(Village-based walking/hiking tour)
Visit: Chamonix, Mürren, Zermatt, Pontresina
Length: 13 days
Hike Rating: Moderate - Strenuous, 5-7 hours/day, 1000'-3500' elevation gain/loss
|only available as a self-guided or private guided tour|
Looking for the ultimate Alps adventure? Visit the most classic destinations, experience Switzerland's most scenic train rides, and take in unforgettable mountain vistas each day. This tour combines four must-see regions of the Alps into one trip. Hike beneath the Jungfrau, Mont Blanc and Matterhorn mountains, and ride the Glacier Express to the peaceful Engadine region. All four areas contain numerous unforgettable hikes and views that make this tour a classic in every sense! Our welcoming hotels, walkable villages, and beautiful locations make this a perfect choice for non-hikers as well.
Our tour starts out in Chamonix, France, the stylish and historic village at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps. After 3 nights there we continue on to Mürren, a gorgeous car-free village perched dramatically atop a cliff surrounded by beautiful mountains and peaceful scenery. Then we transfer by train to Zermatt, another hiker's paradise, nestled beneath the incomparable Matterhorn. Finally we're off on the Glacier Express train to Pontresina, the scenic and serene jewel of the St. Moritz lakes region. Along the way, we'll stay in absolute comfort in traditional, exquisite 3 and 4-star hotels. If you don't have enough time for the full tour, you can also join us for either half of the Alpine Classics tour, Parts A or B.
Our typical day starts with a continental buffet breakfast at our hotel - a bounty of delicious fresh baked bread and croissants, local meats and cheeses, cereal, fruit, coffee and juice - which gives us the energy needed for the day ahead. Soon we'll be out on the trail, where you'll get to choose between an easier or more strenuous hike for the day. Each morning, you'll be handed a lunch to carry, and at a mid-point along the way we'll choose a beautiful spot to stop and enjoy our picnic. We get a lot of compliments on our imaginative lunches - making them something to look forward to as well! We'll have 2 days for hiking at each stop, and every 3rd day will be a travel day, with relaxing train rides through the Swiss countryside.
We should finish our hikes around 4 pm, giving you time to wash up, relax at the hotel, visit the pool and spa, or perhaps do a bit of shopping in town. Most of our hotels on this tour have great views and gorgeous pool and spa areas, so we'll look forward to having time each day to enjoy those. Later, we'll enjoy dinner together at our hotel or another local restaurant. These are true multi-course feasts, sometimes centered on local specialties like beef, pork, or local cheese, but they will often feature chicken, fish, or other continental specialties. Our hotels all serve fabulous food, and our gourmet dinners will be exquisite, filling, and very delicious.
Actual hikes vary from trip to trip, but our itinerary will go something like this:
Day 1 The Alpine Classics tour starts with arrival in Geneva or Zurich, and transfer by shuttle or train to Chamonix, France - the world-famous resort and mountaineering center at the base of Mont Blanc. Here we'll enjoy our first impressive views of Mont Blanc, and perhaps have time for the pool at our lovely 3-star hotel. (Hotel Aiglons)
Day 2 One of the classic hikes in the region takes us to Lac Blanc, high above the village. This high-mountain lake sits in the Aiguilles Rouges, across the valley from Mont Blanc, and commands one of the greatest mountain views anywhere. We'll make good use of local cablecars so we can enjoy more time hiking near the lake. Return to Chamonix for a 2nd night. (Hotel Aiglons)
Day 3 Another favorite dayhike in the region rises up to Mer de Glace, a long glacier slicing down in an elegant S-curve toward the valley floor. Check out the glacier from a tunnel built into the ice, and return along a pleasant wooded trail along the old moraine wall. (Hotel Aiglons)
Day 4 A scenic 4½ hour train ride takes us past alpine lakes, through the vinyards of the Rhone valley, and into Mürren, our home away from home in Switzerland. Mürren is an idyllic, car-free village, perched atop a sheer 3000-foot cliff above the waterfall-filled Lauterbrunnen valley (picture Yosemite with a Swiss village on top). Take a look around this beautiful town before settling in to dinner at our friendly 3-star hotel. (Hotel Jungfrau)
Day 5 One of our favorite hikes starts in town, and gently meanders up the hills to the pastoral setting at Spielboden. Here we cross the
Schiltbach stream and start a steep and invigorating ascent to the local peak of Bryndli. We'll take our lunch enjoying birds-eye views of Mürren and the Lauterbrunnen valley, perhaps with a soaring golden eagle for company. From here the trail levels off, and becomes a relaxing stroll through flowery meadows to a quiet alpine hut at Bogangen. The trail back leads over a small ridge for more great views, before dropping back down to Mürren. (Hotel Jungfrau)
Day 6 The Upper Lauterbrunnen valley curls back beneath the white-capped Breithorn - considered by many to be the most perfect mountain in
the region. It's also a nature preserve, and contains many wonderful hiking trails. One of our favorites takes us to the small farm at Obersteinberg, where the proprietors keep cows and make cheese by the same simple methods that have been used for centuries. This part of the valley also contains some of the area's prettiest waterfalls. (Hotel Jungfrau)
