Alpine Europe: Romantic Road
Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein
September 9-19, 2020 • 11 Days • Approx $4600**
Featuring scenic walks and gorgeous Alpine vistas in Central Europe and along the Romantic Road in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
**Traveler Rewards Program: New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Alpine Europe 2020 tour! Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions and conditions apply. Check out our Traveler Rewards page for more details.
Reserve your spot on this tour with a $500 Registration Deposit! Check below for more details.
Our tour starts in Frankfurt, Germany, and follows parts of the Romantic Road through some of Germany’s most picturesque and historic medieval towns, including charming Rothenburg. From Rothenberg, we journey south with stops at the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles and a walk in spellbinding Pöllat Gorge. We then spend 2 nights in a quiet Alpine valley in Austria, journeying from there to the tiny principality of Liechtenstein, a country which measures just 15 miles from north to south, yet offers one of the highest standards of living in the world. After a couple of stops in lovely Switzerland, we drive across the Alps to Italy’s Lake Como, enjoying an idyllic two nights in the charming Lake Como village of Cernobbio. We fly home from Milan.
This is a draft itinerary. Minor revisions will be made, and an updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be available soon!
- All land travel by motorcoach as outlined
- One group transfer to the airport on last day
- Superior tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
- 18 meals: all breakfasts, 1 lunch, & 7 dinners as denoted (BLD)
- 10 walk routes
- Fees for walking credit (if IVV approved; for those collecting IVV credit)
- Cultural and historical expertise of local guides and national guide, Hildrun Mathies, throughout the program
- WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
- All tipping for national and local guides, coach drivers and group meals
- Pricing is based on double occupancy; a limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement. We also provide a roommate matching service.
- Würzburg Residence
- St James Church – Rothenburg
- Neuschwanstein Castle or Hohenschwangau Castle visit
- Pöllat Gorge
- Private folklore performance
- Achensee Steam Cog Railway
- Alpbach cablecar
- St. Gallen Stiftsbibliothek (library)
- Ferries on Lake Como
- More fun and educational stops than we can list!
- Heidelberg walk and castle visit (DAY 1)
Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5
Sierra Suits has a head for details and the heart of an explorer! As a tour planner in the office, she spends much of her time pulling together the ins and outs of WAI Adventures, but also enjoys getting out on the trail with our travelers several times a year. Sierra will be accompanied by WAI Guide Ruth and assisted by our local guide Hildrun on this tour.
Hildrun Mathies is one of our favorite overseas guides! She has a wealth of knowledge and experience, with a Master’s Degree in Art History and Religious Science; fluency in English, French, Spanish, and her native German; and over 20 years of experience guiding groups through central Europe. Hildrun will be joined by a Walking Adventures guide team on this tour.
This is a draft itinerary. Minor revisions will be made, and an updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be available soon!
Click on each day for more details – BLD refers to meals included, Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner.
DAY 1-Sep 9: Arrive Frankfurt – transfer to Heidelberg, Germany (D)
Heidelberg Philosopher’s Way Walk – 3 km, rated 2B (optional)
The classic city of Heidelberg, with its famed castle perched on a cliff overlooking the town and the Neckar River, is a symbol of German Romanticism and a wonderful place to gather for our journey through Alpine Europe.
Heidelberg walk and castle visit optional excursion: Those who arrive a day early are invited to join us for a half day excursion through Heidelberg that includes the Philosopher’s Way Walk, where professors from Germany’s oldest university strolled for reflection and contemplative discussion. The walk drops us into the historic core of this medieval gem for an extended lunch break, followed by a visit to famed Heidelberg Castle. The town and the castle, still a shell of impressive proportions, both harken back to the 17th century, and the 30 Years War. Estimated price: $38
The first official group activity will be a Welcome Orientation in our hotel this evening followed by dinner together.
