Arosa (GR) | Swiss Tour 2020
We explored the Grisons holiday resort of Arosa which is located at the end of the romantic Schanfigg Valley at an altitude of about 1,800 metres above sea level. The perfect family destination!
We have never visited Grisons before so we were really impatient to discover a new canton and particularly Arosa which is famously beautiful. With its impressive range of mountain peaks all around, Arosa Lenzerheide is just as attractive for extended hiking tours in summer as it is in winter, when it offers a great variety of snow sport activities.
We set off on Friday afternoon for what should have been a 4 hour drive but in reality was more like 5 hours with roadworks and Friday traffic. Once we left the motorway in Chur, we were amazed at how high we climbed into the mountains to reach our destination, and the scenery around us was incredibly impressive as we drew closer to Arosa. The town itself is very charming, built around the larger of the two lakes (called Obersee) and nestled in the mountains.
Our first stop when we arrived was to meet Anina at the tourism office to go through our programme for the weekend. Anina was really lovely and extremely knowledgeable about the area so we were happy to have the chance to ask some questions to learn more about the activities on offer. The tourism office is a good place to start your visit and the building itself also houses an ice rink so the children could watch some ice hockey practice through the huge internal windows as we chatted.
Following that, we headed to our hotel - the Sunstar hotel, which is just a short car ride away. The journey gave us our first glimpse of the beautiful Obersee lake in the heart of the town as well as some of the lovely architecture and amenities which board the lake.
The hotel is quite big with 107 rooms but inside it still manages to feel cosy and welcoming. We were amazed when we saw our accommodation which was two interconnected rooms and the one set up for Jean and I had a huge terrace with incredible views of the mountains and the town below.
It was getting late by this time so we dropped our bags and headed down to the restaurant for dinner. Anina had organised for our evening meals to be included in our stay and we were really impressed with the food which offered a starter, soup, main course and dessert, all of which was delicious. There is a good children’s menu and they were brought colouring equipment to keep them busy.
I can’t emphasise enough how child friendly this hotel is. As well as an outdoor play area, there is also a play room for younger children and another for older kids which has things like a PlayStation and a two lane bowling alley!! There is also child care available a few times a week where parents can leave children from age 4. The hotel pool also has allocated splash time for children between 4.30pm and 6pm as well as a relaxing spa area for adults. Arosa offers free children’s group ski school lessons for kids under 17 years old in winter and the hotel Sunstar, along with many other hotels in town, is part of this cooperation which we through was an exceptional idea. They have really thought of everything to make your stay with children as easy as possible.
We all fell asleep really easily and woke up to the view of the mountains. Alba got up rather early as the sun was shining and she was itching to start the day! We headed down for breakfast which offers a good selection of pastries, cereals, fruit, cheese, meat and cooked food such as sausages and bacon so there was plenty of choice for all of us.
To get to the first destination on our programme, we hopped in the car and parked it by the cable car station Obersee where we didn’t have to wait long before we were on our way up to Weisshorn.
Not surprisingly at 2,653 metres, it was a bit fresh at the top of the mountain so we all added a layer of clothing and took a walk around to enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views from the summit. We were fortunate enough to have been there to see the preparation for a wedding so there were lots of beautiful flowers set up and someone playing the keyboard, it was really lovely! You can take a wish ribbon and tie it to the fur of the Arosa Weisshorn bear on the plateau at the top of the mountain. Don’t forget to make a wish after you’ve attached your ribbon. The Arosa ribbons are free, but all donations are welcome.
As the weather got cooler, we decided to head back down to the Mittlestation (2,013 m) to visit the Arosa Bear Sanctuary. Here we met with Daria who has worked at the sanctuary since its opening two years ago. Daria is delightful and she started our visit with a bit of explanation about why the bears were there and the kind of life they had lived before. It’s really horrifying to imagine the kind of physical and mental cruelty these animals have suffered in the name of « entertainment » and Daria explained it in a way that the children could understand too.
She also showed us a suitcase with a piece of real bear fur for them to stroke and a plastic model of a bear skull and teeth so that they could get an idea of the size. Alba and Jude were really impressed by the size of the claws and Elio enjoyed stroking the fur.
There is lots of interesting information about the ways in which the bears are exploited and how the sanctuary works with the animal welfare organisation Four Paws to locate and rescue the bears, which can be a long and complicated process. They currently have three bears in the sanctuary and it was clear so see Daria's joy at watching them recover from their ordeals and begin to thrive in their new environment with the care they deserve.
We were lucky to have had the chance to see two of the bears on the day we visited and Alba was excitedly calling to them and waving. There are lots of panels to read around the sanctuary as well as games and activities for the children, including mini golf and an adventure playground. It's a really interesting place and well worth a visit to support such a great cause.
