Until recently, the Surselva region of Graubünden remained a blind spot on my Switzerland map. Towns with exotic sounding names such as Sagogn, Sumvitg or Valendas were mere figments of my imagination.
Brigels, or Breil in the local Romansh dialect, is one of the places in Surselva that I have been wanting to explore. Back in my childhood, I supposedly spent a week there with a friend and his family. Sadly, I do not remember much except for the name of the town.
In order to find out what Brigels is really like, Mamiko and I recently packed our suitcases with hiking gear and smart casual wear. The former for our excursions during the day, the latter for our dinner dates at the La Val Hotel & Spa...
Feeling those alpine vibes
From the valley of the Anterior Rhine, a curvy road takes us to a plateau with views to spare. Privileged with sun, the town of Brigels (1280 m asl) sits at the bottom of Piz Dado (2699 m asl). This peak is considered the easternmost peak of the Brigelser Hörner - the so-called horns of Brigels. The destination of our one-day hike would be located on the backside of Piz Dado, but more on this later.
The La Val Hotel & Spa consists of two buildings interconnected by an underground tunnel. The lobby, restaurant and spa are located in the main building while the rooms and suites are in the adjacent chalet.
The decor throughout the hotel screams alpine chic. Think wall-mounted antlers, furs, wood elements and pillows with deer head embroideries. Yet all of this comes across quite authentic. In fact, it seems probable that we are actually staying at a hunter’s lodge somewhere in the remote Swiss Alps.
Our Junior Suite surprises
It does not happen very often that we jump right back into the hallway after opening a door to a hotel room for the first time. But the Junior Suite at La Val really did surprise us!
We take a deep breath and give it another try. Inside, a hallway with an oversized wallpaper leads into the living room with a king sized bed. Large closets separate the cozy living space from the bathroom in this open floor layout.
We store our luggage away and start to take pictures... This is something we have learned the hard way in our early years as bloggers: no jumping on beds before all the room photographs are in the can!
The bathroom vanity deserves a mention in its own right. Separating the elevated bathroom area in the center, each sink is accessible from its own side. In other words, while brushing our teeth, we can
flirt observe each other among the round mirrors.
The La Val menu is a foodie's paradise
As part of the half board package, there is a table in our name at the La Val's in-house restaurant. Included is a four-course meal which we can piece together from the à la carte menu and the daily specials.
Where to start with all those mouthwatering choices? "Giant prawn on sesame vinaigrette with veggie stripes"? "Tournedos Rossini steak with kohlrabi and bacon mashed potato"?
Whatever we pick ends up being a treat for the palate. The kitchen is gentle on salt, something we always appreciate. And the chef sure knows his meats: the steak tartar is honest and the local Brigels lamb as juicy as can be (pictured above).
A memorable hike to the remote Val Frisal valley
The next morning, we get up bright and early. Sure, you could decide midday to hike all the way up to the remote Val Frisal valley. Yet when we crossed paths with those hikers that had a late start, it confirmed our strategy: climbing uphill is way more comfortable when temperatures are still low.
Our advice: use the Surselva guest card to your advantage and ride the chairlift from Brigels to Crest Falla at no charge. Now that you have gained some altitude without effort, hike your way deeper into the valley. You will soon approach the Flem river with its white water rapids and waterfalls.
Along the way, look out for marmots and stop to smell the wild flowers:
Cows are spending their summer on these beautiful alpine meadows:
Keep hiking further into the valley along the refreshing river until you reach the entrance to the Val Frisal valley:
Lucky us: alpine roses are in full bloom!
They typically blossom from June through the end of July. Are those sparks of hot pink nature's way of painting an otherwise sparse valley?
After returning to the La Val Hotel, we drop our hiking gear and dash straight for the La Val spa. Here again, a soothing blend of natural textures. From stone to wood and even hay, the saunas and steam baths fit the overall alpine style.
The longer I stay in the heated swimming pool, the deeper my thoughts wander.
And when Mamiko finally picks me up to get ready for dinner, I conclude with a smirk on my face: "Val Frisal: the journey is the destination, but the destination is the destination, too..."
La Val Hotel & Spa
Phone: 081 929 26 26
(For the purpose of this review, the La Val Hotel & Spa has extended two complimentary nights in a Junior Suite, including half board.)