Hiking the Swiss & French Alps
Italy, Switzerland, France
July 16-25, 2019 • 10 Days • $4990**
**Pricing with New Traveler Discount: $4690
Are you ready for Alpine sensory overload?! Cable cars, mountain vistas, flower boxes, cogwheel trains, Alpine trails, cowbells—we’re excited to present the official itinerary for Hiking the Swiss & French Alps!—featuring the peerless, pristine Alpine scenery of France and Switzerland, with a taste of Italy’s Alps and an optional day in the lake district thrown in for good measure!
**Traveler Rewards Program 2019: New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Swiss & French Alps 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.
The concept of this program germinated a few years back when we realized how much world-class Alpine scenery lay within a relatively small geographic loop from Milan, Italy. This trip is packed with outstanding nature experiences and mountain hiking. Though we use gondolas and Switzerland’s peerless railroad system to level out most of the uphill grades, many of the trails are more hikes than walks and travelers should be prepared for the challenge.
Other unique aspects of the Adventure include:
- Iconic Alpine peaks: Everyone has heard of the Matterhorn! France’s Mt Blanc is the highest peak in Europe. And the trio of peaks towering over Lauterbrunnen Valley: Mönch, Eiger Jungfrau (hosting the highest railway station in Europe) are epic both in alpine splendor and as mountain climbing challenges. Our alpine hiking revolves around these classic Alpine peaks and the breathtaking panoramas available from the trail around their base and in glacial valleys winding down from their sides.
- Lauterbrunnen for 3 nights: We feature three mountain valleys—Zermatt, base for exploring the Matterhorn area; Lauterbrunnen, base for exploring the Bernese Oberland area and the three massifs of Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger; and Chamonix, base for exploring the Mont Blanc region. But we prioritized Lauterbrunnen valley for a 3-night stay to allow more time to drink in the wonders of the pretty-as-a-postcard Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, our personal favorite!
- And the Glacier Express!: Swiss trains are legendary for their engineering and timeliness! Swiss countrysides are legendary for their scenic delights. We’re excited to combine both on one of the most legendary of Swiss trains—the Glacier Express.
- Airport to hotel group transfers on first and last day
- All land travel by motorcoach as outlined
- Superior tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
- Glacier Express train from Andermatt to Zermatt, Switzerland
- 14 meals: All breakfasts and 5 dinners as denoted (BD)
- All listed walks
- Fees for walking credit (if IVV approved**)
- Cultural and historical expertise of national guide throughout program
- WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
- All tipping for national guide, coach drivers and group meals
- Pricing is based on double occupancy. A supplement is available for single travelers: $800
- 3 gondola segments: Zermatt to Klein Matterhorn – Zermatt area
- Train and gondola from Zermatt to Rothorn – Zermatt area
- Train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen (roundtrip) – Wengen area
- Gondola from Wengen to Männlichen – Wengen area
- Montenvers train from Chamonix to Mer de Glace – Chamonix area
- Gondola from Chamonix to Aiguille du Midi – Chamonix area
- Gondola from Chamonix to Planpraz – Chamonix area
- Gondola from La Flégère to Les Praz – Chamonix area
- More fun stops than we can list!
- Lake Orta Walk and Borromean Islands Excursion – Italy (Day 1)
- Lauterbrunnen Valley Walk – Switzerland (Day 6). Guide service is included but transport via gondola and train is not.
**Walks in Switzerland are not sanctioned. IVV stamps for walks in Italy and France will be requested.
Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5
Scott Isom has had a passion for the outdoors ever since his childhood days spent exploring the waterfalls and outstanding hiking trails of the Columbia River Gorge with his family. Scott has led tours on all 7 continents and is one of WAI’s busiest guides and on-site Adventure planners. Scott will be leading the Swiss & French Alps tour with assistance from Guide Tim Friesen.
Tim Friesen has been guiding tours in Europe with Walking Adventures for over 15 years, usually in the summertime, while he pursues his career as a high school music teacher in Molalla. Tim is known for favoring travelers with a tuneful melody when the acoustics are favorable, so be sure to ask him for a song! Tim looks forward to assisting Scott on the Swiss & French Alps 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 25 years of experience guiding groups through central Europe. But it is Hildrun’s special blend of in-depth knowledge, lighthearted presentation style, passion for sharing, and her commitment to making the travel experience the best it can be for her travelers, that makes a trip with her so memorable. Hildrun will be offering cultural and historical insights throughout the Swiss & French Alps tour.
Click on each day for more details.
DAY 1 – July 16: Arrive Milan, Italy (D)
Lake Orta Walk – 5 km, rated 2B (Optional)
Travelers arrive throughout the day into Milan’s Malpensa Airport. As you exit customs, you’ll be greeted by a representative of Walking Adventures and transferred to our hotel overlooking lovely lake Orta, in a quiet, charming corner of the Italian Lake District. This evening, we rendezvous for a Welcome Orientation meeting followed by dinner.