DAY 2-Sep 10: Heidelberg – Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany (BD)
Würzburg Walking Tour – 2 km, unrated
The featured stop today is the city of Würzburg, situated attractively in a bowl-like bend in the Main River. The town is surrounded by vineyards producing the light, dry, white Franconia wine, which is also the name of this northern region of the State of Bavaria. We start our visit with a walking tour of the core of this city which has played a conspicuous role in Germanic politics, culture, and religion. Germanic Franks controlled the area in the 7th century before accepting Christian beliefs offered by Irish missionaries. Catholic bishops of Würzburg doubled as civic rulers of Franconia until the region was absorbed into the Kingdom of Bavaria in the 19th century. After free time for lunch, we enter the spectacular, UNESCO-listed Residence, commissioned by the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg in 1720 (the title emblematic of the dual civic/church nature of leadership throughout Germanic Europe). The chapel, Imperial Hall, and grand staircase are particularly famous highlights of Baroque architecture. From Würzburg, we join the Romantic Road bound for Rothenburg ob der Tauber and a two-night stay.
DAY 3-Sep 11: Activities in Rothenburg (B)
Medieval Rothenburg Walk – 8/12 km, unrated
Rothenburg Walking Tour – 2 km, unrated
Many observers rightly consider Rothenburg ob der Tauber the foremost jewel in the medieval crown of Germany. Visitors see it as the iconic German fairytale town; one can picture Hansel and Gretel walking down the cobblestone lanes! Our walk offers a tantalizing introduction to this lovely medieval gem. Rothenburg was well-situated for trade, was granted Free Imperial City status in the Middle Ages, and became one of the most prosperous towns in the Holy Roman Empire. The 30 Years War and resulting famine and plagues took a devastating toll, however, and the town drifted into obscurity, falling into a slumber which preserved its monuments from the natural transformation that follows change and development. Rothenburg was discovered in the modern age of tourism, awakening from its slumber to welcome visitors with its picturesque old half-timbered houses, majestic stone churches, winding cobblestone passages, and fully intact fortifications. Our walk takes us through the captivating center to pastoral landscapes outside the town for a multi-faceted Rothenburg experience. Following free time for lunch, we invite you to join us for a deeper look at the delights of Rothenburg on an afternoon walking tour led by Hildrun.
DAY 4-Sep 12: Rothenburg – Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (BLD)
This day is currently under revision and details will be finalized soon.
Projected activities on Day 4 include:
- A drive along Germany’s scenic Romantic Road
- Entrance to Neuschwanstein Castle or Hohenschwangau Castle
- A walk over Mary’s Bridge through spellbinding Pöllat Gorge
- A stop in Oberammergau for a walking tour and some sightseeing through this historic spot
- A private folklore performance at our hotel
DAY 5-Sep 13: Garmisch-Partenkirchen – Alpbach, Austria (BD)
Achensee Lake Walk – 7/15 km, unrated
We continue our drive today south into the Alps of Austria. Our first destination is the lovely Alpine lake, Achensee. The lake is blessed with a striking emerald color and sits between two Alpine ranges, producing the rugged, walled-in appearance of a fjord. Several walk routes are offered by the local club and the determination of which to include will be made during an on-site scouting trip by your WAI guides later in 2019. Following the walk, we board Europe’s oldest steam-powered cog-wheel train, “St Joseph”. Since 1889, St Joseph has been hauling visitors back and forth from the shores of Lake Achensee down to the Inn Valley and back, a drop of nearly 1500 feet. The train transports us to the valley town of Jenbach where our coach then takes us to nearby Alpbach, our Austrian Alpine home for the next two nights.
DAY 6-Sep 14: Activities from Alpbach (B)
Panorama Way Wiedersbergerhorn Walk – 4 km, rated 2B
Isolated at the end of the valley, Alpbach had no road connecting it with the rest of the Tyrol until 1920, one of the primary reasons it has been able to preserve its authentic architecture. Often near the top of various lists of “Austria’s most beautiful villages”, Alpbach has also been voted the most beautiful flower town of Europe, and since 1945 has been the venue for the Alpbach European Forum, a conference of leading figures from the worlds of science, business, politics, and the arts. The town continues to abide by building regulations implemented in 1953, and the result is a wonderful collection of venerable wooden homes and chalets. From our hotel, itself an historical building, we approach the nearby cable car station for a ride up the mountain called Wiedersbergerhorn (don’t try to say it fast!). Our 4-kilometer trail takes place at around 6000 feet above sea level and circumnavigates the peak, offering stunning views of the surrounding alps. Lunch in the mountain lodge precedes our return to the plateau and Alpbach. Afternoon activities are under consideration but could include a walk through town led by Hildrun, who explains the traditions and architecture of Alpbach. You are on your own to explore town for dinner this evening.
