Hiking the Swiss & French Alps
July 2019 • 11 Days • Approx $4800-$5200
Are you ready for Alpine sensory overload?! Cable cars, mountain vistas, windowboxes, cogwheel trains, Alpine trails, cowbells, and more!
Now accepting Early Bird deposits on this 2019 tour! Once we have 20-25 Early Birds, we’ll confirm this departure to our 2019 Schedule. An Early Bird is a $50 deposit that holds your spot during the planning stages of a trip, when we don’t have a set itinerary or dates. Early Birds are always refundable!
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.
This draft itinerary is under revision. An updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be available!
- Airport to hotel group transfers on first and last day
- Superior tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
- Motorcoach travel as listed in the program
- Glacier Express train from Andermatt to Zermatt, Switzerland
- 15 meals: All breakfasts and 5 dinners as listed (BD)
- 8 walks as listed
- Fees for walking credit (IVV sanctions requested)
- Two WAI tour leaders throughout
- Cultural and historical expertise of our local guide throughout
- All tipping for local guides and coach drivers
- Pricing is based on double occupancy. A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement.
- Ferries to Borromeo Islands – Lake Maggiore
- Mansion and gardens of Bella and Madre Islands – Lake Maggiore
- 3 gondola segments: Zermatt to Kleine Matterhorn – Zermatt area
- Train and gondola from Zermatt to Rothern – Zermatt area
- Train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen – Wengen area
- Gondola from Wengen to Mannlichen – 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 Plan Praz – Chamonix area
- Gondola from La Flegere to Les Praz – Chamonix area
- More fun stops than we can list!
- Lauterbrunnen Valley Walk (Day 7) – Price TBA
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 along with an assistant.
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. 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.
This draft itinerary is under revision. An updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be available!
Click on each day for more details.
DAY 1: Arrive Orta San Giulio, Italy (D)
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 “Get Acquainted” dinner at 7:00 pm.
DAY 2: Activities from Orta San Giulio (B)
Lake Orta Walk – 5 km, rated 2B
Lake Orta is a gem, one of the smallest in the Lake District, its shores dotted with romantic, time-washed villages. Our walk along the lake is followed by an excursion to nearby Stresa, on the shores of much larger Lake Maggiore. After a short lakeside stroll and free time for lunch delightful shopping lanes and café-lined squares in Stresa’s Old Town, you’re invited to join us for a relaxing boat ride to the Borromeo Islands to explore the 17th century villas and gardens.
DAY 3: 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 most famous railways in the world, for a memorable train trip west around mountains, over bridges, and through tunnels to Zermatt (5250 Feet Above Sea Level – FASL), our home in the shadow of the Matterhorn for the next two nights.
DAY 4: 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 Kleine 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 (6125 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 5: Zermatt – Wengen, 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 daylight breaks, 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 areas 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 for a ride north into Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland region. We spend the next three nights in the village of Wengen (4,180 FASL), perched along the sides of lovely Lauterbrunnen valley and accessible only by train.
DAY 6: Activities from Wengen (B)
Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg Walk – 5 km, rated 2B
Kleine Scheidegg to Wengen Walk – 10 km, rated 3B
From our hotel in Wengen, we start the day with 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 through some of the Alps’ most jaw-dropping scenery across from the sheer precipices of the Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau mountains. Those who’ve walked enough are free to purchase a ticket on the famous Swiss cog-wheeled train back to Wengen. Travelers who haven’t participated in our classic Alpine tour may wish to continue 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 for optional activities is not included.
DAY 7: Activities from Wengen (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 and an optional group activity that includes taking the cogwheel train down to Lauterbrunnen, then boarding a gondola that whisks us up the west side of the valley to Grütschalp (4,885 FASL). Here we follow an easy forest trail, often shared with dairy cows—bells a-tinkling—to the tiny hamlet of Mürren. Here we have a chance for a rest and a second gondola ride to Schilthornbahn on 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 8: Wengen – Geneva - Chamonix, France (BD)
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. 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. After a stop at picture perfect Chateau de Chillon, on the shores of the lake, we continue to the eclectic, French-speaking city of Geneva. Our walking tour here 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 9: Activities in Chamonix (B)
Chamonix Grand Balcony South 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 South 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 10: Chamonix – Orta San Giulio, Italy (BD)
Chamonix Grand Balcony North Hike – 10 km, rated 3C
Today starts with a walk along the valley floor followed by a gondola ride up to Plan Praz (6,562 FASL). From Plan Praz, the Grand Balcony North trail winds along the side of the mountain with breathtaking non-stop panoramas across the valley to the Mont Blanc massif. At La Flegere (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 11: Depart from Milan (B)
One shuttle is offered early this morning to Milan’s Malpensa Airport. We return to North America with new walking friends and a knapsack of marvelous mountain memories!
How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?
Call or mail in your refundable Early Bird ($50) to save your spot! A maximum of 30 travelers will be accepted on this Adventure.
Our travel savings program is being revised for 2019 trips – more details will be available soon!
How Is Airfare Arranged?
The official start and end point is Malpensa Airport, near Milan, Italy. More details about flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be provided in the Adventure Advice flyer, available after this tour has been confirmed.
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. 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.
What happens next?
We are currently developing the itinerary for this Adventure. Once the itinerary is released, we will accept registration deposits ($500) to save space.
If you have Early Birded with a refundable $50 deposit, your spot on the tour will be held for 2 weeks after the itinerary is published while you make a decision on whether or not you’d like to register with an additional $450 deposit, bringing your total on the tour up to $500. If you decide not to join us for this tour, your Early Bird can be refunded or transferred to another tour.
Enjoy perusing this itinerary—a one-of-a-kind, panorama-packed program featuring the breathtaking vistas and Alpine trails of Italy, France, and Switzerland!