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(Via Alpina: Eastern Switzerland) Alpine meadow and peaks above Raminer Matt
VIA ALPINA: EASTERN SWITZERLAND (SELF-GUIDED)   6 stages . 7 nights . Swiss Alps   Booking

Via Alpina: Eastern Switzerland (Alpine Pass Route East)
Self-guided trekking holiday

+ A week of cols and cross-country Swiss walking
+ Low-key, real rural Switzerland with good hotels
+ A long final day into Engelberg

The Via Alpina (formerly the Alpine Pass Route) crosses Switzerland from East to West, from Sargans to Montreux. This Eastern week takes 6 days to reach Engelberg, the resort to the South of Luzern.

More than the other two weeks of the Via Alpina, the Eastern week shows the everyday side of rural Switzerland. The villages are not all on the tourist map; the restaurants cater to a local trade. We feel that this is part of the charm, as Switzerland has plenty of famous sights to explore as a contrast.

The Via Alpina is of course all about Alpine passes, but this week consists of 3 pass crossings plus 3 days that go up, or down, but not over. These can be seen as cross-country days, for example the day climbing from Linthal to the Klausenpass. We stay two nights in Altdorf, by taking the bus from the pass down to town, to return in the morning.

On this self-guided holiday, walk as you choose, solo or in your own group of friends or family. We make the arrangements including your hotels and our detailed routecards. There is a sense of freedom and of satisfaction as you roll into the new village for the night.

We book your accommodation in a comfortable mix of Swiss hotels and auberges. The mix includes auberges and hotels that are basic but very comfortable, being one aspect of everyday Switzerland.


Map showing the route of Alpine Exploratory's Via Alpina: Eastern Switzerland self-guided walking holiday


Alpine Exploratory
VAEsg Via Alpina: Eastern Switzerland (Self-guided)
19 July to 18 September 2020
Prices in GBP
per person
Hutty Classic Comfy
Popular schedules
6 stages
(7 nights)

Please ask
Singles 210
Main VAE
Singles 230
Specialised schedules
4 stages
(5 nights)

Please ask
Singles 150
Please ask
Baggage transfer
All stops except huts
Please ask
Baggage transfer


Here is our normal schedule of 6 stages.

Arrival day: Arrival in Sargans
Your trip begins on arrival in Sargans. This working Swiss town has a fine old street and castle. With the village of Mels next door, the situation in the valley hints at the grand mountains to come. Dine at restaurants in either of these centres.
Hotel in Sargans or Mels

Stage 1: Sargans to Weisstannen
Red2 grade, 14km with 650m ascent, 100m descent
A short first stage climbs steadily in woods. We burst into the upper valley and walk up-river to the sweet village of Weisstannen. This brings us within reach of the first proper ascent of a pass. (It is also possible to use the bus to stay two nights in Sargans or Mels. Or, skip this stage if you wish to save a day. It's difficult to combine it with the stage to Elm.)
Hotel in Weisstannen

Stage 2: Weisstannen to Elm
Red3 grade, 23km with 1250m ascent, 1280m descent
Leaving Weisstannen, continue on the valley road through cattle country to the head of the valley. Here starts the climb to the Foopass (2,223m), steeply up to a high valley and finally up grassy pasture. This first pass is grassy on both sides and relatively gentle. Descend to Elm on good paths and tracks.
Hotel in Elm

Stage 3: Elm to Linthal
Red4 grade, 22.5km with 1460m ascent, 1790m descent
Leaving Elm, the Richetlipass (2,261m) is the higher of two passes on a strenuous stage to Linthal. We cross a high basin in between. The ascent can be helped by the �mp�chli cable car, after which a traverse brings us to Matt and the higher ascent. In descent there is a fabulous wide view from the Richetlipass and, before Linthal, a well-made old mule track in woods. Linthal is an everyday Swiss village. (We can advise on the funicular railway to Braunwald as an alternative.)
Hotel in Linthal

Stage 4: Linthal to the Klausenpass
Red3 grade, 16.5km with 1330m ascent, 80m descent
The next two stages cross the Klausenpass, a grassy area - the Unterboden - famed for cow pastures. A postbus crosses the pass by a hairpin road. Due to limited places to stay we walk up to the Klausenpass, take the bus to Altdorf on the far side and return tomorrow. (It is possible to stay near the pass, or to see the higher ground in one day by taking the postbus part-way up and part-way down.)
Hotel in Altdorf

