Lago Ritom: Is This Swiss Mountain Lake Worth Visiting?

lago ritom

If there’s one country in the world in which there’s absolutely no shortage of mountain lakes, it’s Switzerland. The country is famous for its mountain landscapes, which are abundant with natural and man-made lakes.

Lake Ritom is a gorgeous natural lake, situated in the Piora Valley of the Ticino canton. It’s near the Gotthard Pass, and this entire region is famous for surreally beautiful landscapes, lakes, tall mountains, and forests. The surroundings of Lago Ritom are no different; they’re magically beautiful and worth visiting, whether you’ve got a day or a week to explore the region!

Where Is Lago Ritom Located?

Lake Ritom
Lake Ritom

Lake Ritom is located in southern Switzerland, in the Ticino canton. The lake is in the Piora Valley and it is extremely important to the region because the Swiss Federal Railways use it as a reservoir to generate hydro-electric power for the trains that run on the Gotthard line. The first dam on the lake was built in 1918, and it was made taller in 1950.

How to Get to Lago Ritom

Lago Ritom is easily accessible by both personal vehicle and public transport. If you have a car, you can drive up directly to the lake and park near the lake’s southern shore. A paved road promises easy access to this mountain lake, as well as stunning views from the car.

Travelers who are without a car in Switzerland will have to rely on the steep funicular, but first, you have to make it to Quinto. You can travel to Quinto by bus and train, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to reach the town. Then head to the Piotta funicular station directly opposite a bus stop, which will take you as far as the Piora station. From there, it’s about an hour and a half of hiking to Lago Ritom. The trail isn’t at all challenging and the walk can be done by anyone.

The views along the hiking trail are wonderful and well worth the trip. You’ll see two smaller lakes along the way, as well as enjoy fabulous panoramic vistas while ascending the path to the mountain lake.

Ticket Prices & Opening Hours

While there’s no entrance fee to the lake itself, you’re pretty much dependent on the inclined railway to get you to Lago Ritom. The funicular is open from May to mid-October, so that’s the ideal time when you should plan to visit the lake, although it’s worth noting that you can travel there whenever you want if you rent a car.

Looking down from the Ritom funicular
Looking down from the Ritom funicular

The Ritom funicular is one of the steepest in the world, with a maximum incline of 88.7%. Traveling in it is certainly a thrilling experience in itself, but still, nothing compared to what awaits once you’re at the lakeshore. Ticket prices for the Ritom funicular are 24 CHF for adults for a round trip, and it’s worth noting that there are discounts for children, teens, students, seniors, and groups of people. For a detailed timetable of the funicular, click here.

Hiking Around Lago Ritom

Lake Ritom Hiking
Lake Ritom Hiking

There’s an abundance of hiking trails in the area around Lago Ritom. There’s the 4.5-kilometer uphill hike from the top funicular stations to the dam for starters, as well as a plethora of other trails once you finally make it to the shore. Because of that, it’s not a bad idea to consider staying in the area for a while, if you’re genuinely interested in exploring the region surrounding one of Switzerland’s most enchanting mountain lakes.

There’s a path through the forest along the southern shore of the lake that offers impressive panoramic views of Lake Ritom and its surroundings. A loop hike around the lake would technically be possible, but it would entail walking along a road shared with cars, so I don’t necessarily recommend it.

Hiking beyond Lago Ritom
Hiking beyond Lago Ritom

It’s worth noting that the trail that leads from the dam and through the forest south of the lake is part of a network of hiking trails in this area. It eventually connects to trails that lead you to Lago Cadagno, Lago di Tom, and Lai da Sontga Maria in Grisons. Along the way, you’ll see waterfalls, tall mountain peaks, smaller lakes, and just incredibly scenic landscapes.

Just keep in mind the snow that has fallen during the winter, if you decide to do this in Spring like we once did. There was way too much snow for us to do the loop we wanted and we had to return. Plus, we could not see the lake in all its glory because it was still covered in ice and snow!

Other Activities You Can Do At Lago Ritom

Although hiking is by far the most popular activity in the area, it’s certainly not the only thing you can do at Lago Ritom. Travelers who are less into walking and more into lounging can find a spot on the shore where they can just soak in the sun, and you can even swim in the lake if the weather permits it. Other fun activities on the water are also on the menu but keep in mind that you’ll have to provide your own entertainment in the form of a SUP or kayak.

Mountain biking is also very popular in the area. The same trails that would take hours to explore on foot can be traversed in a fraction of the time on a mountain bike, allowing you to explore much more of this enchanting region in the same period.

The Lago Ritom mountain hut offers a place to stay to those who wish the explore the region further, plus it boasts a great restaurant where every meal is served with a stunning view.

Best Time to Visit Lago Ritom

The best time to visit Lago Ritom is from May to mid-October as that is when the funicular operates and the warmest, snow-free weather is to be found in Switzerland.

Also, the trail from the Piora station to the lake shore is in good condition during these months, and it’s safe to traverse. It’s not quite as safe in the winter when there’s a thick coat of snow on the ground as well as several icy segments.

On the other hand, travelers who like ski touring or snow shoeing should consider a winter trip to Lago Ritom. There is a range of trails from places like the Lukamanier Pass which I have always wanted to try. It is relatively flat, and not a huge undertaking. Just be aware of avalanche conditions!

Is Lago Ritom Worth Visiting?

Lake Ritom Winter
Lake Ritom in Winter

Yes, Lago Ritom is absolutely worth visiting. It’s one of the prettiest lakes in Switzerland, boasting nature so magnificent that you won’t believe your own eyes especially if you take advantage of the vast network of hiking and MTB trails and keep exploring the region.

There are many other, smaller lakes in close proximity to Lago Ritom, as well as waterfalls, tall mountain peaks, and forests. The scenery is absolutely magical, whether you visit in the summer when you can take advantage of the warm water and go for a dip in the lake, or in the winter when the trails are not quite as accessible, but the entire place becomes the epitome of a winter wonderland.

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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