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Campbell and his partner made their way to Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland in the peak of summer 2019. Advertised as “A fantastic introduction to the delights of Swiss mountain walking through two famous regions”, read here how he experienced his walking holiday in Switzerland.
My walking history is relatively pedestrian (pun intended), my partner and I have had many walking adventures including Madeira’s Pico Ruivo
, Snowdonia, Amalfi’s Path of the Gods
and the Peak and Lake
districts in the UK. The last of these being a personal favourite.
Why did you choose to walk in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland?
Like all walks, we liked the appeal of nature above all else. The idea of walking through Swiss meadows with nothing but the blue sky, alpine peaks and cow’s bells to keep you company was appealing on every level.
How did you prepare for your walking holiday in Switzerland?
To be honest, poorly. We were walking the Capital Ring Walk in London leading into our walking holiday, but it by no means prepared us for the grinding uphill in the hot weather that we endured on the first day.
What was your favourite destination?
This would have to be Lauterbrunnen. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first being the accommodation had a bath looking out over the waterfall that I could sit in at the end of the day and enjoy a nice glass of port. Also great was the fact that it was nestled away in a valley downhill from Wengen. It has a nice village feel as you walk into it with the paragliders making their way up and down the valley.
Best food & drink?
This would have to be at Onkel Tom’s in Grindelwald
, due to the atmosphere and hygge
factor. It was cold and unrelenting outside, yet here we were with a lovely pizza, wine and roaring fire. It was perfect after a hard days walking.
A close second would be the hut on the route out of Zermatt which serves a brilliant homemade apple cake with fruit tea. It makes for a perfect pit stop after arguably the hardest ascent of the trip. It was the only time we were swayed by a treat and I’m so glad we stopped.
Biggest surprise of walking in the Bernese Oberland?
The Marmots. They were just everywhere. I jest, I didn’t see any Marmots.
The main surprises for me were actually twofold. The first being the just the scale and breath-taking beauty of the Alps and the valleys, it was quite humbling to be walking through and over such incredible landscapes.
The second would be the wildlife. Living in London, aside from the odd squirrel, there isn’t much else. It is mainly livestock over this walk in Switzerland, but they are all equipped with bells, which lets everyone know where they are at all times. It was almost unusual to walk through a field or slope without the cacophony of dings to keep you company.
On the higher plains outside of Zermatt keep an eye out for goats and black-faced sheep. The sheep are especially friendly and are typically found snoozing near any rocks that might heat up in the midday sun. In the summer and spring months, there will be a host of butterflies that will constantly distract you from the potentially gruelling uphill legs.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
While the first day was physically challenging, I don’t think this was the most challenging aspect of our walking trip. I think that the most challenging aspect was dealing with the weather involved. As is the case with all mountain weather it is largely interchangeable and I was perhaps not as adequately prepared as I should have been.
Also, we were very keen to do the Jungfrau railway, so choosing when to do this was a key decision, especially due to the cost. Luckily, they have a detailed weather service in the station that will give an update as to what the weather is expected to be at the summit. We ended up with a fantastic blue-sky day in the end and would definitely recommend walking out to the hut past the glaciers for soup or mulled wine.
Did Campbell inspire you to go walking in the Swiss Alps? With Sherpa Expeditions you have a selection of options to choose from in the Bernese Oberland, but also other highlights of Switzerland such as the Tour du Mont Blanc, Wildstrubel Circuit and Haute Route.
We were lucky enough to receive some great stories from our travellers during 2018. Finding out exactly what happens when our customers head out on their travels really helps us to ensure that we’re offering the best holidays and service that we can. It also paints a great picture of what you can expect from a particular trip.
Here are a few highlights from the tales we received over the past year.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
Randy and Diane – Bernese Oberland Guided Walk
We went guided to get together with a long-time Sherpa guide named John Millen, whom I had trekked with before (Haute Route in 2012) – John did his usual outstanding job and was extremely knowledgeable about all things Swiss, in addition to setting a wonderfully positive tone to the group.
Marie-Claire – Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
Never having been to the Dordogne I jumped at the chance to discover the area. It was also great to be able to spend some time with my daughter. Once your children have left home it’s not that often you get to spend a whole week with them!
Jan – UK Coast to Coast
This walk was for my dad. He was a “10 Pound Pom” who emigrated to Australia in the 50s. He gave me my love of hiking. I believe you have to “walk a country to know a country” and I wanted to feel my family roots and feel connected to my heritage.
Charles – Alsace Vineyard Trails
I had an uncle who was a travel writer and he wrote a book called Walking in Wine Country - the Alsace was one of the regions he had covered, so I wanted to walk in his footsteps and light a few candles in his memory.
How did you prepare for your trip?
Randy and Diane: Diane and I started doing some uphill hiking over the 2-3 months prior to the trip, and increased our vertical gain (over 1-2 hours) to around 1,000 to 2,000 ft. This preparation was more than enough for the Bernese Oberland.
Marie-Claire: My usual routine is a walk around the Monikie Park (in Dundee) 3 times a week (3 miles) and an 8-10 mile walk at the weekend. I think more challenging walks before going would have been a good idea!