Travelers who arrive in Italy a day early are invited to join us this morning for a full day excursion between lovely Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore. Lake Orta is a gem, one of the smallest lakes in the Lake District, its shores dotted with romantic, time-washed villages. Our walk along the lake is followed by a drive to nearby Stresa, on the shores of much larger Lake Maggiore. After a short lakeside stroll and free time for lunch among the delightful shopping lanes and café-lined squares in Stresa’s Old Town, we embark on a relaxing boat ride to the Borromean Islands to explore the 17th century villas and gardens. Included are the walk in Orta, bus service for the half day excursion in Stresa, ferry rides between the Borromean Islands and entrance to any villas and gardens we enter, and guide service from both Hildrun, our local guide and the WAI guide team. Estimated price: $145 per person.
DAY 2 – July 17: Orta San Giulio – Zermatt, Switzerland (BD)
This morning’s coach ride takes us north along placid, picturesque Lake Maggiore and north into the mountains of Switzerland. In Andermatt, we transfer to the fabled Glacier Express, one of the famous railways of the world, for a memorable train trip west around mountains, over bridges, and through tunnels to Zermatt (5,250 Feet Above Sea Level – FASL), our home in the shadow of the Matterhorn for the next two nights.
DAY 3 – July 18: Activities in Zermatt (B)
Matterhorn Magic Walk: Furi to Zermatt – 7 km, rated 3B
Officially a car-free zone, the town of Zermatt is perfect for a Walking Adventure. From our centrally-located hotel, we walk to one of three Zermatt gondola stations for the first of many Alpine gondola and train experiences! Our destination is Klein Matterhorn, highest gondola station in Europe at over 12,700 FASL! After admiring the views—this is the closest we come to the Matterhorn—and enjoying the ice sculpture gallery inside a glacier, we descend and disembark at Furi station (6,125 FASL) on our way down. From here, our trail back to Zermatt winds along valley walls and through the delightful, if oddly named village of Zmutt. The afternoon and evening are free to explore this lovely town or hop on another gondola for a different vista of Matterhorn magic (our pass is good for two days!).
DAY 4 – July 19: Zermatt – Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland (BD)
Blumenweg (Flower Trail) – 6 km, rated 3B
A funicular (inclined train) carries us up through the living stone of a mountain tunnel this morning. Shortly after we exit the tunnel, we transfer to gondolas, bound for the summit at Rothern (10,629 FASL), which provides the most breathtaking views of the Matterhorn. Starting at 8,435 FASL, the Blumenweg trail takes us through an area noted for its wildflowers, against a never-ending backdrop of the Matterhorn and the Pennine Alps. Following lunch, we return to the Zermatt train station then join our coach for a ride north into Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland region. We spend the next three nights in the village of Lauterbrunnen (2,631 FASL), nestled in the lovely Lauterbrunnen valley.
DAY 5 – July 20: Activities from Lauterbrunnen (B)
Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg Walk – 5 km, rated 2B
Kleine Scheidegg to Wengen Walk – 10 km, rated 3B
From our hotel in Lauterbrunnen, we start the day with a short train ride to Wengen, then a gondola ride to Mannlichen (7,306 FASL). From Mannlichen, we walk to the Kleine Scheidegg mountain train station then return to Wengen by walking opposite the sheer precipices of the Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau mountains through some of the Alps’ most jaw-dropping scenery. From Kleine Scheidegg, those who’ve walked enough are free to purchase a ticket on the famous Swiss cog-wheeled train back to Lauterbrunnen. Travelers may also wish to ascend from Kleine Scheidegg by train through the Eiger and Mönch mountains to the Jungfraujoch, the highest rail station in Europe (11,333 FASL)! NOTE: Train fees for optional activities are not included.
DAY 6 – July 21: Activities from Lauterbrunnen (B)
Lauterbrunnen Valley Walk – 10 km, rated 2B (Optional)
Explore this fabulous Alpine setting on your own today.
Your guide will provide multiple excursion suggestions. The optional group activity, however, includes boarding a gondola that whisks us up the west side of the valley to Grütschalp (4,885 FASL). We follow an easy forest trail, often shared with Swiss Brown dairy cows—bells a-tinkling—to the tiny hamlet of Mürren. Here we have a chance for a rest before a second gondola ride from Schilthornbahn to the valley floor. Alternatively, you may continue on foot to Gimmelwald before descending by gondola to the valley floor, then return to Lauterbrunnen on foot through a quintessential Alpine setting: fields dotted by chalets, grazing herds of sheep and cows, glacier-fed waterfalls, and more. Travelers looking for more adventure may take another series of gondolas from Mürren up to the Schilthorn (9,711 FASL), to marvel at views over the Bernese Alps in the revolving restaurant. NOTE: Transport (train and gondola) is not included for today’s optional activities.
