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driving from lake como to st. moritz

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new york city
posts: 6
driving from lake como to st. moritz

hi everyone,

my fiance and i ( by then my wife) are traveling to italy for our honeymoon. our trip consists of rome to cinque terre to lake como. we would absolutely love to take a day trip to st. moritz. we will have a rental car in como so we are hoping to drive to st. moritz.

my question is...

i realize that the easiest route is the train (bernina express) but we would like to drive so that we could do it at our own pace to stop in towns, take pictures and such. is driving a feasible option and if so, is it a difficult drive (directions, roads, time, etc.) we would really like to do so but we want to make sure we are not being naive about the difficulty of the drive.

thanks so much for all of your help in advance!

Edited: 10:41 pm, April 26, 2010
Zurich, Switzerland
Destination Expert
for Zurich
posts: 2,927
reviews: 26
1. Re: driving from lake como to st. moritz

Fastest route to drive from Como to St. Moritz would be via Lecco-Chiavenna-Maloja pass. This would take around 2.5 hours. I would say directions aren't difficult and the roads are good. However Maloja pass is very winding. For the first part you could also drive along the western shore of Lago di Como - more scenic, but the roads are small on some parts and slower.

For the return trip you could think of taking the route via Bernina pass and Tirano instead, which takes about 1 hour longer. The roads are good on this route too, and less winding. Bernina pass is scenic, but the railway takes another route which is even more scenic.

For this trip, both options - drive or train - have their own advantages. As you said, driving allows to stop wherever you want. And travel time is less (by public transportation I even suggest to spend a night in St. Moritz area as the oneway journey takes more than 4 hours). On the other hand, sitting in a train is very relaxing and you can certainly appreciate the beauty of the nature more than if you have to concentrate on the road.

St. Moritz...
Destination Expert
for St. Moritz, Engadin St. Moritz
posts: 3,172
reviews: 265
2. Re: driving from lake como to st. moritz

First of all: congratulations to your wedding and I wish you a lot of luck and many happy years together.

Oller has already given you most of the answers and an excellent itinerary without backtracking and with a lot of marvellous sights, so let me take you perhaps a little more into details to help you plan.

You dont mention the time of year you are traveling. The excursion by car would be nice from spring to autumn, dont do it in Winter, as the pass or part of the road can be closed if it's snowing. To enjoy your traveling by car, I would also avoid August, as this is holiday time in Italy and you get heavy traffic then on the whole itinerary mentioned by Oller. If you travel in August, be prepared to start very early and return late.

So supposed you travel sometimes soon:

Lecco-Chiavenna by fast road passes through a lot of not very good maintained, dark tunnels, but it brings you faster from point to point. The western shore as mentioned has lake view and is more scenic, but also slower. I usually take the shorter one. During weekdays, be prepared to find a lot of trucks however.

The scenic part starts somewhere around Chiavenna. This would be a nice first stop. It's a small Northern Italian town with a lively main street. On Saturday there is a market.

From Chiavenna the road starts to climb up the strait and romantic Bregaglia valley. After the border between Italy and Switzerland, you will find small villages along the road, which now however does mostly go around those villages, which saves you from narrow streets. If you have time and want to see an idyllic small mountain hamlet, follow the signs up to Soglio, sitting on a sunny terrace above the valley . The best foto view to the near mountain peaks is from the wrought iron gate to the cemetary next to the church.

The Maloja pass is steep and winding, but it's a well maintained road, so take your time and enjoy the views. Stop at the head point before entering the small village of Maloja, there is a view point where you can see the descent of the pass and down into the Bregaglia valley.

From Maloja on you continue along the lakes plateau of the Upper Engadin Valley. Stop along the road to take in the view of lakes and glaciers and mountains.

After St. Moritz, you leave the lakes area. If you continue as Oller suggested, you take the direction Pontresina towards Bernina/Italy. Should this be around lunch time, make a short sidetrack to Morteratsch, it's not far from Pontresina on the road to Bernina. Steps from the parking lot into the valley is a restaurant with a terrace with a beautiful view. Walk a short distance longer into the valley - just around the first bend in the path - to enjoy the view of the whole glacier.

