French, German and Italian regions.
The three culture Hike is all about flexibility. This trip can start near Zurich in Wengen or in Chamonix France which is near Geneva. Lets review the different stops. Verbier and Zermatt are (French), Wengen (German), and Courmayeur (Italian) and just for fun Chamonix (French) for your last few days. It is also noteworthy that this trip isn’t about hiking long distances across open tundra but instead spectacular day hikes and small overnight hikes to quaint mountain lodges with breathtaking interesting vistas. We have attempted to put together the essence of the Swiss and French Alps experience without the long (and sometimes boring or very physically challenging) sections between these historically important villages and their surroundings. We can craft either 4, 7, 12 or 18 day excursions to suit your interests and hiking challenge desires.Watch a short video
Experience the best hiking in the diverse cultures of Zermatt, Verbier and Wengen Switzerland. Then off to Italy to see the Dolomites and lastly take a breathtaking cable car over the mountains stopping at different levels along the journey to hike and eat in mountain inns.
Though Switzerland is a sovereign country, it encompasses a true rainbow of cultures, on its borders are French, Italian, and German cultures each of which have lent their special way of life to the Swiss. The result is an area of Europe where most speak at least several languages and totally different cultures are often separated by a few miles or a mountain ridge. This is what makes hiking in this magical country and region so interesting.
As we hike the French area of Switzerland we often meet hikers on the trail. The greeting is always Bon jour. But as we enter the German area, we find the greeting changed to Greutzi or Gros Gott.
We stay at 3 star hotels in each of the areas and return to our hotels each evening after our hike where we enjoy the comforts and luxury for which a first class Swiss hotel is famous. Synonymous with elegance in hotels worldwide are The Ritz Hotels, which started in Switzerland.
There are scores of deep blue lakes, some so large that they require most of a day for passage by the quaint steamboats that ply their waters. There are beautiful cities both modern and antique side by side, which reflect the creative energy of these industrious mountain people.
There are ancient castles from the feudal past with moats, turrets, drawbridges, many maintained in perfect repair, reminders of the storied days of knighthood. There are ruins of Roman origin, which date back thousands of years.
There are mountain monasteries, like the one on the St Bernard Pass, which were operating over 1,000 years ago in the same way they operate today.
Arrive to your flight city. We recommend Zurich. You can either take the train to the German section. Wengen. Or grab an “Uber” type car and driver. Yes the car is a little more expensive than the train but the train requires 3 changes and has a schedule you may or maynot be able to meet if your airplane is delayed. The “Uber” type car and driver will simply pick you up outside baggage claim standing there with a sign with your name on it and whisk you away to your hotel for an early afternoon of hiking.
Wengen is one of the most beautiful small villages in the Alps. It sits on broad plateau above the spectacular valley of Lauterbrunnen with the massif of The Jungfrau dominating the skyline. The village prohibits automobile traffic so it is quiet and the air is sparkling. German is the language of this area.
Day 1 Walk to Kleine Scheidegg along green pastures where cows are tended by attentive herdsmen to the saddle which then descends into
Rating: Moderate One Way: 10 km High Point: 2061 meters Vertical 787 meters up, 1027 down.
Hike Time: 4 hours.
Day 2 Narrow gauge railroad to Lauterbrunnen then funicular to Grutschalp. Walk to Murren along ridge trail with great views of The Jungfrau, Eiger, and Monch peaks. Murren is a small car free village with many trails. Hike down to village of Stechelberg then down to Lauterbrunnen Valley floor and return down valley to Lauterbrunnen and railroad return up to Wengen.
Rating: Moderate Distance RT; 8 km High Point: 1638 m Total Climb: 200 m.
Time: 4 hours.
Day 3 Trachsellaunen Mountain Hotel. 1 hr. From Here the path leads through the wild, romantic valley on to Schurboden, and then climbs steeply to Obersteinberg. This is one of the most impressive walks in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. It reveals a deep beautiful circular valley with rich alpine meadows and sturdy woods.
Rating: Moderate Distance: 10km High Point: 1493 m Total Climb:583 m Time: 3 hours.
Have a late lunch and then find your way to the train.
Take the early evening train to Verbier.
NOTE: Some people at this point would like to add more time and divert from their regular trek across this region of the Alps and spend a few days in Zermatt. Zermatt is a spectacular small village with incredible vistas of the Matterhorn. We won’t include it here but just know if you want to expand your journey please just let us know. This 3 Culture hike is about giving you the hike of a lifetime and we want to make that so.
Look at this link http://www.russelltours.com/zermatt/ for more details on Zermatt.
Verbier, in the center of the French speaking Valais, a principal wine and cheese-manufacturing canton, was originally a sleepy farming community on a broad and sunny high valley under the mighty Mount Fort at over 3300 meters. Today it has become one of the major hiking and ski destinations in the Pennine Alps of Southern Switzerland. It is a unique mixture of the old and the modern with hundreds of miles of well-marked trails for every level of ability. Known as the Four Valleys, the region offers great diversity and spectacular typically Swiss scenery.
Day 4 Take the Jumbo tram to the top of Mont. Fort at over 3300 meters high above eternal ice fields and an active glacier where there is skiing all year long. Return to midway and hike down to the village.
Rating: Easy One Way: Under 5 km Vertical 1500 meters Hike Time Down: 2 hours. Option: Take Tram down part way.
Day 5 The three-village hike to Sarreyer, Lourtier, and Champsec. These three typical Swiss-French farming villages are nested below snow-capped peaks surrounded by broad hay fields. Daily tending of crops and farm animals will be in ready evidence.
Rating: moderate Distance; 8 km High Point: 1642 m Total Climb: 200 m Time: 4 hours
Day 6 Bus and train to top of St Bernard Pass. Visit 1,000-year-old monastery still operating. Hike above timberline in a ~moonscape”. Hike Into Italy for optional lunch at a typical Italian alpine refugee.
Rating: Moderate Distance: 5-8 km High Point: 2469 m Total Climb:365m Time: 3 hours.
Take bus and train to Courmayeur for dinner at your hotel.
Day 7 You wake to the great vistas and view of the Dolomites. Enjoy an Italian coffee, some pastries and eggs fresh made. Head out to the Rifugio Elisabetta about a 4 hour walk with moderate altitude gain and stunning views of Mont Blanc and the valley below.
Rating: Moderate Distance: 16 km High Point: 2300 m Total Climb:1,400m Time: 4 hours.
Day 8 Staying at the Rifugio Elisabetta you hike back down to Courmayeur.
There are several variations with some with more elevation and better views of the mountains that can add an additional hour or two to the hike. It may be fun to go up one way and back down another.
Day 9 After returning to our hotel in Courmayeur with a full day of hiking we relax and in the morning jump onto the Cable Car to take us over the mountain to Chamonix.There are a series of connected cable cars ending with the Aiguille du midi cable car putting you at one of the highest points in your trip with a spectacular view of Mont Blanc and the world below. This is a series of connected cable cars that allow you to get off and hike the level you are at and then jump back onto the cable car and continue on. Make a day of it.
In the evening you arrive in Chamonix France with a well deserved break before you head back to your flight destination. There are many hikes that we will recommend from every corner of the area – some very challenging and some easier to manage after 10 days on the trails.
We always leave this part of the tip open to let you decide if in fact you are returning to your home destination or if you plan to take advantage of the very inexpensive in-continent cheap flights around Europe.
Train to Flight destination back to the US.
Total time required for this hike is 12 days to 2 weeks.