Hiking Switzerland’s Via Alpina
Hiking Switzerland’s Via Alpina
Despite its small size, Switzerland delivers an astounding number of jaw-dropping natural wonders. From the jagged tooth-like Matterhorn to the picturesque Lake Lucerne, nowhere else can you find such varied and breathtaking beauty in such a small, and yet easily accessible country. As modern life gets busier and more connected to myriad screens, the new luxury is adventures that allow you to disconnect in awe-inspiring natural beauty. Of course after a day of adventure, today’s luxury traveller wants to rest and restore in accommodation that represents excellence, which the Swiss deliver in spades.
Knowing which adventure to choose is no easy task, but hiking is certainly one of the best ways to experience Switzerland’s natural beauty up close. The Via Alpina network of trails, established in 2002 under an intergovernmental treaty, is one of the longest and most spectacular hiking trails in all of Europe and not only showcases some of the most lovely parts of the country, but also connects to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Slovenia. Spanning approximately 5,000km, the Via Alpina covers the whole of the Alps mountain range and more. The trails are accessible to all walkers (except in snowy conditions) and follow ancient paths through breathtaking scenery and fascinating villages. There are more than 300 accommodation options on the trails, and you can’t go more than a day without finding at least one of them.
A good place to experience some of the highlights of the Via Alpina is on the unique self-guided “Bear Trek”. Leading along the three most famous Swiss mountains Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, the trek passes through valleys and canyons, past falls, glacier gorges and wildflower valleys to the ski-resort Adelboden-Lenk. Thankfully, there are no longer bears on this trail, just the magnificent beauty of the Alps and its thriving network of villages.
While this isn’t an easy walk, the hike to reach peaks and summits to witness the spectacular panoramas is certainly worth the effort. The trail can be comfortably done in eight days (walking 13 to 22 km each day), and it’s perfect for hikers wishing to experience exquisite nature first-hand while pushing their physical limits. Starting in Meiringen (where the first meringue was allegedly made in the 1600s), the trail continues to Grindelwald, Launterbrunnen and then Griesalp/Kiental on day 4, where a cable car brings you up to Mürren. The mountain village of Mürren was made famous in 1969 as it was the principal filming location for the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Day 5 involves the ascent to the Blüemlisalp, the most spectacular leg on the hiking tour. From here the trails lead on glacier moraines down to Lake Öschinen, and Kandersteg is within short walking distance (or an easy cable car ride into the valley). The last two days include hikes through Adelboden, finishing in the village of Lenk. The Bear Trek not only delivers amazing scenery and a great workout, there are also many cultural, culinary and wellness gems along the way ensuring your trip to Switzerland is one you will forever cherish. myswitzerland.com/hiking
Where to stay
Tranquility and relaxation abound at Hotel Kirchbühl. Family-run for four generations, the 4-star hotel sits on a quiet slope above the church of Grindelwald, offering beautiful views of surrounding mountains and glaciers. kirchbuehl.ch
The four-star Hotel Silberhorn, in the centre of the car-free town of Wengen, has panoramic vistas of the mountains out to Staubbach Falls. After a day of hiking, the hotel offers a spa and wellness area, so you can enjoy some pampering and a refresh. silberhorn.ch
Built in 1910 in Swiss chalet style, the hotel is surrounded by lush meadows and rugged peaks. In 1981, the hotel was a location for the film adaptation of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain and in 2016, was named Swiss “Historic Hotel of the Year”. hotelwaldrand.ch
The Hotel Victoria Lauberhorn
Centrally located next to Wengen’s train and cable car station. this 1897-built hotel features a swimming pool, sauna, steam bath, gym and salt-water bath (33°) with massage showers providing welcome pampering after a day of hiking. hotel-victoria-lauberhorn.ch
The Bellevue Parkhotel & Spa
For more than 115 years The Bellevue Parkhotel & Spa in Adelboden has been receiving guests from around the world to this idyllic location, with its charming mid-century design and creative cuisine. bellevue-parkhotel.ch
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Never been to Switzerland before? You may want to give our first-timers guide a read.