UK & European Holiday News
The latest travel news, interviews, traveller reviews, inspiration & advice on cycling and walking holidays in the UK and Europe..
Return to Blog Home >>
With the new and world’s longest hanging pedestrian bridge, you have even more things to do in Zermatt and the Bernese Oberland
With the world’s longest hanging pedestrian bridge opened near the village of Zermatt in July 2017, you may have another reason to visit Switzerland next summer. The Europaweg Skywalk, also known as the Randa Suspension Bridge or Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, is about 1/3 of a mile long and only 65 centimetres (25.6 inches) wide. To us, walking this new suspension bridge is certainly high on our list of the things to do in Zermatt.
The single-file, steel-made bridge offers spectacular views of the iconic Matterhorn and is hanging 278 feet up in the air. The bridge is designed “for hikers with no fear of heights.” On the 9-day Haute Route self guided walk and 8-day Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls self guided and guided walking holidays in our offer, you will have a free day in Zermatt to walk the unique bridge. Travelling 15 minutes by train to Randa, you can enjoy an 8.7km circular walk.
If you feel this is all a little too much, Zermatt offers many more options to explore on a free day.
Contrasting rock with ice, the Bernese Oberland is ideal for first timers in the Swiss Alps or opt for the challenging Haute Route in the scenic canton of Valais – both trips conclude with a free day in Zermatt
The Swiss alpine town is traffic free and all-around Zermatt you will be able to enjoy a wonderful panorama of mountain peaks, including the distinctive shape of the Matterhorn. From the route notes you will receive upon booking a walking trip in the Bernese Oberland or the Haute Route, you will be able to choose from about four walks to take around Zermatt. On top of that, our team can advise on even more walks and activities to fill your day.
If you want to immerse yourself in the classic Swiss mountains capes, just have a look at the different walking holidays in Switzerland or contact one of our experienced travel advisors in London.
Other suspension bridges in Switzerland:
Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls
A stunning region of rock and ice, Bernese Oberland is the perfect introduction to walking in the Swiss Alps, as each day you can choose between a range of walks, often with differing grades and distances. The route follows classic mountain trails to charming mountain refuges, with views along the way from a variety of vantage points of vast glaciers that tumble from some of the highest peaks in the country, many over 4,000m!
Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls (8 days) departs each year between June-September
The Haute Route
The Haute Route is popular with skiers but there is also a walkers’ version. The scenic canton of Valais is one of the most majestic mountain regions in Europe – and compared to many other areas in Switzerland, most of the paths are little trodden! Come in the summer and you will pass under 10 of the 12 highest peaks in the Alps, visit quaint picture postcard villages, stroll through lush valleys and enjoy the colourful alpine flowers in bloom.
The Haute Route (9 days) departs each year between July-September
The Alpine Pass Route (APR) – now fully waymarked as Swiss Via Alpina 1 (VA1) – is a hiking trail of over 350km across Switzerland. It crosses high mountain passes through the eastern Alps, the Bernese Oberland and the Vaudoise and Lesley Williams, Cicerone guidebook director, describes this relatively quiet walking trail for us.
Imagine spending three weeks in the mountains traversing the Swiss Alps, with a central highlight of the Bernese Alps crowned with glaciers and summer snows, either side of which are mountains, valleys and lakes rarely visited by anyone but the alpine trekker. In the valleys, villages that are still centred around cheesemaking provide simple accommodation and high above, farms and alpine huts offer refreshments amid the sound of cowbells.
This may sound like a tourist brochure, but the reality of the Alpine Pass Route (Swiss Via Alpina 1) is just that – many days where you rarely see another person, although there are also days, particularly in the Bernese Alps, where you become something of an object of interest among the tourists thronging the railway platform at Kleine Scheideg!
"A break in the cloud and a shaft of afternoon sun revealed our first view of the mighty Wetterhorn when we walked the Alpine Pass Route."
As the name implies, The Swiss Via Alpina 1 route involves crossing sixteen Alpine passes, and showcases some of the country's most breathtaking mountain landscapes. The route is not suitable for first time alpine trekkers, but best undertaken by those with some experience of Alpine trekking: it amasses over 20,000m of ascent and involves some steep and occasionally exposed sections, mainly on the three high passes – the Sefinenfurke (2612m), the Hohturli (2778m) and the Bunderschrinde (2385m). The entire route can be completed in 2-3 weeks, although it is also possible to walk shorter sections; alternatively postbus, cable-car and rail connections could be used to allow for a tighter schedule if time is limited, and may be recommended in order to avoid one or two sections of walking through urban areas and busy roadside paths.