Continue on the road to Bernina. If you have time, you could go up to Diavolezza (also an option for lunch) for the panorama and the strong sun in this altitude. There is a gondola leaving every 20 minutes (except for one hour during lunch time).

Continue over the Bernina pass and down the Poschiavo valley, again a winding road, but not as steep as the Maloja.

In Poschiavo, walk through the small town with a lot of history.

From Poschiavo you continue a short distance to Tirano, back in Italy, and from there you travel along the fertile Valtellina valley with orchards and wineyards back to Como.

new york city
posts: 6
3. Re: driving from lake como to st. moritz

wow, both of your replies are fantastic and very informative, thank you very much...we really look forward to this trip!

we are going to be there from july 13th to july 17th, so i think the weather should be a non factor. unfortunately, we have to do this as a day trip, so staying in st. moritz isnt an option. also, if we drive back at night time, are the roads pretty well lit and are there enough street signs to make it an easy navigation home. we are going to try squeeze every bit of daylight out of seeing st. moritz. it seems as if we will be descending a mountain and i know this can be tricky in the night especially when you are not familiar with the roads, thanks again!

Mannheim, Germany
Destination Expert
for Zurich, Mannheim
posts: 13,221
reviews: 3
4. Re: driving from lake como to st. moritz

Country roads are never lit in the night, are they in USA?

The signage is good enough but having a GPS unit would help a lot. Otherwise, it's a road down a valley and along the lake shore, so you cannot really get lost.

At 1800 m above sea level, weather can be an issue any time of the year, so be prepared to drive carefully.

St. Moritz...
Destination Expert
for St. Moritz, Engadin St. Moritz
posts: 3,172
reviews: 265
5. Re: driving from lake como to st. moritz

In July days are rather long, so you will be able to explore and drive back with daylight. And it would be a shame to drive back over the Bernina pass at night, as the sightseeing on this stretch is probably what you came for and you would miss it at night. If you say you would squeeze every bit of daylight out of seeing St. Moritz, I think you mean the area and not just St. Moritz as a place. It's the nature and the mountains that make the Engadin valley to one of the most beautiful areas worldwide, not the cluster of houses and boutiques in St. Moritz - you have seen those in a short walk through the pedestrian zone, as St. Moritz itself is a small place. I think in this case the journey is the destination and the attraction of your itinerary. If you start early in Como, you have time for several stops along the road and take in the sights and you will be in St. Moritz before lunch time. If you have shopping in mind, be aware that shops close at lunch time. For the shopping in St. Moritz, see stmoritz.ch/en/… for an overall information about the area see www.engadin.stmoritz.ch.

So given your arrival in St. Moritz before lunch time and some shopping, you could easily be back on the road at noon and have lunch in one of the panoramic places along the Bernina road and this would give you time to enjoy the whole itinerary by daylight.

Should your intention be just visiting St. Moritz, and not the area, I would recommend you go back by the same way you arrived, not by the detour over the Bernina.

Saffa in London
posts: 4
6. Re: driving from lake como to st. moritz

Wow , were staying in Lake Como Area , and were thinking about visiting St. Moritz too ,( but since we have a hire car ) we too though about the driving experience .

Thank you all for your fantastic informative replies , how did you driving experience end up Kc ?

were heading there between 26th & 30th Aug , so i think the school holidays might also be a factor for us.

Lugano, Switzerland
posts: 251
reviews: 14
7. Re: driving from lake como to st. moritz

It seems you are staying around Lake Como area. Should your stay be on the Western lakeside (Tremezzo/Isola Comacina/Menaggio/Dongo) do not go back to Como and then to Lecco: just drive up on that road (though pretty narrow and full of bends). At the end of Lake Como you must be careful to take on your left hand side (direction Chiavenna/St. Moritz) and not to Colico. As explained by the other navigators, doing it in one day, it is a very long journey. Ideally sleep somewhere or get up very early and turn in very late. Make sure that the rented car has all papers (e.g. international insurance, etc.) for the "evasion" into switzerland.

Saffa in London
posts: 4
8. Re: driving from lake como to st. moritz

Thank you , we are actually staying on the Northern part of the lake in the #1 recommended B&B - villatresjolie. we have a rented car from Milan , so will have to check on the Insurance , thanks so much for that tip.

9. Re: driving from lake como to st. moritz

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