chur: main sights
Chur is a charming city with an even more charming old town. Of course, you are on a road trip, so you might want to spend as much time as possible on your bike. Yet, discovering a region can also mean discovering its culture, which is embodied also in the gastronomy, in the art, in the language, etc. And Graubünden has definitely a LOT to offer: 3 languages (Swiss German, Romansh and Italian), food, great wines, etc. But let’s get back to the main subject. And there are a few sights worth visiting in Chur, such as the pedestrian streets or the Graubünden Art Museum.
On the website of the tourism bureau (here), you can have a list of the top 10 main tourist attractions (here). One place that is not mentioned but we still find impressive and quite photogenic is the bus station with its huge panoramic glass roof
explore eastern Switzerland by motorbike
Where to sleep in Chur ?
The temptation to stay in the city center is high. Yet, it might be hard to find a safe parking spot for the night. Not that the city is dangerous in any case, but well you know the drill. You might have some equipment on your bike that you don’t want to remove for the night if you’re parked on the street. So why not booking a night in a hotel well suited for bikers? In that regard, we have selected two candidates for you:
Both options offer onsite guarded parking, restaurant and all the convenience a biker might wish for. On top, both hotels are experienced with motorbike guests and know the specific requirements bikers have. And cherry on top of the cake, by giving the PROMO-Code, you will enjoy complimentary things. More on this at the end of the article. And while Sommerau Hotel is still located in the city of Chur, 5-Dörfer is located a bit further away. In Zizers, about 10km away from Chur. Yet, given that this is a real motorbike hotel, and the list of tailor-made services they offer to their biker guests, we think it is definitely worth considering.
Another option for those who like it, thecampingin Chur also offers all the necessary amenities in a peaceful setting along the Rhine. It costs about 21CHF/night including tax.
explore Graubünden by motorbike
Where to eat in Chur ?
Well, depending on what you are craving for, you might be tempted to look up on a search engine. Personally, we went for local alternative and had a bite at Veltiner Weinstube (website, menu). Pricewise, it is on the middle-upper segment. Yet the atmosphere is charming, quantities are correct (a long riding day requires some calories intakes), and they have a shady terrasse for the hot summer days. On top, they boast a solid wine selection with lots of local options. Yes, Graubünden is also known for its wine. A reason more to visit you said? That being said, both hotels mentioned above have onsite dining and drinking. Thus, you can enjoy a few glasses depending on your mood without having to hop on your bike afterwards. That might be also tempting, no? Safety first!! So, check their menu: 5-Dörfer (here), Sommerau (here). explore Graubünden by motorbike
A few info before going any further
These passes are not open all year round, usually from mid-June to the end of September. Also, check on the Alpen-Pässe.ch website before for the most up-to-date information.
These passes are very busy, particularly on weekends and during the holidays: motorcyclists, cyclists, camper vans, etc. In addition, and it is very unfortunate, but the behavior of certain road users flirts with unconsciousness/dangerousness. Also, we can only recommend, if possible, that you go there during the week. In addition, the various cantonal police forces provide a dissuasive presence during peak times.
The landscapes are breathtaking. Also, you quickly get caught up in them and lose your concentration or even find yourself in the middle of the road. So, stay focused.
These passes are at a high altitude (> 2000m), so it can be cool or even downright cold at the top. Also, dress accordingly.
You will have the options to cross borders. So, depending on the Corona-restrictions, make sure to check the latest requirements at the time of your road trip (here).
Do not mind the closed roads on the maps provided in the article, as most of the passes were closed for winter at the time we did the screenshots (back to point 1).
Our time and distance indications are purely informative and do not account for breaks, traffic, riding tempo, etc.
Also remember to check out our list on the road-trip essentials (here), in order to have all the necessary equipment to tackle this road-trip well equipped.
And if you don’t have a bike, or if you’re not thrilled with the prospect of riding your sporty/street bike, we have the right vehicle for you on our platform. Browse our catalog and book in a few clicks!
BROWSE – BOOK – RIDE
That having been said, let’s go for a ride! explore Graubünden by motorbike
1st stage: Chur – Lenzerheide – Albula Pass – Silvaplana (85km, about 2h)
So yes, it is a judgment call since you can also go via the Julier Pass. Yet, Albula Pass is our favorite. Why? Hard to tell just a general feeling. We kind of find the scenic views a bit more diverse and the view at the top quite stunning (2’312m altitude). When we were there, the restaurant was being renovated. But on the parking lot, there was a food truck offering coffee, refreshing drinks and basic catering. Remember that you’ll be in relative high altitude, and it can also be a bit windy. Thus, you will probably not stay for hours. explore Graubünden by motorbike
Of course, if your heart is beating for Julier Pass, then do it as it is also stunning. Only difference is that you’ll reach Silvaplana directly on the other slope of the pass. explore Graubünden by motorbike
On the way down, you will have to consider where to stay for the night. There are several options on the table: St-Moritz (upscale/posh), Silvaplana (our option), Sils Maria (accommodations a bit pricier), or Pontresina. Yet no matter your choice, having spent less time on the bike will leave you enough time to visit and to do some sightseeing. Again, discovering a region on the bike is great, yet it leaves you less time to enjoy the local life style if you may.