The Swiss alpine route officially begins in Lichtenstein, a week later reaching Engelberg, starting point of the Sherpa Expeditions itinerary. Engelberg is a thriving town with an impressive 12th Century monastery situated on the eastern border of Switzerland. From here you spend three or four days wandering through mellow alpine landscapes largely ignored by tourists. The passes are generally of a steady gradient, however there is nothing mellow about the views – as you see alp upon alp stretching far into the distance. From the Bernese Oberland, the landscape changes as the mountains become higher and the impact of tourism becomes more evident. When I did a late summer trek in 2016 researching the new edition of the Cicerone guidebook, the weather was unsettled and on one day we realised we had only taken three photographs, and very poor ones at that!
“Over the next two days however, the skies and moisture gradually cleared. High on the new Via Alpina route hugging the crest of a grassy ridge, views down to the valley below were mainly shrouded in cloud. But a break in the cloud and a shaft of afternoon sun revealed our first view of the mighty Wetterhorn; its great bulk and snowy peak seemed unimaginably high. The following day we crested the Grosse Scheidegg to walk beneath the ‘giants’ of the Bernese Oberland – Wetterhorn, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in perfect clarity against a vivid blue sky,” says Cicerone director Lesley Williams.
These giant mountains remain in view for several days as you follow the route through the beautiful, but busy Bernese Oberland, leaving the crowds, trains and cable cars behind as you scale two huge passes on the way to Kandersteg.
The final few days of the trek to the west of Adelboden again revert gradually to more verdant lower mountain scenery, although some days of necessity are quite long. Although the official Via Alpine route takes walkers to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), Sherpa Expeditions finishes the hike in Lauenen (short bus ride to Saanen) to allow for a two-week itinerary.
The new Cicerone guidebook on the Alpine Pass Route contains a wealth of practical advice and information on local points of interest and is written by Kev Reynolds. The trail is one of the great Alpine routes and embraces much of the best scenery Switzerland has to offer.
For more information on walking the Alpine Pass Route with Sherpa Expeditions, have a look at the 14-day self guided The Alpine Pass Route or look at The Alpine Pass Route Guided Walk that departs at the end of July.
For more information and booking requests, contact our team of travel experts by phone or email.
Travellers who are looking to go walking in the Alps often ask us, 'Which is better, the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) or The Alpine Pass Route?' We believe that’s a pretty tricky question: both are 2-week long challenging walks threading their way through some of the finest alpine scenery one could find in Europe.
A number of travellers who have walked both routes judge The Alpine Pass to be top of the list, however the Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the world’s most popular mountain walks. This spurred us on to compare the two walks to try and explain popularity of the alpine walking holidays.
Scenic Variety of Europe’s Alps
The Alpine Pass Route is said to have more scenic variety and is claimed to be more spectacular with more sheer-sided peaks flanking the route. The Tour de Mont Blanc concentrates quite naturally on the majestic domed top of the highest mountain in Western Europe that seems to draw walkers like a magnet to the Mont Blanc Massif. Here, the impressive sideshows along the way include the Dent Blanche and Aiguille Vert. In contrast, the Alpine Pass Route has a whole procession of beautifully different mountains including the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau, Titlus, Wellhorn, Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Breithorn, Gspaltenhorn, Blumlisalpernhorn, Doldenhorn and Wildstrubel.
Both tours stay at mountain inns in beautifully quiet locations. Both routes involve walking up a multitude of alpine valleys and over high passes. The Fenetre d’Arpette (2665m) is the highest one on the TMB but this is trounced by the Hohturli (2778m) on the Alpine Pass, an amazing gateway into the glacial scenery suspended above Kandersteg and the magnificent Oeschinensee glacial lake. The other two big passes on the Alpine Pass Route, Sefinenfurke (2,612m) and the Bundechrinde (2380m), have very different outlooks.
Circuit vs Linear Walks
The TMB is a circuit, the Alpine Pass a linear route – is there a preference? Is closing the loop preferable to completing A to B? The efficiency of the Swiss rail system certainly makes starting and ending in different places insignificant.
The route that you follow on the Alpine Pass walk with Sherpa Expeditions is the most spectacular half of a 4-week walk that crosses Alpine Switzerland. It’s holistic in its own right passing between the high Bernese Oberland peaks into the Valais and towards the Rhone Valley.
