- 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
Walk the eastern section of the Via Alpina and explore alpine Switzerland on this inn to inn trail. Start in the town of Sargans near the Liechtenstein border and finish in the buzzing town of Grindelwald.
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.
Finish each day in a comfortable 3* hotel or mountain hotel in private rooms. Bag transfer is also included giving you the freedom to walk each day with just a light bag each day.
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
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’.
Walking: 20km, ascent/descent: 1325m/1740m
Dinner and Overnight: Linthal
Day 5 Funicular to Braunwald, walk to Urnerboden
Take the funicular (10 mins) to the traffic free hamlet of Braunwald, 600m above Linthal. If you prefer to walk, follow the narrow winding path as it ascends from the town centre. 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 Onward Travel
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.
Stay 7 nights in comfortable 3* hotels in private en-suite rooms and 2 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 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.
Hotel Gemse - Weisstannen
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.
Gasthaus Segnes - Urnerboden
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.
Spannort Hotel - Engelberg
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. The owners, Stefan and Annette are ready to help with any recommendations or information needed about the town of Engelberg.
Chalet-Hotel Gletschergarten - Grindelwald
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.
Hotel Belvedere - 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.
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 Grindelwald
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.
- 7 Nights in 3* hotels, 2 nights in mountain hotels and guesthouses
- 9 Breakfasts
- 7 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 Grindelwald
- 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.