+ Classic Swiss trekking over mountain passes
+ Solid days from forest to meadow to rocky col
+ Sweet mountain villages and comfy hotels
Latest news November 2019
Our 2020 dates and prices are up! Availability is great at this early point. Please ask us about a trip - thank you.
The Via Alpina (formerly the Alpine Pass Route) crosses Switzerland from East to West, from Sargans to Montreux. We take 7 days to cover the central stages of the route. Through the Bernese Oberland we pass the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch.
As the name suggests, the theme is Alpine passes! On all but two days - those to Meiringen and to Murren - our stages start in the valley and climb steadily to a col, typically either broad and grassy or narrow and rocky. Our night's accommodation lies in the village on the far side, down through meadows and forests. This is Swiss Alpine trekking at its most pure. These are solid mountain days requiring fitness and confidence. The reward is the sense of traveling through the mountains that we seek for all our treks, combined with grand old Swiss hotels in notable high resorts for example the car-free Murren on its high shelf.
We take the normal routing of the Via Alpina as well as giving some options for easier or more scenic paths.
This being a self-guided holiday, you're free to complete the walks as you choose: we arrange everything for you, including booking accommodation and providing you with our detailed routecards for the walking, and then it's up to you to carry out the walks yourself.
We book your accommodation in a comfortable mix of Swiss hotels and auberges.
VABsg Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland (Self-guided)
19 July to 18 September 2020
Prices in GBP
All stops except huts
Itinerary and other key information
Here is our normal schedule of 7 stages.
Arrival day: Arrival in Engelberg
Your trip begins on arrival in Engelberg, a small Swiss town at the end of the train from Lucerne but with an outdoorsy feel. Find everything you need here and enjoy the town's restaurants.
Hotel in Engelberg
Stage 1: Engelberg to Engstlenalp
Red3 grade, 11km with 1260m ascent, 430m descent
Setting off from Engelberg, the Jochpass is the first col, relatively modest at 2,207m and with ski infrastructure on either side. Nevertheless, the mountains are building up and we descend to the delightful meadow of Engstlenalp. We are still a day from Meiringen in the next valley system. (The bus runs to Meiringen and it is also possible to walk beyond Engstlenalp to the cable car on the next stage.)
Auberge at Engstlenalp
Stage 2: Engstlenalp to Meiringen
Red3 grade, 20km with 650m ascent, 1890m descent
Our main route is a hilly, at times narrow traverse via Tannalp to Planplatten, from where we begin the solid descent to Meiringen. On the way is the Balmeregghorn, a grassy hill with long views over meadows and the deep Gental. (At Planplatten a series of three cable cars can be taken to Meiringen to save some or all of the descent.)
Hotel in Meiringen
Stage 3: Meiringen to Grindelwald
Red3 grade, 22km with 1410m ascent, 1030m descent
The passes continue with the easy-angled Grosse Scheidegg. A small road goes over the pass and down to Grindelwald. We climb and descend through woods and meadows. This feels like a more gentle day than others, despite the distance, because after the first ascent by the Reichenbach falls (as per Sherlock Holmes) the gradients are generally modest.
Hotel in Grindelwald
Stage 4: Grindelwald to Wengen
Red3 grade, 18.5km with 1170m ascent, 930m descent
The Kleine Scheidegg is today's pass, unique on the Via Alpina in hosting a railway station. (The Jungfraujoch railway can be joined here as an excursion.) We walk under the North Face of the Eiger. Roll gently down to Wengen on its high shelf. Together with Grindelwald and Murren, Wengen makes up the trio of famous Bernese Oberland resorts.
Hotel in Wengen
Stage 5: Wengen to Murren
Red2 grade, 8.5km with 860m ascent, 490m descent
Today is a modest stage, steeply down to Lauterbrunnen then steeply up. Our aim is the mountainside village of Murren, car-free and a curious delight. It feels as if suspended in mid-air. (The Grutschalp cable car and sweet old train can be used to bypass the stiff climb, thus skipping this stage and either missing Wengen or reaching Griesalp in a day.)
