The name Via Mala is Latin and translates "bad road". This place is the most narrow section of the Hinterrhein valley on the way to the important San Bernardino Pass (2,065m asl). This important north-south connection is used for millennias to cross the Alps. Stone Age and Megalithic remains are found here as well as Celtic and Roman.
The name is of Roman origin, created when the Roman road between Lindau and Milano used this place and the Splügen Paß/Passo dello Spluga (2,113m asl) instead of the San Bernardino. The reason for the name is obvious: the valley narrows to a deep gorge and it is dangerous to cross it. At Roman times there was no road, but only a narrow trail, which was high above the gorge and thus included some ascend and descend. Some small sections are visible from the old bridge, they are marked with signs showing Roman travellers. The first road was built in 1473, however the first time it was mentioned to be completed was in 1723. This road was redone various times. There is a version which is still used today, which was built at the begin of the 20th century. But the modern highway is most of the time a four lane motorway and crosses this place through two long tunnels.
In order to visit the gorge, it is necessary to leave the modern motorway and use the old road. Exit either at Zillis or at Thusis, where the old road through Via Mala is signposted. The gorge has two extremely narrow sections, which are the most interesting part. The northen one is developed with paths, bridges and many steps.
There is a parking at the old road and a small kiosk. After purchasing the tickets you go down many steps into the gorge. Only ten meters above the bottom is a short path into the gorge to the north and a bridge. Across the bridge and through a tunnel the visitor finally reaches a concrete platform, with a view into the widening and to the souther, second narrow part of the gorge.
All together the gorge is 1000m long. Only two short parts are narrow gorges, both about 150m long and 80m deep. But the most impressive number is the width: at some points it is much less than one metre, and most of the time its little above one metre. When the water rises in spring after snowmelt, the water level in the gorge may rise several tens of meters.