On the other hand, the TMB is a complete long distance walk. The Tour du Mont Blanc route certainly has more walkers, is best-known and has many articles on it appearing in magazines and books. Perhaps you can ‘dine out’ for longer with a Mont Blanc tour under your belt. The Alpine Pass Route has less press; perhaps this is one of the main reasons for the difference in popularity.
There are highlights for mountain lovers on both alps walking holidays: particularly Grindelwald and Klein Scheidegg on the Alpine Pass Route, and Chamonix, Champex and Courmayeur on the Tour de Mont Blanc.
Walking in the Alps on both tours include 'rest days.' Although most people would use these for doing extra walks or variations, they are handy if you want to rest weary limbs or go sightseeing. On the 14-day Tour du Mont Blanc you have rest days in La Palud, Champex and Chamonix (on the 11-day option, we have removed these days and you can continue walking). On the Alpine Pass Route, you’ll have time at leisure in Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Kandersteg. From Grindelwald you can join other visitors and take the train up the Eiger, while from Chamonix you take the cable cars up the Aiguille du Midi for equally spectacular views.
Borders of the Alps
Perhaps the TMB is popular because you get the chance to walk into three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. This does mean that you have to remember changing your money into Swiss Francs and Euros. The Alpine Pass Route passes from the German speaking Oberland to the French speaking Valais, two areas with distinct cultures and traditions (and that have the Euro as their currency).
Getting Out of the Mountains
One concern when walking the Tour du Mont Blanc is what to do if you are unlucky and experience really bad weather or sprain an ankle or knee. Some of the sections do not have public transport to the next place, or if they do, it may take a lot of time. On the Alpine Pass Route, there are no such worries as all accommodation can be reached by rail and post bus combinations.
So, which is best?
We have to say it is hard to find a clear difference on these walking holidays in the Alps. Perhaps the Alpine Pass Route has the edge on scenery but the Tour De Mont Blanc has the recognition. Certainly, if you have already enjoyed a walking holiday on the TMB, we believe you should definitely consider the Alpine Pass Route for your next trip, and vice versa! Afterwards, do let us know which you preferred.
With Sherpa Expeditions, you can begin a self-guided Alpine Pass holiday on any day from mid July through to the end of September.
This season’s escorted departures for the Alpine Pass Route start on 3rd July and 14th August and there are just a few spots left.
Walk the Tour du Mont Blanc in either 11 days or go for the 14-day version that includes rest days.
If you are toying with the idea of walking in the Alps around France and Switzerland, besides considering the TMB don’t overlook the Alpine Pass Route as a great alternative. To discuss your options with one of our travel experts, please contact us by email or phone.
On an escorted walking holiday, every day you will have our guide to make sure your holiday runs smoothly. As he or she leads the way and looks after all arrangements, all you need to do is take in the impressive scenery, enjoy the fresh local produce and put one foot in front of the other.
Enjoy the benefits of our experienced guides whose passions are to bring to life the flora, fauna and history of the region you explore. Immerse in local life of Switzerland, England, and Italy and join the company of kindred spirits on a guided small group trip. Our group sizes generally vary from 6 to 14 people.
We choose below five of the best guided trips in Europe and the UK to book in 2018.
Perfect Introduction to Swiss Mountain Walking
Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls
The iconic Matterhorn, famous for its four steep faces rising above the surrounding glaciers, was not climbed until 1865 when British climber Edward Whymper summited the peak. Since then, the walking scene has developed extensively, while the landscape fortunately is still as stunning as it was back then. This guided walk is a perfect introduction to trekking in the Swiss Alps as there are different trails we can take each day. Together with the group, our leader decides which routes we’ll follow to take in vistas of flower-strewn alpine meadows and vast glaciers that tumble from some of the highest peaks in the country (many over 4,000m!). Travel to the Swiss Alps’ two most postcard perfect regions: the peaks of the Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau overlook the valley towns of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, while the quintessential mountain-lover’s town of Zermatt lies just below the towering Matterhorn.
Guided departure in August (now fully booked)
Self guided departures daily between 23 June - 22 September
Show me everything about the Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls Guided Walk >>
a UK Classic
Coast to Coast Guided Walks
Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks” and widely considered nowadays as the most classic of all UK long distance trails, there are different ways to walk the 192 miles (309km) Coast to Coast trail.
