on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Verzasca Valley in Switzerland

Photographer's Paradise

The geography of Switzerland is dominated by the East-West high alpine ridges that split the country into Northern and Southern parts. The Northern part is where the major cities and industrial centres are located. The Alps themselves are the home of spectacular highlights like the Eiger, the Matterhorn, or the Aletsch Glacier. But the Southern side is a little less well known, and has a quite distinct character.


South of the Rhone Valley and the Gotthard massif lies the Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino. And while Ticino certainly has it’s fair share of tall peaks, the highlights, geographically speaking, are to be found in and around a series of glacial valleys descending from the high snowfields, with tumbling rivers feeding into the Maggiore Lake. Any one of these valleys, including the Maggia, Calanca, and the Centovalli, would keep most landscape photographers busy for years, but the jewel in the crown, and the subject of this article, is the Valle Verzasca, through which the river of the same name runs.

The Verzasca valley is around 25km long, stretching due south down from the village of Sonogno, through an endless sequence of cascades, rapids and gullies until it reaches the artificial Lake Vogorno. This is created by a spectacular dam, the Diga di Contra, which was the scene for the opening sequence of the James Bond film Goldeneye, and today is famous for its terrifying bungee jump. Having passed the dam, the river threads its way in a more leisurely fashion before emptying into Lake Maggiore, a few km away from the city of Locarno.

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  • Hi David,

    Perfect timing! As it happens I was only yesterday hiking the Val Vogornesso (the opposite valley to the Val Redorta) and also thinking about putting an end to my vacillation about my own Val Verzasca article. Now I see you’ve saved me the trouble!

    An excellent and well-researched piece with some great pics to which I can add little – apart from suggesting that late autumn to March is the best time to photograph the rocks.

    Between March and late-September the sun is too high in the sky and makes the pale rock extremely difficult to photograph during most of the day – unless you are there when it’s cloudy. Not to mention that the prime spots are full of sunbathers, scuba divers and sundry other ‘civilians’. Like you say, the valley is best avoided in the summer.

    In winter, the sun is low enough that the floor of the valley falls into shadow for much of the time yet direct sunlight still strikes the tops of the mountains – leading to interesting reflections in the many rock pools. Plus it’s too cold for sun-worshippers. :)

    • david mantripp @ snowhenge.net

      Thanks for the comments, Julian. I did feel a little guilty about getting in first. Briefly :-).

      I know what you mean about the summer – I used to actually think it was totally impossible due to the high contrast as much as the civilians, but I these days less so. Then again I do have the luxury of just wandering over there on a whim. Sometimes it works out, photographically, sometimes it doesn’t. But either way it’s a good place to chill out a bit.

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