The Via Alpina East
- Complete the east section of the classic alpine hike across Switzerland
- Walk in the shadow of the mighty Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger peaks
- Conquer 7 alpine passes and enjoy spectacular mountain views
- Wander through meadows alive with the sound of cow bells and marmots
- Stay in comfortable hotels and enjoy Swiss specialities like Potato Rösti
ItineraryDay 1 Arrive Zurich
Zurich is easily accessible by train from Zurich airport (10 mins), Geneva (3 hours) or Bern (1.5 hours).
Zurich is the biggest city in Switzerland yet despite this, it is compact and easily navigable on foot. The city is home to many important museums like the Swiss National Museum and the Kunsthaus. If museums aren’t your thing, take a wander down to the picturesque Zurichsee with an ice-cream and watch the world go by.
The 3* Superior hotel Townhouse is a small boutique hotel, located in the very heart of Zurich, on Bahnhofstrasse and a block away from the main train station where direct services take you to Zurich airport in less than 15 minutes.
Start the day with a scenic train journey (approx. 1 hour) to the small town of Sargans and the official start of the Via Alpina. Today is a gentle day and a great introduction to the trek. Heading out of Sargans, walk through a couple of small towns and hamlets before breaking free of the road. As you start to ascend, you will soon find yourself above vineyards with views to Sargans and Mels and to the mountains of Liechtenstein. Re-join the country road at the town of Schwendi and follow it to Weisstannen; a peaceful, traditional alpine village.
The Hotel Gemse is nestled in the quiet Weisstannen valley. Recently renovated, the rooms are modern, spacious and comfortable. Dinner is a real treat with some fine Swiss specialties on offer.
Warm up with an easy going 9km walk on country road, before starting the ascent to the first pass of the trail, the Foopass (2223m). This is an exciting day of walking as you get into the true mountainous arena of the Via Alpina. The ascent is steady and surrounded by alpine farmland, fields, waterfalls and marmots. The Foopass also marks the border between St Gallen and Glarus, and you will notice a definite change in the character of the terrain from here on. Descend to the attractive town of Elm, home to a 15th century church with a backdrop of Piz Sardona and Piz Segnas.
Susanna and Werner are ready to welcome you to this cosy guesthouse with just 10 rooms. Enjoy a refreshing drink on their sunny terrace and take in the mountain views. In the restaurant, homemade regional specialities are served.
Today is a long but rewarding day. There are two passes to cross, although the first is unnamed and fairly insignificant. The second is the Richetlipass at 2261m. The ascent is on steep zig zags, becoming even steeper just before arriving at the pass. From the top, enjoy views over the deep Durnachtal valley before beginning the sharp descent into it! The path down is narrow and can be tricky in wet weather, so take your time. There is a short section of descent with a fixed chain over a particularly craggy area. Arrive in Linthal, a small village framed by ’Toedi’, a 3614m peak also known as the ’King of Little Mountains’. Take the funicular (10 mins) to the traffic free hamlet of Braunwald, 600m above Linthal.
A wonderfully typical chalet style mountain hotel set in a beautiful location. Warm up after a long day of walking with some Swiss fondue in the restaurant while enjoying the stunning surroundings through the window.
From Braunwald, take the high balcony path to the resort of Urnerboden. The Urnerboden valley is one of the most dramatic in the alps, with a large flat bottom covered in typical pasture and farm land, with impressively tall walls on both sides.
A simple but comfortable guesthouse with homemade dishes and a large sunny terrace.
A simple but comfortable guesthouse in the quiet hamlet of Urnerboden.
Today’s objective is the Klausenpass at 1948m. Although not particularly high for an alpine pass, it is historically significant as it has acted as the main crossing point between the cantons of Glarus and Uri for centuries. It is also the first pass in Switzerland which was made accessible to motorized traffic. The descent is a pleasant one, through fields and forests, passing the hamlet of Aesch and its breath-taking Staeubifall waterfall. Arrive at Unterschaechen, and take the bus to Altdorf (30 mins)., the capital of Uri.