Where to spend the night?
We picked Silvaplana for several reasons, one of them being the camping facilities. Located directly at the lakeside, it boasts all the amenities you might wish for. And jumping in the lake after a hot summer riding day is just the best feeling, isn’t it? And this even if the water is damn cold even in Summer. You can expect max. 15 degrees in July. explore Graubünden by motorbike
Yet, Silvaplana lake is a worldwide famous kite-surfing and windsurfing spot. So, during the sunny days, the region is quite packed to say the least and last-minute bookings might be simply impossible. Thus, if you are traveling off season, check online for availability and rates. Otherwise, if you travel during high season, and providing you want to camp, then you will have look in the vicinities.
The TCS camping in St-Moritz shut down operation definitely. But you might find your luck in the next one in Samedan. That being said, for the one looking for other types of accommodations, we recommend you to browse search platform such as Booking, Trivago or Airbnb to find the best deals. In off season, prices from 150chf/night upwards for a 2-people bedroom. But since you are mobile, do not hesitate to extend a little bit your search range as almost all villages in Engadin are charming! explore Graubünden by motorbike
Where to eat?
St.Moritz being a much bigger destination, you will find more dining options there. Yet there are a few restaurants in Silvaplana too. As for us, there was a nice food truck on the public square called Plan-B Kitchen. So, we had a bite and a few cold ones there. But if you’re craving for something else, you’ll find Pizzas, Thai Food, etc. around the main square. explore Graubünden by motorbike
Long riding day ahead, but with a lot of diversity and some breath-taking landscapes too. First part of our journey will be the Lago Resia, via Scuol, and Nauders. Count about 2h and 100km. Albeit it might not be the nicest route, at least, you will not have to make twice the same road if you go via Müstair and Mals.
Lago die Resia (Reschensee) is an artificial lake that boasts a famous landmark, ie. the steeple of the submerged 14th-century church tower. This place that you definitely spoted several times on social networks is highly instagramable and will pimp your wall for sure 😉
After the snap-break, you will head towards the Stelvio Pass, via Malles. Follow the signs (Passo Stelvio/Stilfserjoch). Stelvio Passo, peaking at 2’757m, is a must do among the bikers’ community. And after the Iseran Pass, we talked to you about it in our article about the RDGA, it is the 2nd highest pass in the Alps.
The 48 hairpin turns, near the top of the eastern ramp will literally give you chills and the landscape views along the way will take your breath away. So, make sure not to get carried away and stay focus on the road, as the traffic can be heavy during the sunny days (cyclists, cars and motorcycles, campers and vans, etc.)! explore Graubünden by motorbike
Once at the top, you will have a few options to eat and even to sleep. Yet, in order to enjoy a broader offer (hotels, restaurants), we recommend that you continue to Tirano. On the way to Tirano, we recommend you to make a 3km/6min detour to the Umbrail Pass. Why? Because the Umbrail Pass is the highest pass in Switzerland, peaking at 2’501m. And it might just feel nice to cross it from your bucket list. Yet, if you are already tired or running on a tight schedule, you might leave it for another time.
Stop for the night: Tirano
Albeit you have the option to cross the border and come back to Switzerland and sleep in Poschiavo e.g., you might want to spend the night in Italy to enjoy some fine Italian cuisine. I mean pizza or pasta with wine doesn’t sound appealing to you? To be mentioned though, in Poschiavo (in the Italian-speaking part of Graubünden), the choice is just as attractive and also spread through by the Italian side.
Where to sleep?
Of course, there are several options and booking website will tell you about the best deals of the moment. Yet, have a guarded parking onsite is definitely something you should consider. And this practicality might force you to leave the nice pedestrian streets of the city center to browse for options a bit in the “outskirts”. That being said, Tirano is not a big city and everything is pretty much within walking distance. Additionally, a little walk after a long day on the bike might be good to stretch your legs and open your appetite. So, we stayed for the night at the Hotel La Rotonda (website). This family-owned hotel does not only provide “street parking” but literally in front of the hotel, it also offers complimentary breakfast, onsite dining, etc. The rooms are functional and you can choose from several options: single, double or even triple rooms, which might be handy to split the costs.
Yet, we wanted to feel the traditional Trattoria experience and were craving for a pizza. Thus, we headed to the Il Braciere Pizzeria. The restaurant is located on Viale Italia a bit further away from the city center, which is often a good sign (no tourist trap). And the restaurant has not website, which is also a good sign. The chef focusses on the food and not on his digital presence ;-)! You can count a 25min walk or a 3min bike ride. But again, the walk did us good and we arrive at the pizzeria with a solid appetite!