For 2018, the longest version of the walk (18 days) is sold out and now also the 17-day version is sold out for 2018. For those walkers with less time in their hands, you can still choose from selected departure dates for the 15-day version of the Coast to Coast walk.
Guided departures for the 15-day trip are still available in June (now fully booked), July, August & September (limited)
Options for self guided departures range between 15-18 days and are daily between 16 May - 29 September
Show me everything about the Coast to Coast Guided Walks >>
A Quiet Alpine Classic
Wildstrubel Circuit Guided walk
As the name implies, this is a circular tour of the Wildstrubel mountain range. We take in both the German-speaking Bernese Oberland and a small part of the French speaking Valais. Starting from the municipality of Kandersteg that lies west from the Jungfrau massif, our guide will take you over a series of mountain passes. In a series of linear walks, we will pass the villages of Leukerbad, Crans, Lenk and Adelboden, before we together finish our circuit back in Kandersteg. This route is known as a quieter Alpine classic and includes two stages of the famous Alpine Pass Route. We grade this as a moderate to challenging walk.
Guided departure in July
Self guided departures daily between 14 July - 22 September
Show me everything about the Wildstrubel Circuit Guided Walk >>
Mountain Thrills in Italy
Guided Walking in the Dolomites
They may not be exceptionally high but the gigantic limestone peaks of Italy’s ‘pale mountains’ (or Dolomites) provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the Alps. Join our guide as you walk the region that is dotted with flowering fields, green forests, idyllic mountain lakes, and vast high plateaus and natural parks. Thousands of trails wind their way between the characteristic jagged mountains, while high in the cliffs are tunnels and bunkers from WWI, when the mountains were the setting of fierce fighting.
Guided departure in September
Self guided departures daily between 15 June - 15 July & 15 August - 23 September
Show me everything about the Guided Walking in the Dolomites trip >>
Alps Beyond Tour du Mont Blanc
The Alpine Pass Route
The complete Alpine Pass Route extends from the Liechtenstein border to Lake Geneva in Switzerland; however, our two-week itinerary focuses on the central – and most spectacular – section. This is a programme for experienced walkers with much daily uphill and downhill hiking. Most of the passes are only open to walkers and are above 2,000m, the highest point of the trip is at Hohturli with 2,778m. One of our guides will lead you along an almost unbroken succession of magnificent rock and ice peaks, including the classic triptych of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Plus, you will have three free days for optional walks or taking in other attractions of this splendid part of Switzerland.
Guided departures in late July & early September (now fully booked)
Self guided departures daily between 9 July - 15 September
Show me everything about the Guided Alpine Pass Route >>
For more information and bookings please contact our team of travel experts in the London office by phone or email and it will be a pleasure to assist you more.
Eileen Allen (in the middle at the above picture) from the USA realised that she had a need to prove to herself that she could still handle a significant challenge during the year she turned 60. So after many years of hiking in the USA in places like California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Grand Canyon National Park, she embarked on a guided hiking trip in the legendary Swiss Alps.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
“The Alpine Pass Route’s varied terrain, wonderful scenery, and welcome food for hikers, met all of my expectations, and then some more. I found the Swiss culture, including eating in cafes and huts, riding the various forms of public transportation, and routine activities such as shopping in the local grocery stores, very interesting as well."
How did you prepare?
“I like to hike on weekends in California’s Coast Range mountains and the Sierras. In 2014 I worked in Sacramento which is very flat and close to sea level elevation. I usually walked each weekday morning for about 1,5km from the Sacramento train station to my job near the State Capitol, and then retraced that walk in the afternoon. After I committed to the Alpine Pass Route trip, I added a lunch-time stair climbing routine on one or two days each week at a 16-storey building across the street from my job. The stairs were tedious, but listening to music helped, and the conditioning was invaluable in preparation for the elevation gain and loss in the Swiss Alps.”
Which was your favourite destination?
“The Hohturli Pass. The views from the pass on a clear morning were absolutely extraordinary, with the green Kiental/Golderli region from which we ascended on one side, and the intensely blue, large Oeschinsee Lake far below us on the other side. The second half of the Hohturli ascent was quite steep and somewhat arduous, so a bench near the top of the pass provided a very welcome spot for a brief rest.”
“The first surprise was that our hiking group consisted of seven strong, adventurous women from throughout the world. To my delight we had great camaraderie.”
