One of the rare stages without a pass, this is a great warm-up to the Via Alpina. You’ll explore the Swiss countryside and walk through villages, meadows, and woods up the river towards Weisstannen.
14 km and 650 m elevation gain, 100 m elevation loss
Continue up the valley on cattle trails towards the first pass of the adventure. Over green pastures, you’ll reach the Foopass (2,223 m) with a great outlook over the Glarner Alps in the distance. Solid paths take you down to the village of Elm, known for preserving its architectural heritage.
23 km and 1250 m elevation gain, 1300 m elevation loss
One of the most challenging days on the route, it also hikes in some of its most impressive terrain, namely the Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona. You’ll climb up steep paths along the mountains and green and rocky terrain to Richetlipass (2,261 m). Descend is more leisurely, on a mule path through pastures and later woods towards Linthal.
You can take a gondola lift at the beginning of the stage to lower the elevation gain for the day.
24 km and 1450 m elevation gain, 1800 m elevation loss
After a short steep part towards Braunwald, you’ll circle the mountainside towards the largest alp in Switzerland (around 1,200 cows). You can optionally end the day there, at the village of Urnerboden, or continue up along the hairpin bend road towards Klausenpass, where you stay the night.
17 km and 1300 m elevation gain, 100 m elevation loss
The postbus takes you back to the top of the pass, from where you descend on the panoramic trail to the meadows in Aesch. After admiring the wonderful waterfall, continue down the valley along the river to the lake town of Altdorf.
22 km and 1100 m elevation gain, 1500 m elevation loss
The sixth day is a long one, with over 1800 meters of elevation gain. Only in the beginning do you have a chance to shorten it by taking a cable car to Brüsti, saving you a kilometer of uphill hiking. Ascend the narrow ridge to reach the rocky Surenenpass (2,291 m). From there, a pleasant but long route leads down the green valley into Engelberg, a small town.
30 km and 1900 m elevation gain, 1300 m elevation loss
This day starts with a steep ascent, but already halfway, your effort will be rewarded once you reach Engstlenalpsee lake. From there onwards, you’ll have a great view over the Bernese Alps, all the way to Jochpass (2,207 m). After a short downhill, you’ll reach Hotel Engstlenalp, located in surreal alpine surroundings.
11 km and 1250 m elevation gain, 450 m elevation loss
After passing a few traditional dairy farms at Tannalp, you’ll visit the tranquil lakes on the plateau. From there, the route continues up a narrow ridge to the Plantappen mountain, where you’ll have constant great views over the Jungfrau massif, with Eiger in sight. The descent from the peak to Meiringien is long, so there is an option of hopping on a cable car and saving your knees.
20 km and 650 m elevation gain, 1900 m elevation loss
An easier day compared to others before it, it takes you over the Grosse Scheidegg. You will also hike past the Reichenbach Falls, made famous by Sherlock Holmes. The route from the pass gently descends through the woods and pastures towards Grindelwald, a popular town amongst tourists.
22 km and 1400 m elevation gain, 1000 m elevation loss
On day ten, you will hike below one of the most famous rock walls in the Alps, the Eiger North Face. The route will take up from the tourist hustle and bustle into the pastures below this awe-inspiring mountain. On your highest point at Kleine Scheidegg, you can also join the Jungfraujoch railway for an excursion or continue the sunny descent down to Wengen, another famous resort in the region.
19 km and 1200 m elevation gain, 900 m elevation loss
An easy day takes you in the shade of the woods up onto the sunny terrace on which the car-free town of Murren lies. If you want, you can make this a rest day and just take the cable car.
9 km and 850 m elevation gain, 500 m elevation loss
Today you will tackle the second-highest pass on the Via Alpina, a good warm-up for the next day (with the highest pass). Climb up the lush meadows past Rotstockhütte, where you can rest before continuing to the Sefinenfurgge Pass (2,612 m). The path down will be unusually dark and rocky for Switzerland but will soon turn back into a lush landscape. Past waterfalls and pastures, you’ll reach the village of Griesalp.
17 km and 1100 m elevation gain, 1300 m elevation loss
Get ready for this extraordinary stage. You’ll hike over Bundalp to the top of Hohtürli Pass (2,778 m), the highest on the whole Via Alpina trail. But just above the pass lies the Blüemlisalphütte, arguably the highlight of the day. Enjoy the rest at this hut at the foot of the glacier before descending to Lake Oeschinen, where you can take the cable railway to Kandersteg.
16 km and 1400 m elevation gain, 1650 m elevation loss
Today’s hike will take you to Bunderchrinde Pass (2,385 m), a rocky window onto the other side of the mountains. You will hike up the river and towards the end of the valley, ascend the meadows to the Lohner Hut, and continue your way to the pass. When there, you’ll have a nice view of the path up ahead, which will zig-zag down into Adelboden.
17 km and 1350 m elevation gain, 1200 m elevation loss
This is an easier day, whichever option you choose. You can follow the streams and go past holiday lodges into the grassy pastures above Adelboden on a direct route, or choose to climb up to the ridge to have a better view of the surrounding region. Both routes cross the grassy Hahnenmoospass, where you can have a rest. Descend directly to Lent or take a detour past the Simme waterfalls.
20 km and 950 m elevation gain, 1200 m elevation loss
The hike will begin with the ascent through the Wallbach Gorge, later giving way to green meadows with all-around views. Crossing this wild landscape, you’ll meet an occasional flock of sheep. You will cross the Trüttlisbergpass and gradually descend into Lauenen, from where you will hike into Gstaad.
