Zernez and around
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Some 6km south of Susch sits the graceful little town of ZERNEZ, the slender white steeple of its church marking a junction of valleys: north is the Lower Engadine, south is the Upper Engadine, while to the east, a road leads through the vast Parc Naziunal Svizzer to the Ofenpass/Pass dal Fuorn and on into the Val Müstair. Although attractive enough in its own right, Zernez comes into its own as a staging post for hikes into the park. The village tourist office on the main street can help with maps and some guidance (Mon–Fri 8.30am–noon & 2–5.30pm; June–Oct also Sat 8.30am–noon & 2–4pm; 081/856 13 00), but the park office has more detailed information. The campsiteCul is 500m behind Zernez station (081/856 14 62; May to mid-Oct), while the town itself has plenty of hotels. Piz Terza (081/856 14 14, fax 856 14 15) has modern, generic rooms near the church, while Spöl just behind it (081/856 12 79, fax 856 19 48) is a more characterful choice; both are within ten minutes’ walk of the park entrance. Bettini (081/856 11 35, fax 856 15 10) is slightly further away in the town centre, but a definite step up in quality and ambience.

Parc Naziunal Svizzer
Zernez lies on the doorstep of the Parc Naziunal Svizzer, a swathe of Alpine wilderness stretching for 169 square kilometres either side of the Ofen/Fuorn road. Established in 1914, the park’s credo is to leave nature well alone: absolutely everything, from the tiniest lichen to the six pairs of golden eagles that breed in the park, is protected. Forest fires are monitored but allowed to burn unchecked; injured animals are left to their own devices; and roaming wardens can and will impose fines should you so much as pick a flower. People are allowed to walk in the park (provided they don’t step off the marked trails), but prominent notice boards publish stringent regulations prohibiting everything from littering to making loud noises. This being Switzerland, everyone takes the rules seriously, with the result that the park remains pristine, an entirely undeveloped natural environment where flora and fauna of all kinds thrive. Red and roe deer, ibex and chamois roam freely, as do hares, foxes and huge numbers of marmots. Aside from the golden eagles, there are also bearded vultures, kestrels, ravens, various woodpeckers, grouse, partridge and skylarks. The venomous northern viper or adder is also around, but you’d have to tiptoe to come upon one unawares. Pine and larch forests grow as high as 2300m, beyond which Alpine meadows are carpeted in springtime with edelweiss, gentians and a host of other high-altitude flowers. Further up still are bare rocky areas and permafrost.

About 1km east of Zernez is the National Park House, the main information office, open the same hours as the park itself (June–Oct daily 8.30am–6pm, Tues until 10pm; 081/856 13 78, www.nationalpark.ch). The office is overflowing with maps, trail guides (including coverage of two-, three- and four-day hikes) and useful information on animal sightings, all of it available in English. Entry to the park is free, and there are plenty of stunning trails through it, but it can get uncomfortably crowded on summer weekends in particular. If you’re driving, head on the main road to any one of nine free parking areas within the park boundaries, from all of which long and short trails twist out to north and south. Postbuses running every two hours between Zernez and Müstair also stop at each parking area. Note that cycling in the park is prohibited. There are only two places to stay within the park, both of which need reserving in advance. Hotel Il Fuorn, beside Parking 6 (081/856 12 26, fax 856 18 01), is a comfortable old lodge with shared-bath rooms, and has a newer wing with en-suite rooms. A four-hour circuit beginning and ending at the hotel takes you on a self-guided nature trail, with informative notice boards along the way outlining the park’s ecology. Alternatively, a three-hour walk south from the National Park House, or a four-hour trail from Parking 3, brings you to Chamanna/Blockhaus Cluozza (081/856 12 35), a simple Alpine hut with spartan rooms and Fr.25 dorm beds.

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