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
“The Bernese Oberland has very changeable summer weather, so we put on and took off raingear and clothing layers frequently. This was a minor inconvenience, which was easily offset by the scenery.”
What was the biggest surprise?
“The first surprise was that our hiking group consisted of seven strong, adventurous women from throughout the world. Our guide, John Millen, handled this group very well! To my delight we had great camaraderie. It was also a pleasant surprise to have humorous encounters over several days with a group of Dutch hikers whom we first met at the Rostockhutte on the way to the Sefinenfurke Pass.”
Best food and drink?
“My favourite meal was a lunch at the Bluemlis Alphutte just above the Hohturli Pass. I was somewhat depleted after the ascent to the pass, so the hut’s hot, tasty soup to which I added sausage slices, was wonderfully rejuvenating. I also loved the fruit kuchen, which we had during breaks from hiking at Rosenlaui and at the Rostockhutte. The restaurant at the Silberhorn Hotel in Lauterbrunnen stood out for great breakfast buffets, dinner salad bar, and delicious dinner specials. ”
Do you have any recommendations for other travellers considering this trip?
“Our guide, John Millen, and the Sherpa office staff were excellent. For fitness preparation, lots of walking combined with frequent stair climbing will get you ready for the ups and downs of the Alpine passes even if you can’t hike in the mountains often. Bring good rain-gear and make sure to test that while carrying a daypack.”
Find a detailed itinerary, departure dates and more information on the Alpine Pass Route walking holiday in Switzerland here. Also have a look at this full list of other Sherpa Expeditions walking tours in Switzerland.
We talk to our resident guide Jon Millen on why he’s looking forward to a busy season of walking in Switzerland.
What I like about walking in Switzerland is that the environment remains so pristine at so many levels. The agriculture in the mountains, surrounding villages and towns is essentially conservative and labour intensive with people still hand raking and hand scything grass, often necessitated by small fields and steep slopes. This maintains the parcel patchwork of fields and forest areas, which form an apron to direct the eye to the chains of snowy peaks high above. Without human intervention scrub forest would surely take root in no time at all. Switzerland is almost all set up so that the walker can appreciate the landscape to its best effect. Trails are well maintained and clearly marked (perhaps the best waymarked in the world) often with signs naming destinations, alternatives and giving approximate times. With a number of different regions offer a vast breadth of trails, catering to all levels of experience.
Highlights of the great Swiss walks would have to include the views from the great passes which often bend perspective, like from the rocky portal of the Bundechrinde Pass, looking back to the great expanse of the Oeschinensee compressed into a hanging valley. The ice dripping peaks of Blumlisalp above them and yet somehow poking out beyond them, the great triptych of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Then there are those late afternoons, drinking a well-earned ‘Weissenbiere’ out on the hotel terrace above the Gental Valley. The clouds roll away to reveal the bulk of the Wetterhorn gold then pink in Alpenglow, mist dissolving around its frozen flanks, and yet even beyond that the Gspaltenhorn sits in a glowing haze.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY
As you would expect, Switzerland is served by a number of airlines (low cost and otherwise), trains and buses from a multitude of European and international destinations. Depending on the region you are going to, we recommend heading to Geneva, Basil or Zurich, where you will find onward local connections.
GETTING AROUND IN SWITZERLAND
Switzerland has one of the most comprehensive (albeit expensive) and scenic public transport systems in the world, making it an ideal place for a walking holiday. While transport is fairly pricey and there are a number of discount cards for getting half price deals on Swiss rail, post buses and cable cars. However even these passes (the most useful being the Swiss Card) are quite an investment and you should take care to make sure whether you will not be out of pocket using them. This is particularly the case if you are a purist walker and don’t intend to use much public transport.
If buying a Swiss Card we would recommend buying them at the Swiss Travel Centres at the railway stations of the airports such as Zurich and Geneva when you arrive, so that you can discuss your needs in detail. The range of options is extensive and you want to make sure you get the right one to suit your specific travel plans.
WEATHER AND SEASONS IN SWITZERLAND
June is just about the best time of year for flowers, but a lot of the higher routes are often still closed by snow, however good stands of natural flowers can be found up to late July. By late July/August most of the flowers have gone to seed, died back or been scythed down for hay at least twice! There are some exceptions of course at different altitudes and with different species.
The early rule: Although walking departure times are more or less set by when your hotel starts breakfast, in normal stable weather conditions the earlier you start, the better will be your day, as convectional clouds and perhaps instability bubbles up usually from midday.