23 km and 1150 m elevation gain, 1150 m elevation loss
This day will take you over another pass, past the Gummfluh peak, the iconic landmark of the area. Once you reach Col du Jable, you’ll also cross over into another linguistic area of Switzerland. Descend to L’Etivaz, taste some of their famous cheese, and continue to Château-d’Oex.
26 km and 1500 m elevation gain, 1600 m elevation loss
This last stage is the cherry on top of the cake, especially the on the last descent. You’ll start the final day hiking up above the Lac de l’Hongrin, admiring its dam. After that, the last pass of Via Alpina Switzerland awaits you — Col de Chaude — and a ridge to Rochers de Naye. The views from there are outstanding — you’ll see Lake Geneva and both Jungfrau and Mont Blanc massifs.
The last descent to the Mediterranean micro-climate of Montreux is well worth it, but if you feel it’s too much, you have multiple opportunities along the way to take the train down.
Some people choose to divide this last stage into two days, taking the railway from Rochers de Naye down to Montreux and returning the next day to hike the last descent.
Min: 21 km and 1860 m elevation gain, 850 m elevation loss
Max: 33 km and 1900 m elevation gain, 2600 m elevation loss
The Via Alpina is Switzerland’s number one hiking route, taking you over the 14 most beautiful mountain passes in the country, leading through a variety of culture, geology, flora, and fauna. It’s the best way to get to know the Swiss Alpine culture.
Also called the Swiss Alpine Pass Route, it starts in its east at the border with Liechtenstein and continues across the whole country to the west — ending at Lake Geneva. As a well-maintained trail, it is a hiker’s paradise.
It features 18 stages that require about 5-7 hours of walking per day to complete, but some can be shortened by the use of public transportation (cable cars and buses). It is less challenging technically than the Walker’s Haute Route, but fitness-wise it is quite similar.
To allow you to focus more on enjoying the trail and preparing for it on the physical side, we will take care of the logistical planning.
We take your wishes and preferences to best advise you on your perfect Via Alpina itinerary. We book all of your accommodations, organize luggage transfers, and more, so you can focus on the journey. And a few weeks before setting off, we’ll send you the detailed itinerary booklet with the planned GPS route.
If you think this hike is too long for you, or you don’t have the time, we also offer a shorter version of the trail — the Via Alpina: The Bear Trek.
The summer season for hiking is usually from mid-June to mid-October. Its start depends on the amount of snow left on the high mountain passes from the winter. The Walker’s Haute Route and Via Alpina have some high passes, which are usually free of snow only in July. Hiking before that could be dangerous without proper skill and equipment. In October, there is usually the first bigger snowfall, and the huts close to prepare for the winter ski season.
Read more about the hiking season in the Swiss Alps here.
We’ve rated our tours on a difficulty scale from 1 to 5 — with 1 being the easiest and 5 the most difficult.
The difficulty level of a tour tells you how fit you need to be and how much hiking is involved. Most of our tours are appropriate for people who are regularly active and can hike for about five to seven hours per day.
Technical difficulty means how skilled you need to be to hike on the path. Level 1 means the trail is smooth and wide (like a gravel road), while 5 means the surface is uneven and exposed, and you have to use your hands to help yourself move forward. In practice, that means that the higher the level, the more surefooted and skilled in scrambling you need to be.
It is best to book your tour early because most accommodations along the trail fill up quickly. That way, you can ensure that you have a place to stay.
Even though the routes are usually quite close to at least a farm or a small village, they also feature lots of wild and remote sections where you cannot just stop. In case of injury, it’s best to call the local emergency services.
On the other hand, if you just feel that you cannot hike anymore, you can always stop in any of the towns and villages along the way and use public transport to get to a bigger Swiss city.
Showers in Swiss mountain huts are rare and are only offered for an extra charge. That’s why it’s wise to bring wet wipes with you for the days that you are staying in one of them.
No, because the huts provide their own blankets and pillows. Still, you should bring a sleeping liner instead.
Cell connection is very changeable in the mountains. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see a town, you’ll have a reception. Mountain huts are the same — the signal usually doesn’t reach the insides, so try catching it outside. Wifi is available only in some huts, while most don’t have it.
If you dress accordingly, most stages can be done in light rain. However, do not hike if a storm is forecasted. In that case, you can take public transport to the next point when possible to make up for the lost time.
Vegetarian meals are usually available in most accommodations. Vegan options are harder to be found in huts, but we’re happy to let you know about them in advance so you can plan accordingly.
Via Alpina is less difficult than the Walker’s Haute Route but more difficult than the Tour du Mont Blanc. It is mostly a hike, with only a few steep, rocky, and exposed sections where you need to use your hands to keep balance.
Still, it features long days with lots of elevation gain and loss, mostly over uneven terrain, which is why only experienced hikers who can hike 4-7 hours a day should attempt it.
Learn more about the Via Alpina difficulty >
The starting point of the Via Alpina in Switzerland is Sargans, which can be easily reached by train from Zurich or Basel.
You end the hike in Montreux, from where a train can take you to Geneva airport.
You can find more details about the travel to the starting point here.
You can, but they need to be used of long hiking days and surefooted. We therefore recommend that they’re at least 8 years old.
Most of the stages can be shortened via cable cars or other modes of public transportation, saving your knees on the downhills or catching up on lost time because of bad weather.
Via Alpina stages are much more accessible than Haute Route’s, which is why we can organize luggage transfer for you for an extra charge. This will make your backpacks lighter and easier to carry over the many mountain passes of the route.
Switzerland uses Swiss francs (CHF), so it’s best to have them on you to pay for services in some remote mountain huts.