Jan: The most we have close by is a scarp, the Perth Hills, so I spent every weekend for 4-5 hours at a time hiking fast up and down stony, gravelly tracks just to make sure my leg muscles, reflexes and concentration were honed.
Charles: Ahead of the trip, I wanted to improve my French so I used an app called Duolingo to practice for 20 minutes each day for several months.
What was your favourite destination on the trip?
Randy and Diane: We spent 2 nights each in Zermatt and Grindelwald and loved both towns. I had not been to Lauterbrunnen before and was enchanted by this mountain town and the views surrounding the town.
Marie-Claire: Collonges la Rouge, which is aptly named as the whole town is built of red sandstones. It reminded me of Arbroath where I used to work, as a lot of the older houses are built with the same stone. We were in Collonges on a sunny Sunday in the late afternoon and the light on the buildings was amazing.
Jan: This was definitely St Sunday Crag! Everything about that day was perfect – the scenery, the weather, the vibe. It was a challenging, strenuous, heat-pounding walk but there was just something about standing on those rocks at the top that made me feel WOW!
Charles: What I loved best were the hours we spent walking through the woods on the lower slopes of the Vosges. They were of such varied character and with different plants favouring different species of trees.
What was the best food and drink on the trip?
Randy and Diane: The included breakfasts at each hotel on the trek were excellent – such a wide variety of items offered and the coffee was to die for!
Marie-Claire: The first evening meal in Sarrazac was excellent: salade de magrets de canard, duck confit and an amazing cheeseboard! There were 9 choices on the dessert menu, all home-made and Nathalie had ‘flognarde de poires’, a speciality from the area similar to a clafoutis.
Jan: A memorable one was bacon chop with black pudding and stilton cream sauce at the pub at Ennerdale Bridge. Absolutely delicious – and something I would NEVER have tried at home.
Charles: We soon found that the Alsace Riesling was nothing like the semi-sweet wines that we had had in our youth – these were on the medium side of dry but had such wonderful flavour. I still think that there are fewer things nicer for breakfast than fresh French pastries.
Did you have any nice surprises?
Randy and Diane: Diane had never been on the Jungfraujoch before – the day we chose was perfect, with not a cloud in the sky. It was such an incredible experience to stand out on the col between the Monch and the Jungfrau and be at 3,466m in the Swiss Alps.
Marie-Claire: On the way to Loubressac, we walked through a vineyard: Côteaux de Glanes. Eight wine growers work together and produce a ‘vin de pays’ which is absolutely delicious. It regularly wins medals and appears to be snapped up by restaurant owners in the region.
Jan: The thing that surprised me the most was that I managed to fully recover every morning and be ready to go again! I know that should be a given expectation when you sign up for a long hike. Seriously – by the end of every day the balls of my feet were so sore I thought I would never walk again, but every morning they were perfectly fine and raring to go again.
Charles: The Haut Koenigsbourg Castle is a must to see and very popular. It was definitely worth the queue for tickets.
What aspect of the trip did you find the most challenging?
Randy and Diane: The hike on the first day (from Meiringen to Grindelwald) was long and the final push (to Grosse Scheidegg) was a challenge for the whole group.
Marie-Claire: The heat made the trip challenging. Although we were in the area at the end of September, we had daily temperatures of 26-27 degrees. A week after coming back I was walking near Dunkeld and it was 2 degrees!
Jan: I think the 2 very long days towards the end of the walk were pretty challenging, mentally and physically. Every single day had its little challenges, but that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want an easy wander. I wanted to have to work at it.
Charles: Choosing wines was a challenge!
If you have a tale from your travels with Sherpa Expeditions that you’d like to share with us, email us. You’ll get a £50 discount on your next trip with us!
Randy and Diane from Canada joined Sherpa Expeditions for a guided walk in Switzerland's spectacular Bernese Oberland in August 2018. They loved it so much they've already booked their next trip with us - a self guided walk in the Italian Dolomites for 2019. We asked them to answer a few questions about their trip...
1. What is your travelling/walking/cycling history?
Personally, I enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities, although “foot power” is much more to my liking than “wheel power”. I am an avid walker/hiker in all four seasons at home (the Vancouver Canada area); I also enjoy snowshoeing and cramponing in the winter season. I enjoy multi-day trekking world-wide – I have trekked in Nepal; South America and Europe. I am also a mountain climber (within my skill set) and have climbed Kilimanjaro, Island Peak, Mt. Aconcaqua, Mt. Baker, among others. My wife, Diane, enjoys walking and trekking as well (but without the climbing) and we try to plan at least one joint trek a year. I have trekked with Sherpa twice (summer Haute Route and Bernese Oberland), with Diane along on the latter trip. We are already booked for a self guided Sherpa trip to the Dolomites for August 2019.
