Angela Warm Health Editor
“You had me at yurt” I said to my friend when she invited us to join her family on a weekend hiking trip that involved a sleepover in a yurt.
Staying in a yurt had been on my bucket list for a long time.
I committed even before asking my husband, knowing he would be on board with anything that involved hiking in the Alps. The yurt was just an added bonus.
Logistical details were hashed out over the next several weeks. We would leave our van at the Julier Pass, hike 10km to Alp Flix, spend the night in the yurts (they had reserved two a long time ago but the other family couldn’t make it) and take public transport back the next day.
Our final destination was Cotti Algricultra, located approximately 2000 meters above sea level in the vicinity of Sur in the canton of Graubünden.
It is yet another gorgeous area of Switzerland, known for it’s geological diversity and alpine vistas. It is considered a very unique area by geologists due to the mix of different rock features (my husband being a Geologist agreed wholeheartedly)
Which might be why we didn’t spend too much time worrying about the 10 km hike.
We’ve managed 10km hikes with the kids before, so no big deal right?
We may have failed to take into account the change in elevation (roughly 900+ meters) and sheer difficulty of this particular 10 km hike (which was all said and done ended up being 12.4km).
Although the hike was touted to take 4 hours, we factored in a little extra cushion given that we were hiking with three kids (9, 10, 11).
Our destination and yurt experience was waiting at Cotti Algricultra. They rent out five adorable yurts close to the town of Alp Flix. As a family run agritourismo – they have an impressively large sheep herd, cheese facility, and horses as well. They also have a full service restaurant and can provide breakfast, lunch and dinner meals made with local fare.
On Saturday, we got a bit of a late start (typical Americans). We’ve been super excited for weeks about this trip. So it was a bit disappointing that it was cold and drizzly when we parked our van at the Julier Pass. It took some convincing to get the kids out of the van. Determined to hike, we quickly ate our packed lunch and started out on the trail.
I knew in the first 20 minutes that this was going to be harder than anticipated, as it starts with a steep climb that can be easily distracted by the gorgeous waterfalls, mountain vistas and friendly cows.
We passed several hikers coming from the opposite direction who were quite surprised and a bit concerned to hear we were hiking to Alp Flix, with kids in the early afternoon. We started to wonder what we were getting ourselves into.
The sun came out for a short time and it seemed all would be OK. Then we saw it – dark clouds forming and a rainstorm headed right for us.
We could have (should have) turned around and headed back to our van, as we were much closer to our van than to the yurts at that point in our hike.
But no one wanted to be the first to admit defeat.
Later I learned that my friend and her husband (who is an avid hiker) had also thought we should have turned around early on.
The sunshine disappeared and the light rain quickly turned to light hail, pelting our rain jackets as the temperature dropped to below 10. At times if felt like you were on the surface of the moon.
After the hail, it was a couple more hours of hiking in the cold, drizzly rain on a somewhat steep technical trail.
After reaching the peak at around 2800 meters, I thought we would have some relief from the uphill climb that was kicking my butt and making my knees ache. But it turned out the downward trek was just as treacherous as the upward part – on loose rocks that while colorful , were quite slippery when wet.
After the rocky part, that had waterfalls running underneath it, there were several kilometers of gorgeous vistas intermixed with muddy patches. The kind that you sink up to your ankles and wish you had never chosen the low top hiking boots that day.
Towards the end, the rain stopped and we could see some blue sky in the distance. But by then most of our crew were cold, wet, tired, muddy and hungry. The two older kids had forged ahead without an adult as they had enough waiting around – luckily they made it to the yurts about an hour before the rest of us.
After what seemed like forever, we rounded a corner after roughly five hours of hiking and could see the little round white buildings way off in the distance – the yurts – our home for the evening. But it would be another hour of hiking straight down to get there.
So just to recap we started our hike at approximately 2200 meters above sea level, climbed another 659 meters up in the first few hours, through rain and hail and descended 915 meters back down to Alp Flix through waterfalls, colorful wet rocks, moon like surfaces and super muddy marsh meadows. Only then did we finally arrived at the yurts.
We were late for dinner, so we walked right into the dining hall with our muddy boots, wet backpacks and damp clothes and enjoyed a delicious warm dinner prepared by the owners. Surprisingly, the kids who forged ahead even waited for us to arrive. Everyone was glad to finally sit down and warm up a bit.
After dinner, we checked out our yurt. While basic, they were super comfortable with a double bed and then two separate single beds made up for the kids. There is no electricity in the yurts, so they provide candles which made it cozy. The shower and toilet facilities are shared but close by and very clean and tidy. We tossed some wood on the central stove that quickly warmed up our yurt and started drying out our damp clothes.
The sun had already set and the stars were starting to peak out. And what a spectacular star show we had that night. I can’t recall the last time i’ve seen so many stars in the sky! It was phenomenal and proof we were far from any big cities.
The next morning, after a great night of sleep, we were greeted with blue skies and sunshine, along with a delicious breakfast of homemade yogurts, bread, jams, local cheese and meats and granola. My son kept saying it was the best “milk, juice, bread,” he had ever eaten.
All in all, looking back, I am glad we did the hike. It made everything just that much sweeter and I’m proud of our kids for their perseverance in the face of several challenges (weather, difficulty etc). Special thanks to my sweet friend who knew how to keep my son focused on something other than the long hike by telling her in explicit detail about the audio book he was listening to in the car. She is a saint.
Because of our later than expected arrival, we weren’t able to tour the on-site cheese facility or take advantage of some of the other benefits the agritourismo offers like horseback riding, or the nearby hiking trails (although trust me we had enough hiking for a while).
I would highly recommend the Cotti Algricultra to anyone wanting an adventure mixed with gorgeous scenery, comfort and great food. The staff were super friendly and the meals were delicious, made with the local cheese and neighboring fare. It is also very family friendly, including reduced prices for extra beds and meals for kids under 16.
The area itself is spectacularly gorgeous and serene.
And the good news is you don’t have to endure the 6-7 hour hike to get there. You can access this area via public transit, or if you are a good driver, you can brave the twisty narrow road from Sur to the town of Alp Flix. There are also much shorter hiking trails to get you there. As well as a nearby hotel if yurts aren’t your thing.
All in all, my first yurt experience was memorable. Full of adventure, beauty, determination, friends, family and perseverance. The stars and yurt experience made that crazy hike totally worth it.
Another item on my bucket list checked off.
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