Surselva means “above the forest” in the Romansh language, and this sprawling district in predominately Romansh-speaking area of Graubunden canton is a delightful winter destination encompassing wooded countryside along the Anterior Rhine Valley (Vorderrhein) between Disentis and Reisenbach. Last week, in the village of Brigels, Tom and I luxuriated Surselva’s refreshing mountain air, great food and some fine relaxation.
“Our hotel is atmospheric, with village character” says Chris Faber, when asked what makes La Val Bergspa Hotel Brigels special. Contemplating the well-designed spa facility, and cozy touches throughout the hotel, I heartily agree!. With just 33 rooms spread over two spacious buildings, there is never a sense of over-crowding or a rushed pace. Candles burn on ledges and window sills, and a welcoming fire spreads cheer in both the reception space and smokers’ lounge. Myriad lovely touches conspired to set the tone for a relaxing stay, far from any sort of hustle or bustle.
This is a land of laid-back outdoor enjoyment. In Brigels, there are chair lifts to alpine slopes and hiking trails, and long and swooping curls of cross-country runs through the valley. Trails marked for winter hiking and snowshoe outings lead out of the village and across wooded hillsides. The ski region of Brigels-Waltensburg-Andiast offers myriad options for winter explorations, including 75 km of pistes for ski aficionados and 15 kms of cross-country tracks. Night skiing and snow tubing is on offer until the season ends in March.
Back at La Val, time in the beautifully appointed spa is highly recommended. The hotel’s spa offers Finnish and herbal saunas, steam rooms and roster of spa services. Two visits in two days did not seem to be overkill, and I treated myself to a fine massage, as well as time in aromatic heat. The experience worked wonders, taking the chill off, and dissipating all that city angst.
Breakfast at La Val is a generous and healthy buffet, featuring cheeses and meats from local producers, along with yogurts, fruit and cereals–not to mention country breads, crackers and a couple of sweet options. Juices, teas, hot chocolate, and importantly (for me), a top-notch espresso round out the morning meal.
Chef Rudolf Möller has received 14 Gault Millau points for his innovative half-board menu in the hotel’s restaurant, Ustria Miracla. The menu has a “No butter, no frites” philosophy, instead offering a varied menu with plenty of healthy flavors served in delectable small portions. Manager Chris Faber and Chef Möller took the half-board menu up a notch when they initiated the popular Surselva Genuss Pur program, an annual series of dinners hosted by six participating chefs/restaurants in the region. We can highly recommend both versions of the Ustria Miracla menu!
The hotel’s wine list is personally selected by Chris Fabor, who makes an annual tour, visiting vintners in Switzerland and abroad, and bringing home wines not readily available to most Swiss guests in their local shops.
Brigels is a quiet Surselva village, with traditional architecture, several fine restaurants, and shops offering regional foods and crafts. Residents are rightfully proud of locally made foods, such as capuns and malans, and a variety of dairy products and sausages. Some of the best products are available for purchase from the local dairy shop. Brigels is a popular hiking destination in summer, and in September, cows are brought down from the Brigel Alps with an Alpine Parade and Festival.
We traveled to Brigels on the superb Swiss Travel System, taking two trains and a bus up the mountain from the Tavanasa station. Our Rhaetian Railway connection in Chur was seamless, and the ride through the rock-strewn Rhine valley, a miniature Grand Canyon a la Swiss, very scenic. I can think of no better way to arrive in the Brigels-Waltensburg-Andiast holiday region!
When you go
- Take the train and Post Bus! Train travel from all major Swiss cities is easy and well-connected, and the RhaetischeBahn provides a scenic ride.
- At Hotel La Val, go for half-board! Menu choices are innovative and healthy, and made with market-fresh ingredients. This is excellent value for meals that are beautifully prepared and delicious to the last bite.
- Book a spa treatment from the very capable staff. I enjoyed a traditional massage, and it was one of the best I’ve had anywhere!
- Sample village life, stopping in at local dairy shops for some Brigels food souvenirs, such as cheese, and frozen capuns and malans handmade in local home kitchens.
- The hotel offers packaged stays, rewarding stays of several days or including spa treatments. Check the hotel’s website for any offers that might apply at the time of your visit.
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