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
The Bernese Oberland trip (guided) we did in August 2018 was chosen for several reasons. We had two couples we wanted to trek with and chose a trek I knew something about (I had been to the Swiss Alps twice before and simply love Switzerland) and they would enjoy. We went guided to get together with a long-time Sherpa guide named John Millen, whom I had trekked with before (Haute Route in 2012) – John did his usual outstanding job and was extremely knowledgeable about all things Swiss in addition to setting a wonderfully positive tone to the group.
3. How did you prepare?
We (Diane and I) walk a lot back home, so we simply started walking further over the 2-3 months before the trek. As mentioned before, I am an avid hiker, so Diane and I started doing some “uphill” hiking over the same time frame and increased our vertical gain (over 1-2 hours) to around 1000 – 2000 ft. This preparation was more than enough for the Bernese Oberland. John Millen set a very nice pace for each day’s walk and no members of the group felt that they were out of their depth in terms of fitness level.
4. Your favourite destination?
This is a hard one – the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland is incredibly beautiful. We spent 2 nights each in Zermatt and Grindelwald and loved both towns. I had not been to Lauterbrunnen before and was enchanted by this mountain town and the views surrounding the town. The other members of our group (none of which had been to Switzerland before) were equally impressed with each of the towns we stayed in.
5. Best food and drink?
Again, it is hard to single out one restaurant or hotel for food/drink – I do not recall having a bad meal on the trip. The restaurant at the Hotel Silberhorn in Lauterbrunnen was particularly good. In Zermatt, we ate dinner one night at the basement bistro in the Hotel Monte Rosa – the traditional Swiss dish raclette was a treat mentioned by several people in our group. The included breakfasts at each hotel on the trek were excellent – such a wide variety of items offered and the coffee was to die for! Swiss wine is always a treat – as you may know, very little of the total production of Swiss wine makes it out of the country – both the whites and the reds are well crafted and complement Swiss food so well.
6. Biggest surprise?
While I had been once before, Diane had never been on the Jungfraujoch before – the day we chose was perfect, with not a cloud in the sky. It was such an incredible experience to stand out on the col between the Monc and the Jungfrau and be at 3466 m. in the Swiss Alps – the numerous pictures we took pale in comparison to the visual memories Diane and I have in our minds of this experience.
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The hike on the first day (from Meiringen to Grindelwald) was long and the final push (to Grosse Scheidegg) was a challenge for the whole group. However, the incredible view from the pass, including a spectacular view of the north face of the Eiger and the White Spider, was well worth it. It is always difficult coming back to real world after a multi-day trek in the Alps.
Our Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls walk is available as a self guided trip for 2019. Departures start from 23 June. You can read about all of our trips to this region here.
TELL US YOUR STORY
If you've been inspired by Randy and Diane's story, we'd love you to share yours. Please email your Travellers' Tale to [email protected] along with photos from your trip. If you have any questions, just email them to the same address and we'll get back to you.
Or perhaps you'd like to write a review of your trip on Google or Facebook? Either way, we'd be very grateful for your feedback.
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
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.
Popular Guided Walking Holidays in Europe for 2017
The 2016 walking season may be close to an end, but we’ve already sold out on some of our guided walking holidays in 2017!
Dates for our guided walking holidays in the summer of 2017 are now live and bookable on our website. With new trips and extra departure dates, there is a fantastic pool of 5 different trips for you to choose from for next year! Make sure to be among the firsts to plan your walking holiday for next summer and book your place in order to join the dates you prefer.
overview of guided walking holidays for 2017:
Guided Walking in the Dolomites
Where? Italy, the Dolomites rugged mountains
What? Hiking beneath dramatic limestone peaks of the Dolomites, alpine pasteures & mountain passes, and the peaks of Tre Cime, Tofana and Sella mountains.
When? September 2017
Take me there >>
The Alpine Pass Route Guided Walking Holiday
What? Swiss alpine walking at its best, new views every day, a variety of passes to cross – from easy to challenging, comfortable accommodation.
When? July/August 2017
Take me there >>
The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls Guided Walk
Where? Switzerland, Bernese Oberland
What? A fantastic introduction to the delights of walking in the Swiss alps, trek around the famous peaks of Wetterhorn, Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau & Matterhorn, undertake a variety of walks and make use of the ubiquitous local transport.
When? August 2017
The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls
Wainwright's Coast to Coast Guided Walk
Where? England, the Lake District
What? The dramatic landscapes of the Lake District with majestic lakes & rugged mountains, classic English rural countryside of the Yorkshire Dales, walk from the Irish Sea to the North Sea coast in 15 days.
When? June, July, August & September 2017 Note: the July trip has already sold out
Coast to Coast Classic Guided Walk - 15 Days
Coast to Coast Guided Rambler
Where? England, Lake District
What? Walk across England on Wainwright’s Walk on one of the world’s great walks and experience the English Lake District, Pennines & North York Moors in 18 days.
When? May, July/August 2017 Note: both trips are selling out fast!
Coast to Coast Guided Rambler - 18 Days
2017 dates and prices are now available on Sherpa Expeditions website! Browse around for the trips that you like and book early to avoid disappointment. Contact our team of travel experts today for any questions or trip details.
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.