Via Spluga offers a wonderful mix of history and culture, perfectly embedded in a long-distance hike that leads from Thusis in Switzerland, over the Splügelnpass and to Chiavenna in Italy. This hiking trail has a 2000-year-old history as a mule track and was once considered the shortest route across the Alps, making it an important connection between Graubünden and Lombardia.
The 6-day Via Spluga: The Heart of the Alps tour will take you to the very heart of the Alps, from the once most feared section of the historic trail – the over 321 stone steps and rocks to Andeer, through the gorges of Rofla and Via Mala, and up to Splügenpass (2,114m). Descending through the gorge in Val Cardinello and the forested Val San Giacomo, you will reach southern Chiavenna and experience the pure Italian flair.
Enjoy local delicacies like Violino di Capra, Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese or the mouth-watering Lombardian cheese Scimudin with a glass of wine, produced from the Nebbiolo grapes, locally known as Chiavennasca. Extend your stay in Chiavenna to visit the Paradiso botanical garden, the Palazzo Vertemate in Prosto di Piuro and Colico village, situated on Lake Como’s northern arm, where river Adda enters the lake.
- Via Mala Gorge
- San Martino Church in Zillis
- Roffla Gorge and the spectacular waterfall
- Andeer’s thermal mineral baths
- Cardinello Gorge and the ancient mule tracks
- Isolated pilgrimage churches
- Dog-friendly holiday
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Day 1: Arrive in Thusis/Sils im Domleschg
Arrive in Thusis, a charming Swiss town in Grisons, situated at the northern entrance to the spectacular Via Mala Gorge on the Hinterrhein river.
- Accommodation: Hotel Weiss Kreuz in Thusis or similar
Day 2: Thusis – Zillis – Andeer | 15.5-18km | 5-7h
From Thusis, there is the option to follow either the Verlorenes Loch route, which is the more historical and less strenuous route, or the Via Traversina route, which offers panoramic views, since it runs parallel to the Via Spluga trail but at a higher altitude. Both routes lead to one of the most picturesque yet dramatic highlights of the tour: Via Mala Gorge. From the gorge, continue on to Zillis and pay a visit to San Martino Church, renown for its unique painted ceiling panels, which date back to the 12th century and are almost completely preserved. Finish the day of walking in Andeer, a quaint village with traditional houses and cobbled streets. Visit Andeer’s famous Mineralbad (mineral baths), offering both indoor and outdoor mineral water pools at an attractive 34C, complete with a mountain view (2h visit included).
- Option 1: Walking from Thusis to Zillis via Verlorenes Loch: 9.5km, 4h ↑900m ↓620m
- Option 2: Walking from Thusis to Zillis via Traversina: 12km, 5h ↑1040m ↓780m (recommended)
- Walking from Zillis to Andeer: 6km, 1.5h ↑200m ↓100m
- Accommodation: Hotel Fravi in Andeer or similar
Day 3: Andeer – Splügen | 14.5km | 5h
Leading Andeer behind, follow today’s route to Roffla Gorge, an ancient section of the Hinterrhein river in Berverin Nature Park, with impressive rock formations and a waterfall. Continue on the trail, entering a forest where the large tree trunks guide the way to Sufers; a small village situated by a serene turquoise lake, with a backdrop of the mountains. Following the ancient mule track, arrive in Splügen, where this evening’s accommodation awaits. Splügen showcases architecture typical of the region surrounding the Splügen Pass; including stylish mansions, Walser-style houses and a network of 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, 5h ↑1080m ↓480m
- Accommodation: Hotel Bodenhaus in Splügen or similar
Day 4: Splügen – Isola | 17km | 6h
Today’s route leads through alpine pastures, which offer breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding peaks, avalanche barrier tunnels and the well-maintained cobbled mule tracks. Continue on a high-altitude section of the route, surrounded by fragrant wild flowers whilst ascending from the village on the northern slope of the Splügen Pass. After crossing the Swiss-Italian border, begin the descent on the Italian side of the Splügen Pass and head to the alpine village of Montespluga, the perfect spot for a lunch break. Take in the spectacular views over Cardinello Gorge; one of the most dramatic sections of the Via Spluga trail. The descent requires some caution, but it is generally not demanding. The route leads past many traditional mountain dwellings made from wood (baite) in the nearby hamlets and villages, before ending in Isola for the evening.
- Walking for the day: 17 km, 6 hrs ↑700m ↓900m
- Accommodation: Locanda Cardinello in Isola or similar
Day 5: Isola – Chiavenna | 18km | 6h
Following the same route as the Liro Torrent towards Chiavenna, today 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 (the valley) and the traditional vineyards of the area. Chiavenna 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. Some of the crotti have been converted into restaurants, whilst many are still private, passed down from generation to generation of local families.
- Walking for the day: 18km, 6h ↑160m ↓915m
- Accommodation: Hotel Crimea or similar
Day 6: Departure
Independent departure after breakfast. We recommend booking an extra night in Chiavenna to allow plenty of time to visit Parco Paradiso (botanical garden) in Chiavenna and the Palazzo Vertemate Franchi in Piuro, or other attractions such as the town’s museums or the Acqua Fraggia waterfalls in the nearby Borgonuovo di Piuro. Perhaps spend an extra day visiting Colico (30 mins by train), situated on the northern part of Lake Como, where the Adda Rive enters the lake.
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 5 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, and two of the days are longer (18km) (read more about difficulty grades).
We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never shorten the path through the 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 mid-June until mid-October.
The flexibility of self-guided holidays means there are no fixed dates, and 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 without flying, this holiday is reachable by rail, with a railway station in Thusis, the starting point of the tour
- From the airport: it takes approximately 3h to travel from Zurich Airport to Thusis. There are normally 45+ trains per day and tickets start from €18pp when pre-booked. For more information, please visit Rhaetian Railway and SBB
- Parking: Parking in Thusis, CHF 30 per week, payable on the spot
- From Chiavenna, you can take the train to Milano Central Station via Colico and then the bus to Milan Malpensa Airport. For more information, visit Trainline or use the Omio planner above
- 5 nights accommodation
- 5 breakfasts
- 4 packed lunches on walking days (days 2, 3, 4 and 5)
- Luggage transfer when changing hotels (one piece of luggage per person, max 15kg)
- Detailed route notes (1 x per room) at the first accommodation, including information material, trekking map 1:50.000, vouchers for Via Mala Gorge, San Martino Church in Zillis, thermal baths in Andeer (2h), Roffla Gorge, the Via Spluga museum 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 on-site)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
- 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
- Option for half board (five evening meals)