This mountain resort above Locarno has sweeping panoramic views over Lago Maggiore and a fun activity trail for children.
|Address:||Funicular from Locarno: Viale Francesco Balli 2, 6600 Locarno
Cable car from Orselina: Via Santuario 5, 6644 Orselina
|Car:||2hr50 from Zurich to Locarno
Parking: Posteggi Stazione Muralto, Via Stazione 6, Muralto
|Train:||2hr20 from Zurich HB to Locarno
Adult return half fare CHF 64
|Trail:||1.2 km loop activity trail for children|
|Open:||March to November, weather dependent|
|Prices 2017:||Adult CHF 36, Child CHF 18 return trip to top at Cimetta|
|Services:||restaurant, playground, theme trail|
Cardada is a mountain resort directly above Locarno. It is accessible by a funicular from Locarno to Oreslina, then a large gondola to Cardada (1340 m) where you’ll find a viewing platform, an activity trail and playground for children and a couple restaurants.
Continue up the mountain on a chair lift to Cimetta (1671 m) for bigger views from another observation deck. You can optionally hike down from here to Cardada.
I recommend riding up to Cimetta, enjoying the view for a bit. Then ride back down to Cardada and do the activity trail with the children.
You can access Cardada from the center of Locarno with the Locarno-Madonna del Sasso funicular (runs every 15 mins), which ends in Orselina where you catch a gondola up to Cardada (runs every 30 mins).
By car: Drive to Locarno and park in the Posteggi Stazione Muralto parking garage near the funicular (Via Stazione 6, 6600 Muralto). It costs CHF2 for the first hour, then CHF 1 for each 20 mins. But you get a 50% discount if you get your parking ticket validated at the funicular. From the parking garage, walk one block south to the funicular station.
You can save a bit of time and money driving directly to Orselina, skipping the funicular. However, there is very limited parking at Orselina.
By public transport: Take a train to Locarno. Then walk one block southwest on the main road to the funicular station.
In 2017, the Locarno-Madonna del Sasso funicular cost CHF 7.20/adult and CHF 3.20/child for a return trip. Under 6 free. No discount for SBB Half-fare or Junior cards. It runs every 15 mins from 8:05 to 20:05.
Once in Oreslina, you must separately for the Cardada/Cimetta cable car and chair lift (no combo tickets with the funicular). A return trip from Orselina to Cimetta (includes gondola and chair lift) costs CHF 36/adult and CHF 18/child. SBB Half-fare and Junior cards are accepted.
The Orselina-Cardada gondola runs every 30 mins from 07.45 – 19.45 during summer. The Cardada-Cimetta chair lift runs continually from 09.15 – 12.15 and 13.15 – 17.30 during summer. Both have shorter hours in spring and fall.
Riding to the top
In Locarno, you board the funicular train and ride to Orselina, where you’ll see the lovely church named Madonna del Sasso pictured below.
Cross the street, buy your Cardara/Cimetta tickets and ride the gondola to Cardada.
When you arrive in Cardada, you’ll see a kiosk, some playground equipment, and a restaurant with a panorama terrace. The children’s activity trail starts here, but you can visit that after riding to the top.
So a short walk on a paved path to the Cimetta chair lift. At the base of the Cimetta chair lift, there is Restaurant Colmanicchio, with a great view and playground. We ate there a few years ago and it was pretty good. Also, it had tons of lizards scampering on the terrace, which provided endless entertainment for our 3yr old.
Ride the chair lift to the top of Cimetta. The chair is oriented sideways with foot rests and safety bar.
View from the top of the Cimetta chair.
Lots of paragliders leave from here, which is entertaining to watch.
A short path up to the observation deck.
The Cimetta observation deck.
It’s a 360 degree view, with the lake on one side and big mountains on the other.
There are various rock samples on the observation deck and a map showing where these different kinds are rocks are found in the area.
If you are doing the treasure hunt, look for an animal footprint up here. Then ride back down to Cardada for the other amusements for the children.
Children’s Treasure Hunt trail at Cardada
When buying your Cardada tickets at Orselina, ask for the Treasure Hunt booklet (aka Schatzsuche) for the children, one per family. The text is in German and Italian. This side asks you to mark the seven animal footprints you find in the area, near the squirrel symbols on the map below. Notice that the squirrels are all over the place, not just on the loop trail. You can turn in your correctly filled out map at the ticket booth to receive a prize.
This part of the booklet shows fun things for children near the Cardada station, including #8 the playground and #7 the barefoot path. We didn’t walk the full loop trail (1.2 km), just visited some of the attractions near the gondola station.
Part of the path is paved. Here are the teepees in the “Indian village.”
The barefoot path is quite long with a large variety of textures from pebbles to tennis balls.
A big “Noah’s Ark” playground at Cardada.
You can take a short detour here to the “landscape promontory,” a long ramp built out from the mountain that gives a nice view. We found an animal footprint on the ramp.
View from the Cardada ramp.