The Ascona Locarno region brings back childhood memories of summer vacations.
Countless times, we would spend our school vacations in the one-thousand valleys with their charming stone villages. We would swim in the refreshing Maggia River and sunbathe at Lago Maggiore. We would lick gelato and eat our fair share of polenta.
Decades later, I feel like traveling down Memory Lane whenever I return to places like Ascona, Corippo, Intragna, or Verscio. Let me show you some of the must-see places and must-do activities in this part of Ticino.
Whether you're an adventurer, foodie, outdoorsy type, or selfie hunter, here are 11 reasons to visit the Ascona Locarno region this year:
Catch spring at the Camellia Flower Festival in Locarno
While the temperatures are still chilly in most of Switzerland, it's already spring in Locarno. Every March, the exquisite camellia flowers will bloom in all the colors, spreading spring vibes to those of us who visit the Parco delle Camelie.
More than 200 types of camellia are in the care of the experienced gardeners of Locarno. While the most scenic spot is surely the lakeside park, there will be camellia flowers throughout Locarno. During the annual Camellia Flower Festival, try the Visconteo Castle or the Piazza Grande for special exhibits.
Attend a Japanese tea ceremony at Monte Verità
Follow the yellow hiking signs from Ascona to Monte Verità, the “Hill of Truth”. Once you reach the elevated park with sweeping lake views, you will understand why it was once preferred by truth-seekers: artists, naturalists, philosophers, and unconventional thinkers.
Today, there is a hotel, a museum, and a proper Japanese tea house. Casa del Tè with its own little tea plantation is open regularly for those who want to enjoy a matcha green tea served in the tatami room. Every first and third Saturday of the month, the tea house hosts Japanese tea ceremonies in the evenings.
Cross the Roman Bridge in Intragna
On a recent trip, one of the biggest discoveries was the Roman Bridge in Intragna. Quite literally, this big stone bridge will take your breath away. Arching 26 meters above the river, you have to do some serious stair-climbing to get to the chapel in the center.
The Ponte Romano was constructed in the 16th century by local brothers. These are not exactly Roman times, but you can feel the ancient history of this bridge nonetheless. Located a bit outside of Intragna, you can walk to it by following the hiking path to Ponte Romano.
Try llama trekking on Monte Comino
This mountain top in the Centovalli is home to a llama breeding farm. The couple that runs this place offers memorable llama trekking adventures. As part of such an excursion, each hiker will be paired up with a llama. The furry animals will also be carrying supplies for a picnic. There are three distinct hiking trails catering to llama lovers of various ages.
Hike to the remote Lodano Valley
Vallemaggia is a popular valley for those into outdoor sports. Thanks to the Maggia River, the steep cliffs, and the proximity to Ascona and Locarno, the valley lends itself for various day trips. High above the river, there is another valley that few know about: Valle di Lodano.
The Lodano Valley has just been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2021. In mid-September, we parked our electric Smart car courtesy of the Eden Roc Ascona in the village of Lodano. From there, we picked itinerary 1, the shortest of the four marked hiking trails.
Given that the Lodano Valley is high above, this hiking trail is quite a workout. All in all, it took us about six hours to for the roundtrip. Along the way, we would find some stunning lookout points as the trail zip-zagged through the ancient beech wood forest. Once we reached the entrance of the Lodano Valley, we stopped for a picnic lunch before returning to the village.
See the majestic Foroglio waterfall
The Foroglio waterfall has likely appeared in your Instagram feed. This summer could be your chance to finally visit the hamlet of Foroglio deep in the Bavona Valley - yet easily reachable by public bus.
Now, you may simply pay this village a visit in order to marvel at the 100-meter tall Foroglio waterfall. Then, after photographing the Cascata di Foroglio from all vantage points, seek out the local grotto for some refreshments. Or, as we did, you could make the climb to the Foroglio waterfall viewpoint at the top of the falls. From there, a hiking trail marked Cavergno leads back to the valley floor.
“Travel” to Hawai'i in the Onsernone Valley
Valle Onsernone is still a lesser known valley in the Ascona - Locarno region. Accessible only on a narrow winding road, I consider it to be one of the most remote parts of Ticino. Since there is barely any parking due to the vertical nature of this place, it would be best to arrive by public bus.
The nature in this valley is largely left intact, lending itself for fishers and hikers alike. And if you squint your eyes, you may even see a resemblance with the Waimanu Valley on the Big Island of Hawai’i. The Onsernone Valley has long been a source of inspiration for writers. Also, it was the go-to place for straw braiding. Today, the Museo Onsernonese as well as an 18th-century corn mill in Loco are testaments to the cultural heritage.
Swing the World on a giant wooden swing set
During the lockdown of 2020, a young Ticino couple embarked on a mission to place swings in scenic Ticino spots. Manufactured using local materials, these gigantic swing sets overlook valleys, lakes, and piazzas. One swing is located inside Lake Maggiore at Shaka Beach. Another presents the best views of Rasa, a stone village in the Centovalli.
This year, join us in seeking out all the ways to Swing the World in Ascona - Locarno!
Stay at Hotel Eden Roc on Ascona’s waterfront
Five-star luxury with two lakeside pools, a yacht harbor, and watersports fun? Look up our review of Hotel Eden Roc in Ascona and you’ll see what it’s like. This waterfront hotel is truly unique in all of Ticino in that it enjoys unobstructed lake views. There is even a private beach with free rentals of kayaks and SUP boards.
Since the hotel is sitting mere steps from the Ascona pedestrian zone, we would be in and out during our stay. Between sightseeing, we might pick up souvenirs and return them to the room. And after an espresso and a quick dip in the pool, we’d be off to new adventures on one of the free rental bicycles…
Check into the scattered hotel in Corippo
Corippo is the polar opposite of Ascona. Nestled in the Verzasca Valley, far from any lakes, it happens to be Switzerland’s smallest commune. The town sign proves the point: “CORIPPPO - POPULATION 12.”
As of this April, Corippo might attract more overnighters as the town launches Switzerland’s first scattered hotel. The idea behind the innovative Albergo Diffuso concept is to run a resort where some of the town’s 100-year old stone houses serve as hotel infrastructure. While scattered from one end of the village to another, the “rooms” will never be further than a brief walk from the café and restaurant. Each of the Corippo hotel rooms comes with its own shower, and some even have a balcony.
Step out of your comfort zone and try a new gelato flavor
From mocca ice cream to passion fruit sorbets, Locarno’s gelaterias offer many delicious flavors. But consider this the year to step out of your comfort zone by trying some new combinations: farina bóna, Merlot del Ticino, chocolate/basil, fig, honey/rosemary, or pineapple/sage…
That wasn’t so hard now, was it?