Ticino, walking from the top of Monte San Salvatore to Morcote

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Ticino, walking from the top of Monte San Salvatore to Morcote

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The tiny village of Morcote - on the shores of Lake Lugano - is truly fascinating and - not surprisingly - is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Switzerland. The small town can be visited in a short time, walking along its narrow streets and stairways and losing yourself among the colourful buildings and flowering creepers. We chose to reach this enchanting village via a hiking trail that starts at the top of Monte San Salvatore, the mountain that overlooks the lake and offers a stunning panoramic view of Lake Lugano.

We love... Morcote!

The small village of Morcote – just a stone’s throw from Lugano – is certainly one of the best known and most popular destinations for casual visitors to Ticino because it offers a taste of the Swiss Dolce Vita. You will love getting lost in its narrow streets, passageways and stairways! And you can’t help but take pictures of its colourful buildings and flowery corners, stopping every now and then for an aperitif or an ice cream with a distinctly Mediterranean flavour. Discovering this corner of the world doesn’t take much time, but if you want to add some healthy physical activity to your visit, our advice is to reach Morcote via the panoramic path from the top of Monte San Salvatore. After your visit, you can easily return to Lugano by bus or, for a more scenic option, by one of the boats that cross the lake! So here is our itinerary and some useful tips!

Walk overview & map

The hike we propose is a linear route that starts at the top of Monte San Salvatore and follows a path mostly through the forest to first reach the small villages of Ciona and Carona and finally Morcote, where it ends. During the itinerary, you will have the opportunity to admire the splendid view of Lake Lugano and to visit some picturesque churches and the old town centre of Morcote. The total itinerary is about 11 km, which can be covered in about three hours (four at a relaxed pace and including visits to historical buildings. It would be an easy walk, but we classify it as moderate due to a short section of about one and a half kilometres at the beginning of the hike, which runs on downhill and rather uneven terrain. After heavy rain, it is so possible that some sections will be more slippery. Our advice, as always, is to wear good hiking shoes and to carry trekking poles. At the end of the route, a long flight of steps takes you from the mountain to Morcote on the lake. Along the route you will find several dining options.

Would you like to use our hiking map?

For a safe hike, it is important to have the support of maps and GPS. That’s why we plan and track all our hiking routes using Outdooractive, a platform for tracking outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and more. By subscribing for free to the website you can browse the entire route database, copy our routes, edit them and create your own and of course share them with friends. If instead you want to know why you should sign up for a PRO or PRO+ subscription and why we have already done it, we have told you about it here along with 5 other essential apps for hiking in Switzerland.

Walking route

Cima San Salvatore

Our hike starts at the top station of the Monte San Salvatore funicular, which can be reached from Lugano-Paradiso. On the official website you will find all the information on operations, timetables and tickets, which you can pre-purchase online to skip the queue at the ticket offices. The funicular, divided into two sections, takes about 15 minutes to the top of Monte San Salvatore. Here you will find a restaurant (Ristorante Vetta San Salvatore) and toilets. Before starting the walk, we suggest you climb a little higher to reach the panoramic square and the small Church Monte San Salvatore. From here you will indeed have access to one of the best views of Lake Lugano! Afterwards, if you still have some free time, we suggest a visit to the small Museum San Salvatore, which tells the history of the mountain and its geology in a very interesting way. Entrance is included in the funicular ticket. After the ritual photos and a visit to the museum, you return down to the station forecourt to start your journey in the direction of Morcote. The first kilometer and a half will require you to be a little careful: it is a narrow, uneven path that runs through the forest on a rather steep side of the mountain. Nothing really dangerous, but tree roots, rocks and heavy rain can make some sections rather slippery. As already said, our advice is to wear good hiking shoes and use trekking poles.

From San Salvatore to Carona

After about one and a half kilometres of sloping terrain, the path becomes steadier and flatter, with only slight differences in altitude. Along the path, we almost immediately encounter the small village of Ciona, little more than a cluster of really picturesque houses. Here we also encounter the small Oratory of Santa Maria delle Grazie and a large car park, perfect for those who want to start the hike from here or take the path in the opposite direction to reach the summit of San Salvatore on foot. From Ciona, the path proceeds into the forest on mostly beaten earth and without difficulty. After a couple of kilometres, we reach Carona. Here you can take a break for lunch at the characteristic Grotto Pan Perdü or continue in the direction of Morcote. However, we suggest a small diversions to visit the surprising Church of Santa Marta, which dates back to the 1400s but was modified during the 1600s. The church is still fascinating today and has recently been restored. During our visit, we met a volunteer who told us the history of the church and explained the ancient frescoes. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find the church open, but give it a try! It is worth it!

From Carona to Morcote: San Grato Park

Once we have visited the church, we continue our route in the direction of Morcote. After Carona, the path meets the San Grato Botanical Park, a natural park of over 200,000 square metres characterised by azaleas, rhododendrons and conifers. The park is truly picturesque and the scents – even in high summer – are inebriating. We just took a small diversions to cross part of it. However, the park has many trails. You will find a detailed description of them on a sign at the entrance. Also inside the park is Swing the World, a panoramic swing that offers a magnificent view of the lake. We reached it with a small diversions of about 10 minutes, but in all honesty we had no WOW effect. If you are curious, you can easily reach it! From the San Grato park, about 3 kilometres along a comfortable path lead to the start of the long staircase to Morcote.


Morcote is truly fascinating. Its best-known visitor attraction is certainly the view of the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria del Sasso standing out against the blue of the lake and the green of the mountains in the background. But Morcote is much more: a small, colourful, flower-filled coastal village with a delightfully Mediterranean atmosphere! Following the steps, we first reach the Church of Santa Maria del Sasso. Built in 1400, here you can admire well-preserved frescoes from various eras, a beautiful dome and an ancient organ from 1700. Leaving through the door opposite the one we entered through, we then reach the Oratory of Sant’Antonio da Padova. Built in 1600, it is equally fascinating and rich in stuccos and decorations. Finally, we continue along the stairs to the lake and the historic centre of the village of Morcote. Here we advise you to lose yourself along the alleys and narrow streets and not to miss a walk under the characteristic arcades leading to the Piazza Granda, where you can have an ice cream or an aperitif.
From Morcote, you can return to Lugano by bus from Piazza Granda or by the more characteristic boat that sails the lake and also stops at Lugano-Paradiso in case you have to pick up your car at the valley station of the San Salvatore funicular.
How to get there

Arriving by public transport

See the location in Google Maps. The starting point of this excursion – the valley station of the San Salvatore funicular – can be easily reached by public transportation. To find the best travel option for you, as always we recommend using the SBB website or the SBB App, that you can also use to check the timetables and operating status of the lines and purchase tickets.

Arriving by car

See the location in Google Maps. The starting point of this excursion – the valley station of the San Salvatore funicular – can also be reached by car. To find the best travel option for you, as always we suggest you use Google Maps. A car park is available opposite the station for a fee (CHF 6.00). However, the number of slots is limited, so as always our advice is to prefer public transport.



San Salvatore is a popular tourist destination. Although most travellers simply explore the peak and return to the valley, the queue at the funicular ticket office can be exhausting, especially on public holidays. Our advice is to pre-purchase your tickets online. This way, you can skip the line and go directly to the turnstiles and bring the QR-code directly to the scanner.


Many other hiking trails start at the top of Monte San Salvatore. You will find some information and ideas at this link.


Are you planning an excursion here and have doubts or concerns? Leave us a comment below and we will give you a feedback as soon as possible!

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