Beyond the Guidebook: Unexpected Journeys in the Alps


“You’ve never been to the Göschenertal?” A gleam in his eye, I could tell Kev was enjoying his mastery of obscure Swiss destinations over me. “You… YOU! would love the Göschenertal!” Kev Reynolds writes guidebooks to the Alps – he knows them well – and has inspired many of my own explorations. When he says I need to go somewhere, I tend to listen. Within the week, I had gathered up Brant, one of my guides, and told him “we have to go see the Göschenertal”. (Kev was right – the Göschenertal is great)

We’re approaching our 20th year of leading and organizing hiking tours in the Swiss Alps, and we’ve been to a lot of places, but Switzerland (somehow) keeps coming back with more. There is seemingly no end to beautiful valleys, white-capped peaks, stunning waterfalls and quaint mountain inns, usually brimming with Swiss people enjoying a day in their mountains. These are often even more special than the iconic sights, in part because they’re so unexpected, in part for the authentic cultural experience they provide, and in part because it’s just so much fun to explore! If you love mountains, there are minor masterpieces to be found all over the Alps.

And the beautiful thing is, they’re all easy to get to. All of them. Trains run like clockwork to every valley, paddleboats cross the lakes, and buses take you up to every minor side-valley and hamlet. In the mountains, a vast array of funicular trains, cable cars, gondolas and chairlifts will take you even higher, and you can get to a wonderful hikes on a scenic journey that is itself a memorable adventure! With rail pass in hand and a little bit of free time, there’s no limit to where you can go.

To be honest, most of our tours focus on the big 3 or 4 areas, like the Bernese Oberland or Zermatt, and if you’re coming on a first or 2nd trip, that’s totally appropriate. You should go see the Eiger from Kleine Scheidegg, and you should go see the Matterhorn from Gornergrat. These are world-class trips and unbeatable destinations. But then you want to come back to Switzerland again, to get a little off-the-beaten-path and go beyond the guidebook to someplace a little more hidden, and less known. Guess, what? You’re not done… you’ll find interesting journeys and trails everywhere.

Here are just a few excursions beyond the iconic ones that we think you should check out, just to get you started. Did we miss anything? Let us know… we’re always looking for new places to explore!