This historical hotel was founded in 1768 and is one of the few buildings that escaped damage from the village fire which occurred in 1799. This 3* hotel has all the amenities you may need for a comfortable stay. Dinner is served in the on-site restaurant; specialising in Swiss and Italian dishes.
Today’s walk is considered one of the finest stages of the Via Alpina. Start by taking the bus to Attinghausen (10 mins), and then hop on the cable car to Bruesti at 1525m. Steadily ascend to Surenenpass (2291m), passing small houses, huts and farms. In the distance, catch a glimpse of the turquoise waters of Lake Lucerne. Offering a spectacular mountain vista; dominated by the slanted jagged peak of Mount Titlis (3238m), the pass is the perfect place for a break. When you are ready, begin the descent to the town of Engelberg, a popular mountain resort.
The Schweizerhof Hotel is family-owned and offers 38 rooms, each individually styled. A spacious garden with sunbeds is at guests’ disposal, as well as a sauna and a fitness room.
Arrive at the Jochpass at 2207m and start a gentle descent to Engstlensee, a large alpine lake. The snowy peak of the Wetterhorn appears up ahead– a taste of the Bernese Oberland which is still to come. From Engstlenalp, take a balcony path high above the Gental valley. Wetterhorn views continue to dominate, and waterfalls cascade down the east wall of the valley. Arrive at the small village of Reuti, from where you can descend to Meiringen on foot or by cable car. Meiringen is a small but busy town, most well known for being where Sherlock Holmes met his maker in the popular Conan-Doyle stories.
Franziska, Simon and their friendly team are waiting to welcome you to the Hotel Victoria. With just 18 rooms, the hotel has a cosy atmosphere and rooms are designed in a modern style with a traditional alpine twist.
This three-star family hotel, with 13 rooms, is in a prime location in the center of Meiringen. The bright rooms, newly renovated in 2020, await you with contemporary comfort and familiar service. It is located 2 minutes away from the train station and 8 minutes from the Meiringen Hasliberg train station.
In the heart of the Bernese Oberland, this area is popular with tourists and locals alike. It can feel like it’s lacking a certain ‘wilderness’ that is found with other sections of the trail. However the extensive infrastructure enables flexibility when it comes to walking distances. Walk through the wooded Reichenbachtal and begin a steady ascent to Grosse Scheidegg (1962m); a large mountain pass offering splendid views. On a clear day, catch a first glimpse of the mighty Eiger standing tall at 3,967m. Descend steeply to the hotel Wetterhorn, and from here the going gets a bit easier. Arrive in the bustling town of Grindelwald, a famous mountaineering centre. Exactly half way through the trail, this is the perfect place to have a rest day, or even upgrade your hotel to a 4* spa hotel for a bit of rest and relaxation.
Chalet Hotel Gletschergarten has been family-run since 1899, and is currently run by the 4th generation of the Michel-Breitenstein family. There is a sauna, steam bath and relaxation room. All rooms have a balcony or terrace.
Belvedere Swiss Quality Hote is a 4-star superior hotel dating from 1907, with unrivalled direct views of the Eiger. Your hosts are the Hauser family, now in their third generation of running the hotel.
In the quiet part of the village behind the church in Grindelwald, just opposite the picturesque white church. Personality, sustainability and regionality are their motto. The 19 rooms with the best view of the Grindelwald mountains are designed in Nordic simplicity. In hotel there is a small but fine à la carte restaurant, where the kitchen team use products from local agriculture.
Check out of your hotel after breakfast. Grindelwald is served by railway and you can reach many Swiss and European destinations from here. If you would like even more hiking, and would like more time to explore the Bernese Oberland, you may be interested in our Best of the Bernese Oberland tours. Just ask our Destination Specialists for more information.
Other InformationIs it for me?
This tour is perfect for experienced long-distance walkers who like their creature comforts. Rated moderate to strenuous with significant ascent and descent each day; on average 1000m. There are some long days; on average 18km a day. The terrain is varied and includes short sections of aided ascent/descent in the form of cables. Daily bag transfer is included meaning you need only walk with a light bag each day. Accommodation is in comfy 3* hotels and atmospheric mountain hotels, always in private rooms.
