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Six Unmissable Outdoor Adventures in Ticino

News Jul 5, 2024

Hidden between Italy to the south and the Alps to the north, Ticino boasts the sunniest weather among Switzerland’s 26 cantons. Its remote location – it became part of the Swiss Federation in the 15th century – has helped it develop a unique cultural, architectural, and culinary identity closely linked to its Italian neighbors.

Ticino's population is comparable to that of Coventry, and its wedge-shaped territory covers 2,812 square kilometers, with about three-quarters of it covered by forests or agricultural land.

Despite hosting Switzerland's lowest point – Lake Maggiore, along with its lowest town, Ascona – Ticino also features impressive high peaks. The highest, Rheinwaldhorn, stands at 3,402 meters above sea level.

The canton’s contrasting landscapes, with its warm lake climates and snow-covered peaks, make it an ideal destination for a wide range of outdoor activities.

With over 4,000 kilometers of marked walking paths, Ticino attracts slow-travel enthusiasts who enjoy leisurely exploring the landscape, from alpine wildflower routes to tropical gardens by the lake. For those seeking more excitement, options include bungee jumping, canyoning, paragliding through dramatic valleys, or swimming in bubbling rivers.

Lake Maggiore Holidays 2024 / 2025
Source: TUI

Here are six of the best outdoor activities in this beautiful region:

Head for the hills

Near the city of Locarno on Lake Maggiore, Cardada Cimetta is a local favorite for hiking, cycling, and trail running. You can explore the new Contra-Alpe Cardada official trail-running route, among other paths.

Offering panoramic views over the lake, Cardada Cimetta is accessible by funicular from Locarno to Orselina, then by cable car to Cardada, and finally by a traditional chairlift to Cimetta. Alternatively, you can hike or cycle to the top of the 1,671-meter peak. Mountain-top restaurants take advantage of the pleasant climate with sun-soaked terraces perfect for a leisurely coffee or lunch.

Cardada, Locarno - Things to do in Ticino
Source: Ticino

Get a wintry workout

The area around Lake Maggiore provides a blend of activities. Enjoy the snow during the day, then descend to the milder climate by the lake to relax under the palm trees in the evening.

Ticino offers 120 kilometers of downhill ski slopes, but its extensive snowshoeing routes are also worth exploring. In winter, visit Cardada, get off the cable car at 1,340 meters, and explore a snowy landscape while gazing down at the shimmering lake on a 5-kilometer course. Cross-country skiing is also popular from December to March, and Nordic walking dominates in the warmer months.

Review of Ponte dei Salti | Gordola, Switzerland, Europe
Source: AFAR

Swim in the wild

The valleys of Muggio and Mara are renowned for their stunning flora, fauna, and history, while Valle Verzasca is famous for its clear emerald waters. You can enter Verzasca via the world's second-highest commercial bungee jump from a 220-meter-high dam.

There’s plenty of bouldering, hiking, trails, and swimming spots. A particularly romantic place to swim is near Ponte dei Salti (‘jump bridge’), a double-arc reconstructed medieval stone bridge spanning the Verzasca river by Lavertezzo. The slow current here is perfect for exploring underwater caves.

Gotthard Pass in Switzerland
Source: Reddit

Ride your bike

Cycling routes criss-cross Ticino’s dramatic landscape. One notable descent is through the Leventina Valley, from the southern portal of the Gotthard Tunnel near Airolo, alongside the Ticino River, and extending southward toward Biasca. Alternatively, climb up to 2,100 meters to visit the stunning Gotthard Pass.

For a more relaxed ride, consider the 25-kilometer Vallemaggia route, which takes you over bridges, through charming villages and woods, and along the Maggia river to Cavergno. Stop in a grotto along the way for lunch.

Paddle down the river

Canoeing offers one of the best ways to appreciate the dramatic landscape. Take a relatively calm 8-kilometer journey from Cresciano to Arbedo on the River Ticino, weaving through chestnut forests, past palm trees, and stopping at sandy beaches where adventurous canoeists might take a dip. Some small rapids in Arbedo add to the excitement before continuing to Bellinzona, where the stunning natural scenery gives way to the skyline of medieval castles.

Stand Up Paddle Surfing in Ticino - Things to do in Ticino
Source: Ticino

Suit up for canyoning

Ticino's imposing gorges and fast rivers make it a prime spot for canyoning. Picture the world's most beautiful natural waterpark, then don your helmet and wetsuit for an exhilarating tour of the Cresciano valley gorge. From May to September, adventurers can join a 4.5-hour guided tour of jumping, rappelling, swimming, and sliding through the Boggera route. Suitable for beginners but thrilling enough for experienced canyoners, this adventure lets you marvel at the river's speed, the majesty of the waterfalls, and the crystal-clear waters.

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Oliver Hughes

Oliver has over 15 years of experience in travel journalism. He focuses on European travel, providing expert reviews of vacation rentals and cultural experiences across Europe.