Legend has it that Franciscan monk Fra Bartolomeo had a vision of the Virgin Mary at this spot in 1480, and now, perched on a rocky outcrop, this sanctuary attracts religious pilgrims and those looking to take in superb views over Locarno and Lake Maggiore. The church’s interior, a confection of religious adornment, certainly merits a visit too. The whole pile is being considered for inclusion on Switzerland’s list of Unesco World Heritage sites.
Arriving is easy — there are frequent funiculars (daily from 8am to 7.3pm) from Locarno, but you can also walk it (follow Via Crucis). From Orselina funicular stop (where you initially alight), you can then easily connect with the Mario Botta-designed cable cars that whisk you up to 1340m Cardada (4396ft; and then by chair lift to Cimetta) for astounding views of the region, plus great hiking.
The sanctuary itself is open daily from 7am to 6.30pm.