A six day, self-guided walking holiday along the Via Spluga, one of Europe’s lesser-known transnational trails between Switzerland and Italy. Hike from one traditional guesthouse or hotel to the next, following a 70km trail along alpine mule trails up to Splügen Pass (2,115m), which connects these two countries with the most beautiful of borders. Then its valleys and waterfalls all the way into Lombardy. This trip is a favourite with our dog-walking customers, not just because it’s a moderate level trail, but also because it’s reachable by rail if you are travelling from within Europe.
- Via Mala Gorge
- San Martino Church in Zillis
- Roffla and Cardinello Gorge
- Andeer’s thermal mineral baths
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Day 1: Arrival in Thusis/Sils im Domleschg
Arrive in Thusis, a charming Swiss town in Grisons, located at the northern entrance to the spectacular Via Mala Gorge on the Hinterrhein River. If there is no availability in Thusis, your accommodation will be in the nearby village of Sils im Domleschg.
- Accommodation: Hotel Weiss Kreuz in Thusis or similar
Day 2: Thusis – Zillis – Andeer | 15.5-17.5km
From Thusis, today there is the option to follow either the Verlorenes Loch route, which is a more historical but less strenuous route, or the Traversina route, which is more picturesque since it runs parallel to the Via Spluga Trail, but at a higher altitude. Both routes lead to Via Mala Gorge, one of the most dramatic highlights of the tour. Continue on to Zillis and visit San Martino Church, renown for its unique painted ceiling panels, dating back to the 12th century. End the day in Andeer and visit the famous Mineralbad (mineral baths), offering both indoor and outdoor mineral water pools at an sultry 34C, complete with a mountain view (2h visit included).
- Option 1: Walking from Thusis to Zillis, Verlorenes Loch route: 9.5km, 3.5h ↑434m ↓188m
- Option 2: Walking from Thusis to Zillis, Traversina route: 11.5km, 5h ↑619m ↓392m (recommended)
- Walking from Zillis to Andeer: 6km, 1.5h ↑164m ↓127m
- Accommodation: Hotel Fravi in Andeer or similar
Day 3: Andeer – Splügen | 14.5km
Leaving Andeer behind, follow today’s route through Beverin Nature Park to Roffla Gorge, with its impressive waterfall and man-made rock gallery. Continue on the trail, entering a forest where large tree trunks guide the way to Sufers, a small village on the shores of a turquoise lake, enveloped by mountains. Following the ancient mule track, arrive in Splügen, where today’s walk ends. Splügen is a traditional village with traditional Walser-style houses and cobbled streets. The local museum, Heimatmuseum Rheinwald, where centuries of the valley’s history is documented, is well worth a visit.
- Walking for the day: 14.5km, 5.5h ↑754m ↓258m
- Accommodation: Hotel Bodenhaus in Splügen or similar
Optional extra day: Surettaseen | 14km
This optional tour extension includes an extra day of walking and an additional night in Splügen, with the route deviating from the Via Spluga trail, instead featuring a group of lakes, known as Surettaseen (Suretta Lakes). From Splügen, the route starts with an ascent, heading through Fugschtwald, to the alpine pastures of Rhäzünscher Alpenhoch (2,066m). After crossing a plateau, begin the climb, leading up above the tree-line to Unter Surettasee (2,193m), and then on to Ober Surettasee (2,266m). Take a break here, perhaps renting a rowing boat (payable locally) to explore the lake further. Begin your descent, joining the Via Spluga trail at Bodmastafel to head back to Splügen.
- Walking for the day: 14km, 5h ↑800m ↓800m
- Accommodation: Hotel Bodenhaus in Splügen or similar
Day 4: Splügen – Isola | 17km
Today’s route takes you through alpine pastures, offering breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding peaks, avalanche barrier tunnels and along cobbled mule tracks. Continue on a high-altitude section of the trail, surrounded by fragrant wild flowers during your ascent of the northern slope of Splügen Pass. After crossing the Swiss-Italian border, begin the descent on the Italian side of the pass, heading towards the alpine village of Montespluga, the perfect spot for a lunch break. Take in spectacular views over Cardinello Gorge, where the descent requires some caution, but it is generally not demanding. The route leads past many baite (traditional mountain dwellings made from wood) in the nearby hamlets and villages, before bringing your day to a close in Isola.
