In Romansch, which is the indigenous language of the region, the "Engadin" literally translates as the garden of the Inn River (Romansch: En). However, historically, politically and geographically, the Engadin refers to the entire region, including the Inn River Valley, its tributaries and the surrounding mountains.
The Engadin is divided into two parts
The Upper Engadin begins at the Maloja Pass with a chain of lakes running north-east–south-west: Lej da Segl (Lake Sils), famous for windsurfing, Lej da Silvaplauna (Lake Silvaplana), and Lej da San Murezzan (Lake St. Moritz). At the south-west end of the valley, the Maloja Pass drops precipitously down to Chiavenna in Italy through the Val Bregaglia, and thence to Como. In the mountains behind Maloja is the European triple divide () from where the Inn flows via the Danube to the Black Sea, the Maira via the Po to the Mediterranean Sea, and the Julia via the Rhine to the North Sea.
Northeast of St. Moritz lies the village of Samedan, which is the capital of the Upper Engadin. Near Samedan, the river Flaz joins the Inn and the valley opens into a wide meadow framed with mountains. The Flaz is a major tributary which flows down the valley leading to the Bernina Pass (2,323 m). The highest mountain in the Engadin, and in the Eastern Alps, is Piz Bernina which is 4,049 m and is located nearby.
Below Samedan are a number of villages lying on the banks of the Inn. Perhaps the best preserved is Zuoz (1,720 m), which is a beautiful village of typical Engadin houses, with large, thick stone and masonry walls, funnel-shaped windows and wall paintings called graffiti. These house are large and are often shared by two or more families, and they may have what use to be a stable or livestock area underneath. In a typical Engadin village, there are numerous fountains, with are free-flowing all year round, which were formerly used for drinking water, washing, and for watering livestock.
In the Upper Engadin there is a train from Samedan that connects via Albula tunnel with the rest of Switzerland. In the summer, Albula Pass is also open for car travel. The Julier Pass, above St. Moritz connects the Engadin with the rest of Graubünden.
Immediately below Zuoz is the village of S-chanf, which is the end of the large flat meadow surrounding the Inn. Every year there is a famous cross-country ski race called the Engadin Marathon from Maloja, across the frozen lakes and over the open meadows and ending in S-chanf. Thousands of skiers participate.
Below S-chanf the landscape changes suddenly. The Inn, now rather wild, flows through a deep gorge with steep walls and the meadows change to larch woods. At Zernez, the Inn valley open up again for a short distance. In Zernez (1,470 m) the Fuorn Pass goes south, passing through the Swiss National Park.
In the Upper Engadin, as a result of the influx of people related to tourism, the number of Romansch and Swiss-German speakers are about equal, and in the heavily touristed village of St. Moritz there are few Romansch speakers. But in the Lower Engadin, Romansch is still the predominate language, but almost all of the people also speak Swiss-German as a second language. Most place signs in both the Upper and Lower Engadin show both languages, e.g. St. Moritz - San Murezzan, Sils - Segl, Celerina - Schlarigna.
|Lake Sils||4.1 km²||1797 m|
|Lake Silvaplana||2.7 km²||1791 m|
|Lake St. Moritz||0.78 km²||1768 m|