DAY 7-Sep 15: Alpbach – Bregenz, Austria (BD)
Principality of Liechtenstein Walk – 5 km, unrated (unsanctioned)
Liechtenstein is a German-speaking microstate nestled between Austria and Switzerland on the Rhine River measuring only 15 miles from north to south. It is one of only two nations in the world that are doubly landlocked; two national borders must be crossed to reach a coastline. How Liechtenstein came to be a tiny (slightly smaller than Washington, DC), independent European state is a tale shrouded in the mists of the European feudal system and the oxymoronic Holy Roman Empire (federation of German states). Our walk route will feature lovely alpine panoramas of this strange little country that boasts one of the highest standards of living in the world yet has no airport, no university, no department stores, and feels no need to cater to the jet set or attract international institutions. From Liechtenstein, we continue north, back into Austria, for a two night stay in lovely Bregenz, on the shores of Lake Constance – third largest lake in Central Europe.
DAY 8-Sep 16: Activities from Bregenz (B)
St. Gallen, Switzerland Walk – 5/10 km, unrated
Bregenz Walking tour – 2 km, unrated
The bulk of today is spent in Switzerland. St. Gallen is capital of the canton of the same name and is located in the German-speaking region of Switzerland between Lake Constance and the Appenzell Alps. The town has a medieval past and is named after Gallus, a 7th century Irish missionary. A local club walk helps us explore St. Gallen, which boasts 28 sites listed on the register of Swiss Heritage Sites. The town is also known as the originator of embroidery machines at the beginning of the 19th century; by 1910, embroidered goods comprised the largest segment of Swiss exports. The main attraction for us, however, is the Abbey of St. Gall, famous for its UNESCO-listed library, a repository of books dating as far back as the 9th century, housed in a stunning example of baroque architecture. After the walk, time for lunch, and a visit to the town and library with Hildrun, we return to Bregenz. Situated on a plateau overlooking Lake Constance, Bregenz is built on a series of terraces that descend to the shores of the lake. A walking tour of the historic core and along the pleasant lake side promenade of this special Austrian town is the perfect way to spend the late afternoon.
DAY 9-Sep 17: Bregenz – Cernobbio, Italy (BD)
Lugano Walking Tour – 2 km, unrated
Our longest driving day takes us south through Switzerland into the Italian-speaking section of this nation of four official languages. Our first stop is a break for lunch and a walking tour in Lugano, one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist destinations and home to the largest Italian-speaking community outside Italy. The city enjoys an unusually humid subtropical climate, hosting vegetation from the subtropics alongside deciduous forests, and is set on an attractive lake which straddles the border with Italy. Leaving Lugano, we cross into Italy, then board a ferry to Bellagio. Not to be confused with the Vegas hotel, which borrowed its name and motif, Bellagio sits on a picturesque promontory at the intersection of all three legs of Lake Como. It’s a delightful place to stroll, people watch, and soak in the ambiance of a classic Italy lake district village. Long a popular retreat for aristocrats and the wealthy, Lake Como is considered by some to be one of the world’s most beautiful lakes due to its favorable microclimate and a plethora of photogenic and prestigious villas and villages. Our home for the next two nights is a ferry ride away in another charming Lake Como village – Cernobbio!
DAY 10-Sep 18: Activities from Cernobbio (BD)
Lombardy, Italy Walk – Distance and rating TBD
The final day of the journey provides opportunity to explore the Lombardy countryside on our final walk of the tour. With their medieval towns, renaissance architecture, and bucolic agricultural scenes, Lombardy and the Italian lake district are the link between Italy and the Alps, the transition from the more traditional images of Italy to the south and the pristine panoramas of Alpine Europe. While we anticipate a memorable day exploring on foot, one of our objectives is to allow down time to enjoy the delightful Lake Como town of Cernobbio in which we are staying. As witnessed by the high number of exclusive villas and gardens throughout the area, Cernobbio has been the favorite vacation destination for the wealthy families from Milan and Hollywood stars since the beginning of the 20th century. After our visit, you’ll understand its appeal to the rich and famous. We rendezvous this evening for a farewell dinner of memories and reminiscing.
