Hiking Switzerland: Castagnola to Gandria on the Sentiere dell’ Olivo

by Gigi Griffis

If there’s one thing that’s true about this part of Switzerland, it’s this: Lake Lugano is dreamy from every angle

Hike up to Monte Brè for steep views down the hill. Wind uphill through the neighborhoods of Castagnola for parks with sweeping views of the rolling hills and blue water. Stroll along the lakefront promenade in town. Or slip away to the lakefront portion of Castagnola and onto this trail: the Sentiere dell’ Olivo. 

It’s an easy hike, meandering along the lake past olive groves and small parks, waterfront boutique hotels and tiny boat slips. In the distance, snow-capped peaks beckon, while along the trail warm-weather plants like cactus and palm drape across chalky cliffs and between plaques explaining that this tiny stretch of coastline is the perfect place to cultivate olives.

Even on a cold January day, the hike was bustling. Lines of bikes were locked just below the staircase leading up to Gandria. Small groups of tourists and locals strolled through the sunshine. Couples tucked themselves into lakefront parks, sitting on benches and stairs. Small dogs bounded along beside owners. Paramours held hands. 

Don’t expect to have the walk to yourself. But do expect a lovely series of views.

(Psst, this post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through one of my links, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.)

Want to experience the hike for yourself? Here are some relevant details: 

Hiking times and local transportation

The official route from Castagnola to Gandria should take between 30 minutes and one hour depending on your pace and how often you stop to soak in the incredible lakeside views. There are hotel restaurants along the route, so in high season you could also walk partway, enjoy a meal, and continue on (they were closed when we did this walk, so presumably winter is off-season for the route).

This is an easy, relatively flat hike for all ages and skill levels (though there is at least one section with a staircase about midway through and the town of Gandria itself is all stairs).

To join the hike at Gandria, walk down to the lakefront and follow signs toward Lugano. To join the hike in Castagnola, head to the waterfront there and look for signs for the Sentiere dell’ Olivo or Gandria.

Trail markers

The trail is well marked and, as a bonus, includes a number of signs in multiple languages explaining the olive production of the area (which was the inspiration for the creation of the trail).

Dogs on trails

Dogs are welcome on Swiss trails. Make sure you clean up after yours and keep them leashed. This trail is busy (even in winter) and I did not see anyone with an off-leash pet. 

What to bring

Wear comfortable shoes (I like Salomon women’s speedcross) and carry rain gear if there’s a chance of rain. There was one water fill-up station I noticed on the trail, but do bring at least one water bottle.

Happy hiking!

All photos taken with my Sony a6000.

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