HIKING THE GREAT WALSER TRAIL
Hiking in the Swiss and Italian Alps. Magnificent mountain scenery, alpine passes, glaciers, wildflowers, lakes. Cultural trek in Switzerland and Italy, from Bernese Oberland to Valais and Piemonte (Piedmont). Breathtaking panoramas.
Hiking the Great Walser Trail is a unique and exclusive hiking tour in the Swiss Alps. This fascinating trip follows a network of trails, through Switzerland and Italy, connecting the ancient migratory routes of the [Walser] people. Of Germanic origin, these people crossed over high mountain passes in search of sustainable land and freedom from feudal lords.
Presumably, the Walser left their homeland in southwest Germany and settled in what we know today as the Bernese Oberland, in Switzerland, around the fifth century A.D., subsequently migrating to a mountainous region in the Swiss canton of Valais, where they settled successfully, contending with the extremes of weather and topography. During feudal times, they became vassals and, prompted by a growing population and the desire to be free, they accepted the feudal lords’ offers for new land with hereditary rights. Once again, they crossed over mountain passes to settle in new regions near and far, including Italy.
Today, the Walser communities are still thriving and active in the Swiss and Italian Alps. They have integrated with other local cultures but, in some localities, they continue to teach and speak their unique German language. One can still admire their customs and traditions at religious services or regional annual festivities.
Hiking in the footsteps of these hardy and determined people, we explore their territories and remote passages. We visit and overnight in villages displaying a wealth of Walser architecture, coming to fully appreciate their humble but industrious way of life. We skirt majestic glaciers and alpine lakes, enjoy a spellbinding natural environment; we make our way through enchanted forests, past secluded and remote hamlets. Impressive views of some of the highest peaks in the Alps will provide the perfect setting for our exciting journey through centuries of history and culture.
DAY BY DAY
Day 1 Meiringen
Transfer on your own to Meiringen, the starting point of our journey. Spectacular mountains, lakes, alpine passes and infinite hiking possibilities surround Meiringen, located at the eastern edge of the Bernese Oberland. In 2007, the World Heritage Committee agreed to extend the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn World Heritage Area to other municipalities of the Bernese Oberland, including Meiringen. Odd though it seems, this enchanting small town is also the birthplace of a delicate dessert, the meringue. In pre-Revolutionary eighteenth century, an Italian baker by the name of Gasparini invented a baked concoction of egg whites, sugar and cream, and named it after Meiringen, the scene of his inspiration, until Louis XV took a liking to Gasparini’s creation, whereupon the French name “meringue”.
Day 2 Meiringen – Ulrichen
Following tin the Walser’s footsteps, we enter a vertical world of granite, worn smooth by glaciers, and a dramatic setting. Large alpine lakes, today dammed to provide electrical power to the area, soften this granitic environment with their silty light-blue colour. Hiking on a mule path, we gently make our way to the Grimsel Pass, separating the Bernese Oberland from the Valais. This area is famous for the incredible specimen of quartz crystals and minerals found in its mountains. As we make our way into the Valais, splendid views span from the Rhone Glacier, where the Rhone River starts its 800 km/533 mile journey to the Mediterranean Sea, to some of the highest, glaciated peaks in the Alps, including the majestic Weisshorn. A long descent takes us to the enchanting village of Ulrichen, a Walser community and one of the authentic historic hamlets in verdant valley of the Goms. Here you can fully enjoy the typical Walser architecture.
Day 3 Ulrichen – Ponte
We make our way over the Gries Pass, the official border between the Valais, Switzerland and the Formazza Valley, Italy. During the Medieval times, this was a very important commercial route. Mules loaded with salt, coffee, wine and other important goods, made their way through this harsh natural environment, in all weather conditions. We hike in a spectacular, rugged landscape of glaciers, framed by some of the highest peaks in the Alps, soaring high above the mountain ranges. Crossing this wind-swept area, in the 13th century, the Walser made their way to the Formazza Valley, Italy, where they founded their first settlement on the south side of the Alps. We descend into Italian territory, across a summer grazing pasture, set in a spectacular glacial amphitheatre. We visit the Walser Museum and, if the owners are available, we will have an exclusive visit to a traditional Walser home.
Day 4 Valle Formazza
A lovely path leads us to the tiny hamlet of Altillone, where we admire the chapel’s frescoes, depicting the crossing of the Walsers over mountain passes. Through a beautiful beech and conifer forest, we emerge into pastoral land, hiking past the beautiful hamlet of Francoli, sitting in panoramic position. Wonderful views of the Formazza Valley open up as we make our way to Salecchio Superiore. Here, the Walser architecture is in full display, with bright geraniums adding a touch of colour to the sun-stained, wooden buildings. We continue to Salecchio Inferiore, inhabited only in summer. However, every year it comes alive, on the first Sunday in February, during the procession of the Candelora, a popular celebration dedicated to the light that protects the body and soul from the cold of winter.
Day 5 Ponte – Fiesch
Alpe Devero is a rare jewel set amongst the peaks of the Italian Alps, a protected and pristine area of uncontaminated natural beauty. Hiking in a true paradise, we reach Crampiolo, a handful of stone houses and farms, skirt the serene environment of a deep-blue alpine lake, pass pituaries and summer grazing pastures, accompanied all along by open panoramas. We reach Albrunpass, another important transit point for the Walser people, leading back to the Valais, Switzerland. We descend into the Binntal, a valley renowned since the 17th century for the rich mineral deposits hidden in the flanks of its mountains. It also boasts an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna.