DAY 11-Sep 19: Depart Italy (B)
Milan’s Malpensa Airport is about a 45-minute drive from Cernobbio. Following breakfast, and according to traveler departure schedules, one bus transfer to the airport is provided. What a wealth of diverse landscapes and cultures lie within this area of Central Europe! Thank you for sharing the adventure!
How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?
To save yourself a spot on this Adventure, contact us to register with a $500 deposit as soon as possible! We’ll take approximately 25-30 travelers accompanied by 2 Walking Adventures guide and our national guide, offering a guide to traveler ratio of 1:10.
Traveler Rewards Program
New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Alpine Europe 2020 tour! Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions and conditions apply. See the Traveler Rewards page for more details or contact us with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected].
Registration Form and General Tour Conditions
Tour Cancellations: Walking Adventures International reserves the right to cancel any tour departure with fewer than 15 participants, in which case registered participants will receive a 100% refund of payments received.
How is Airfare Arranged?
This Adventure officially starts in Heidelberg, Germany (closest airport is Frankfurt; airport code FRA) and finishes with a group transfer to Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy (airport code MXP). Transport to our hotel in Heidelberg is not included in the tour price, however there is a reasonably-priced shuttle service that can transfer you from Frankfurt Airport to our starting hotel in Heidelberg. We recommend that you contact Laura Pfahler, the travel agent we work with, to help book your flight arrangements. In this age of airfare complications and airport uncertainty, using a travel agent is a good investment! More details about flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be provided by email after you register for the Adventure. Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving these flight details from us!
What about the walks?
We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. Because these are guided group walks, the success of the walks is predicated upon walkers having this minimum level of fitness in order to ensure that we are walking at a somewhat similar pace. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office at 1.800.779.0353.
We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below:
1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: more than 3500 feet.
A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.
The highest altitude we encounter on the Alpine Europe 2020 tour takes place on Day 6 during our Panorama Way Wiedersbergerhorn Walk. We’ll be at around 6000 feet above sea level on this 4 kilometer trail and will enjoy lunch at a mountain lodge before returning to lower elevations.
Other Planning Considerations
More information to help you plan will be included in the much longer Tips & Tidbits factsheet that is mailed out about four months before the trip.
WAI believes strongly in the importance of travel insurance for financial and medical protection from any number of unforeseen circumstances that can arise before departure or during your Adventure. Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Laura Pfahler of World Travel Inc., a travel agent who provides air travel services to many WAI travelers, can provide travel insurance options for your WAI tour as well as your airfare (email: [email protected] -OR- call: 503-434-6401). For those of you who purchase airfare through Laura, purchasing your travel insurance from her as well may be the simplest option. As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the squaremouth.com website can be a good way to compare pricing.
Other options include:
- Travel Guard
- Travel Insured International
NOTE: We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). In addition, be aware that some travel insurance policies contain time-sensitive provisions—i.e. some benefits are available only if the policy is purchased within a certain number of days of the purchase of the travel package.
What happens next?
Upon registering for this Adventure, you will receive a welcome letter and initial invoice. An email with critical information on flight arrangements and the Adventure Advice flyer will be sent soon after, with important information about steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review the Flight Arrangements email. Final payment for the program is due 90 days before departure, and you will receive a final billing about 3 weeks prior to that point, along with a factsheet of additional information about the Adventure to help you get prepared! Then, about 3 weeks before departure, you will receive a final packet with all the details of the program, including hotel names and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.
Take a few minutes to peruse the enclosed itinerary. The ethereal beauty and the fascinating history of this part of Central Europe is inspirational. Give us a call and talk to one of our Adventure Consultants about how to join us for this once-in-a-lifetime Walking Adventures program!