Hotel in Murren
Stage 6: Murren to Griesalp
Black3 grade, 17km with 1100m ascent, 1330m descent
The first of the three toughest stages comes with the long climb to the Sefinafurgga (2,612m), the second-highest col of the whole Via Alpina. (The highest comes tomorrow.) The ascent is exceptionally scenic with views over Murren and back to the Kleine Scheidegg. The Sefinafurgga is narrow, loose and rocky, and the descent to tiny Griesalp is quick down meadows.
Auberge in Griesalp
Stage 7: Griesalp to Kandersteg
Black4 grade, 16km with 1440m ascent, 1670m descent
The rocky Hohturli (2,778m) col is not even the highlight of this exceptional day in the mountains. Perhaps the highlight is the Blumlisalphuette (2,834m) just above the col, in classic Swiss Alpine Club style, or the glacial views and features on the descent. We walk on a lateral moraine with waterfalls opposite. Today has the most consistently mountainous setting of all the Via Alpina stages.
Hotel in Kandersteg
Departure day: Departure from Kandersteg
After a last breakfast we depart from Kandersteg. Trains make it easy to reach Bern for a city stop or Geneva and Zurich Airports. In the other direction, Milan is a surprisingly easy trip. We love to advise on onward travel.
Our usual schedule of accommodation might not be available, especially if there is not much time between booking and your trip. We book accommodation as closely as possible to this itinerary and present a schedule for you to check before we proceed.
Let us move your bags between stops. Please contact us for a price.
The Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland allows a few variations, as follows.
Take 5 stages
By walking two very long days, or taking local transport (bus, and cable-car and train) the route can be completed in 5 days. This misses the nights at Engstlenalp and Wengen.
The train to the Jungfrau
We walk over Kleine Scheidegg, the bustling train interchange under the Eiger. Add a second night in either Grindelwald or Wengen to leave a day for the train ride.
Our Classic trip gives a good all-round mix of accommodation and does not involve any huts. We also offer our Hutty and Comfy trips as follows:
The last 3 stages of the route can be approached as a hut trek. This option replaces the village nights of Murren and Griesalp with two good, contrasting, huts. This gives a less even pattern of daily distance, but adds in the joy of overnighting in the mountains. (This is the 7-stage trip at Hutty level.)
Upgrade some hotels
Our comfy trip gives more luxurious hotels on 4 nights: at Engelberg, Meiringen, Grindelwald and Wengen. The auberges at Engstlenalp and Griesalp are fixtures of the route, while our hotels at Murren and Kandersteg are already among the comfiest. (This is the 7-stage trip at Comfy level.)
Our approach to the Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland
Our trip gives a complete journey on foot from Engelberg to Kandersteg, along the Via Alpina. On completion you will have walked the central, high, section and passed by the most notable peaks including the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch. On the trek itself, no transport is taken except for any that you would like to add in, to skip certain sections of valley walking or to descend by cable car.
The terrain on the Via Alpina comprises the full range of Alpine walking, a typical day starting with wide tracks through forests, tarmac country lanes, then up to zig-zagging hillside paths and steep, rocky mountain paths. The two highest cols, the Sefinafurgga (2,612m) and the Hohturli (2,778m) involve loose paths over scree and shale, plus wooden steps built into the hillside, on both approach and descent. The Via Alpina has no via ferrata or climbing sections and is a trek throughout.
Your holiday starts in the mountain town of Engleberg and ends in another outdoorsy town, Kandersteg. Zurich and Basel are the most convenient airports, with good quick trains to both Engelberg and Kandersteg stations; Geneva airport also works, as does Milan for the return from Kandersteg.
Travel to and from the trip is not included in the holiday price. We take care to give the most useful notes possible about all the travel options. We supply these both on booking and in your info pack, and we offer personalised tips at any point. The aim is that our trekkers arrange their travel by the simplest and most scenic means as suits their plan.
Key information Summer 2020
Trip name: Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland
Prices Summer 2020
7 stages, per person:
Research Summer 2020
In ascent to Hohturli
Alpine Exploratory's service
The Via Alpina in the Alps
Find out more
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