Book with confidence for 2021
Views on the way to Elm in Switzerland

Via Alpina East
Self-guided walking holiday

Key information Summer 2021

Start: Sargans in Switzerland
End: Engelberg in Switzerland
Season dates: 18 July to 17 September 2021
Length: 6 days' walking
Typical walk: 21km, 1,110m ascent
Total distance: 125.5km or 79 miles
Highest altitude: 2,291m
Grade: Black 3 (Walking grades)
Group size: Any, from solo trekkers to groups

The iconic Swiss Via Alpina is one of the finest long-distance hiking trails in the Alps. The full route crosses the width of Switzerland’s dramatic Alpine chain, from Sargans close to the Liechtenstein border to Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Our Via Alpina East route takes on the first 6 stages, and more so than its Western counterpart, showcases the everyday side of rural Switzerland. Green meadows, cow bells, and little villages which aren’t yet on the tourist map – all adding to the quiet charm of the route. In 6 stages the route builds in difficulty, heading over 4 of the 16 passes of the entire route; the Foopass, the Richetlipass, the Klausenpass and the Surenenpass.

On this self-guided holiday, walk as you choose, solo or in your own group of friends or family. We make the arrangements including booking your accommodation in charming Swiss hotels and auberges, and we send you our detailed routecards. Enjoy the sense of freedom and of satisfaction a you roll into a new village for the night!

If your group would like to hike with a guide, we can also arrange a privately guided trip along the Via Alpina for you. We welcome you to get in touch to ask for more details on this option.

Alternative trip options
Prefer a different length of trip? Why not try one of these:
Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland - 7 stages, 8 nights
Via Alpina Switzerland - 18 stages, 2 rest days, 21 nights
Via Alpina West - 5 stages, 6 nights
Make the Trip longer
If you would like add on a few more days, why not look into our Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland trip? A fantastic trip in its own right, this would give you the chance to explore the famous resorts Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren in the Eiger and Jungfrau region.

Make the Trip shorter
By including some fairly long days, it is possible to walk the whole route in 4 or 5 stages. For a long first section, walk all the way to Elm in one day, giving a 36km day with 1,865m ascent and 1,335m descent. To make the trip even shorter, walk over the Klausenpass from Linthal to Altdorf in 1 day, giving a 38km day with 1,430m ascent and 1,610m descent.

Hike with a guide
Hike with confidence in the company of our fully qualified International Mountain Leaders (IMLs), with the navigation, accommodation and all arrangements taken care of. If your group would like a guide for your trip, please get in touch for more details.

Via Alpina Eastern Switzerland
18 July to 17 September 2021
Hutty Classic Comfy
4 stages
(5 nights)

Please ask
GBP 1,000
Singles 150
GBP 1,020
Singles 160
6 stages
(7 nights)
Please ask
GBP 1,160
Singles 210
Main Trip
GBP 1,190
Singles 220
Private guided
6 stages
(7 nights)
Groups of 4 or more
Please ask
GBP 1,860
Singles 210
GBP 1,890
Singles 220
6 stages
(7 nights)
Groups of 1, 2 or 3
Please ask us
Baggage transfer
Please ask us

Where we stay
The accommodation on the Via Alpina is of high standard using mostly 3* hotels, with delicious buffet breakfasts included on every morning. Following our standard itinerary, there are 5 hotel nights and 2 nights in auberges (comparable to simple hotels). You will have a private room each night; at the hotels with an ensuite bathroom, whilst at the auberges your bathroom might be shared. No huts are needed on this trip.

The accommodation along the Via Alpina East is fairly limited and we already use the comfiest hotel options available in Sargans, Weisstannen and Elm. We are however able to upgrade you accommodation in Linthal, Altdorf and Engelberg. In addition, on our comfy trips, we would swap the auberge at Klausenpass for a second hotel night in Altdorf. From the pass, you'd take the scenic post bus down into the valley and return the following morning to continue the walk. If you'd prefer to stay on the trail, please do just let us know.

We don't offer a specific Hutty option on the Via Alpina East, due to the limited options on the route and the general spacing of accommodation. However, please do contact us to discuss the minor ways in which we can tweak your trip to suit your preferred style, such as using simpler hotels.

Single Supplement
The single supplement covers the extra cost of booking single rooms in the hotels and auberges, compared with 2 people sharing a room.

Our approach to the Via Alpina
Our trip gives a complete journey on foot from Sargans to Engelberg, along the first week of the Via Alpina. On the trek itself, no transport is needed, unless you wish to take the postbus to reach Altdorf from the Klausenpass, for a comfier accommodation option. Buses and cable cars can be used to shorten days or skip out steep sections of descent where needed. Our routecards explain the different possibilities, and every year we carry out a pre-season recce to update you of any changes.

People at Alpine Exploratory
Alpine Exploratory's 2020 research on the Via Alpina was led by Nicky Mount in August

The Terrain
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 considered a trek throughout.

Is it for me?
The Via Alpina East is perfect for stronger hikers looking for a little comfort overnight. Good footing and a head for heights is needed for crossing the sometimes lose ground on the ascent and descents from the higher passes. In bad weather, experience is needed to judge whether walking is safe or whether passes should be avoided by taking the train or bus instead. Similarly, the ability to navigate with a map and compass is essential for at least one party member in case of poor visibility.

