I honestly can’t remember where and when I first stumbled upon Sonogno, Switzerland, but I am eternally grateful I did.
It may have been through one of those epic travel Instagram accounts like @bestplaces_togo, or it may have been through a small Italian hostel’s “what to do” list back in 2016. I really haven’t got the slightest clue.
But what I do know is once I discovered the existence of this medieval stone village in the Swiss Alps, (with only a population of 86 residents – might I add), I was set on paying this extraordinary destination a visit.
Fun Fact: Sonogno, Switzerland can be found in the southern canton of Ticino, where Italian is the most widely spoken language (an anomaly compared to the rest of Switzerland). Sonogno itself, sits at the very, very end of the road winding up Valle Verzasca (the Verzasca Valley). I’ll get back to the “very, very” a little later in this post, but for now, know that the journey up to Sonogno is one gorgeous adventure.
I thought it would take more than a handful of years for the opportunity to visit the Swiss village to pop up. Fortunately, it presented itself a lot sooner than expected.
Meet Paul (you can find a snap of him in this post) – Le Boyfriend and fellow travel junkie extraordinaire. This past summer, we decided to pay Europe a visit with the condition that we would hit up some key architectural sites for his thesis. With the cheapest roundtrip flights arriving in and departing from Amsterdam and one of these “key sites” being located in Verona, Italy, it could be loosely argued that Sonogno just happened to be on the way down to Italy.
While driving from Interlaken, Switzerland to Menaggio, Italy, we spent a good part of the day in and around Sonogno. We became more than a little obsessed with the place, and when friends ask us what our favourite part of our Europe trip was, Sonogno is always the first place we bring up up.
Considering visiting Sonogno?
(If you’re not yet convinced, just take an uber quick scroll down through the photos below).
Here’s what you need to know when planning the perfect day trip to Sonogno, Switzerland!
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Things to Do in Sonogno, Switzerland
1. Explore the Medieval Village of Sonogno
The actual village may not be that large, but I’d definitely recommend setting ample time aside for walking through its stone streets. What can I say – Sonogno’s quaint medieval homes with their Alpine backdrop are just mesmerizing.
One of the things that amazed me the most was how calm and quiet the village was. It was August, (summer and peak travel season in Europe), and I could probably count the number of people we walked past on only two hands. So if you’re looking for an incredibly scenic place to escape the hustle and bustle that comes with summer, I highly recommend paying Sonogno a visit.
Sonogno, Switzerland – the definition of picture-perfect!
2. Visit La Froda Waterfall
If you’re not already on Sonogno’s main street, Strada de Redorta, after exploring the village, make sure to make your way there. Just less than a 10-minute walk east from the village, you’ll find yourself in front of a small footpath that will take you right up to the La Froda Waterfall. The walk along this trail shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes.
The La Froda Waterfall is quite the sight. The waterfall cascades over a completely vertical and rocky cliff before spilling into a crisp and clear emerald pool. If you’re feeling brave on a hot summer’s day, you can take a dip and cool off in the pool’s icy waters.
CONFESSION: This may be slightly embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t do much research about sites to visit around Sonogno prior to our trip. We only found out about the waterfall when a passerby randomly asked us if we knew how long the walk to the waterfall was. We told the man that regrettably, we didn’t know. A quick conversation and Google search later, we promptly turned around to find it.
The BOI… and the Waterfall.
Not going to lie, despite the water’s frosty temperature, I was still really tempted to take a quick dip. Why didn’t I? I really didn’t want to displease the goats (see below).
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3. …And Maybe Pet Some Goats?
The small bridge you need to cross to access the waterfall footpath features a gate with a lockless latch.
Well, a herd of friendly goats have the privilege of calling the terrain around the waterfall home. They’re free to roam, and if you’re lucky, you may catch a few of them reenacting a troll bridge right by La Froda. Unfortunately, we didn’t figure out what was expected as the troll toll. Treats, perhaps?
While they seemed pretty standoffish as we made our way to the waterfall, they didn’t hesitate to approach us on the way back. Should you choose to reciprocate with some pets, make sure to keep an eye on your clothes because a couple of them did seem to consider fabric a tasty snack.
The Troll Bridge caught on camera.
4. Swim in the Valle Verzasca River (Or Simply Enjoy the Scenery While Sunbathing)
Just like it’s possible to swim in the natural pool under the La Froda waterfall, you can take a plunge in the nearby Valle Verzasca River too. And trust me, once you see its crystal clear mountain waters, you’ll definitely want to.
