One rainy day in the flatlands of Northern Switzerland we decided to go over to sunny Ticino. I’d always seen Monte Tamaro from the train in Ticino – it looks really imposing with quite a steep ridge so I was a bit intimidated to know we were hiking up it.
Time: 3 hrs
Distance: ~ 7 km
Altitude: 520 m ↑ 650 m ↓
We were in the mood for a relatively laidback hike, so instead of hiking the whole 1400 meters up Monte Tamaro we took a cable car to the midway station of Alpe Foppa at 1532m – OK it’s a bit more than midway up the mountain but it makes the hike more relaxed 🙂
To our surprise Alpe Foppa itself was teeming with people. It’s a nice flat area with a large viewing platform that looks over the valley and to the mountains opposite. The views are impressive, which explains the numbers of selfies being taken – us included.
In true laidback fashion we didn’t arrive at the crack of dawn ready to hike up. Instead we got to Alpe Foppa around midday and instead of hiking immediately we listened to our hungry stomachs and opted for a lunch break at Alpe Foppa itself. Haven’t you heard – it’s not good to hike on an empty stomach 😛
We did want to hike at some point though, and eventually stretched our legs and headed for the path up. From Alpe Foppa the path takes you 250m up towards your first peak, La Manera, which has a large mast on it. The path is a comfortable wide dirt track and reaching La Manera will take about 50 minutes depending on how fast you like to go up.
From La Manera the path turns into a ridge walk and 20 meters further up this ridge you reach Capanna Tamaro. Both points are marked by mountain huts where you can buy beverages and snacks to enjoy the view. The ridge then takes you 50 meters down to a fork along the ridge. At the fork, follow the signs for Route 633 for the final 100 meters up to Monte Tamaro. It’s not a very imposing ridge walk compared to those with vertical drop offs on either side. The sides are steep but the path is well trodden and it’s not too intimidating.
When we arrived the peak of Monte Tamaro was dotted with little cairns (stone pyramids), Tibetan prayer flags and a rewarding view of the mountains skirting around Lake Maggiore. And of course Italy was in sight! I do remember there being quite a lot of flies when we got there so we didn’t linger on the peak for long.
If you want, the peak of Monte Tamaro is the start of a ridge walk to another relatively famous peak in Ticino: Monte Lema. For us, though, we were looking forward to spending some time swimming in Lako Maggiore at the end of our hike, so we headed 600 meters down from Monte Tamaro in search for our bus stop at Alpe di Neggia (via Tamaretto). The first 100 meters of the path down was the hardest bit of the walk and may be challenging if you haven’t hiked before, but it’s a short stretch and a well-defined path. The rest of the way down can be described as a nice stroll down the mountain.
Now I must note that the bus stop at Alpe di Neggia is serviced by a post bus just four times a day so we had to make sure we lined ourselves up with the bus. Since we started around lunchtime the bus at 16:20 was just right for us. We hopped on and the bus driver got straight to work driving down – lots of hairpins on this road by the way! The bus does go all the way down to the shore of Lake Maggiore, where you can change to another train/bus to continue home, but we got off a bit above the lake at Fosano on a whim and walked down to the lakeside at Vira from there. This was actually quite a nice little walk of 20 or 30 minutes down through houses and forests, so give it a go if you still have some energy!
Once at the lake, we walked along the lake shore until we found a comfy spot for ourselves between the swimmers and sunbathers. Bags down and sweaty clothes off we headed straight for a swim. With the sun still shining, mountains all around us and a cool off in the lake you would have thought it couldn’t get any better. But we got creative and instead of hopping back on another bus or train from Vira (Gambarogno), we took the next ferry across the lake from Magadino to Locarno NLM where we topped of the day with some pizza and gelati – mmmmmmm. We were in Ticino after all and couldn’t resist the temptation! After all that, we dragged ourselves back on to the train and headed towards back home towards Zurich, or as the Italians say ‘Zurigo’.
Practical Information for this Hike
|Start||Alpe Foppa Cable Car Station|
|End||Alpe di Neggia, Alpe Bus Station|
|Distance||~ 7 km|
|Altitude||520 m ↑ 650 m ↓|
|Popularity||4/5 – popular|
|Season||Summer/autumn – cable car runs only from May to November|
|Peak||Monte Tamaro 1961 m|
|Public Transport||About 2h from Zurich to Rivera-Bironico station, followed by a 10 min walk to the Rivera cable car station: Via Campagnole 6, 6802 Rivera|
|Nearest Railway||Rivera-Bironico Bahnhof|
|Point of Interest||Lago Maggiore: swim at the end of the hike|
Alternative Routes & Transport
Here’s a snapshot of the route we took.
Anywhere in Ticino is usually a proper day trip from most parts of Switzerland, though various railway upgrades have resulted in much quicker journey times in recent years. With public transport our journey to the start point of the hike, Alpe Foppa cable car station, was relatively simple. The journey from Zurich to Ticino is your standard 1.5 hr train ride with 30 mins of that in the 57 km long Gotthard Base Tunnel – zero traffic queues here. We got off in Bellinzona and changed onto a local S-train for 15 mins to Rivera-Bironico. From there it’s a 10-minute walk to the bottom of the Rivera cable car that takes you to Alpe Foppa. In total from Zurich Hauptbahnhof (main station) it’s currently 2h 8 min to the bottom of the Rivera-Bironico Bahnhof (station), though it should be a bit quicker from Dec 2020.
Cable Car Costs
Single to Alpe Foppa: 20 CHF
Return from Alpe Foppa (roundtrip hike): 28 CHF
50% discount applies with Swiss railcards as of 2020.
For updated info check out: https://www.montetamaro.ch/en/
If you want the views but not the hike…
If you’re not into hiking then a visit to Alpe Foppa is still worth it. The views are great and there seems to be a whole host of things like zip lining and coaster bobs that you can do there to entertain yourselves. And if you just want to sip and enjoy a cup of coffee or a cold beer you can do that too! For details and more information see this link: https://www.montetamaro.ch/en/
Swimming in Lake Maggiore
As mentioned above the bus stop at the end of our hike at Alpe di Neggia is serviced by the yellow Swiss Post Busses just 4 times a day. As of 2020 that’s 7:40, 12:20, 16:20 and 17:40. We started around lunch time so the bus at 16:20 was just right for us. Like us you can get off at Fosano and wander down through the village or you can get off at Vira, Paese.
The boat across to Locarno
About 2 km from where we swam was the ferry stop of Magadino where boats leave for Locarno. We checked when the next ferry was before we started swimming and lined ourselves up with that. Vira NLM ferry stop was closer but there weren’t any ferries from there… Note that Google Maps does not show the ferry service when you use it’s directions. You’ll probably need to use sbb.ch and enter Magadino to Locarno NLM to find an appropriate ferry.
Alternative Hiking Routes
Coming by Car
If you’re coming by car you can park at the bottom of the cable car at Rivera-Bironico. It’s a long way back round to Rivera-Bironico from the end of the hike described above, so you’re probably best off just turning around and retracing your steps once you get to the peak.
If you’re really energetic and up for more hiking then you could consider continuing along the ridge from Monte Tamaro to Monte Lema. It involves 1000 meters up and 1000 down, for about 5 hours of hiking. It’s a significant amount of extra hiking to tack on but it does offer you 3.5 hrs of spectacular mountain views! We’ll probably cover it in a separate post one day.