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Written by
Minna Harshbarger
Minna Harshbarger

Adventure of the Week: The Via Alpina

Discover a classic long-distance hiking trail in Switzerland, soak in the ever-changing scenery as you follow the trail through the Swiss Alps,from Liechtenstein to Lake Geneva. This classic Alpine mountain trail arguably provides some of the greatest scenery as you cross from the German to French speaking cantons of Switzerland.

The aim of the Via Alpina is to demonstrate the historical significance of the Alpine passes as trade routes. The scenery alternates between wooden chalets and stone sheep barns, mountain shelters and lively towns and villages. We believe that there is something for everyone along this trail.

If you are looking to have walked the Tour du Mont Blanc and fancy something like it, or if you just fancy more world-class Alpine hiking, then look no further than The Via Alpina.

In a Nutshell:

Where: The Via Alpina crosses Switzerland, starting in Zurich and finishing in Montreux you will experience a combination of Swiss French and Swiss German culture, incredible peaks and world-class hiking, making this trip a must-visit destination for any walker.

Distance: The full Via Alpina is 288km but we have broken the trip up into East and West sections for walkers who do not have the luxury to complete the full walk at once. 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.

Grade: Walking in the Alps is always tough isn’t it? Well, not this trip. 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. On some of the higher passes there may even be some residual snow lying in patches, especially early in the season. The good news it though that this will not require any special equipment or skills; just a steady foot, walking experience and a head for heights.

Why Walk Here?

If you are all about walking, then this trip is the one. While there are some other lovely features, which I will go on to explore, this trip is focused on the walks. Here are some of the highlights:

- The Obererbs ski hut(Elm to Lintal), a modernised hut with traditional charm and a friendly hut warden, for whom generous hospitality is second nature. Stop for a lunch break and chat with like-minded people while enjoying a beer or coffee whilst being surrounded by mountains

- The ascent past Tannensee (Engelberg to Meiringen) is rewarded with an unforgettable view of Tannensee and Melchsee. Follow the trail along a stunning panoramic path If you don’t want to put too much strain on your knees, take the cable car down to Meiringen.

- The descent from the Sefinenfurgge (Lauterbrunnen - Griesalp) while soaking in scenery which is akin to the the landscapes seen in the Lord of the Rings. Follow the trail as it snakes it’s way around small hills and through lush green meadows, before meandering along a beautiful river with a small waterfalls. These contrasting images are unforgettable. Channel your inner mountain goat on the steep steps to Sefinenfurgge.

- The Alpine hut, Blüemlisalphütte above Hohtürli at 2,840 m is well worth a visit. From here, hikers enjoy a wonderful 360°-degree view of Lake Thun, glaciers (the Blüemlisalp glacier) and the Bernese Alps. 

- Lake Oeschinen(Griesalp - Kandersteg), a crystal clear turquoise alpine lake. Take the chance to dip your feet in the cool water or even to jump right in if you dare!

- The Bunderchrinde Pass(Kandersteg – Adelboden) Admire the spectacular view over the Kandersteg Valley, the mountain panorama and the view of Lake Oeschinen in the distance are simply breath-taking. There are also impressive rock formations and strata on the Bunderchrinde Pass to marvel at. With a little bit of luck, you might spot an ibexes.

- The Trüttlisberg Pass to Gstaad (Kandersteg - Adelboden), walk through the Wallbach gorge along fascinating rock formations shaped by the rushing water of the river. Seemingly endless green meadows await hikers at the top of the pass, where you can look down into the wild Turbach Valley. You can stop off for a bite to eat at the restaurant Sunnestübli just before Gstaad and let the excitement of the stage sink in. 

Planning and Preparation

To get walking on the Via Alpina all you need to do is get yourself to Zurich and we will help with your train journey the next morning to Sargans. From Montreux you can jump on the train back to Zurich or to Geneva.

If you have any questions about the route, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists, who will be more than happy to help.

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