Via Alpina Switzerland
19 stages, 2 rest days . 22 nights . Swiss Alps
Via Alpina Switzerland
Via Alpina
19 stages . 2 rest days . 22 nights

Via Alpina
Self-guided walking holiday

Key information

Start: Sargans in Switzerland
End: Montreux in Switzerland
Season dates: 15 July to 15 Sept 2024
Length: 19 days' walking, 2 rest days
Typical walk: 19.5km, 1,110m ascent
Total distance: 349km or 219 miles
Highest altitude: 2,834m
Grade: Purple 4 (Walking grades)
Group size: 2 or more trekkers

From GBP 3,590 per person

The Swiss Via Alpina (previously known as the Alpine Pass Route) is a majestic hike stretching across the width of the country, from Sargans in the East to Montreux, on the shores of Lake Geneva, in the West. This traverse of a substantial part of the Alps shows rural Switzerland in its full glory: high mountain panoramas plus villages from the famous to the pastoral.

Life on the trail falls into a reliable pattern, with most stages taking you up and over one of 16 mountain passes. Climb up through forests to high Alpine meadows and glacial lakes, with the sound of cow bells and dramatic mountain vistas all around. In the afternoon, drop down the other side into a new valley, with the next welcoming Swiss village waiting. The route takes you beneath the dramatic peaks of the Titlis, Wetterhorn, Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Gspaltenhorn, Blümlisalp and Les Diablerets, staying in famous mountain resorts such as Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren. Other nights include locally well-known resorts like Engelberg, Kandersteg and Adelboden.

Trek under your own steam and at your own pace on our self-guided walking holiday, with suggested itineraries of between 16 and 20 stages. You can start your hike on dates of your choice within our season.

Alternative trip options
Looking for something a little different?
Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland - 7 stages and 8 nights. The highlights of the Via Alpina
Guided Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland - 7 stages and 8 nights, accompanied by an International Mountain Leader
Adlerweg - 13 stages, 1 rest day and 15 nights. A crossing of the Austrian Tyrol
Our 19-stage trip with 2 rest days allows a complete hike of the Via Alpina, without any unduly long days and with time to relax. The abundance of accommodation along the way allows for many variants and trip lengths. We provide some of the options below and welcome you to ask if you would like more details!

Make the trip shorter
The simplest way to shorten the route is to either finish the hike in Rochers de Naye (missing out the final short stage) or to hike the final 2 stages in one long day. For both these options, we'd book 1 night in Montreux at the end of the trip, and you could decide on the day whether to hike the whole way or take the train to shorten the route.
By including some longer days, it’s possible to shorten the trip further still to 17 or even 16 stages. The changes come in the middle section: we would combine the 2 stages between Engelberg and Meiringen into 1 longer day, and the 3 stages between Grindelwald and Griesalp into 2 days, with a night in Lauterbrunnen in the middle. For week long section of the Via Alpina, we recommend our Via Alpina Bernese Oberland hike.

Walk a shorter portion of the Via Alpina
This trip works well split into 3 week-long sections - Sargans to Engelberg, Engelberg to Kandersteg, and Kandersteg to Montreux. Hike the three sections as seperate week long breaks and complete the entire route over a few years.

Take fewer or more rest days
Our normal trip includes 2 rest days, separating the three weeks into thirds. These days are in Engelberg and Kandersteg, villages of a reasonable size, with good hotels, and with rail links to Bern. You might prefer just 1 rest day, and this could be half-way in Grindelwald or Wengen, super Alpine resorts each with trains going up to the Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfraujoch. You'll know how many days you like to walk in one go, and what you'd like to see within Switzerland. We would love to advise.
For a rest date off route, why not spend 2 nights in Lucerne, Zurich or (our favourite) Bern. This could be an invigorating city break within your long hike.

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.

Add a stage in Liechtenstein
Begin your hike with a short stage from Vaduz (Liechtenstein) to Sargans (Switzerland). We suggest 2 nights in Sargans for anyone who wants to consider inclduing this half day. Take the bus from Sargans to Vaduz and then walk back for a second night in Sargans.