- Walking for the day: 17km, 6.5h ↑736m ↓946m
- Accommodation: Locanda Cardinello in Isola or similar
Day 5: Isola – Chiavenna | 19.5km
Following the same route as the Liro Torrent towards Chiavenna, the trail leads through chestnut groves, past alpine meadows and along paths lined with traditional dry-stone walls. The approach to Chiavenna offers a magnificent panorama over Valchiavenna and the region’s vineyards. The town is known for its unique crotti, natural caves found in the hillsides of the valley. These caves are used in the wine maturation process and have the perfect temperature for preserving cheese and cured meats, whilst they are also often used as local gathering places for socialising among family and friends or are even converted into restaurants.
- Walking for the day: 19.5km, 6h ↑134m ↓1,060m
- Accommodation: Hotel Crimea, Chiavenna or similar
Day 6: Departure
Departure after breakfast. We recommend booking an extra night in Chiavenna to allow plenty of time to visit Parco Paradiso and the Palazzo Vertemate Franchi in Piuro (both included), or other attractions such as the town’s museums or the Acqua Fraggia waterfalls in nearby Borgonuovo di Piuro. Perhaps spend an extra day visiting Colico (30mins by train), on the northern part of Lake Como.
What to expect
Accommodation on this tour includes a mix of small, locally-owned hotels, B&Bs and traditional guesthouses. They have been carefully selected based on a variety of criteria including their location, warm hospitality, fine local food or commitment to responsible tourism. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms.
Click to view default hotels
Accommodation is subject to availability. In the event of a particular hotel being fully booked for your chosen dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included on all days and packed lunches are included on walking days (days 2, 3, 4 and 5). Dinner is available either at the accommodation or from restaurants in the local area. It is possible to book this tour on a half board basis, to include five evening meals.
Difficulty and terrain
This tour is rated moderate and is suitable for regular walkers, with most days offering 6-7h of walking. Sure-footedness and a good level of fitness is required to get the most out of this tour. The routes cover a variety of terrain, including uneven surfaces, such as cobbled mule tracks and rocky alpine trails, whilst the tarmac paths in the gorges may be slippery. Some days will involve a couple of steep ascents and descents (read more about difficulty grades).
We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never shorten the path through unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. Your holiday information pack will include more detailed information on route navigation.
When to go
This trip is available from early June until mid-October. These months offer the most pleasant weather conditions for walking, with maximum temperatures in Thusis ranging from 10-18C and maximum temperatures in Chiavenna ranging from 11-20C. For more information, see our blog on the Best time to go to Switzerland and the Best time to go to Italy.
The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, meaning you can start your trip on any date during the season.
Click to view travel options
By train or bus
- By train: if you are able to travel to Switzerland and back from Italy without flying, this holiday is reachable by rail, with railway stations in Thusis and Chiavenna. For more details, see the national rail operators SBB and Trenitalia or use the Omio planner above
- From Zurich Airport: it takes approximately 3h to travel to Thusis (via Zurich Hbf and Chur). For more information, please visit SSB or use the Omio planner above
- Parking: parking is available in Thusis for ₣30 per week, payable locally
- From Chiavenna: take the train to Milano Centrale station (via Colico) and then the bus to Milan Malpensa Airport, or change trains at Colico and Lecco for Milan Bergamo Airport. For more information, please visit Trenitalia or use the Omio planner above
- 5 nights accommodation
- 5 breakfasts
- 4 packed lunches on walking days (days 2, 3, 4 and 5)
- Luggage transfers when changing hotels (one piece of luggage per person, up to 15kg)
- Detailed route notes (one per room) at the first accommodation, including information materials, trekking map 1:50.000, vouchers for the following: Via Mala Gorge, San Martino Church in Zillis, thermal baths in Andeer (2h), Roffla Gorge, the Museum of the Via Spluga in Campodolcino, Parco Paradiso in Chiavenna (botanical gardens) and Palazzo Vertemate Franchi in Piuro
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable locally)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- If you’re travelling in a group, a supplement applies to group members who would like to have a room of their own
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Extra nights available upon request
- Surettaseen (Suretta Lakes) extension
- Option for half board upgrade (five evening meals)