Stage 5: Klausenpass to Altdorf
Red3 grade, 21.5km with 100m ascent, 1530m descent
Having returned to the Klausenpass by bus, we descend steadily near road and river, passing the magnificent meadow at Asch. This is famed for its waterfall above. Reach Altdorf, a good place to buy essentials as a substantial valley town.
Hotel in Altdorf

Stage 6: Altdorf to Engelberg
Black4 grade, 29.5km with 1880m ascent, 1330m descent
This is a particularly memorable stage, perhaps the most demanding of the whole Via Alpina in terms of physical effort. The pass is the Surenenpass (2,291m) which has a rocky approach. After the pass the long roll down to Engelberg follows the course of the valley, goes quickly, and is charming. In Engelberg find all that a trekker needs within a small Swiss town. (The first ascent can be shortened by a cable car to Br�sti, saving 1,080m and 3.5km).
Hotel in Engelberg

Departure day: Departure from Engelberg
After a last breakfast we depart from Engelberg. It is an easy train ride up to Lucerne, at which point you are central within the Swiss network. We love to advise on Swiss 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.

Baggage transfer

Let us move your bags between stops. Please contact us for a price.


The Via Alpina: Eastern Switzerland allows a few variations, as follows.

Make it in 4 stages
By walking through Weisstannen to Elm, then Linthal to Altdorf in one day each, make it a 4-stage walk. This would mean 3 very long days and would only suit a few walkers. Or, keep it to 4 days by taking the Swiss post buses to shorten these two days.

Rest days
There is less of a natural rest day stop on the East week than on Central or West sections of the Via Alpina, but trains link (for example) Linthal with Zurich, St. Gallen and other Swiss cities.

The route

Our approach to the Via Alpina: Eastern Switzerland
Our trip gives a complete journey on foot from Sargans to Engelberg, along the first week of the Via Alpina. On the trek itself, we use the postbus to reach Altdorf from the Klausenpass, to give better choice of accommodation. Otherwise 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 routecards explain these places.

The Via Alpina�s terrain 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 highest col, the Surenenpass (2,291m), is rockier than others and more susceptible to late Spring snow. The Via Alpina has no via ferrata or climbing sections and is a trek throughout.

How to get there

Your holiday starts in the valley town of Sargans and ends in the mountain resort of Engelberg. Zurich and Basel are the most convenient airports, with good trains.

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: Eastern Switzerland
Guided or self-guided? Self-guided
Trip code: VAEsg
Route: The Via Alpina (Walking guide)
(Prefer a Guided trek or the full VAS?)
Group size: Any, from solo trekkers to groups
Length: 6 days' trekking
Start: Sargans in Switzerland
End: Engelberg in Switzerland
Typical walk: 21km, 1,110m ascent
Total distance: 125.5km or 79 miles
Highest altitude: 2,291m
Grade: Black3 (Walking grades)

Prices Summer 2020

6 stages, per person:

VAEsg Classic
GBP 1,140 (singles 210)
Via Alpina: Eastern Switzerland (self-guided)

Research Summer 2020

Steph Ward at Alpine ExploratoryAllan Gibbs at Alpine ExploratoryAlpine Exploratory's 2019 research on the Via Alpina was led by:
Allan Gibbs in July
Steph Ward in July

Recces 2020

A postbus waits at Klausen Passhohe
A postbus waits at Klausen Passhohe

Alpine Exploratory's service

7 nights, staying in:
3- and 4-star hotels (6)
Auberges (1)

Accommodation and itinerary
Expert and unlimited advice
Routecards VAS1-6 of the Exploratory system
Maps and local information

Season for self-guided treks
19 July to 18 September 2020
18 July to 17 September 2021
Trek on your ideal dates

The steep valley above Sargans
The steep valley above Sargans

The Via Alpina in the Alps

Map of the Via Alpina within the Alps

Our city information included in your info pack:
Geneva, Bern, Lucerne, Basel, Zurich

City breaks after trekking

Find out more

About our walking holidays Our FAQs page covering equipment, weather, insurance and more about how our trips work

Walking guides Our background page on the
    Via Alpina

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