Campgrounds around Europe are often filled with kids’ activities like discos and kids clubs, a life saver for some parents. But if that “Chocolate” song is beginning to get on your nerves, perhaps it’s time for a change of pace.
Ready for some peace and quiet in the middle of the Swiss Alps? Then today’s installment of “Let’s Go Camping” is for you.
Losing all sense of time is the aim of Dutch mum of 2, Brigette, when she goes camping. And she has found her paradise, Camping Morteratsch located beneath the Moreratsch Glacier in the heart of Graubünden.
1. Tell us about your campground and the best way to get there.
The Morteratsch Campground is located above the Engerdier town of Pontresina in the canton of Graubünden. Set at 1860m above sea level, this is a special campground which is open in both summer and winter. There’s lots of fresh mountain air to enjoy here.
The drive takes just over 3 hours from Zurich and the campground can be reached by one of two roads—either driving past Chur and Savognin or driving past Davos and taking the Vereina Car Train. If you decide to arrive without a car, the journey takes also around 3 hours by train.
2. What types of accommodation are on offer?
The campground accommodates tents and vans/caravans/motor homes and there are a variety of locations to choose from. You can pitch a tent near the stream, one of the two lakes, or under the trees of the forest. Pitches are of standard European size. As you can see by the map, there are possibilities to camp here without being overlooked by lots of neighbours - a chance to camp in europe and feel at one with nature..
Reservations are only taken for those staying for at least 7 nights and you can, for an additional fee, request a specific spot. The most popular week in the summer seems to be just before and just after the 1st August, the Swiss National Day.
If you plan to come for a short period of time, call ahead to make sure there is room. I recommend reserving your ideal space along the river at least 6 months in advance—they are that popular.
For those without access to a tent or caravan there are a couple of wooden houses, a wooden barrel, 2 caravans and an apartment all available for rent.
3. What facilities does the campground offer?
In the 20 years I have been camping I have never seen such great bathrooms. The bathrooms are large and heated, so you actually enjoy taking a shower. They also have great facilities for babies. The kitchen area is very clean and has everything there for you to help keep it clean for the next person using it. There is also a separate kitchen in the activity room.
The campground has a shop that has everything you need including fresh bread each morning. Come early enough to have your choice of bread but it’s been our experience that by 9am there was still a good selection. There is also a restaurant on site.
4. What activities does the Campground offer?
The campground has two lakes where you can swim if you are brave enough to jump into the cold 14 C water - very refeshing! The campsite offers bike and go-cart rentals and has a playground if your kid still isn’t exhausted from all the hiking. For those who need to warm up, there Is a Sauna on site.
It is important to note that there are no organised activities that European campgrounds are known for. The kids entertain themselves.
If your trip coincides with the Swiss National day (1st August) expect to see fireworks and a parade through the campground.
5. Breakfast, lunch and dinner: what are your recommendations?
Over our 2 and a half week stay we enjoyed breakfast with fresh bread daily from the onsite shop and always ate at our tent. Lunch we ate out depending on what we were doing, usually on a mountain. Dinner we ate in either the restaurant on site or at the 15 min by foot away Restaurant Moreratsch.
During our stay we didn’t have a single bad meal, so you really can’t go wrong in this area of Switzerland. The more touristy town of Pontresina is not far away and also a good option for a traditional Swiss meal. Why not try the traditional Graubünden Capuns?
6. What to see and do outside the campground?
Camping Morteratsch is for people who love nature and hiking. Nature photographers will be in heaven with much inspiration to be found around what felt like every corner, including finding the famous Swiss flower “Edelweiss.”
Here is some of what we got up to while we were there:
Morteratsch Glacier - The entrance to the Glacier is a 15 min walk from the campground but can also be reached by car. A visit is rather eye opening and a great lessons for kids on the reality of global warming, with sign posts along the path indicating the glaciers recession.
Bernina-Ospizip to Piz Minor - We took a self guided tour out of the hiking book called “Nachmittagswanderung” to Piz Minor. Get off the Rhätische Bahn at Bernina Ospizip and hike the 3 hours to Val Minor and on to Curtinatsch where you can then meet the bus or train that will take you back down to the campground. We loved the feeling of being on our own at the lake, about half way through the hike, where we experienced the piercing screechers of marmots hidden in the mountain scenery. This hike is doable for kids.
Poschiavo - The most southern valley of Switzerland, the town of Poschiavo has an Italian influence thanks to its location on the border of Italy. The area is known for its stone work and sculptors. We visited the weekly markets on Saturday for tasty salamis and took the famous Rhätischen train to get there.
Swiss National Park and search for edelweiss - We took a 3.5 km hike along Route 17 in the Swiss National Park which took us around Margunet. Our mission was to look for edelweiss. This famous Swiss flower looks like an ordinary plant and is small so it can be easily missed so keep your eyes peeled. The tour starts from with the parking lots P8 or P9. It is a rough track but teaches kids great life skills such as jumping over creeks and balancing on wooden beams. Guided tours are also available.
Diavolezza - Travel up to 2900m by cable car for views over the Engadine valley and the kids will get a kick out of seeing snow in the middle of summer. For the experienced hiker, considering hiking back down the 10 km trail. It is very steep (not good for those of you with bad knees!), rocky and in some places narrow so I only recommend this for experienced hikers.
Swimming in Pontresina - We enjoyed a swim three times in the pool in Pontresina. Ideal but not restricted for rainy days, there is indoor and outdoor swimming including massage jets for those tired muscles from all the hiking you’ve been doing. There is a small waterslide that will have your kids asking to go back.
We left after 2.5 weeks feeling that we didn’t even scratch the surface, so much to do for the outdoor families. If you really do not like hiking or are looking for a hot swimming destination this isn’t the location for you.
7. Any tips of what not to forget?
Don’t forget your binoculars for those hikes and even admire the mountaineers on their tours.
Remember that you are up high and bring enough warm clothes such as warm sweaters and warm pjs, because even in the middle of summer it can get quite cold. Tip: consider bringing along thermals.
The ground is a little rocky so make sure you have the appropriate tent pegs.
And if you want to enjoy the lake without getting wet consider bring along a blow up boat.
8. Best way to book?
Book directly online if you are staying for at least 7 nights. If you plan to stay a little less then give a call beforehand to check for availability. Their high season is from the middle of July till the middle of August.
9. Anything to watch out for?
The campground is based at 1860 m above sea level so remember even in the height of summer it can still get cold, especially at night. It also can be a little bit windy so make sure you have a good jacket, too.
10. What sets this camping ground apart from the rest?
It has an interesting combination of luxury with its warm showers and fresh bread, combined with a more back-to-nature feel for those who are really looking to relax and recharge. (No kids disco music to be heard!) If you are a hiking family this is the site for you.
11. What type of camper are you?
We are Dutch family of 4 who have been camping for years. Camping to us means sleeping in a tent. We camp because I don’t want to worry about time. You wake up when you want to, eat when you want and forget about time. We camp with no technology and enjoy the simple things.
A big thanks to Brigitte for sharing her new favourite campground in Switzerland. While chatting with Brigitte I realised myself I actually stayed at the campground and visited the Morteratsch Glacier when i first came to Switzerland 17 year ago.
Do you have a favourite campground to recommend to the Simple Family Travel Community? We would love to hear from you! No campground is too small and no campground too luxurious!