Ascona-Locarno is a paradise for mountain biking (MTB) enthusiasts – and those who aspire to become one. Thanks to its climate and terrain, the region on Lake Maggiore attracts visitors with active lifestyles, as well as those with a more easy-going outlook on life. Nestled between the mountains and the palm trees by the lake, the region's MTB trails offer the perfect balance between adventure and relaxation amid breathtaking scenery.
It's a sunny day: time to hop on the bike and go off on a tour. After a hearty breakfast in Locarno, we head for the Cardada-Cimetta. The route winds its way up the flank, past Monte Brè (apparently the sunniest mountain in Switzerland) all the way to Cardada. We pass some fabulous vantage points and encounter new villas and ancient traditional rustici. After the 17-plus km ascent, we're glad to be able to take a breather, enjoy the sensational panorama of Lake Maggiore and fortify ourselves in the restaurant with polenta cooked over a wood fire, washed down with a gazosa lemonade: we've earned it, after all! Now comes the descent on a 6 km single trail through the Val Resa, followed by a metalled road back to Locarno.
The Cardada Bike route (intermediate difficulty, 30 km) presents a few technical challenges. To avoid the long ascent, you can take the aerial cableway to Cardada and focus on enjoying the thrilling descent through the Val Resa.
Back from the tour, it's time to stretch our tired legs and relax. Where better than at the spa? We feel like new after a whirlpool bath and massage. Refreshed, we set out to explore Locarno, including the Piazza Grande, the lakeside quarter and the old part of town. Seeing the numerous little bars, our thoughts turn to liquid refreshment, then to food. After all, we've done a lot today. So we find ourselves somewhere to eat and enjoy the Mediterranean holiday atmosphere on Lake Maggiore.
12 hotels in the Ascona-Locarno region are Bike Hotel-certified by Hotelleriesuisse, Switzerland's hospitality industry association, which means they're geared to catering for mountain bikers' needs. That includes lockable storage rooms for the bikes, workshops for minor repairs, and a tip or two regarding local trails.