The Valle Verzasca River flows down though – you guessed it – the Verzasca Valley. The road up to Sonogno from Gordola also goes along this river. Some stunning swim spots on the way up Sonogno include Lavertezzo, with its famous “bridge of jumps”, and Motta. (I’d go as far as saying as these spots are nearly impossible to miss since there’s only one road heading up!)
Note: as gorgeous as the river is, keep in mind that it’s an all-natural, unmanned swimming area. Always read the signs and exercise caution!
Ponte dei salti (the Jump Bridge) – the swimming hotspot right by Lavertezzo.
5. Hike Along the Valle Verzasca River
One of the most popular “hikes” in the valley, and arguably in the whole Canton of Ticino, is the Sentierone, “the Long Trail.” The trek starts at the bottom of the valley by the Verzasca Dam and goes all the way up to Sonogno. Though the hike is not the most difficult, its total distance adds up to just over 24 km and according to Ticino’s official website, it can take over 8 hours to complete.
What’s super convenient is that you can always choose to do part of the hike instead of the whole thing. The hike follows the Verzasca River, (just like the road up to Sonogno), which has a whole bunch of public bus stops on the way up and down.
I mean, just look at these views!
That being said, the Verzasca Valley is full of relaxing and challenging hikes. For a more detailed overview, check out Verzarsca.net!
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How to Get to Sonogno, Switzerland
Rather than hiking all the way up, you can reach the village…
The fastest and easiest way to get to Sonogno is by car. It is approximately a 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Lugano, Ticino’s largest city; 2 hours and 30 minutes from Lucerne; and 3 hours from Zurich.
If this seems like quite the distance for a daytrip, it’s possible to find accommodation options in Locarno, Gordola, Brione, and Gerra Verzasca on the way up to Sonogno. You can find a handful of listings on Booking.com and Airbnb!
IMPORTANT DETAIL: The fairly narrow road up to Sonogno from Gordola is made up of a series of hairpin turns on the side of a cliff (with the Verzasca Valley River down below). If this doesn’t sound like a drive you’d enjoy and feel comfortable doing, consider leaving your car parked in Tenero-Contra and taking the bus up to Sonogno. Honestly, if my boyfriend hadn’t been down to do the drive, I would’ve – I only have a few years of Scandinavian and North American driving experience under my belt, and just didn’t feel ready to hit the rather wild Swiss or Italian mountain roads.
By Public Transportation
Tenero-Contra, a municipality right at the bottom of the Verzasca Valley, has a train station that’s regularly serviced by trains from Bellinzona. Trains from major cities, including Zurich, Lucerne, and Lugano, stop in Bellinzona.
From Tenero Stazione, you can catch the 321 Sonogno bus, which will take you right up to the medieval stone town. To check current bus timetables and fares, visit SBB’s website, (evidently my favourite website for looking up Swiss transportation – you can read more here). Then, enter Tenero as you point of departure, Sonogno as your destination, click “Search for connection,” and voila! Easy peasy!
TIP: I recommend checking bus times in advance and planning your trip accordingly as buses can run anywhere from 30 minutes, 1 hour to 2.5 hours apart. As well, the last bus to Sonogno tends to leave Tenero at 7:00 pm.
When to Visit Sonogno
SUMMER! SUMMER! SUMMER!
If swimming and hiking make the cut on your “Verzasca Valley Must-Do” list, which they totally should, then visiting Sonogno during the warmer months is essential.
And yes, the summer months are, of course, peak travel season. Sonogno and the parking lot by it wasn’t packed, but there was limited parking along the Verzasca Valley River on the way up. If you plan on driving and stopping by the river, I would recommend heading over earlier in the day rather than later.
Can’t argue with the fact that Sonogno, Switzerland looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale.NEW POST: Check out what you need to know when planning the perfect day trip to #Sonogno, #Switzerland! Click To Tweet
Hands down, I’m a diehard member of the “Sonogno is 110% Demands a Visit” team! Sonogno worked as a perfect day trip destination for us, but there are definitely DAYS AND DAYS worth of things to see and do.
If you have any questions, thoughts, or experiences please share them in the comments section below!
Have you been to the Verzasca Valley? Tell me about it! Did you do anything differently? I would love to know!