Classic Routes | If you’re the active, outdoorsy type, who’s interested in taking on the great routes of the world or looking for a challenge, then our Classic Routes are for you. We’re talking the West Highland Way, Tour Du Mont Blanc and the Passau to Vienna Danube Cycle Path, to name but a few!
Inn to Inn Walking | Walk from place-to-place changing accommodations each night. Generally staying in B&B’s, inns, and guesthouses.
Long-Distance Trails, Alpine Walking
This trip is graded moderate to strenuous with the average daily distance being 18km. Although almost every day there is the option to shorten it by using some form of public transport. Each day has significant ascent and descent and the paths are a mixture of woodland trails, rocky mountain paths, grassy paths, moraine, scree, and paved country roads. There is some light scrambling involved in places and there are cables, ropes, and chains to aid ascent/descent in some places. Please be aware that on the highest passes, there may be some residual snow lying in patches, but this will not require any special equipment or skills; just a steady foot, walking experience and a head for heights. Walking poles are essential. To get the most of this trip, you should be in good physical shape.
Stay 7 nights in comfortable 3* hotels in private en-suite rooms and 2 nights in mountain hotels in private rooms and depending on the availability with ensuite or shared bathroom facilities. An example of the accommodation we use in some of the towns along the way can be found below. If these accommodations are not available, a hotel of the same or better standard will be used.
Single Rooms & Solo Walkers
This trip is not available to solo walkers due to the difficulty of the terrain. Single rooms are on request and a supplement is payable for this.
Why not upgrade your hotel in Grindelwald at the end of the trail? Please see below our standard upgrade hotel.
Breakfasts are included each day and tends to be a buffet selection with lots of sweet treats like pastries, home made jams, fruit and cereals. Savoury tastes are also catered for with bread, cheese, ham and eggs usually available. Packed lunch items can be bought locally from supermarkets or the local bakery. If you are staying in a small town without these facilities, order a packed lunch with your accommodation upon arrival. Dinner is included at each overnight location with the exception of Zurich, Grindelwald, Gstaad and Montreux, where there are plenty of dining options to choose from. Meal times are a real highlight, and you can enjoy homemade Swiss specialties. If you have any dietary requirements, please tell us upon booking and we can arrange this with the accommodations. Swiss specialities are mostly based on cheese and potatoes, such as raclette and potato roesti.
All trails are very well way-marked, and together with access to our GPS-following app, route notes and maps, you will have no problem finding your way on our suggested walks.
- 7 Nights in 3* hotels, 2 nights in mountain hotels and guesthouses
- 9 Breakfasts
- 6 Dinners
- Daily bag transfer
- Detailed pre-departure information pack
- Route notes, maps, GPX tracks and access to our Macs Adventure Navigation App
- 24-hour emergency telephone assistance
- Flights to and from Switzerland
- Travel to starting point/from finish point
- Public transport such as cable cars
- Travel Insurance
- Personal expenses such as drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not specifically mentioned in the program
- Dinner in Urnerboden
- Additional nights
This trip is available to start any day of the week from the start of July to early September.
Grindelwald hosting the famous Eiger Ultra Trail race (12th to the 16th of July). We recommend avoiding the Via Alpina at this time as the area is extremely busy and most accommodations are full.
Fly into Zurich, Geneva or Bern then continue by train to Zurich (10 mins, 3 or 1 hours). For general travel planning and information in Switzerland, please go to: www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/transport-travel/getting-around
From Grindelwald most train connections are via Interlaken Ost (35 mins). Travel times are as follows from Grindelwald to city train stations (Hauptbahnhof/HB): to Bern (1h40), Zurich (2h40), Basel (2h40), or Geneva (3h30); please see SBB’s website for timetable planning.
Baggage transfers are included in the price of your trip. We ask you to keep your baggage to a maximum of 1 bag per person with a maximum weight of 20 kg.
WalkingThree of the best summer walking boots2 Min Read16 June 2017
WalkingBudget-friendly walking gear2 Min Read09 April 2014
WalkingWalking in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland1 Min Read24 March 2014
WalkingThe benefits of walking poles3 Min Read05 February 2014
WalkingAdventure of the Week: The Via Alpina3 Min Read16 December 2020