Cardada – Cimetta: A Guide For Visitors

cardada cimetta

Cardada – Cimetta is a mountain in southern Switzerland overlooking Lake Maggiore, the country’s lowest point at just 193 meters above sea level. It boasts a vast hiking area with multiple observation decks that offer mesmerizing panoramic views of the Swiss-Italian lake, as well as a funicular for even better views. The mountain is also popular with outdoor adventurers, thanks to a variety of fun things to do in the area.

If you’re staying in Locarno or Ascona at the foot of the mountain, this is the perfect day trip to do. And even if you’re further away, the area is easy to reach by public transport from other regions of Switzerland.

History of Cardada – Cimetta

Cimetta summit
Cimetta summit

The area of Cardada-Cimetta has been important to the region since the beginning of the 20th century. The cross at Alpe Cardada was inaugurated as early as 1901, and just five years later the funicular from Locarno to Madona del Sasso was put in operation. This allowed locals easier access to the summit area, so it was necessary to build some infrastructure for visitors at the top of the mountain.

The Cimetta hut was constructed first in 1936, followed by the Cardada hut in 1938. In 1952 the cable car from Orselina to Cardada was put into operation, and during the period from 1951 to 1965, various ski lifts were built, including the chair lift from Cardada to Cimetta. This made the mountain area accessible to skiers and transformed the region into a year-round tourist destination.

Such heavy infrastructure called for adjustments and repairs to the existing electrical systems at the mountain, and this was done in the 70s and 80. Then in the late 90s, the local authorities started making the area more accessible to hikers and mountain bikers with the construction of various walking paths and Cimetta’s geological observatory.

In the past 20 years, the mountain transformed from a skier’s paradise to a hiker’s playground. Some of the existing ski lifts were dismantled from 2002 to 2007, and the 2018-2019 season officially marked an end of skiing activity at Cardada-Cimetta. Another ski lift was dismantled in 2021, followed by the modernization of the cable cars and chair lifts, as well as the restoration of the various walking paths at the summit.

Things to Do in Cardada – Cimetta

Paragliding in Cardada

Hiking and tandem paragliding are the best things you can do at Cardada – Cimetta. The mountain is a base for tandem paragliding flights, which is one of the main reasons why so many people visit. The altitude and mild weather make it the ideal starting point for flights in the region, and if that sounds like something you would enjoy, make sure to contact Flight Base to arrange your tandem flight.

The mountain also boasts a network of hiking trails that can take you along mountain ridges, to fabulous Alpine lakes, and even to nearby towns. Avid hikers can easily spend a few days here exploring all that Cardada – Cimetta offers, and it’s unlikely they would get bored quickly. Along the way, you can see the entire Maggia Valley, lake Maggiore, other mountains, the Brissago Islands, and much more.

Some hiking trails also work as mountain biking trails and they’re great for adventurers who enjoy the more rigorous outdoor activities. Plenty of trails are easy and suitable for people without a lot of experience, while the ridge trail is reserved only for the most experienced mountain bikers.

Additionally, geocaches are scattered all over the mountain. If that’s something you enjoy, you can use a GPS to discover small hidden objects in various locations at Cardada-Cimetta. There’s also a playground for the smallest visitors, while adults can have fun playing giant chess, walking the foot massage path, or hanging out on the giant seesaw. You can even visit the geological observatory at Cimetta’s highest point for some spectacular scenic views.

How to Get to Cardada

Madonna del Sasso
Madonna del Sasso

The Cardada – Cimetta mountain is surprisingly easy to access thanks to a cable car. You just need to make your way to the Orselina cable car station in Madonna del Sasso. The station is accessible by bus, personal vehicle, and an inclined railway from downtown Locarno.

There’s also a chair lift at Cardada that transports passengers to Cimetta. The ride is just a few minutes long, and the views are absolutely stunning, so it’s definitely worth doing if you’re into panoramic vistas and mountain summits.

You can also just walk from Locarno to Orselina – it would take you about half an hour, although it’s worth noting that the path follows the road and it’s quite steep. But it’s an option, in case you’d rather engage your muscles a bit instead of spending money on public transport.

Locarno is situated on the northern shore of Lake Lugano and it is serviced by a train station. It’s easy to reach from other, bigger cities in the area. Locarno has a direct train connection to Camedo and Domossodola in Italy.

Where to Eat in Cardada – Cimetta

Cardada - Cimetta Hut
Cardada – Cimetta Hut

There are a few restaurants near the top cable car station where you can grab a bite to eat. Albergo Ristorante Cardada is right next to the station building and it’s an average restaurant/hotel with decent food, great views, and cheap rooms. Casa Colmanicchio is about five minutes away from the station, and it’s a bit more upscale, with slightly better food.

There are also two mountain cabins near the Alpe Cardada observation deck, which are also good places for local food. Especially if you’re into simpler meals like meat and cheese platters because these cabins offer some of the best local cheese you can try in the entire region.

Is Cardada – Cimetta Worth Visiting?

If you are an outdoor adventurer who enjoys hiking, being out in the fresh air, and perhaps even engaging in extreme sports, Cardada – Cimetta is absolutely worth visiting. It’s one of Switzerland’s lower mountains, so you won’t experience the thrill of climbing a peak over 4,000 meters, but you will get to enjoy some truly incredible panoramic vistas.

The mountain offers gorgeous views of Lake Lugano, Lago Maggiore, and the towns along its shores, as well as other surrounding mountains in the distance. It offers plenty of things to do and you could easily spend an entire day just exploring and having fun.

However, it’s worth noting that the mountain is worth visiting mostly when the weather is nice. You can still explore most of the hiking trails when it’s wet and cold, but the views can be obstructed by clouds and fog, plus there are fewer opportunities for tandem paragliding in poor weather.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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