The high standard of accommodation on the Via Alpina and the option to have your bags transferred to every stop gives a little luxury and comfortable breaks along the route. The expansive cable car and post bus system allows for a certain flexibility to the walking, making it much easier to skip sections or even a whole stage of the route, compared to other trips.

We grade the Via Alpina a Black3, making it one of our harder treks. The hardest stage giving it this grade is the ascent and descent over Surenenpass on your last walking day. The other passes are a little lower, offering mostly grassy paths through Alpine meadows. In terms of distance, the route has 1 long day, the long crossing of the Surenenpass from Altdorf to Engelberg. Good public transport can help shorten many of the days, with 3.5km and 1080m ascent being shaved off the crossing of the Surenenpass by taking the cable car.

   For an even more detailed read, please see our Via Alpina Walking Guide
How to get there
Swiss Train Station
Swiss Train Station
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.

  • Bespoke accommodation itinerary - tailored to suit your particular requirements
  • Breakfast every morning
  • Detailed Routecards VAS1-VAS6 of the Exploratory system, printed on waterproof paper
  • The 4 topographical maps needed
  • Expert advice and local information
  • A comprehensive 'Season Update' following our pre-season recce
  • Full support during your trip from the Alpine Exploratory team (9am until 9pm in the Alps)
Not included
  • Travel to and from your trip
  • Local transport whilst on the trip unless specified
  • Travel insurance
  • Lunches, snacks, drinks and evening meals in the towns (this would be 18 nights on our main trip)
  • Baggage transfers (available as an extra)

Baggage transfer

We offer baggage transfers as an extra to all stops except Weisstannen on our standard Via Alpina. Due the high cost of transferring luggage by road and rail in Switzerland, we generally recommend that you carry everything you need for the trip on your back; there is not too much you need during your trek. We can also advise on more cost-effective ways of sending additional kit ahead to meet you at Engelberg such as using the excellent Swiss postal system. If you would like more information about our baggage transfer service, please ask.

Booking form for the Via Alpina East

Your dates

Arrival day

First walking day

Departure day

Your party

Please add any more people in the Comments box below.
If you are adding to an existing booking, please give the main contact's details and just the new people. Thanks.

Number of people in your group

Main contact

Party member 2

Party member 3

Party member 4

Party member 5

Party member 6

Party member 7

Party member 8

Contact details

Address and post/zip code (For the delivery of your pack)

Email address

Telephone (Mobile)

Telephone (Home)

Party's details

Medical conditions relevant to a walking holiday?
(Please tell us in confidence. Thank you.)

Vegetarians, special diets or allergies?

Room types?

Baggage transfer

Baggage transfer?

Differences from the normal trip

Differences if any (extra nights, comfy or hutty mix, fewer rest days, etc.)?

Party's walking experience

Please may we ask for details of everyone's experience?
Especially helpful are names of trails, national parks, peaks or regular hikes. Thank you.

Main contact

Party member 2

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Party member 8

Please add any more people in the Comments box below. Thanks.

Emergency contact

Please tell us about a friend or relative who we can contact in the event of emergency during your holiday.


Telephone number

Relationship to you

Comments or questions?

Please ask any questions or tell us anything else:

Optionally, to help us

Optionally, where did you first hear about us? We're always curious!

If a friend recommended us may we ask who it was? We might send a thank you!

Check and submit

We will reply to your booking form with a confirmation email giving the details of your balance and deposit amounts.
We'll send you instructions to pay your deposit by card, bank transfer, or cheque.
Your deposit will be 20% of the cost of your trip with a minimum of GBP 200 per person.
Your balance is due 8 weeks before your trip and we'll email you with a reminder.

Terms and Conditions
By submitting this form you confirm that you have read and agreed to Alpine Exploratory's Terms and Conditions (PDF).
In particular, as the main contact you confirm that:
+ Everyone in the group has read and agreed to the T&Cs.
+ Everyone in the group has the fitness and experience for the trip.
Please ask us if you have any questions. Thank you.

Got questions about the Via Alpina East?
Feel free to ask us any questions you have about any aspects of your planning and preparations! Lucy, Hannah, Steph, Hannah, or Nicky will reply with expert advice. We spend a lot of time walking our routes and more broadly exploring ski and hiking trails around the world so do feel free to ask anything at all.

Via Alpina East enquiry form

Your name

Your email address

Optionally, where did you first hear about us? We're always curious!

Your intended arrival date on the Via Alpina East? (This helps us give you an idea of availability and doesn't need to be exact)

How many people will you be?

Any questions or preferences?

If you prefer, please feel welcome to email or call us. Thanks!

Contact Alpine Exploratory
Phone +44 (0)131 214 1144
Our times 9am to 5pm UK time
Monday to Friday
Australia 02 8319 2266
Canada 416-548-4819
Hong Kong 25 803 0282
New Zealand 04 889 4515
USA 646-757-1102

Open to the world
Since Alpine Exploratory started in 2005 we have loved getting to know our clients from around the world. Along with the UK, our best-represented countries are the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Please use our national-rate numbers for a cheaper call to contact our office in Edinburgh.

Elm Village on the Via Alpina in Switzerland
  Elm Village, your home for your third night on the trek    Photos from the Swiss Via Alpina

Alpine Exploratory
Alpine Exploratory is a system of knowledge on the best mountain trekking in our areas, giving clients superb holidays based on this exploration.

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