Train heading to the Jungfraujoch from Kleine Scheidegg7
Train heading to the Jungfraujoch from Kleine Scheidegg
Via Alpina
15 July to 15 Sept 2024
Classic Comfy
16 stages
(17 nights)

GBP 3,140
Singles 640
GBP 3,340
Singles 815
18 stages
2 rest days
(21 nights)
GBP 3,500
Singles 760
GBP 3,780
Singles 945
19 stages
2 rest days
(22 nights)
GBP 3,590
Singles 790
Main Trip
GBP 3,890
Singles 995
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 each morning. Our trip stays in a mixture of hotels and guesthouses where you will have a private room each night. On occassion, if availability is tight at 2 of the guesthouses then we’ll let you know in advance; in that case the choice will be between dormitories or taking a scenic bus to a nearby hotel. No huts are needed on this trip, and for such a long trail in the Alps this is quite remarkable. It follows the pattern of village-pass-village. (As below, we can add 2 huts if you'd like to see that aspect of the route.)

As standard, the accommodation on the Via Alpina is already a comfortable trip. If you'd like a little more comfort, we can upgrade your accommodation on 12 nights to 3* and 4* hotels. You'd still have 2 nights in guesthouses, in Elm and at Engstlenalp. (Ask us about the bus to Meiringen to swap Engstlenalp to a hotel.) If you'd prefer to stay on the route, please do let us know and we'd be happy to book you into our classic accommodation on those nights. We upgrade the guesthouse in Griesalp to a hotel.

Alpine Huts
The famous Swiss mountain huts are an excellent addition to any hike of the Via Alpina. Whilst we don’t book any hut accommodation as standard, it is possible to incorporate some hut nights in the trip if you wish. The stages between Wengen and Kandersteg can be split up with stays in 2 mountain huts, at the Rotstockhutte and the Blumlisalphutte. This would change the walking distance on 2 stages, leaving one long day between the huts with over 2,000m ascent. In return, you get the chance to experience typical Swiss hut charm, with dormitory accommodation in high mountain settings. Please ask us for more details.

Single Room Supplement
If you would like to stay in single rooms rather than sharing a double, twin or triple room we add our single room supplement to the overall cost. This covers the additional cost of booking single occupancy rooms. The single supplement is only applied to nights where single rooms are available. In the guesthouses, we may be able to book single rooms or if not, we will book the smallest room available.

Solo Travel
We do not take bookings for solo walkers on self-guided trips. If you are still interested in this trip, we do have availability on our guided trips.
Steep descent from the Hohtürli on Stage 7

Our approach to the Via Alpina
The Via Alpina system is made up of 5 hiking routes across the whole Alpine chain. What we call our Via Alpina is in fact the Green Swiss Via Alpina. To confuse the picture, our Via Alpina (Alpine Pass Route) is also the Swiss National Route 1, within the Swiss system of trails. The full Via Alpina begins with 1 stage in Liechtenstein (Vaduz to Sargans) before crossing the Alpine chain in Switzerland as far as Lenk in the West. From Lenk, where the Green route Via Alpina ends, we follow the Swiss National Route 1 trail to Montreux.

On the trek itself, no transport is needed, but cable cars and buses can be used on many stages to shorten the walking if wanted. Public transport is also handy to upgrade guesthouses to hotels on certain nights. For example, use the postbus to reach Altdorf from the Klausenpass, to give a better choice of accommodation, and the train to reach Montreux from Rochers de Naye. Our routecards detail these transport options available on each day, and they tally with your Itinerary which details where you will stay, as well as pointing out where refreshments can be purchased. Where there is a choice of routes, we describe both options, allowing you to tailor the hike to suit your needs when possible.

People at Alpine Exploratory
Latest research on the Via Alpina by Alpine Exploratory's Rob.

