Valle Bavona

Extreme and beautiful

There is a place on this planet where peace reigns supreme. A small valley dominated by the sound of the river, with towering rock faces and dense fairytale woodland, where a thick soft blanket of moss covers the boulders. A place where man and nature can coexist in harmony thanks to a lifestyle from a bygone era. A valley only inhabited in summer, offering breathtaking views and a rich history. No, not Tolkien’s Middle-earth, but Valle Bavona: a small side valley, about 10 km long, that branches off the Maggia valley at Cavergno and climbs to San Carlo.

  • The 12 Lands

  • There are twelve villages called “Terre” [Lands] along the valley floor, all only inhabited during the summer, plus a hamlet abandoned for centuries due to the threat of a creeping landslide. These recall to mind those villages in children’s storybooks: tight groups of small houses and stables hugging the land and nestled between towering vertical rock faces. They all help keep the secrets buried under the boulders in this valley. The fields around these settlements were once far more extensive, but have been destroyed by river floods or buried by landslides over the years.

Valle Bavona is a valley best explored on foot. A drovers route passes through the twelve villages, letting you see with your own eyes the remaining traces of a bygone era in a landscape of extraordinary rugged beauty. Foroglio is, without doubt, the best known place in the valley. Nestled next to a dramatic 110 m high waterfall, this fairytale village has a certain mystical quality. The Bavona valley has been inhabited since ancient times. However, people ceased to live here all year round in 1500 or thereabouts, as natural disasters and the consequent environmental degradation made living conditions unsustainable. The valley inhabitants were forced to settle permanently in Cavergno and Bignasco, and only return to the Bavona valley in summer. Hence the tradition of transhumance here: the seasonal movement of livestock and people from the valley floor to the mountain pastures. Valle Bavona is now a popular destination not only for hikers in search of peace and breathtaking views, but also for trail runners who love a challenge: both The Great Waterfall Skyrace and the Basodino Mountain Run are held here.

  • Val Calnègia: a hanging valley waiting to be discovered

  • Val Calnègia is a side valley of the Val Bavona some 3 km long that starts at Puntíd, just above the Foroglio waterfall. A valley shaped by the force of nature when the glaciers melted, this valley can only be reached on foot from Foroglio via steep steps carved into the rock. This excursion lets you explore it in roughly 2.5 hours.

Although the people of the Bavona Valley found the land very inhospitable and unyielding, they still got the most out of this extreme valley. 70% of this 124 km2 of mountainous territory is unproductive: boulders and rocks are everywhere and only 1.5% of the total valley area is actually cultivable. These extreme conditions, however, forced the inhabitants of the Bavona Valley to be very creative: they made this hostile land their ally by turning the crevices between the boulders into homes, shelters for their livestock and cellars. These are known as “splüi” in the local dialect. Hanging meadows are another typical anthropic feature in Valle Bavona: the inhabitants topped the boulders with soil to create extra arable land. A truly admirable gargantuan effort in response to the scarcity of arable land on the valley floor. The inhabitants of the Bavona valley now enjoy a simple lifestyle while they escape the heat and the hustle and bustle of life in the city during the summer months.

  • Robiei, the glacier and the alpine lakes

  • From San Carlo, the highest “Terra” [Land] in the valley, you can reach the Robiei area and its lakes, either on foot (in about 2 hours) or by cable car (in about 15 minutes). This area lies at the foot of the Basodino glacier, the largest in Ticino, and is a paradise for hikers. The wonderful natural landscape here is dotted with particularly beautiful alpine lakes.


Three hydroelectric power plants in the Bavona Valley produce an abundance of electricity, yet all the villages here (apart from San Carlo) are still not connected to mains electricity. Many inhabitants have installed solar panels or a centralised natural gas tank. This lack of electricity and the fact that there were no roads until the 1950s have undoubtedly contributed to the preservation of such a traditional rural lifestyle in this valley.

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