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Introducing Graubünden

Switzerland, we are told (and often can't help feeling), is so utterly tidy, so irritatingly perfect that it feels like you shouldn't touch anything for fear you'll spoil the postcard. Graubünden (Grisons, Grigioni, Grishun), many Swiss from other cantons will tell you in admiring tones, is so, well, wild.

The roads are mostly narrow, winding and often pockmarked. In the countless valleys that slice up the rugged landscape are scattered villages that retain a rough-diamond rural edge largely lost in the picture-perfect hamlets of the rest of the country. Or should that be rough-emerald? Great carpets of deep-green felt seem to have been draped over the valleys and lower hills of this, the country's biggest canton. From the little explored western valleys to the picturesque Engadine, much untamed beauty and bucolic village charm awaits discovery.

Beyond the ancient capital, Chur, the canton is a little short on high culture but boasts more than 11, 000km of walking trails, 1500km of downhill ski slopes and more than 600 lakes. Graubünden is also home to the country's only (and Europe's oldest) national park, the Swiss National Park (Parc Naziunal Svizzer).

But Graubünden is wild in another way. If many country villages still get by on small-scale farming, others have been propelled to wealth by the dazzling winter-sports industry. Indeed, half the population is involved in tourism. Who hasn't heard of the ultra-chic ski resorts of St Moritz, Davos and Klosters? And don't forget the thermal baths. Several are scattered across the canton, led by those of Vals and Scuol.