On a clear day attractions like the Jungfraujoch railway are said to be a must, and of course attract a premium price and a premium crowd. Always go early, the Swiss Card will always give you half price travel. However don’t go just because you feel you ought to if the weather is bad and you have little time. Fortunately these days, weather forecasting is particularly sophisticated and usually a hotelier will be able to tell you what the weather will be like.
There is a TV station on in most hotels (especially in the Bernese Oberland region) that will show you what it is like up all the popular lifts in real time. If there is nothing to see, it is not worth going unless you know from a forecast that it is just passing through.
On that note remember that Swiss weather has a variety of influences and may do anything over a couple of days, storms for example can be very localised between valleys etc.
FOOD AND DRINK IN SWITZERLAND
Food is very expensive in Switzerland, but apart from at a few basic hotels and mountain huts; most of the hotels do terrific buffet breakfasts with fantastic ‘Bircher Mueslis’ where the oats, nuts and fruits are soaked overnight in yoghurt. There are nearly always a selection of cheeses, pastries, breads and cured meats. So go early to breakfast, eat your fill, have a little rest and then start walking. You probably won’t want much or anything for lunch and this can save a load of money.
Conversely avoid trying to take breakfast materials for a packed lunch, it is the hallmark of bad manners as one person (not me I may add) was reprimanded by the landlady as she had costed the bread rolls between the guests to the nearest Franc! Remember that the ubiquitous nature of the breakfast may not be quite so ubiquitous when others reach the table.
Also, unlike in Britain and some other places, most Swiss hotels do not have kettles in the bedrooms. If you like your post walk cuppa and do not want to pay four francs for a cup, just bring a small container with your favourite teas and purchase a travel kettle or an element kettle with obviously an un-meltable cup e.g. the ‘Design Go Travel Cup Boiler 240 Volts’.
POPULAR WALKING ROUTES IN SWITZERLAND
Alpine Pass Route
The complete Alpine Pass Route extends east-west from the Liechtenstein border to Lake Geneva and is part of the classic trail the Via Alpina, which starts in Monaco and finishes in Trieste, describing a great arc through the Alps. The Alpine Pass Route takes you over some of the most beautiful passes in Switzerland with some seriously outstanding views. It is a challenging route with some long segments quite often on steep rocky paths and one day with 1400 metres of ascent and a similar descent. Great rewards though for the walker as you pass the great mountains of the Bernese Oberland including the Titlus, Wetterhorn, Shreckhorn, Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau, Blumisalpenhorn and Wildstrubel. For our Alpine Pass Route walking holidays we have selected the most spectacular central section between Engelberg above Lake Luzern and Lauenen above Gstaad. The Start at Engelburg is reached by train from Zurich/Basil/Geneva Via Lucerne. You can depart at the end from the train station in Saanen, near Gstaad.
Walker's Haute Route
The Haute Route (High Route) from Chamonix to Zermatt is steeped in mountaineering legend, a route first taken by British climbers at the end of the 19th century and is one of the best known winter ski tours in the world. Sherpa Expeditions offers a section of the walkers' version of the Haute Route located in the scenic Swiss canton of Valais and visits some of the most beautiful valleys, villages and mountains in Switzerland between Arolla and Zermatt.
This is a nine-day segment of the classic Haute route from Chamonix to Zermatt and is designed to avoid glacier sections and also extended backpacking, to make it easier for self-guided people. Another challenging walk with a pass even higher than anything on our Alpine Pass Route, the Col de Torrent 2918m, but not harder! Lots of rocky trails throughout beautiful meadows and apart from Zermatt, quiet villages. The start is in the small alpine village of Arolla accessed from Geneva by train and bus .The tour ends in Zermatt, travel to Geneva or Zurich by train.
The Wildstrubel Circuit is an eight-day loop around the Wildstrubel massif, where the trails apart from around the resort town of Kandersteg, are generally a lot quieter than most our alpine walks. This hike embraces the cantons of Bernese Oberland and Valais, dropping between German and French speaking villages. There is great scenic variety from high ice capped mountains to vast views across Valais Crans Montana. This is a moderate to challenging route, with some long days and once again big passes, sometimes following a high level irrigation canal path called ‘Bisse du Rou’. The climax of the week is the Rawyl Pass (2429m) under the Mittaghorn (2685m), which is the highpoint of the trek. Transport to and from Kandersteg via hourly train service to Zurich/Geneva changing en route in Bern.
