Home to iconic peaks such as the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, and Matterhorn, the Swiss cantons of Bern and Valais are two of the most spectacular areas in Alps. Here, glaciated mountains frame lush valleys and crystal-clear lakes, and charming villages dot the windswept landscapes. Set out on a variety of hikes in the Bernese Oberland, where cogwheel trains and gondolas whisk us to some of the region’s most stunning trails. Trek beneath the famous north face of the Eiger, explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lauterbrunnen Valley, and hike to a spectacular glacial lake. Then cross the historic Gemmi pass to the canton of Valais, exploring picturesque Zermatt and its mountain trails. Reach the heights of the Gornergrat, which overlooks the legendary Matterhorn, and hike a portion of the Chemin du Vignoble, or “path of the vineyards.”
Arrive in Geneva and set out on a scenic drive along Lake Geneva and through the verdant Swiss landscape to Grindelwald, a charming town situated beneath the Eiger’s north face. Settle into our hotel before heading out on our first lovely walk. Venture above town to gaze out at the glaciated sentinels of the Eiger, Schreckhorn, and Wetterhorn. Alternatively, embark on a pleasant walk to a gorge carved by the lower Grindelwald glacier. Gather for a welcome dinner tonight. (2–3 hours optional hiking)
Sunstar Hotel (D)
Ride the cogwheel Jungfrau Railway to our first trailhead, taking in a stunning panorama of the Bernese Oberland. Hike along the base of the infamous north face of the Eiger—successfully summited in 1938 by a German-Austrian group including Heinrich Harrer, who later recounted the story in his book The White Spider. Reach the windswept Eigergletscher railway station (7,579’), and picnic beneath vertical rock walls and hanging glaciers. Descend to the Kleine Scheidegg pass (6,762’). Our panoramic hike, yielding wonderful views of the Schilthorn and Gspaltenhorn, towering over the Lauterbrunnen Valley, continues to the gondola that takes us back to Grindelwald. (6–7 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Sunstar Hotel (B,L)
Next, transfer to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lauterbrunnen Valley, one of the most impressive glacial valleys in the Alps. Home to the largest nature reserve in Switzerland, this spectacular area encompasses numerous waterfalls, rivers, and crystal-clear mountain lakes. Ride an aerial tramway to Grütschalp and follow a trail through alpine pastures and forests, reaching higher altitudes. Explore the enchanting town of Mürren, which sits on an open balcony across from the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Descend to Gimmelwald, then catch the aerial tramway back to the valley floor. Transfer to Kandersteg for the night. (7 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Belle Epoque Hotel Victoria (B,L,D)
Set out from our hotel on a hike along the valley floor, gradually ascending into a beautiful glacial valley. Take in spectacular views of the glaciated peaks looming above. Next, catch a gondola to Oeschinen Lake, an alpine lake fed by glacial brooks from the surrounding mountains—which include some of the highest limestone formations in Europe. A short hike will take us to the lake through wildflower-dotted meadows. Keep an eye out for ibexes, chamois, and marmots. Descend on foot to Kandersteg. (7 miles hiking, 4–5 hours)
Belle Epoque Hotel Victoria (B,L,D)
Transfer by bus and by gondola to Sunnbüel. During medieval times, this area provided an important route across the Gemmi Pass, which links the Bernese Oberland and the Valais regions. Our pleasant hike takes us through a valley and over a high plateau, where snow-dusted summits soar above the verdant landscape. Arrive at an 18th-century mountain hut where we may choose to stop for refreshments. Continue across the Gemmi Pass and into the canton of Valais, flanked by the peaks of the Weisshorn, Dom, and Matterhorn. From the pass, we descend into Leukerbad by aerial cableway and transfer directly to the picturesque village of Zermatt, our home for the next three nights. (8 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Hotel Alpenhof (B,L,D)
Today’s hike brings us within close range of the legendary Matterhorn, which has fascinated travelers and climbers for centuries. From Zermatt, our hike takes us into a secluded valley at the foot of the Matterhorn. Gradually gaining elevation, we arrive at a small glacial lake. Just above us lies the north face of the Matterhorn and the Hörnli ridge, its standard climbing route. Take in a dramatic panorama of high peaks, stretching from the Mitschable range, across the Monte Rosa massif to the Breithorn. We then descend by gondola into Zermatt. The remainder of the day is free to relax or explore the town on your own. (8 miles hiking, 6 hours)
Hotel Alpenhof (B,L)
Enjoy a scenic ride aboard the Gornergrat Bahn, one of Europe’s highest cogwheel railways, winding our way high above Zermatt. Set out on a hike to the rocky ridge of Gornergrat (10,138’). Here, an immense glaciated world opens up before us with outstanding views of Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn. Stop for a picnic lunch before descending along the Gorner Glacier and return to Zermatt by cogwheel train. (8 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Hotel Alpenhof (B,L)
Embark on a leisurely hike along a portion of the Chemin du Vignoble, or “path of the vineyards,” a 42-mile trail which winds through the vineyard-laced hills. Skirt the bisse, the historic irrigation canals of the Valais region which date back to the 13th century. Stop at a winery for a light lunch and a wine tasting among the vines. Continue to Sion and explore its fortress-like basilica, home to the oldest working organ in the world. Tonight, gather for a festive farewell dinner. (5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Hotel des Vignes (B,L,D)
Depart for the airport after breakfast, and connect with your return flight home.
National Geographic Active Expeditions are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room,
add $1,300. Airfare to/from Geneva is not
included in the cost.
GROUP SIZE: 8–16
See special terms and conditions for this expedition.
We will hike 3–6 hours (6–8 miles) in an alpine environment across varied terrain with some steep ascents and descents. Weather is unpredictable, with sun, wind, rain, and snow possible. Guests should be strong hikers in good physical condition. Participants always have the option to rest a day and ride to the next hotel.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
We will stay 8 nights in comfortable inns and hotels that are ideallly located to each day’s activities.
Call to speak with an adventure specialist about this trip.