Book with confidence for 2021
Via Alpina Switzerland
Via Alpina
18 stages . 2 rest days . 21 nights

Via Alpina
Self-guided walking holiday

Key information Summer 2021 and 2022

Start: Sargans in Switzerland
End: Montreux in Switzerland
Season dates: 18 July to 17 Sept 2021 and 17 July to 16 Sept 2022
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

From GBP 2,660 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 in the West on the shores of Lake Geneva. 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
Prefer a different length of trip?
Via Alpina: Bernese Oberland - 7 stages, 8 nights, our popular week
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: 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. This gives 5 stages not 7 from Engelberg to Kandersteg. (If you are contemplating just this central week, and if you prefer a quick blast, then this 5-stage trip is superb.)

Make the trip longer
The long last stage from Col des Mosses to Montreux can be split into 2 days, and we would recommend this for many groups. The break point comes at Rochers de Nayes, where we take the train to Montreux and back the following morning to finish the walk. Thus we book you 2 nights in Montreux, which is a fabulous base for any reason. To make the trip longer still, we can split further days along the route in particular in the popular central week, or add further ret days.

Walk a shorter portion of the Via Alpina
If you'd prefer to walk a shorter section of the full route, we recommend the 7-stage Bernese Oberland week. This section of the Via Alpina passes the iconic mountains of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. It also includes the most dramatic two passes. Equally, we can offer the East or West sections as separate trips or plan a shorter trip entirely. (For a short trip of 3 stages, we like Meiringen to Murren.) Please ask us for more details.

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. As another thought, move off-route by train at Engelberg or Kandersteg to spend 2 nights in Lucerne, Zurich or (our favourite) Bern. This could be an invigourating 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.

Train heading to the Jungfraujoch from Kleine Scheidegg7
Train heading to the Jungfraujoch from Kleine Scheidegg
Via Alpina
18 July to 17 Sept 2021 and 17 July to 16 Sept 2022
Hutty Classic Comfy
16 stages
(17 nights)
Please ask
GBP 2,340
Singles 510
GBP 2,540
Singles 600
18 stages
2 rest days
(21 nights)
Please ask
GBP 2,660
Singles 630
Main Trip
GBP 2,910
Singles 750
20 stages
2 rest days
(23 nights)
Please ask
GBP 2,820
Singles 690
GBP 3,110
Singles 830
Private guided
18 stages 2 rest days
(21 nights)
Group of 4 or more
Please ask
GBP 4,760
Singles 630
GBP 5,010
Singles 750
18 stages 2 rest days
(21 nights)
Group 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 17 hotel nights and 4 nights in auberges (comparable to simple hotels). You will have a private room each night. Your bathroom is ensuite at your hotels, whilst at the auberges your bathroom might be shared along the hallway. If availability is tight at 2 of the auberges 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 fairly comfortable. If you'd like` a little more comfort, we can upgrade your accommodation on 13 nights to more comfortable 3* and 4* hotels. You'd still have 2 nights in auberges: in Elm and at Engstlenalp. (Ask us about the bus to Meiringen to swap Engstlenalp to a hotel.) On 1 night (Klaussenpass) we would also swap more basic accommodation to a short and scenic bus ride to more comfortable accommodation off the route, in the town of Altdorf. 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. Lastly, of course our Comfy trip like our Classic trip does not stay in any 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 the norm, because each of our stages ends 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 the Rotstockhutte and the 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 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 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 old Alpine Pass Route 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 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 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
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 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 Black3, 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 final long day from Col des Mosses to Montreux. 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. For the final day, the cog railway can be taken from Rochers de Naye or from 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.

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.

  • 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. (Also 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, Hannah W, Hannah G, 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

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Contact Alpine Exploratory
Phone +44 (0)131 214 1144
Our times 9am to 5pm UK time
Monday to Friday
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Canada 416-548-4819
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.

The Alpine Exploratory Team
The Alpine Exploratory team in Edinburgh

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  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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