- Complete the classic Alpine hike from east to west Switzerland
- Walk in the shadow of the mighty Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger peaks
- Conquer 14 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 specialties like Potato Rösti
Walk a complete traverse of Alpine Switzerland on this inn to inn trail. Start in East Switzerland near the Liechtenstein border and finish in West Switzerland on the glistening shores of Lake Geneva.
This epic trail of 227km, crossing 14 Alpine mountain passes and passing through six different Swiss cantons. Walk below countless peaks such as the famous Bernese Oberland trio; the Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger. Expect peaceful alpine meadows and quaint towns with wooden chalets bursting with colourful flower-filled balconies.
With well-maintained and signposted trails, Switzerland is a self-guided walker’s paradise. Combine this with mountainous scenery, fresh Alpine air and seamless public transport, you have the perfect recipe for a fantastic adventure along the Via Alpina.
Day 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.
Day 2 Train to Sargans and walk to Weisstannen
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.
Walking: 13 km, ascent/descent: 690m/180m
Dinner and Overnight: Weisstannen
Day 3 Walk to Elm
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.
Walking: 23km, ascent/descent: 1285m/1285m
Dinner and Overnight: Elm
Day 4 Walk to Linthal, Funicular to Braunwald
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.
Walking: 20km, ascent/descent: 1325m/1740m
Dinner and Overnight: Braunwald
Day 5 Walk to Urnerboden
. 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.
Walking: 13km, ascent/descent: 390m/270m
Overnight and Dinner: Urnerboden
Day 6 Walk to Unterschachen and bus to Altdorf
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.
Walking: 15 km, ascent/descent: 570m/970m
Overnight and Dinner: Altdorf
Day 7 Bus/cable car to Bruesti and walk to Engelberg
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.
Walking: 20km, ascent/descent: 1130m/1260m
Dinner and Overnight: Engelberg
Day 8 Cable car to Jochpass and walk to Meiringen
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.
Walking: 21km, ascent/descent: 50m/1650m
Dinner and Overnight: Meiringen
Day 9 Walk to Grindelwald
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.
Walking: 23km, ascent/descent: 1350m/ 950m
Day 10 Walk to Wengen
Start with a short descent from the centre of Grindelwald to Grund, before tackling the steep climb to Alpiglen; where many climbers start their attempts on the Eiger’s menacing north face. Follow the path as it snakes around the base of the north face. Continue ascending to reach Klein Scheidegg at 2061m. Offering spectacular views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, Kleine Scheidegg tends to be busy. Easily accessible by cog railway, its popularity does not make the views any less breath-taking. Continue via Wengern and Mettlenalp before arriving at the car-free resort of Wengen, well placed high above the Lauterbrunnen valley.
Walking: 17km, ascent/descent: 1150m/890m
Dinner and Overnight: Wengen
Day 11 Train to Muerren and walk to Griesalp
Take the train from Wengen to Muerren via Lauterbrunnen (aprrox 1 hour). Leaving the busy Bernese Oberland behind, ascend Schiltalp at 1948m, which consists of a handful of traditional cheese-makers huts. The ascent to today’s pass, the Seifenfurke, is over rough and rocky ground, with the very final section over gritty black shale and scree. At 2612m, this is the highest pass so far. At the pass, say goodbye to the Eiger and Mönch and look forward for views of the glaciated Bluemlisalp massif. The descent from the pass is steep and tricky, and chains and steps have been put in place to help you cover the scree and shale.
Walking: 16km, ascent/descent: 1390m/1600m
Dinner and Overnight: Griesalp
Day 12 Walk to Kandersteg
A tough, varied and rewarding day awaits. Ascend to the Hohtuerli pass, the highest point on the Via Alpina at 2778m. Walk through woodland, pastures and across streams before turning onto a steep slope over moraine and grass. The slog is tough going but rewarded with a wonderfully wild panorama at the pass. The Schilthorn, Wetterhorn and Bluemlisalp are all visible. The descent to Kandersteg is long but steady. Pass the Oeschinensee; one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Switzerland. From here continue to descend steeply on foot or take the chair lift into Kandersteg.