Our lunch destination was the restaurant Brüggerstuba which is right next to the bear sanctuary. We were seated inside in a space with a glass ceiling and large windows so that we could enjoy the scenery. The menu is big with lots of options for everyone including a salmon burger for Jean and I had a chicken kebab with a big salad. We were well looked after by Päsce and everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful.
After a good lunch, we began our hike which would take us from the Mittlestation down to Arosa. The first half of the walk was quite open and we could enjoy the views below us, the sound of cow bells, and examine the flowers and butterflies as we passed.
After about 30 minutes, we reached a dairy which is a great place to stop and have a milkshake or a snack and buy yourself some local cheese, yoghurt or saucisson.
From there we followed the path for the Squirrel Trail which is something the children have been excited about since we told then the programme for our trip.
The trail is so called because the forest through which the path leads is full of squirrels! Anina had suggested we bring some (unsalted) hazelnuts with us so we packed up a bag before we left and Alba was clutching them in her hands as we began the trail on red alert for squirrels.
We didn’t see any for a little while and then we spotted our first one and Jude and Alba got down on the ground to try and tempt him with their hazelnuts. I hadn’t seen this kind of black squirrel before and we all thought he was really sweet and very tame. Elio fell asleep as we continued along the path and missed the next couple of squirrels who were a bit less brave in approaching Jude and Alba.
There are puzzles along the route which helped to keep the children moving and the prospect of the squirrels really motivated them to continue . We haven’t don’t much walking for a while and we’re surprised to see that we had totalled 10km in one day! We were so impressed with the children who didn’t grumble too much and Elio who didn’t scream too frequently :-). We decided to head back to the hotel and relax a bit before exploring the facilities for the children.
Around 5pm we took a walk down to the Untersee lake which isn’t far from the hotel. It’s quite a steep road down but manageable even with Elio in his heavy pushchair (well done Jean). The Untersee lake is smaller that Obersee and boasts a Lido area open in the summer months with a beach, a heated children's pool and access is free with the Arosa card. There is also a nice restaurant with terrace and a small playground.
We had chance for a look around before it started to rain and we went back up to the hotel for another delicious dinner.
We woke up on Sunday feeling sad that it was our last day. In fact Jude and Alba spent quite a long time crying about the prospect of leaving Arosa, so to cheer them up we headed back down to Obersee lake to try the pedalo boats. The boat hire is free when you present your Arosa card and the children were all given life jackets before we climbed aboard. We weren’t sure what Elio would think but I held him in my arms and he was soon fast asleep! Jude was up front with Jean and he was so excited to be helping to drive the boat while Alba kept asking the ducks if they wanted to hop aboard (they declined :-)). It was a beautiful sunny morning and so peaceful, the whole experience was really lovely.
Earlier in the day we had asked Jude and Alba if they would like to visit the playground or the rope park as our last activity and they both said the playground which is on the shores of the lake, so we headed over there and let them play while we met up with Anina for a last coffee before we left. The play area is right next to the coffee kiosk so parents can sit and have a drink whilst watching the children play.
Arosa is a just a fantastic family destination. There are so many activities and we found it to be so well organised up for children, it really helped us to ensure that everyone enjoyed the trip. Anina told us that over the summer there is a kids club in the town called "Bear Gang“ that you can sign children up for leaving parents free to enjoy a much needed break. The fantastic thing is that the kids club is for free for children in the partner hotels, the others pay a small fee to have their kids supervised from Mon-Fri half day or full day.
Our original plan for Sunday morning had been to visit a horse farm which Alba would have absolutely loved. The plan had to be changed at the last minute but this would definitely be a good destination for families as you can visit the farm, help to prepare the horses and of course, enjoy a carriage ride.
We really loved the Arosa card which makes accessing the attractions of the area so easy and includes use of the cable cars, buses, pedalos, the rope park. It also offers reduced entry to the bear sanctuary or the indoor playground "Bear Cave“, access to the Untersee Lido and many other things. Your card is included if you book an overnight stay, either from the tourism office (upon presentation of your overnight booking confirmation) or ask at your accommodation directly. There are also day passes available for day guests without overnight stays.
We strongly recommend you visit and stay in Arosa for a few days, take the time to enjoy nature with lots of activities around you and disconnect from the hustle and bustle. Arosa received the label "Family Destination" which is the seal of quality holiday destinations focusing on the needs and desires of children and their accompanying persons, and we wholeheartedly endorse this.
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Sports- and Conference Centre
Sunstar Hotel Arosa