When we moved to London in the fall of 2016, our priority for the years we would spend here was to take advantage of all that our new home has to offer. Not only did we move to one of the world’s most incredible cities, but by moving to London, Europe was essentially at our doorstep. We’ve been on the go ever since, exploring both the British Isles and the continent. We had a good idea of places we wanted to explore upon arriving in the UK, and at the top of the list has been a trip to Switzerland. This trip, however, wasn’t any ordinary holiday. Since we arrived, Andrew has had a dream that we would backpack through the Swiss Alps. This summer we did just that, hiking from Meiringen to Gimmelwald in Lauterbrunnen along stages 10 and 11 of the Via Alpina.
There is so much to share about this epic trip, I hardly know where to begin. The experience is one I know I will remember for a lifetime. Switzerland looked just as I dreamed it would, layers of beautiful brilliant green, patchwork fields, chalets with brown roofs or clean lined buildings in lovely pastels when we passed through cities. Blue green water running over rocks, becoming more striking in color the deeper it went. All this surrounded by jagged peaks disappearing into cloud. A dream come to life.
Many of the people we met along the trail return to the Swiss Alps again and again and after spending a full week walking through them, we understand why. Switzerland is beautiful and its trails are meticulously maintained, well-signed and a blast to explore and discover.
Why We Chose the Via Alpina Stages 10 and 11
Aaaand by we, I mean Andrew. Andrew spent months researching where and how we should go about backpacking in the Alps. Through his research, he chose the Via Alpina as our main route. The Via Alpina is a trail that passes through 14 Alpine passes, beginning in Vaduz, Lichenstein and ending in Montreux, Switzerland, near the French border.
The Via Alpina is divided into 20 “stages” and through his research, Andrew chose stages 10 and 11 for our journey, because they are said to be the most beautiful stages of this trail. Stage 10 begins in Meiringen and 11 ends in Lauterbrunnen, both near Interlaken and easily accessible by trains from Zürich, which would make our travels easy.
Via Alpina Stages 10 and 11 pass through the German-speaking part of Switzerland and the views are every bit as breathtakingly beautiful as anticipated. As we learned out on the trail, the Via Alpina is incredibly well maintained and very well signposted.
To get to the Swiss Alps, we flew from London to Zürich. I recommend Swiss Air solely on the basis that they bring you Swiss chocolate during your flight (I dunno if you’ve ever had Swiss chocolate, but it is my favorite of the world’s chocolates. I even prefer it to Belgian chocolate!).
The Zürich airport train station (Flughafen Zürich) is just under the airport itself and it was super easy to get to our train. There are no direct trains to Meiringen, instead we took a series of trains through Bern, Interlaken and then onto Meiringen. This was all very easy to do and quick, since trains come frequently during the day.
The train stations and trains were as immaculate and punctual as I imagined. That Swiss stereotype is definitely true! The scenery we passed by was just incredible as well.
Our Swiss Alps Backpacking Itinerary
I will be covering everything about this epic trip in more detail, but figured I’d start with a rough overview of our logistics and itinerary. There is plenty more to come about the trails, towns and hüttes we discovered, but for a general guide, this is how we structured our trip.
Day 1 – Arrive in Zürich, Travel to the Start of Stage 10: Meiringen, Stay in Reuti
We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Reuti, which was the perfect place for a wonderful meal and night’s sleep before tackling the Via Alpina. It gave us an incredible view of our route for the next day.
Read more about our time in Meiringen, visiting the Aare Gorge and our stay in Reuti here.
Day 2 – Via Alpina Stage 10 to Engelhornhütte
The next morning, the backpacking part of our trip kicked off after a quick gondola ride back down into Meiringen, the start of Stage 10 of the Via Alpina.
Day 3 – Via Alpina Stage 10 to Glecksteinhütte then Grindelwald
The next day, we descended from Engelhornhütte in the other direction, rejoining the Via Alpina Stage 10 at the bottom. We climbed the pass along the Via Alpina Stage 10, up to 1962m, and then began to descend into Grindelwald.