Walking: 16km, ascent/descent: 1390m/1600m
Dinner and Overnight: Kandersteg
Day 13 Walk to Adelboden
Today’s objective is the Bunderchrinde pass. At 2385m, it’s the last of the classic mountain passes on the Via Alpina. From here the landscape becomes increasingly gentle but no less beautiful. On the ascent, come to Alpschele, a small collection of huts belonging to cheese makers and you may well see some locals going about their work. The final push to the pass is on a narrow path on a scree covered mountain side. As always, enjoy the views before starting the steep descent on more scree, which eventually turns into a gentle woodland, pasture and country road walking. There is one final ascent to reach the town of Adelboden, your overnight for this evening.
Walking: 15km, ascent/descent: 1280m/1150m
Dinner and Overnight: Adelboden
Day 14 Walk to Lenk
Compared to previous days, today is quite easy-going with no major ascents or descents, and gentle underfoot terrain. Walk alongside riverside paths and through peaceful meadows and woodland. The highest point today is the Hahnenmoos pass at 1956m; a broad grassy saddle which is popular with locals and visitors due to its accessibility and idyllic surrounds. Descend to Lenk through scenic green countryside, dotted with traditional wooden chalets.
Walking: 14km, ascent/descent: 700m/890m
Dinner and Overnight: Lenk
Day 15 Walk to Lauenen and bus to Gstaad
Follow the Walbach upstream as you ascend out of Lenk. The going gets steeper and steel ladders and stone steps have been put in place to help progress over the smooth rocks of the Walbach gorge. About an hour after setting off, you will come to Wallegg, where you can stop for a breather and a refreshing drink. Mountainous views accompany you all the way to the Trüttlisberg pass at 2038m. Start the pleasant descent to Lauenen over pastures and woodland and arrive in the centre of the small village, where you can catch a bus to bustling and glamorous Gstaad.
Walking: 14 km, ascent/descent: 970m/820m
Day 16 Walk to L’Etivaz
Follow a panoramic high-level trail out of Gstaad past Eggli, to the Col de Jable at 1,884m. The hike from Gstaad to Eggli is steep, and although this area is filled with ski lifts and chairs, don’t count on them operating in Summer. However, the panoramic view from Eggli makes the effort worthwhile. The Col de Jable marks the border between the cantons of Bern and Vaud, and also the linguistic border between German and French speaking Switzerland. Keep an eye out for traditional wooden chalets with shingle roofs, so close to Gruyère, they are most definitely cheese-makers huts. Descend to L’Etivaz; a cheese-making hamlet of about 150 people.
Walking:16 km, ascent/descent: 1000m/920m
Dinner and Overnight: L’Etivaz
Day 17 Walk to Montreux
The last day of hiking is a long one but there is the option to take a train for the last 10km or so. Although not as dramatic as other sections, the scenery is no less lovely, and walking towards Lake Geneva just adds to the variety of the trail. The objective today is the Col de Chaude at 1621m. Enjoy the views down to the Lake about 1000m below and congratulate yourself on your 14th and final mountain pass of the Via Alpina! A steady descent follows which inevitably becomes more and more urbanised.
Montreux is considered the capital of the Swiss Riviera due to its favourable micro-climate. Surrounded by vineyards, adjacent to the Lake and with views to the French Alps, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular with visitors. You may want to take an extra day here to relax and reflect on the epic trek you have just undertaken. We can also organise a well-deserved upgrade to a 4* hotel & spa so you can celebrate in style.
Walking: 30 or 20 km, ascent/descent: 1300m/2000m
Day 18 Onward Travel
Check out of your hotel after breakfast. Montreux is served by railway and frequent trains to Geneva airport which take about 1 hour 30 mins. If you would like even more hiking, after a few days relaxing, you may want to consider our GR5: Lake Geneva to Chamonix trip which starts in Montreux!
Stay 14 nights in comfortable 3* hotels in private en-suite rooms and 3 nights in mountain hotels in private rooms with 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.
Please be aware that twin & double rooms in Switzerland are typically 2 single mattresses side by side in one double bed frame with two separate duvet covers and pillows.
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 (which marks the half-way point of the trail) and in Montreux at the end of the trail? Please see below our standard upgrade hotels.
