1. Monte Bré (Altitude: 925m asl)
This mountain is our favourite. Hailed ‘one of the sunniest mountains in Switzerland’ it offers breathtaking views of the un-spoilt natural environment. As you walk up the tree-lined pathways that spiral upwards around the mountain, you can’t help but taken aback by the stunning views of Lake Ceresio down below and the snow-topped mountains across the lake. However, something better awaits… the higher up the mountain you get, the more the view changes and, as you near the top, framed by the haunting bare branches of the trees, the whole landscape is shrouded by a magical mist over the distance, from which the glistening sun sparkles its way through. It really is beautiful. Then, when you reach the summit, there’s an amazing grotti (little restaurant) where you can sit back and enjoy the god-like panoramic views of the Pennine Mountains and Bernese Alps from the terrace, whilst enjoying some traditional Swiss cuisine. (Note: On a clear day, you’ll be able to see as far as Monte Rosa and the Italian Maritime Alps.)
'Monte Bré is fantastic for hiking, mountain biking, exploring traditional villages and finding hidden local restaurants. If you’re looking for something particularly amazing, we definitely recommend following the natural and archeological trail to Gandria. You won’t be disappointed.'
If you have a car, it’s worth driving two-thirds of the way up this mountain. You’ll still benefit from the views, as the drive around the winding roads around the mountain is an experience in itself; however the mountain is quite high so, this will make the hike a lot more relaxing and enjoyable.
2. Sentiero Monte Bré (Altitude: 650m asl)
Sentiero Monte Bré (also known as Gandria-Monte Bré) offers a shorter hiking route than the full summit of Monte Bré, with much more greenery and many quirky discoveries along the way. The walk lasts approx. 2.5 hours, during which you’ll experience the picturesque fishing villages of Gandria and Bré, enchanting woodland areas and breathtaking views over the gulf of Lugano. It’s the perfect walk for beginners or people who love to unwind with a relaxing walk; simply enjoying exploring the natural beauty and quirky villages that Switzerland has to offer.
Don’t forget to stop of at Bré - a beautifully interesting and quaint village full of narrow streets and artistic installations. What makes Bré so special is that it’s managed to retain the characteristics of an ancient rural village, whilst moving with the times.
If the weather is good, take a boat trip back to Lugano.
3. Monte San Salvatore (Altitude: 912m asl)
Monte San Salvatore is situated in the south of Lugano and somewhat of a national treasure. Known as Lugano’s ‘home mountain’, hikers are treated to panoramic natural views of the neighboring lakes, mountains and villages. As you walk further up the mountain, you’ll be amazed at the ever-changing scenery and views. Our favourites include the views over the town of Lugano, with the lake and Monte Bré in the distance; and the lovely nature trails you’ll experience throughout the hike. There are some particularly good ones from the summit to mid-Palazzo station so don’t forget to look out for them when planning your route.
Walking down the mountain through Carona and the chestnut woods to Lake Lugano at Morcote.
Fancy fast tracking it up the mountain? You can get the funicular rail from Lugano-Paradiso.
4. Monte San Giorgio (Altitude: 1097m asl)
Monte San Giorgio is the beautifully wooded, pyramid shaped mountain situated in the south of Ticino beside Lake Lugano – the sunnier, Italian side of Switzerland – and is one of the tallest and most historical mountains here.
Thought to have existed since the Triassic period, 245million years ago it was the site of a 100m deep ocean basin and, since the 19th Century, it has become somewhat of a Mecca for fossil scientists and paleontologists, who’s enthusiasm and dedication has unearthed thousands of fossiled plants, fish and marine saurian - some as long as 6m! These discoveries continue to excite visiting paleontologists and children alike, their eyes filled with wonder about what they might find.
In 2003 Monte San Giorgio became an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the perfect outing for those seeking adventure and exploration; and for families seeking an educational and fun-filled day out.
Don’t forget to stop of at the Fossil Museum of Monte San Giorgio in Melide where you can find a brilliant selection of the original fossils found on Monte San Giorgio. The museum was remodeled and expanded by Ticinese architect Mario Botta in association with UNESCO.