During our descent, we caught up to the trail up to Glecksteinhütte and turned there. We were supposed to be staying there that evening, however, I have an acute fear of heights and my determination and training in spite of that were no match for this entirely exposed trail. We turned back about a third of the way up and descended into Grindelwald.
A trailside last minute hotels.com booking got us a night’s stay at the lovely Hotel Lauberhorn in Grindelwald and a real shower!!
Day 4 – Via Alpina Stage 11 to Eigersletcher, Kleine Scheidegg and Wengen, Lauterbunnen
During breakfast at Hotel Lauberhorn, the owner of the hotel informed me that the Via Alpina Stage 11 was pretty boring, following mostly paved roads. In his opinion, we’d be better off taking the trail along the Eiger, up to the Eigergletscher.
We set off that morning along Stage 11 and then turned off to go up to Eigergletscher. The trail was incredible, taking us through many snow patches.
From there, we descended to Kleine Scheidegg, just as it began to rain. We had a lovely lunch under an umbrella there, then made the descent along Stage 11 into Wengen, Andrew on foot and me on the train (three descents the day before = soreness was starting to creep in). I will never forget that descent. The Lauterbrunnen valley is unbelievably beautiful.
That night, we checked into the Hotel Victoria Lauberhorn in Wengen, our home for the next two nights.
Day 5 – Wengen and Lauterbrunnen
Day 3 involved three mountain descents. I pushed through my soreness through a mostly uphill day 4, but on our rest day, day 5 – WOW. My quads were so sore I could barely walk downstairs. It was next level. I think I can confidently say my quads have never been so sore in my entire life, including the infamous Slip n Slide to Independence party of ’11. But where better to rest than gorgeous Lauterbrunnen?
This day we took it easy, exploring Wengen and Lauterbrunnen, touring the Trümmelbachfälle, watching the paragliders sailing over the trees and watching the World Cup.
Day 6 – Via Alpina Stage 11 and Lobhornhütte
The next morning we were back at backpacking, finishing Stage 11, then making our way up to Isenfluh, hopping the cable car and then climbing up to the Lobhornhütte. This hütte had the most incredible views and we had a wonderful time here.
Day 7 – Via Alpina Stage 12, Mürren, Gimmelwald and the Mountain Hostel
After our beautiful evening at the Loborhütte, we set out on our final day of backpacking, heading to Gimmelwald. At points we returned to the Via Alpina, following Stage 12. At other points, cows thwarted our plans and we ended up on the Mountain View trail for a while.
We arrived in Mürren just as it began to downpour, in time for a fabulous lunch. After eating, we hit the trail for one final descent into Gimmelwald, where we were staying for the night at the Mountain Hostel.
We returned to Mürren that evening for dinner taking the Schilthornbahn up and back.
Day 8 – Gimmelwald to Adelboden
Finished with our backpacking, we were planning to the Schilthornbahn up to Piz Gloria, but the weather was not accommodating, so we headed on a series of gondolas, trains and buses to beautiful Adelboden.
The final two nights of our trip were spent at the glorious Park Hotel Bellevue.
How We Prepared to Backpack in the Swiss Alps
For a trip of this kind, preparation is key. Spending days out in the mountains requires the right gear and hiking for days straight up to 2,000m requires training. The Via Alpina trail is rated ‘difficult’ and we spent months both in the gym and around the UK training to get in shape enough to do this hike without issue.
The fitness aspect is important, but also training trail hikes were incredibly helpful for us. Getting used to the pack, learning how much weight in the pack you can handle, breaking in the boots, and discovering what technical gear you need are all things to do before you get out into the Alps.
I will be sharing our training plans and our packing list, as well as the things we found most helpful out there, soon!
There is so much more to come on all of this and I am thrilled to share it. It was truly the trip of a lifetime! If you have questions about any of this, please do let me know and I’ll be sure to include the info in upcoming posts.