The German speaking Bernese Oberland is magical region of classic Alpine landscapes, 3000-4000m high peaks, thundering rivers and waterfalls, hanging valleys and the longest glacier in Europe. It's location in the heart of Switzerland makes an ideal location for centre-based walking and Sherpa Expeditions offer a number of self-guided walking holidays here to help you get the most out of your time in the region. There are walks to suit all people as there is so much public transport that they can often be shortened using post buses or trains. Harder walks also exist, such as the ‘Eiger Trail’ or the ‘Schynige Platte’. It is an area of famous peaks with famous climbing histories, such as the Wetterhorn, Jungfrau and of course the notorious Eiger whose North wall - the ‘Nordwand’ - still exerts a huge pull and challenge to the best climbers in the World. Make sure you allow time to take the Jungfraujoch train up high onto the Monch and Jungfrau and walk under the ‘Nordwand’ of the Eiger as well as have a beer and pizza in Grindelwald watching the Alpenglow on the Shreckhorn. Meiringen is the hub of the Bernese Oberland and is easily accessed from Zurich or Basel, although Geneva is also a possibility.
This sits at the head of the Mattertal Valley in the canton of Valais. The Matta Vispa river running from the town is one of the tributaries of the River Rhone. It is right on the Swiss / Italian border, but separated by a huge wall of glaciers and mountains including the Briethorn, Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. Conditions tend to be a bit drier than the Bernese Oberland and the flora is slightly different. The town is hugely developed for tourism and just keeps growing. A whole range of trails radiate out from the high street and suburbs leading high into the mountains where you will find Mountain Ibex and the occasional Chamois. Arriving and departing from Zermatt is done by a picturesque train ride via Geneva/Zurich/Basel etc. via Visp or Brig. Our Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls guided/self-guided walking holidays combine the Bernese Oberland with walks in Zermatt.
OUR WALKING HOLIDAYS IN SWITZERLAND
Sherpa Expeditions offers a range of guided and self guided walking holidays in Switzerland to suit all experience levels and interests. For more information on these trips visit our Switzerland Walking Holidays page.
Sherpa Expeditions traveller Sara Cockrell shares here experience in Switzerland on our Alpine Pass Route Guided Walk.
Why did you choose your trip?
I had trekked the Swiss Walker’s Haute Route (self-guided) from Chamonix to Zermatt in August, 2010, and enjoyed the stunning scenery, mountain cabanes, alpine villages & ease of Swiss transport so much that I wanted to return on a less-crowded route.
How did you prepare?
Since I am retired, I road bike, canoe, hike or xc ski for 3 hours, 5-6 days each week, when I am home in Michigan, so I have a good fitness base. Before I go on a trek, I like to hike L-O-N-G in the Rocky Mountains, with a lot of elevation, so I hiked 56.4 miles with 11,400 ft gain and loss in 4 days at the end of June in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming USA. But, my “real” training was trekking 3 weeks in the French Pyrenees, followed by a 2-week trek on the GR20 in Corsica, before I arrived in Switzerland.
What was the best part of your trip?
The camaraderie of the group, our outstanding guide, Jon Millen, and of course, the scenery, an unbeatable combination!
...and the most challenging part?
The most physical challenge is hiking from one valley over a pass to the next valley everyday, so there is a lot of elevation change, climbing all morning, then descending all afternoon. The most mental challenge was the steps down from Sefinenfurke, and the steps up to Hohturli for Casey and me since we both had a little fear of falling.
Your favourite destination?
Taking the Jungfraubahn to the “Top of Europe” was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, such an amazing engineering feat! But, my passion is snow-covered mountain vistas, so my 2 favorites were The Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau on the way down from Kleine Scheidegg to Lauterbrunnen, and from above Murren, and the views of Blumlisalp Massif and Oeschinensee on the way down from Hohturli to Kandersteg, and again, as we ascended to Bundechrinde Pass the next day. Perfect picture postcards, oh-la-la!
Best food and drink?
The rest of the group were doing a “Pub Crawl”, so I cannot attest to the best drinks on the trip. But, the hotels where we stayed served delicious gourmet dinners & hearty breakfasts each day, especially exceptional in Engelberg, Lauterbrunnen, Golderli, Kandersteg, and Adelboden.
Have you ever been on a Sherpa Expeditions walking or cycling holiday? If yes, send us your story and get £50 off your next trip...
Check out more Travellers' Tales >>