The Terrain
The Via Alpina's terrain comprises the full range of Alpine walking: a typical day starts with wide tracks through forests or tarmac country lanes, then rises to zig-zagging hillside paths, or open meadow where narrow hard-pack paths cross grassland. Above, we venture into the high hills where good balance is needed on rocky paths and steps.
The four highest cols in particular, the Surenenpass (2,291m), Sefinafurgga (2,612m), Hohturli (2,778m) and the Bunderchrinde (2,385m), involve loose tracks over scree and shale. In descent from the Hohturli to the Oechinensee there is hard walking on rocky paths, with drops to one side (lateral moraines). Chains aid the scree ascent up to the Sefinafurgga; wooden ladders down from the Sefinafurgga and up to the Hohturli give solid walking. The Via Alpina has no via ferrata or climbing sections and is considered a walk throughout, albeit at times a very challenging one.

Is it for me?
The Via Alpina is perfect for stronger hikers looking for comfy stays overnight. Good footing and a head for heights is needed for crossing the (at times) extremely loose ground on the ascents 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 postbus 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 our other Alpine trips. Generally, life in Switzerland is simple, comfortable and predictable.

We grade the Via Alpina as a Purple4, making it one of our hardest treks. The hardest parts giving it this grade are the ascents and descents over the 4 high passes on stages 6, 12, 13 and 14. Not all the passes are like this though, with many offering grassy paths through Alpine meadows. In terms of distance, the route has 2 long days; the long crossing of the Surenenpass from Altdorf to Engelberg, and the day from Gstaad to Château d’Oex. Good public transport can help shorten these 2 and many of the other days, with 3.5km and 1,080m ascent being shaved off the crossing of the Surenenpass by taking the cable car.

Walking Guide to the Via Alpina - our detailed read

The making of our Via Alpina - photos from our research trips

How to get there
Swiss Train Station
The Interlaken train waits at Meiringen station
Your holiday starts in the valley town of Sargans and ends on the shore of Lac Leman at Montreux. Zurich and Basel (for Sargans) and Geneva (for Montreux) are the most convenient airports, with good trains.

The Via Alpina crosses the breadth of Switzerland and intersects numerous North-South bus and train routes. We walk within a short train ride of Lucerne (Luzern), Bern and then Lausanne. It will become enticing to see more of Switzerland! We are always delighted to chat about train routes after your trip, to various Swiss locations. Attractions include Switzerland's scenic rail lines, of course, and these are often reachable within a day trip off-route.

We love Bern as a Swiss city before, during or after your trip. Then fly from Zurich or Basel airports. We are glad to recommend hotels and parts of town in all of the larger Swiss cities.

Italy is eminently reachable after your trip, from several points. Chiefly, Altdorf and Kandersteg are on major North-South train routes, that plunge into tunnels and emerge in the Italian valleys running down to Milan. We have ridden these and other routes and we love to advise.

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.

Travel in Switzerland - our general page on Swiss trains
  • Bespoke accommodation itinerary - tailored to suit your particular requirements
  • Breakfast every morning
  • Dinner in Weisstannen, Elm, Klausenpass, Engstlenalp and Griesalp (more if staying in the huts)
  • Detailed Routecards VAS1-VAS19 of the Exploratory system, printed on waterproof paper
  • The 9 topographical maps needed
  • Downloadable GPX Tracks covering the route
  • 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 on our standard Via Alpina. (Baggage transfers aren’t available to the huts, if you choose to add any huts).

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 on your rest days and at the end of your trip. If you would like more information about our baggage transfer service, please ask.
Got questions about the Via Alpina?
Feel free to ask us any questions you have about any aspects of your planning and preparations! Lucy, Steph, Nicky, Rob, Evie, Ben and Amy 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.

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Via Alpina Self-guided

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The Alpine Exploratory Team
The Alpine Exploratory team in Edinburgh

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Hikker infront of the Wetterhorn on the Via Alpina
  Walking from Meiringen to Grindelwald on Stage 9    Photos from the Swiss Via Alpina

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