Trail of the travel pioneers

The Gemmi Pass is the oldest link between Valais and the Bernese Alps – and the heart of the ViaCook, a long-distance journey following the trail of the British tourism pioneer Thomas Cook.

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1st day:
Leuk–Leukerbad (10 km): When Thomas Cook led his very first group trip through Switzerland in 1863, his party of eight included Jemima Morrell, a vicar’s daughter. The itinerary she described in her journal is the basis for the ViaCook cultural route, which leads in eight stages from Geneva to Kandersteg. Today’s stretch of path follows historic mule trails and a former railway line, and with a total vertical climb of 950 vertical metres offers a bracing challenge as well as fine views.

2nd day:
Leukerbad–Gemmipass (5 km): Back in 1863, the British travellers set off on the ascent to the Gemmi Pass with guides and mules, following a steep mule trail built in 1740 up the seemingly impassable Daubenwand cliffs. Today you can choose to skip the climb (950 vertical metres) by riding the modern cable car instead.

3rd day:
Gemmipass–Kandersteg (15 km): In her journal, Jemima Morrell wrote with great enthusiasm about the magnificent views taking in the Monte Rosa massif, the Matterhorn and the Dent Blanche. The mule trail along the tranquil waters of the Daubensee to the historic Schwarenbach mountain hotel, with its dizzy twists and turns, seemed to her like a staircase for giants.

Via Cook

Highlights & tips

  • Leuk Castle, with its cupola by Swiss architect Mario Botta, has won international acclaim
  • The Burgerbad in Leukerbad (official Wellness Destination) is Europe’s largest alpine thermal spa
  • Up on the Gemmi, the new viewing platform projects ten metres from the cliff edge
  • The historic Schwarenbach mountain hotel, accessible only on foot, is a delightful place to linger
  • The Waldhaus mountain hotel in the Gastere valley has no electricity: lighting is by candle
  • A night at the Landgasthaus Ruedihus in Kandersteg brings 250 years of history to life

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