Book with confidence for 2021

Via Alpina
Self-guided trekking holiday

Key information Summer 2021

Start: Sargans in Switzerland
End: Montreux in Switzerland
Season dates: 18 July to 17 September 2021
Length: 18 days' walking, 2 rest days
Typical walk: 19.5km, 1,110m ascent
Total distance: 349km or 219 miles
Highest altitude: 2,834m
Grade: Black 3 (Walking grades)
Group size: Any, from solo trekkers to groups

The Swiss Via Alpina (known as the Green route) is a majestic hike stretching across the length of the country, from Sargans in the East to Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva. A challenge like no other, this traverse of the Alps showcases rural Switzerland in its full glory, with stunning mountain panoramas and chocolate box villages.

Previously known as the Alpine Pass Route, life on the trail soon 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, before descending on 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.

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 any dates of your choice within our season.

Alternative trip options
Prefer a different style or length of trip? Why not try one of these:
Privately guided Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland - walk the trail with one of our guides
Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland - 7 stages, 8 nights
Via Alpina East - 6 stages, 7 nights
Via Alpina West - 5 stages, 6 nights
Our 18-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
By including some longer days it’s possible to shorten the trip to 17 or 16 stages, while still walking the entire route. The changes come in the middle section: The 2 stages between Engelberg and Meiringen are combined into 1 longer day and the 3 stages between Grindelwald and Griesalp are combined into 2, with a night in Lauterbrunnen in the middle.

Make the Trip longer
The long last stage from Col des Mosses to Montreux can be split into 2 days. The break point comes at Rochers de Nayes, where there isn’t any accommodation; instead we suggest taking the train to Montreux and back the following morning to finish the walk. To make the trip longer still, we split the day between Lenk and Gstaad with a night in Lauenen.

Walk a shorter Section of the Via Alpina
If you'd prefer to walk a shorter section of the full route, we recommend choosing the 7-stage Bernese Oberland trek. This section of the trail passes the iconic mountains of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Equally, we can offer the East or West sections as standalone trips or plan a shorter trip all together. Please just ask us for more details.

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.

Rest Days
We suggest 2 rest days on the full Via Alpina Switzerland route, in Engelberg and Kandersteg. This splits the walking up nicely with a walk of 6 stages, then 7, then 5. If you prefer to take just one, we suggest Grindelwald, with the opportunity to take the train up the side of the Eiger to the Jungfraujoch – the highest train station in Europe.

Train heading to the Jungfraujoch from Kleine Scheidegg7
Train heading to the Jungfraujoch from Kleine Scheidegg
Via Alpina (Self-guided)
18 July to 17 September 2021
Hutty Classic Comfy
16 stages
(17 nights)
Please ask
GBP 2,300
Singles 570
GBP 2,370
Singles 590
18 stages
2 rest days
(21 nights)
Please ask
GBP 2,620
Singles 630
Main Trip
GBP 2,770
Singles 670
20 stages
2 rest days
(23 nights)
Please ask
GBP 2,780
Singles 690
GBP 2,970
Singles 750
Baggage transfer
All stops except Weisstannen and the optional huts
Please ask us
Baggage transfer
GBP 240

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 17 hotel nights and 4 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. If availability is tight at 2 of the auberges then we’ll let you know in advance; in that case the choice is between dormitories, or taking a scenic bus to a nearby hotel. No huts are needed on this trip.

As standard, the accommodation on the Via Alpina is already fairly comfy, and in the smaller towns we already use the best options available. If you are looking for a little more comfort, we can upgrade your hotels on 4 nights and switch 3 of the 4 auberges to hotels in nearby villages, with a short and scenic bus ride to get to the hotel from the route and back again the following morning.

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 the norm, with each of our stages ending in the valley after a pass crossing, 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 Rotstockhutte and Blumlisalphutte. This would change the walking distance on 2 stages, leaving one long day between the huts with over 2000m ascent. In return, you get the chance to experience typical Swiss hut charm, with dormitory accommodation in stunning mountain settings Please ask us for more details.

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.

Steep descent from the Hohtürli on Stage 7

Our approach to the Via Alpina
The Via Alpina is made up of 5 hiking routes across the whole Alpine chain. The Green Swiss Via Alpina begins with 1 stage in Liechtenstein before crossing the Alpine chain in Switzerland as far as Lenk in the West. We miss out the first stage in Liechtenstein and begin our trek in Sargans, offering a complete journey on foot to Montreux. From Lenk, where the Green route Via Alpina ends, we follow the old Alpine Pass Route trail to Montreux.

On the trek itself, no transport is needed, but cable cars and buses can be used on most stages to shorten the walking if wanted. Public transport is also handy to upgrade auberges to hotels on certain nights. For example, use the postbus to reach Altdorf from the Klausenpass, to give a better choice of accommodation. Our route cards detail these transport options available on each day, 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
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 walkin: a typical day starting with wide tracks through forests, tarmac country lanes, then up to zig-zagging hillside paths. Forest tracks in the valleys are straightforward enough, rising to the open meadow where narrow hard-pack paths cross grassland. Above, we venture into the high hills and good balance is needed on rocky paths and steps.

The four highest cols in particular, the Surenenpass (2,291m), Sefinafurgga (2,612m), the 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. Chains aid the scree ascent up to the Sefinafurgga, and 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 trek throughout.

Is it for me?
The Via Alpina is perfect for stronger hikers looking for a little comfort 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 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 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 final long day from Col des Mosses to Montreux. 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 the final day, the cog railway can be taken from Rochers de Naye or Glion to the end point at Montreux.

   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 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.

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
  • Dinner at the auberges (on 3 nights for our main trip, more if staying in the huts)
  • Detailed Routecards VAS1-VAS18 of the Exploratory system, printed on waterproof paper
  • The 9 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 (baggage transfers aren’t available to the huts if this option is chosen). 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.

Booking form - Via Alpina

Your dates

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First walking day

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Your party

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If you are adding to an existing booking, please give the main contact's details and just the new people. Thanks.

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

Vegetarians, special diets or allergies?

Room types?

Baggage transfer

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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.

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

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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?
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 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? (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
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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.

  Walking from Meiringen to Grindelwald on Stage 9    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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