Day 6 Aletschglacier
With an expanse of more than 120 sq. km/45 sq. miles, a length of 23 km/15 miles, and a thickness of 900 m/2997 ft. at its deepest point, the Aletsch is the largest and longest glacier in the Alps. In December 2001, it was designated a [UNESCO World Heritage Site]. We explore this glaciated world hiking along a panoramic trail, skirting the glacier and enjoying up-close views of the incessant work of the ice. We traverse a landscape strewn with boulders, evident sign of glacial moraine (debris left behind by the receding glacier) and rock slides caused by early spring thaw. With unobstructed views of the Eiger’s Mittellegi Hornli ridge, the Mönch, the Jungfrau, the Matterhorn, and other of the highest peaks in the Alps, the panorama is simply superb throughout the day.
Day 7 Goms
A day dedicated to the beautiful, verdant Goms, a spectacular, wide, natural landscape created by the Rhone Glacier. Today, the valley floor is a sequence of grazing pastures and fertile fields cultivated with rye, barley and potatoes. Exquisite Walser homes, clustered together, break with their sun-stained wooden architecture the endless carpet of green, contained in a spectacular frame of mountains. The Goms also has a cultural and gastronomic heritage. In fact, it cast a spell on Wolfgang Goethe, who fell in love with the area, and it was the birthplace of the hotel king [Cesar Ritz]. Hiking along a mix of gravel and paved road, as well as trails, we reach Münster, capital of the Goms and one of its most beautiful villages. For centuries, travellers stayed in Münster before ascending over the alpine passes or at the end of their tiresome journey.
Day 8 Departure
The trip ends in Fiesch. After breakfast, transfer on your own to the destination of your choice.
From SFr. 2950 per person
SFr. 350 | Single supplement
Prices are quoted in Swiss Francs and based on double occupancy.
What Is Included:
English-speaking local guide for the duration of the trip.
Guide’s expenses (hotels and meals) while with the group.
Evacuation insurance in Switzerland ONLY.
One night in four-star hotel, four nights in three-star hotels, two nights in mountain inn. .
All breakfasts, six lunches, seven dinners.
Water and coffee/tea with your group meals at hotels/restaurants.
Private and public transportation, as per itinerary.
Visits to museums/points of interest and activities as specified in the itinerary.
Gratuities to porters, drivers, and at restaurants.
What Is Not Included:
Airport transfers on Day 1 and Day 8.
Lunch on Day 1.
Insurance of any kind (cancellation, medical insurance, etc.), other than evacuation insurance in Switzerland.
Expenses due to unexpected changes to the itinerary.
Activities not specified in the itinerary.
Personal expenses (laundry, sodas or alcoholic beverages, telephone calls, etc.).
Anything else not mentioned in “What’s Included in the Price of the Trip”.
Unused transportation during the tour will not be reimbursed.
TRIP DATES & DETAILS
2016 Dates: contact us »
Season: early July to mid-September
Trip Length: 8 days
Trip Activity [more details]:
Hiking | Trekking
History | Culture
Scenery | Flora | Fauna
Trip Rating [more details]: moderate to strenuous
The Guide [more details]:
The guide(s) will be confirmed about thirty days prior to the beginning of the trip.
ACCOMODATIONS & MEALS
Day 1 – Four-star hotel in the heart of Meiringen village centre, a two-minute walk from the train and bus station, and from all the shops. True hospitality and extraordinary service in an atmosphere of modern luxury and comfort. Outstanding, creative cuisine.
Day 2 – Family-run, three-star mountain hotel, with a very friendly atmosphere. The rooms, with all comforts, are simple, with wooden décor and of moderate size for heating-conservancy purposes in winter. Exquisite dining.
Day 3, 4 – A true, family-run, Italian mountain inn. Simple but comfortable, in the heart of Ponte Formazza, first Walser settlement south of the Alps. A friendly, welcoming and accommodating atmosphere makes one feel at home.
Day 5, 6, 7 – Family-run hotel in the outskirts of Fiesch, and a few minutes walk from the shops, the old town and the restaurants, enjoys silence and tranquillity. The rooms, with a balcony, have an open view of the Valais and the surrounding mountains.
Participants booked on the trip will receive a complete list and detailed descripion of the hotels.
Breakfasts – At the majority of the hotels, they consist of a generous spread of meats, cheeses, fruit, yogurt, juice, cereal, fresh bread, and other baked goods. On the mornings of Day 4 and Day 5, breakfast will be simpler, with some cheese and meats, bread, butter and jam, yogurt and juice. Coffee and tea are served at all hotels.
Lunches – On most days, we enjoy elaborate picnics with local meats, cheeses, olives or sun-dried tomatoes, at least one vegetable, fruit, and freshly baked bread. When not a picnic, we have lunch at a mountain hut, or at a traditional, characteristic family-run restaurant. In this case, meals are usually family-style. We order a few typical dishes and we share. It is the best way to taste the specialties of the area.
Dinners – Dinners are at the hotels. On Day 1 and Day 2, the cuisine is outstanding with a twist of creativity. On Day 3 and Day 4, meals are simple but reflect the local Italian cuisine. On Day 5-7, meals have a touch of sophistication, and they reflect the typical dishes of the area. All meals are prepared with carefully selected and fresh ingredients and they consist of three or four courses.