When I heard about the Million Stars Hotels project created in Switzerland, which is a base of unique accommodations under the open sky, I knew it was something for me. Just imagine this concept – the most beautiful nature, the surroundings of the Alps and the starry sky under which you fall asleep. It sounds like a luxury. But this real type of luxury, unforced, yet most precious in the modern world. The possibility of being off the beaten tracks, away from the crowds, in solitude (but not alone), surrounded by unspoiled nature. This is my traveling dream coming true.
In Million Stars Hotels you can choose from mountain huts standing somewhere on alpine meadows, open-air beds to luxurious glass bubbles. It’s tempting to try literally everything and it was difficult for me to choose something for a one night. Until I found this place – the red cable car Tiny House Gondel, which is placed on the top of Piz Nair summit at 3000 m above the sea level, in southern Switzerland, in the St. Moritz region. As soon as I saw the sunrise could look like in this place, I knew it was worth fighting for.
A night on the top of the mountain – my experience
I started my trip to Switzerland from an overnight stay in the gondola. The day before, I had a flight from Warsaw to Zurich, a quick night in the city and in the morning I was catching a train to St. Moritz (it takes about 3.5 hours). I must admit that from the very beginning the fate was not favorable to me. First, the flight was delayed for a few hours, which could have resulted in not reaching the gondola on time. The next day, I barely made it to the last cable car at 3PM, because I was stuck in Swissmobile shop, trying to buy a prepaid card (the long line and the extremely slow gentleman from the staff did not help). And the weather… just on my arrival the temperature has fallen from 20 degrees Celsius and full transparency to the temperature below zero and impenetrable fog. In the short words, when I reached the top, I couldn’t see a thing and I could only imagine the panorama of the surrounding mountains.
The staff working in the restaurant was very helpful, explained me how everything works in the gondola and also provided one of the heated rooms in the restaurant for the whole night, where I could leave my stuff. After an hour they were gone and we stayed on top, completely alone. There was total silence and all we could hear was the sound of the wind and snow hitting the windows. The landscape quickly turned up white and thanks to that it was still very bright for a few hours. It has been a long time since I saw so much snow, which was rather a nice add-on to this experience.
The gondola itself is decorated in every detail. All elements fit together and it has a lot of modern, comfortable solutions. It looks a bit like the interior of a van. And certainly, in terms of equipment it is not survival, but a combination of luxury and outdoor. Chilling inside was a pleasure.
In the gondola there is a really big double bed, night reading lamp, even a tablet to play music. Everything you need for a cozy evening. However, what impressed me the most was the kitchen. Despite the fact that the gondola itself is not large, thanks to clever planning there was a space for a sink, fully equipped drawers (with plates, cutlery, glasses), pots and pans, coffee maker, trash and mini fridge. There was even a mobile gas stove, which is an island on wheels that allows you to cook a full, warm meal inside the gondola. There are oils and a set of spices, so you don’t have to worry about anything. You need to take only a few ingredients with you to make spaghetti or heat the soup.
Of course, if you don’t want to cook, you can have a hot meal until 4 p.m. in the restaurant next door, or you can order a set of cold snacks, which can be delivered to the gondola. We just bought ourselves some simple snacks: prosciutto, cheese, baguette, tomatoes and that was enough for us to have a picnic dinner.
There is really a lot of time to enjoy the gondola because the restaurant staff finish their work and go down after 4PM. They come back around 8 AM. on the next day, so you can enjoy this place in peace. Although… If you like horror movies, you can go to the toilet at night in complete darkness (however, I recommend to take the headlamp with you) or wander around the empty cable car station. Both experiences are a bit scary.
I was hoping to take some pictures of the stars and milky road, because the place was perfect for this type of photography. 3000 m above the sea level and no lights around. It would have been an insane view. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, because of the snow, but well, that’s the charm of travelling. In contrast, the next four nights were perfect, so someone who spent the night after us was super lucky :)
Many of you were most interested in heating and temperature in the gondola. There are two electric heaters inside, which can heat up to 30 degrees Celsius. However, if the temperature falls down below zero or a strong wind blows, the temperature will be lower. We had a windy snow storm, so it was difficult to keep the high temperature inside. We ended up sleeping in sweatshirts, what was still kind of adventure. In the morning, when the wind stopped, it got really warm. From my experience of sleeping in Ladakh at -10 degrees, I would say that in Switzerland it was hot :).
