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Hiking Lugano’s Peninsula

View of the lake from Morcote

View of the lake from Morcote

Over the years, the warm and sunny climate in Lugano has attracted a growing number of celebrities, giving it the nickname as the ‘Monte Carlo of Switzerland’. Nestled along Lake Lugano with a view of looming mountains, the area has lots to offer beyond the city.

If you enjoy easy hikes through chestnut forests, flower gardens and some of the most picturesque lakeside villages, then the hike from nearby Monte San Salvatore to Morcote is a good place to start.

Old village of Carona

Old village of Carona

Taking about 3-4 hours, this 9.3km-long trail can be done as loop from Lugano; starting with a funicular ride up to the mountain, the hiking trail descends all the way to the lakeshore, from where you can return to Lugano via ferry.

The hike
One of the more scenic parts of the hike is the ride on the funicular railway (built in 1890) up to Monte San Salvatore (912m), which drops you off near the church at the summit of the mountain. From the top of this church is a platform with a 360º view of Lake Lugano and its surrounds.

The trail (mostly descents) starts off rather steeply through deep woods before dropping you off midway at Carona (602m), a picturesque hamlet that boasts a number of artists and architects.

From here, you can explore the San Grato Botanical Park – which blooms with azaleas and rhododendrons in spring – before continuing along the trail through beautiful chestnut forests towards Morcote.

Strolling through chestnut forests

Strolling through chestnut forests

Littered with chestnuts, the picturesque trail is often accompanied by birdsong. Along the way, do look out for native wildlife, including the black-and-yellow Alpine salamander which thrives in this moist forest.

As you head in the direction of Alpe Vicagna, you’ll start getting views of the lake and villages dotting the mountains beyond. Several dedicated viewpoints provide excellent vantage points of the villages across the lake, which belong to Italy.

Alpine salamander

Alpine salamander

From this point, the final descent to the village of Morcote is mostly via a stair-like trail. These steps soon bring you to a stunning scenery of the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria del Sasso, framed against the shimmering lake.

Morcote
This Renaissance-style church features amazing frescoes from the 16th century, as well as the octagonal Chapel Sant’ Antonio do Padova. The church is a welcome sanctuary (especially if it’s a hot day), where you can explore its carvings and paintings. From the courtyard is an amazing sweeping view of the lake and mountains beyond.

Next to the church is a large 18th century cemetery, also overlooking the lake, where many artists (like Georg Kaiser) are buried.

A scenic view from the top

A scenic view from the top

Continue further down along the stairs, and it’ll lead you through Morcote’s homes – all built along this steep hill – before reaching the lakeside. Here, along the lake, are arcades that connect several large noble homes dating from the 16th century (these have now been converted into hotels and restaurants).

You can enjoy a post-hike snack at one of these restaurants before returning to Lugano – the suggested return portion is via the ferry, which gives you ground-up view of one of Ticino‘s hiking gems.

One Response to “Hiking Lugano’s Peninsula”

  1. Napoleon says:

    How very pretty! We enjoyed the beauty of Lake Como some years ago and spent several days in the area.

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