Day 1: We personally meet you at the Zurich airport or the Zurich main train station on the morning of July 1 to validate your Swiss Travel Pass and exchange currency. We spend the morning traveling by train through a lovely part of Switzerland to the Engadine region, known for its wide U-shaped valleys, beautiful blue lakes, and Romansh speaking population. We will have a light picnic lunch (provided by Yankee Travels) in the rustic village of Zuoz in the Lower Engadine. Following lunch we will do a short town tour featuring some of the old traditions of the region, including a type of decorative art known as Sgraffiti. From Zuoz, it is a short train ride to our first town, Pontresina.
Day 2: For our first day of hiking, both groups travel by funicular to a high plateau. The light hikers do a lovely ridge walk with continually changing views of St. Moritz, the lakes of the Upper Engadine Valley, and the Rosegg and Morterasch Valleys as well. The rigorous hikers take a higher route past a high mountain hut, joining the light hikers for a chair lift ride that takes us back to Pontresina.
Day 3: Both the hikes begin in the lovely town of Sils Maria. From there both groups hike (higher and lower routes to choose from) above the beautiful Fextal and along a high ridge to a gorgeous alpine lake (brave and hearty hikers go swimming). Both groups return along a ridge to a spectacular view of all the lakes of the upper Engadine Valley. This ridge is always covered by many species of lovely wildflowers; we even know where to find the elusive edelweiss in bloom.
Day 4: Again we will choose from a wide variety of hikes that this beautiful area of Switzerland offers. We can choose high hikes over passes, lovely light hikes through glorious valleys of wildflowers, and hikes to mountain huts and berg restaurants. A favorite hiking option takes us to the terminus of a massive glacier in a very dramatic valley that has been shaped by this rapidly receding glacier.
Day 5: We travel to the Valais Region by means of one of the world's great train rides, the Glacier Express. We reserve a special first class panorama car to make our journey even more delightful. The Glacier Express crosses 291 bridges and uses 91 tunnels on its way to Zermatt. During our ride you may relax in 1st class comfort while sipping wine and enjoying some delicious Swiss cheeses and bread, watching the lovely Swiss countryside flow past you punctuated by the crossing of dramatic viaducts and the vistas of snow covered peaks. This is a classic journey few other companies offer as part of a hiking tour. We think this is a superb way to permit your muscles to re-energize.
Day 6: The light hikers do an exciting part of the famous panorama hike above Zermatt. This will include wonderful views of the Matterhorn and the higher peaks around the village and a visit to the lovely hamlet of Zmutt. You may choose to descend by a cable system or walk back to the village through a beautiful area with many old-style mountain farms. The rigorous hikers will do a higher panorama hike above Zermatt enjoying constant but ever changing vistas, including the Matterhorn.
Day 7: We will choose from many options including a hike to a high alpine hut where the technical climbers stay before their ascent of the Matterhorn, a hike into the lovely Findeln Valley, an exciting trail along an old glacial moraine, and other fabulous options.
Day 8: FREE DAY. You will have the option of exploring all that the Valais has to offer today. You can choose from using your 1st Class Swiss Pass to explore the Zermatt valley, riding the lifts and trains to high mountain vistas and restaurants, shopping the bustling streets of Zermatt, or relaxing in the hotel’s luxurious spa. In any case, it is a day to allow your legs to rest and re-energize.
Day 9: The light hikers will ride the famous Gornergrat cog-railway above Zermatt and do a dramatic hike with vistas of glaciers and a gorgeous view of all the mountains around Zermatt. This day will be much closer to the Monte Rosa, the highest mountain in Switzerland. The rigorous hikers will do an exciting trek across the Monte Rosa glacier. No special equipment is necessary for this glacier hike but you do need to have a sense of adventure. This day will feature high alpine flowers as well as spectacular vistas for both groups.
Day 10: We depart for our final town, Kandersteg, which lies in the Bernese Oberland, the third region of the Three Cultures Tour. We travel by train to Interlaken, a beautiful city bounded by two magnificent blue lakes. We will have lunch on a wonderful sun terrace of a grand hotel overlooking a lake on one side and a fabulous waterfall on the other, along with taking a lake steamer ride on the Brienzersee. This is also a great day to use your Swiss Travel Pass to sightsee on your own if you so desire.
Day 11: Both groups will travel to the end of the valley in which Kandersteg lies to begin their hikes. They will hike up through a dramatic gorge where water thunders down after melting from alpine glaciers. The Swiss have constructed an impressive road through this gorge that accesses the remote Gasterntal Valley. The rigorous hikers will hike high up into the Gasterntal, enjoying spectacular views of waterfalls and glaciers. The lighter hikers will have the opportunity to explore the little hamlet of Selden and enjoy lunch at a quaint Swiss chalet. Both groups will return by van along the exciting road back to Kandersteg.
Day 12: We visit one of Switzerland's largest alpine lakes. The light hikers walk up to and around the lake, returning on a trail above the lake for a beautiful panorama. The rigorous hikers take a higher route above the lake and up toward a pass above the valley. From the foot of two glaciers, they will enjoy a panorama that will take their breath away. The rigorous hikers may instead choose to hike to a high alpine hut above the lake.
Day 13: The light hikers do a gorgeous valley walk along streams and near glaciers with lovely views of a hidden valley. The rigorous hikers enter a different hidden side valley and hike over a dramatic high pass. This hike includes a short walk over part of a glacier and finishes in the same valley the light hikers have visited. These are among our favorite hikes in all of Switzerland and a wonderful way to end your tour. We always end our tour with an "awards night" and a celebratory dinner.
Day 14: We board an early morning train back to Zurich for your flight home. The earliest you can arrive at the Zurich airport is 8:16 AM.
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