Day 7 After breakfast, we'll say good-bye to Murren, and board the train for Zermatt. You'll have a chance to check out the historic village center and perhaps take a short walk before settling in to the lovely Hotel Europe. Enjoy wonderful views of the Matterhorn from the hotel, or spend the afternoon in their atmospheric indoor pool and spa. (Hotel Europe)
Day 8 Taking quiet trails through fields and forest, we have a range of choices up to the wide ridge of Gornergrat, past marmots and small glacial lakes, to what has to be one of the finest viewpoints in Europe. The jumbled mass of the Gorner glacier stretches out before us, and behind that, Monte Rosa, Lyskamm, the Breithorn, and the Matterhorn form a spectacular backdrop. (Hotel Europe)
Day 9 There are many peaceful trails criss-crossing the larch forests outside of Zermatt. We might take one that
leads us to a suspended wooden walkway through a narrow river gorge. After a harrowing walk through the gorge, we emerge and continue on to the enchanting, centuries-old hamlets of Zum See and Zmutt. Perhaps we'll make the strenuous climb to the Schwarzsee lake, or even up to the Hornli hut (a sort of Matterhorn base camp) to enjoy fabulous, close-up views of the Matterhorn and and a sweeping look back at the valley below. (Hotel Europe)
Day 10 We'll spend the day crossing Switzerland on the famous Glacier Express train, an all-day journey that brings us to St. Moritz before a short transfer to the pretty town of Pontresina. The hiking here is amazingly varied, and we'll have numerous hikes to choose from. Our home in Pontresina is the friendly and classy Hotel Steinbock. Enjoy a short walk through the village or relax at the enclosed pool and and extensive hotel spa. (Hotel Steinbock)
Day 11 In Pontresina, the mighty Morteratsch glacier is an impressive destination. An easy, wooded walk takes us to the snout of the glacier, while a relatively moderate climb to the Boval hut rewards us with panoramic views of white-capped giants in every direction. Soft larch forests and abundant wildflowers help round out a great hike. (Hotel Steinbock)
Day 12 From Pontresina, one of our favorite hikes anywhere is the panoramic Muragl traverse above Pontresina. Boasting quiet wooded stretches, abundant wildlife, and surprising views of the giant Piz Bernina and the paternoster lakes of St. Moritz, this hike provides a wonderful farewell to the Engadine region. (Hotel Steinbock)
Day 13 After breakfast at our hotel, we'll say our good-byes and leave for our post-trip destinations.
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|Arrive:|| Plan to arrive the day your trip starts at the latest (flights from the US would depart the day before). The closest airport for Chamonix is Geneva, but Zurich is OK also. There is a train station at the Geneva airport, but a far easier option is by an airport shuttle such as Mountain Dropoffs. |
|Depart:|| Plan departure for the day after your tour ends at the earliest. The closest airport to Pontresina is Zurich - don't book a departure from Geneva, and plan on 1 night at a hotel in Zurich or possibly Lucerne at the end of the tour (we can set this up for you if you like).|
|Dates don't work? Check out our similar Jungfrau + Matterhorn tour, or ask about a private guide for your family or group.|
Length: 7 days
Hike Rating: Moderate - Strenuous, 5-8 hours/day, 1000'-3500' elevation gain/loss
If you don't have time to take in the full Alpine Classics tour, you are welcome to join us for either half of the full tour. Great Alpine Classics, Part A begins with 3 days in Chamonix followed by 3 days in Mürren. Great Alpine Classics, Part B starts with 3 days in Zermatt and finishes with 3 days in Pontresina. Each is a wonderful tour in its own right, with great mountain scenery, beautiful train rides, and unforgettable villages. Longer, 10-day tours can also be arranged combining 3 of these locations.
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|self-guided or private guided only|
|self-guided or private guided only |
||3 nights 4-star hotels, 9 nights 3-star hotels, 8 dinners, 2nd class railpass
||3 nights 4-star hotels, 3 nights 3-star hotels, 3 dinners, 2nd class railpass
||6 nights in 3-star hotels, 5 dinners, 2nd class railpass
If you're an independent hiker and prefer to go at your own pace, or have travel dates that don't match up with our guided tours, you may prefer to arrange the Great Alpine Classics tour as a self-guided hiking tour.
This self-guided tour includes prepaid hotels with breakfast each morning and dinners listed above, a Swiss Flexipass railpass, Glacier Express reservations, rail schedules, hiking maps, detailed route descriptions, and lots of useful information that will help your trip run smoothly. The full tour includes a 5 day flexipass, while the West and East parts include a Swiss Card or 3 day flexipass. These are good for 2-5 free days of rail travel, plus 50% discounts on most other trains and cablecars. Dinners at your 4-star hotel in Chamonix are not included.
This tour can be customized to fit your needs. If you'd like to lengthen or shorten the tour, upgrade hotels (or go rustic), or create a customized tour of Switzerland from scratch, let us know. We have extensive experience across the Alps, and will be happy to work with you to build the hiking vacation that best suits your needs.
See our self-guided Great Alpine Classics tour page