The night passed quietly and we slept very comfortably. The air was crystal clear, which is exactly the luxury I wrote you about earlier. The morning also turned out to be much more gracious, because at sunrise the fog started to disappear, revealing the amazing landscape. And it was worth waiting for this view for a few hours to start the day with a panorama of the surrounding Alps. It was one of the most magical mornings I have had in a long time and when I was sipping coffee in bed, looking at the mountains, I was filled with a feeling of admiration and gratitude.
For such moments I travel and for them it is worth to be patient. This experience was delightful and it is definitely one of the most extraordinary places I have stayed overnight and which I will remember all my life. So if you ask me – is gondola worth staying? I will show you the pictures below…
Tiny House Gondel – practical information
By car: Parking spaces are located in the multi-level Quadrellas parking lot, directly underneath the lower station of St. Moritz Dorf or in the Serletta parking lot. Please note: there is a fee for the parking. Free parking is available at the lower Signalbahn station in St. Moritz Bad, from where you can easily reach St. Moritz Dorf by bus.
The parking lot is easily accessible by public transport: The Rheticine Railway (RhB) journey from Chur to St. Moritz, with its numerous spiral tunnels and impressive viaducts, is one of the most picturesque train rides in Europe. Alternatively, you can take the RhB from Landquart to Engadine through the Vereina Tunnel. The online timetable can be found HERE.
There are two ways to get to the Tiny House gondola: To get to the top of the Piz Nair, you have to take a cable car from St.Moritz Dorf via Chantarella to Corviglia by 3 p.m. at the latest (at this time the last cable car leaves and then there are no more options to get there). You can also try and go all the way on foot. You can find information about the hiking trail HERE. No matter which option you choose, remember that the last check-in is at 4.15PM in Piz Nair restaurant. Check out the next day is no later than 10.00AM. The first cable car leaves at 9.00AM., so between 4PM and 8.00 AM. you will be there completely alone, with no possibility of return.
Weather: If, due to the bad weather, it is not possible to stay overnight in the Tiny House gondola, the organizers offer an alternative option. These are foldable beds, which are located in the building next door. This is in case of high temperature drop, strong wind or blizzard. However, I recommend avoiding this place in such weather, because there is no point in sleeping on a foldable bed in the restaurant building and don’t see anything due to the poor visibility.
Ticktes: You can buy a cable car ticket to the top of Piz Nair at the box office at the lower station of St. Moritz Dorf.
Toilets and shower: the topic that interested you the most on my Instagram Stories ;) The are toilets in the restaurant building next to gondola. They are open all night. The only demerit is that you have to dress every time you want to go there (I remind you that there can be temperatures at night below zero degrees). There are no showers available on the top of Piz Nair.
Heating: There are two electric heaters in the gondola, which can heat up to 30 degrees Celsius. However, if the temperature drops below zero or there is a strong wind it’s difficult to keep the gondola warm. Definitely, it’s worth having a few layers of clothes with you.
Eating and drinking: There are 2 bottles of drinking water (1 liter each) waiting for you in the gondola. You can eat a warm meal until 4 p.m. in the Piz Nair restaurant or order cold snacks. You can get soft drinks and alcoholic beverages by calling +41 81833 08 75 in the Piz restaurant until noon on arrival. Breakfast is included in the price and served from 8.15 to 10.30AM in the Piz Nair restaurant. It’s delicious and it’s served beautifully with a view on the mountains.
Clothes: Piz Nair is a high mountain, so dress like you dress in the mountains. Whether it is summer or not, take gloves, a hat and thermal underwear with you. On my example – the day before my arrival at night was 12 degrees, but when I arrived it dropped to -5 degrees. So, it’s better to be prepared for each scenario – the weather in the mountains is sometimes unpredictable.
Altitude: Symptoms of altitude sickness can show up from 2500 m above the sea level. Piz Nair is over 3000 meters, so you can theoretically experience them. Thus, it’s worth planning your time for acclimatization, e.g. 1-2 days in St. Moritz (if possible), which is located at an altitude of 1800 m above the sea level. Then, go to the top afterwards. Also remember to drink a lot of water, because hydration is crucial when staying at high altitude.
Price: Accommodation for two people costs 450 CHF. In my opinion, sleeping in the gondola is one of those exceptional and unforgettable investments. You can pay for the night directly on the spot (card payment is possible).
Reservations: In the last season the gondola was literally besieged and it was difficult to find an available date. However, it does not mean that there are no vacancies at all. However, you have to hunt or book it in advance. You can check the schedule HERE or write directly to the facility and ask for availability).
*** I visited Switzerland as part of collaboration with Switzerland Tourism Board who supported me in all my crazy travel ideas.