Option A for 3rd stage : Tirano –Bernina Pass – Julier Pass – Chur (143km, 2h35min)
So, this would be the option A if you have a tight(er) schedule and would like to finish the road trip after 3 days. Like this, you have two nice passes to close it nicely: Bernina Pass (2328m) and Julier Pass (2284m). Then back to Chur. And from Chur, it gives you enough time to reach back home on the highway. Or you could make a stop-over in Andermatt and then try the Susten-Furka-Grimsel triptic the following day (more info here)?
Option B for Stage 3 : Tirano – Bernina Pass – Splügen Pass – San Bernardino Pass – Maccagno (IT) (6h, 260km)
But of course, there is always option B. So, if you don’t feel like you had enough and it’s not time to go back home, you can extend your road-trip for another 1-2 days. So, let’s continue the journey for another full day on the bike. From Tirano, you cross the border and head to Poschiavo, then Bernina Pass and then back to Silvaplana. In Silvaplana you keep riding direction Maloja Pass and then Chiavenna (IT). Arriving in Chiavenna, you will have spent nearly 2h15min on the bike. So maybe time for a break/lunch? If it is too early, have a coffee or refreshing drink and then head towards Splügen Pass (2118m). explore Graubünden by motorbike
After a pit spot at the top, or a lunch break, head to San Bernardino Pass (2067m) via Nufenen, the village not the pass! This will take you another 40min. And once at the San Bernardino Pass, you can enjoy a break with view over the Alpine Lake.
Last stage of your day, your end destination will be Maccagno, on the Laggo Maggiore via Bellinzona. The nearly 100 km will take you about 2h-2h40min depending on the traffic and the road you chose. Either you can take the main road along the lake via Magadino, which is subject to more traffic usually. Or you can take a little detour via Nucleo Paese. The road being tiny and through the forest, so low visibility because of the turns and shadows, make sure you ride carefully.
Where to stay and eat in Maccagno (IT)?
We stayed at the Camping place, which is directly at the lake. So perfect to have a refreshing swim after this looong day on the bike. And the water is much warmer than Silvaplana lake 😉 But should you prefer more comfort for your night, you will find several options either in Maccagno or in the next big(ger) city, Luino. explore Graubünden by motorbike
As for your dinner, we can only recommend you to try La Gabella. Within walking distance from the camping place, the restaurant boasts not only a great menu and drink list, with local wines by the pitcher, but also indoor and outdoor seating, both with the lake view!
explore Graubünden by motorbike
Last day on the bike, and also a long one. Here, depending on what time you want to be home, and also where home is, you can decide to take shortcuts or even another route. For instance, in Biasca you have two options.
The first one is to head towards the Gotthard Tunnel and then, at the last exit before the tunnel, to head to the Nufenen Pass. And on the other side, in Ulrichen you can decide:
whether you want to head back towards Brig – Sion – Lausanne.
By traveling on the cantonal road and then the highway, this will take you 2h35min and a total of nearly 185km to reach Lausanne.
Or to catch up option 2 and reach Bern via Grimsel Pass – Interlaken -Thun (2h15min, 135km)
Or you have option 2, the one we chose
This route will take you over the Lukmanier pass (1,917m).
And then to Andermatt, Furka Pass (2’429m), Grimsel Pass (2’164m) to reach Canton Bern and the well-known Meiringen-Brienz-Interlaken (see our previous article on the topic here).
In Meiringen, you can either ride on the left or the right side of the lake. The left is faster but there are some maintenance works on the road. So, traffic might be allowed only on one lane of the road, and thus eventually slower due to numerous stops at traffic lights. Or you can choose the right side of the lake. This way is definitely slower as you will have to cross the many villages along the way. Yet with this route, you will have several possibilities to stop and quickly jump into the lake to cool off. Which can feel pleasant, especially on a hot summer day.
So, we have slowly reached the end of our road trip. We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did. But we couldn’t stress out enough the diversity in the landscapes, cultures, languages, etc. It’s always a pleasure to ride out in those kinds of environment. Last info worth mentioning is that this road-book should serve as a basis for planning, as it will eventually depend on your desires i.e. pure road-trip or time to sight-see, riding style and of course your bike. Because it is way easier to spend 6-7h/day on a comfortable trail/tourer than on a nervous sports motorbike! Ride on and talk to you soon! explore Graubünden by motorbike
Hey! Je suis le fondateur et le Chief Biker Officer chez Cruizador. Motard et passionné de voyage depuis longtemps, c'est en 2018 que j'ai décidé de lancer ce nouveau service, en espérant qu'il parle aux plus grands nombres de motard(e)s qui partagent la même philosophie et la même soif de grands espaces. C'est avec plaisir que je prends note de vos commentaires, idées d'amélioration, etc. Ride on!
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