DAY 7 – July 22: Lauterbrunnen – Geneva – Chamonix, France (BD)
Chateau de Chillon Lake Geneva Walk – 3.5 km, rated 1A
Geneva Old Town Walk – 5 km, rated 1B
Back on the motorcoach today, we drive through more classic Alpine scenery toward Geneva. Landscapes change, however, as we motor west, and soon it feels as though we’re in France, vineyard-covered hillsides sloping down to serene scenes along Lake Geneva, largest body of water in Switzerland. A stop at picture-perfect Chateau de Chillon marks the beginning of today’s first walk, a delightful stroll down a flower-lined path along the shores of Lake Geneva that ends in the charming village of Montreux. Further west along the lake in the eclectic, French-speaking city of Geneva, our second walk includes the Old Town, where John Calvin established a bulwark of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, and a lively, picturesque lakefront district. From Geneva, we cross the border into France to Chamonix (3,396 FASL) and our last Alpine conquest—the Mont Blanc region!
DAY 8 – July 23: Activities in Chamonix (B)
Chamonix Grand Balcony North Hike – 8 km, rated 4C
Today’s hike begins with a trek to the train station, followed by a ride aboard the Montenvers Train to Mer de Glace glacier (6,276 FASL). A tantalizingly rugged trail then takes us along the Grand Balcony North trail, offering a variety of awesome vistas over sweeping rivers of ice, jagged alpine peaks, hardy pine forests, and a welcoming array of alpine wildflowers. The trail ends at the midway station for the gondola that takes us to the Mont Blanc viewing station—Aiguille du Midi (12,604 FASL). Travelers who opt out of the walk can rendezvous here to enjoy eye-popping panoramas over the rooftop of Europe and Mont Blanc, its highest peak! The late afternoon and evening are free to explore the delights of this appealing mountain community.
DAY 9 – July 24: Chamonix – Orta San Giulio, Italy (BD)
Chamonix Grand Balcony South Hike – 10 km, rated 3C
Today starts with a walk along the valley floor followed by a gondola ride up to Planpraz (6,562 FASL). From Planpraz, the Grand Balcony South trail winds along the side of the mountain with breathtaking non-stop panoramas across the valley to the Mont Blanc massif. At La Flégère (6,214 FASL), we catch another gondola down to the valley floor to join a tree-lined, riverside footpath back to our hotel in the heart of Chamonix. We return by coach back into Italy to our home on the shores of Lake Orta to enjoy our final evening together at a fun Farewell Dinner!
DAY 10 – July 25: Depart from Milan (B)
One shuttle is offered early this morning to Milan’s Malpensa Airport (the Adventure Advice, sent to travelers after registration, will provide details). We return to North America with new walking friends and a knapsack of marvelous mountain memories from our Hiking the Swiss & French Alps adventure!
Click on each heading for more details.
How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?
We are now accepting reservations. Call or email us to reserve your spot with a $500 registration! A maximum of 30 travelers will be accepted.
General Tour Conditions and Registration Form
Traveler Rewards Program 2019 - NEW!
New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Swiss & French Alps 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 2019 page for more details or contact us with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected]
How Is airfare arranged?
The official start and end point is Malpensa Airport (MXP), near Milan, Italy. We recommend that you contact 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 in the Adventure Advice flyer, mailed to you after you register for the Adventure. Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving the Adventure Advice flyer!
How high are we going?
Altitude is a factor on this trip, but our hotels are generally located only at moderately high elevation, which means you are sleeping at a more manageable elevation. Elevations are listed throughout the brochure, but once we leave the lake district of Italy, we sleep in Zermatt (5,250 feet above sea level – fasl), Lauterbrunnen (2,631 fasl), and Chamonix (3,396 fasl). Walks are then offered between those elevations and 5,000-6,000 fasl for the most part; we may start a walk at higher elevations, in one instance we feature a walk start at about 8,500 fasl and descend from there. This itinerary also features cable car rides to viewpoints at just over 12,000 fasl.
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.
Note that the verb “hiking” has been included in this tour title with good reason. As mentioned above, we have taken care to use the Swiss and French mountain train and cable car systems to ease the amount of climbing involved, but these are still mountain trails and we are walking at higher than usual altitudes.
We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system that 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.
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. Debbi Custer 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 1.888.276.0925 / 1.503.231.9507). For those of you who purchase airfare through Debbi, 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. The Adventure Advice packet 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 receive the Adventure Advice flyer. The 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.
Enjoy perusing the Adventure brochure—this is a one-of-a-kind, panorama-packed program featuring the breathtaking vistas and Alpine trails of Switzerland & France!