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.Once you are in French speaking Switzerland and over the so-called ‘Roesti-graben’ (Roesti ditch) which refers to the cultural, linguistic and gastronomic divide between French and German speaking Switzerland, you will notice the food becomes much more ‘French’. One popular Vaudois speciality is Papet Vaudois, a dish made from slow cooked potato, leek and succulent local sausage.
Hotel Gemse is located directly on the Via Alpina trail, nestled in the quiet Weisstannen valley. A warm welcome awaits from the friendly service team. Recently renovated, rooms are modern, spacious and comfortable. Dinner is a real treat with some fine Swiss specialties on offer
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.
The Spannort Hotel is a modern boutique hotel with a laid-back Alpine vibe. This 3* hotel has all the amenities you may need for a pleasant stay including free tea and coffee available in the relaxing lounge each day, and an espresso machine in the rooms. The owners, Stefan and Annette are ready to help with any recommendations or information needed about the town of Engelberg.
This hotel has been family-run since 1899, and is in the 4th generation of the Michel-Breitenstein family. There is a sauna, steam bath and relaxation room. All rooms have a balcony or terrace. Chef François Rollot prepares 4-course dining at the restaurant.
The Hotel du Chamois is a basic yet comfortable mountain hotel that has been run by the same family since 1881. The local gathering place of the small village of L’Etivaz, which has just 150 inhabitants, there is a charming and authentic atmosphere to this quaint hotel.
Hotel Splendid- Montreux
Having one of the best locations in Montreux being a 5 minute walk to the train station, it also boasts wonderful views of the lake (views with lake view subject to availability). An historical family run hotel, it was built in 1904 and is still a firm favourite with visitors.
Belvedere Swiss Quality Hotel- Grindelwald
Hotel Belvedere 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. Relax in the attractive spa area with its large indoor pool, ‘Experience’ shower, Finnish sauna, glacier steam bath, and outdoor salt water Jacuzzi. The fine dining Restaurant Français showcases inventive cuisine featuring fresh, home-grown ingredients; classic Swiss specialities as well as light fusion food with a Mediterranean or Asian influence. All rooms have a large balcony with mountain views, and there’s even a choice of pillows, for a truly refreshing sleep!
This hotel is peacefully located on the hills above Montreux (accessible by funicular) and offers fantastic views of Lake Geneva and the surrounding alps. This hotel is truly of a different era– historical and grand, the pace of life here is relaxed. Wander the extensive gardens, take a dip in the outdoor pool or relax your muscles in the sauna. This is a special hotel and a great way to end your trip in style and luxury!
This trip is available to start any day of the week, from the end of June to the middle of September. In 2018 only, this tour will only be available from the beginning of August.
Grade & Terrain
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.
Navigation, Route Notes & Maps
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.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity, emergency evacuation and hospital care.
The distances and ascents/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items,for example, proper rain gear (jackets and trousers), sun hat and sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking shoes or boots, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer and a day pack.
Getting to Zurich
For general travel planning and information in Switzerland, please go to: www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/transport-travel/getting-around
Getting from Montreux
Take a train from Montreux to Geneva (1.5 hours) , Zurich (3hours) or Bern (2 hours) airports. Train timetables and details of public transportation in Switzerland are available via the excellent travel planner at www.sbb.ch.
- 14 Nights in 3* hotels, 3 nights in mountain hotels and guesthouses
- 17 Breakfasts
- 13 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 from Zurich and from Montreux
- 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
- Single room supplement(s) if applicable
- Extra nights
How fit do I need to be?
This trip is graded moderate to strenuous with the average daily distance being 18km. Although almost every day has an 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 highly recommended. To get the most of this trip, you should be in good physical shape.
How does the bag transfer work?
Bag transfer is included in this trip. We ask that you limit your baggage to one bag per person with a maximum weight of 20kg per person. Leave your bag at the reception before 9am and it will be transferred to your next accommodation by 6pm each day.
How far in advance do I need to book?
We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as this area is extremely popular with a relatively short season. Please note you can start this holiday on any day of the week.
What personal equipment do I need?
You will need good walking boots, comfortable walking clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers and warm layers just to mention a few of the items required. We supply a detailed packing list with your information pack.