May 9, 2017

Five Villages and a Reservoir Lake in Val Malvaglia, Ticino

May 9, 2017 -- This trip we chose a valley neither of us had been to before, "Val Malvaglia" in the Ticino Alps. Just last year the cable car from the Blenio Valley to what may be the oldest village in Switzerland (Dagro, whose buildings are estimated to be from the 13th or 14th century) one thousand meters above the valley floor was re-opened, which made our access much easier, although we did WALK out of this side valley instead of returning to Dagro.

But how did our planned 4-hour and 14-km hike turn into a 20-km and almost 7-hour hike? Probably because along the way we kept adding detours: Right at the start to climb a hill for a 360-degree view into the Blenio and Malvaglia Valleys; a detour to an ancient village of wood houses which recently received a restoration promise; walking to the back of the valley instead of cutting steep down the mountainside to the reservoir lake; a detour across the dam to see the massive funnel drain....  And then of course, we take lots of additional time to inspect each of the beautiful villages along the way, giving insight into early farming life in the steep Ticino Alpine landscape.

The magnificence of the valley was an unexpected surprise, and we were lone hikers once again, encountering along the way only a handful of workers doing restoration, one lone biker, the odd vacationer enjoying their vacation homes, and our lovely hostess at the Ristoro Alpino Hostel in Dandrio, who served us a fabulous homemade mushroom lasagna.

The valley is accessible along steep narrow roads by car and is also a favourite for mountain bikers, and even though we walked a large part on the paved roads, the setting and solitude made up for the exertion.

That's Dagro up there, that's where we're headed, then into the valley on the right, and back out lower down.
The steep cable car from Malvaglia to Dagro ascends over 1000m, a steep climb if you go on foot. Instead, we descended that height and more to head out of the valley.
On the way up, this view is northwards into the Blenio Valley. A steep climb on foot!
The cable car station is just above the village. As we walk down, we see the hill called Matt Sass, which we climbed for a 360 deg. view into both valleys.
Going up "Matt Sass" for the view, our first of many detours from the original plan.

From this look-out point we can see South along the Blenio Valley to Biasca on the right, and into the Malvaglia Valley on the left, where we are headed.

The village of Dagro, where some of the houses date to the 13th century, one of the oldest mountain villages in Switzerland.

The village of Dagro, where some of the houses date to the 13th century, one of the oldest mountain villages in Switzerland.

The original plan was to descend to the reservoir lake after viewing Anzano, but we decided to see all five of the main villages in the Malvaglia Valley, plus an uphill detour to the 600-year old houses in Carmagnonagh.

Heading into the Malvaglia Valley, below on the hill is the next village of Ciavasch, which we are also going to visit.
A quick detour to Ciavasch, then on to Anzano.

Actually, before heading to the next village, we did an uphill detour to see the "soon" to be restored hamlet of homes called Germanionico, or Carmagnonach on the map, or Garmagnünach in dialect.

From up here we got the first view of the Malvaglia Reservoir Lake and the cool funnel drain that we want to have a look at on the way out of the valley. 

Close-up shot of the funnel drain on Malvaglia Lake Reservoir. To get to it you have to cross the dam and go through a tunnel.

Heading East along the steep hillside toward Germanionico (Carmagnonach)

This ancient village has recently received a promise of restoration, and it really needs it. But who knows how long it will take. These structures are about 600 years old and most of the roofs are falling in.

Another look back out of the valley before heading back down to Anzano.

Village of Anzano

From Anzano we can look down into the valley to Madra, which we will visit on our way back out of the valley.

This valley is simply fabulous

Our approach to Dandrio, the last village in the back of the valley. From here we'll head back out.
The village of Dandrio at the back of the Malvaglia Valley

We had a lovely lunch of homemade mushroom lasagna at the Ristoro Alpino Albergo in Dandrio
From Dandrio it's only another 20 minutes on foot to Madra

In Madra
Old telephone cabins have been converted to defibrillator stations.

From Madra, looking North further along the Valle Malvaglia

Walking along the "Bacino di Val Malvaglia" to the dam. It's that funnel in the back I want to see.

This HUGE funnel drains off the lake water if it should rise too high. This is pretty impressive. To view this we had to walk across the dam and through a tunnel.
View up the valley from the dam wall.
View down the valley from the dam, the rest of our hike is out that way.

Continuing down the valley we crossed a couple of arched bridges

Continuing down the valley we crossed a couple of arched bridges

In this steep terrain they have to be creative with parking. 600 years ago there was no such need....

Back out in the Blenio Valley, we now have just the steep descent to Malvaglia left.

Back out in the Blenio Valley, we now have just the steep descent to Malvaglia left.
Out here in the Blenio Valley the spring is clearly much further along than 1000 meters higher up.

Last stretch to catch our bus down on the main road in the Blenio Valley.

"Malvaglia Chiesa", close by is our bus stop.

First we took the cable car from the Blenio Valley 1000m up to Dagro, and walked a total of 20 km to Dandrio and back out of the Malvaglia Valley


  1. Nice pictures, been there 4 times.

    1. Glad you like the pictures. I loved everything about this valley, and we are definitely going again!