5. Monte Generoso (Altitude: 1701m asl)
Monte Generoso is the tallest mountain located on the southern tip of Lake Lugano and offers one of the most exciting vistas in Ticino; if not the whole of Switzerland. Far below the summit, you can see the distant mountains and Lake Lugano, with its many arms reaching out across the landscape. In the horizon, you can see the white arc of The Alps, from Monte Rosa right over to the Bernese Mountains and beyond. Then, if you look towards the south, you can see the plains of the Po River and, on a clear day, the Cathedral of Milan and the Apennines. It leaves you speechless.
Take some time to relax and have some lunch at Ristorante Vetta Monte Generoso (1601m). It’s located just below the summit (not far from the mountain station of the Monte Generoso Railroad) and is the perfect place to enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views, whilst enjoying some traditional Swiss cuisine, made with the freshest local seasonal produce.
We love this mountain because it offers something for everyone. Hikes include: simple walks along the 51km tracks to cave exploration; 27km mountain bike jaunts to paragliding; and, for those who prefer a slower pace, it’s also a popular spot for bird watching and astronomy.
6. Monte Lema (Altitude: 1621m asl)
If you enjoy scenic ridge hikes, Monte Lema is definitely for you as there are so many trails available to choose from. Some people prefer to use the ridges as a destination, whereas others prefer them as the starting point. That’s really up to you.
What we love about this mountain is that, not only does it offer breathtaking views as, to be fair, all the other mountains we’ve recommended also do; but it’s brilliant for partaking in adrenalin fueled sports such as paragliding, mountain biking, bouldering and ridge hiking. Or, for those who prefer to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountain at a slower pace, there are also some beautiful nature walks and Malcantone chestnut trails along the way; with many locals visiting to fly model airplanes and take part in excursions.
If you do enjoy hiking but are looking for a more relaxing option, there’s a lovely hike along the ‘sentiero insubrico’ path – a round path that will lead you to an 11m summit.
This is a particularly high mountain so the best way to get the most from your hike is to take an aerial cable car up the mountain. A service is available whereby a collection of 3 cabins takes 45 passengers up the mountain, whilst another 3 take them down. It’s the safest, quickest and most comfortable route up the mountain and, whilst travelling, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the views.
7. Monte Basòdino (3273m asl)
Hardcore Hiker? Up for a challenge? Monte Basòdino is definitely for you. Sign up for the Cristallina tour, where an experienced guide will lead you across the awesome lakes, glaciers and high alpines of Monte Basòdino. The hike starts at an altitude of 1890m asl at Lake Robièi and increases further to an altitude of 2568m asl at the Cristallina Pass.
Don’t forget to bring rain-suitable clothing. Sometimes storms will appear out of nowhere, bringing clouds and fog with them.
Beware: Not For The Faint-Hearted
This is a once in a lifetime experience where not only will you experience unimaginable views and nature in all its raw, untouched glory, but one that will thoroughly challenge your physical fitness and stamina, head for heights and space. The hike lasts 5 hours and is not for the faint-hearted but, if you’re up to the challenge, it’s more than worth it.
8. Monte Tamaro (Altitude: 1962m asl)
Monte Tamaro lies exactly between Lugano and Locarno and is the perfect mountain for those looking for adventure and exploration. In addition to its undoubtedly beautiful nature walks, action packed hiking trails and stunning views; the mountain offers opportunities for ridge hiking and mountain biking, and cultural and architectural exploration. We particularly recommend visiting the world-renowned Santa Maria de Degli Angeli Church, where you can find beautiful paintings by artist Enzo Cucchi and architecture by Mario Botta.
If you are hiking, there’s a great ridge hike from Monte Lema to the church with some incredible scenery. We’d definitely recommend planning your walk around it so that you get the best of both worlds. There’s also a fantastic adventure park for families but, trust us, this isn’t just any ‘playground.’ Instead, adults and children alike can enjoy the toboggan run, flying fox (aka zip wire), mountain station playground and high ropes. Plus, for the ‘big kids’, Monte Tamaro has lots of bike paths and adrenalin fueled downhill stretches, making it great fun for avid mountain bikers.
Don’t forget to stop off at Alpe Focca restaurant where you can sample some local specialties such as Ticino-style polenta with double cheese, freshly made in the mountains.