Switzerland unplugged: a hike in the off-grid Bavona valley

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Using paths surrounded by terraced chestnut groves, walkers can encounter a traditional corner of Europe untouched by mains electricity

When hydroelectric power first arrived in Switzerland’s Bavona valley in the 1950s, residents of its 12 hamlets gathered for a vote. Should they connect their valley – one of the steepest and wildest in the Alps – to the grid, or should they shun the trappings of the modern world?

Surprisingly, 11 of the 12 towns chose to reject electricity. That’s why on a sunny October day, as I walk the seven-mile path connecting Cavergno, in the south, with San Carlo, in the north, I see no wires, poles or antennas. It feels as if I’ve stepped back in time to a simpler era.

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