A diverse hiking experience following historical paths through a colourful cultural landscape: that is the Via Jacobi. This part of the famous Way of St James takes you from Lake Constance across Switzerland to Geneva. The pilgrim path is surrounded by alpine peaks, shimmering lakes and impressive buildings.
Small chapels, imposing churches and tranquil villages line up one after another like a string of pearls. In between, you will find interesting cities, such as Lausanne, dotted with sights. Nature lovers won't be disappointed in the quiet forests and countless lakes. The 19 stages are of varying lengths, starting and ending in towns or cities with a good range of accommodation.
The Via Jacob starts in Rorschach on the shores' of Lake Constance. You will hike through the fantastic lake district south of Zurich to reach Einsiedeln where you will find a monastery famous as a place of pilgrimage. Next, you will meet the idyllic valleys and stunning peaks of the Swiss Alps. You will cross the Brünigpass; at over 1000 meters (3830 feet) the panoramas here are spectacular. From Freiburg, the Via Jacobi leads through French-speaking Switzerland. The section to Lausanne takes you through hilly Mediterranean landscape flanked with vineyards. The last three stages of the Via Jacobi follow the edges of Lake Geneva, before ending in the lively city of Geneva.
Hardly any other part of the European Way of St James combines nature and culture in such a unique way as the Via Jacobi. On this long-distance trail, you will get to know the different sides of Switzerland. From Lake Constance, near the Austrian border, to Geneva, on the French border, you can immerse yourself in the varied landscape and history of this beautiful country. Whatever your reasons for embarking on this pilgrimage, it will inspire you.
Your first leg on the Via Jacobi starts in Rorschach. On Lake Constance, near the border with Austria, you can visit the beautiful lakeside promenade. From here you walk south and soon you have left the city behind. The Via Jacobi winds its way to St. Gallen through wide fields and small villages.Before you get to the center of Sankt Gallen, where the impressive cathedral stands, you can cool off at the Drei Weieren. The small lakes are characterized by wooden walkways, nostalgic boathouses and shady trees. The Drei Weieren are located on a hill from which you can enjoy a great view of the surroundings.South of Sankt Gallen you cross the Sitter and then wander through the recreational area Gübsensee. From here it is only three kilometers to your destination today, Herisau. The place welcomes you with a historic marketplace, medieval streets and a good selection of hotels and inns.
On the second day hiking from Herisau to Wattwil. The route is characterized by the complex hilly landscape of the Appenzell. Through small villages it goes on quiet roads steadily uphill. At the small town of Risi you are cracking the 1,000-meter mark for the first time. You can expect a great panorama.Next, the Via Jacobi runs on curved paths through a green cultural landscape. The guest house Chäseren, lonely on a hilltop, invites you to a stop. In Sankt Peterzell you cross the river Neckar and continue to the southwest.At the restaurant Churfirsten you can take a break and enjoy the view from the large terrace. On the last kilometers to Wattwil it goes steadily downhill. In the village on the river Thur you can visit the imposing monastery of St. Mary of the Angels.Since Wattwil offers only a small selection of hotels and guesthouses, we recommend booking in advance.
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The third stage you can start with a visit to the medieval Iburg in Wattwil. The view from the 13th century castle over the Thur valley is terrific.Between Wattwil and Rapperswil there is a farmland populated by rolling hills and forests. Various sunken paths make this stage of the Via Jacobi a special experience.Before you reach Jona and the attached Rapperswil, you wander through the idyllic nature reserve Joner Wald. Then you follow the path through the streets and alleys to Lake Zurich.In the beautiful Rapperswil on the headland you can expect the colorfully landscaped castle park, the Capuchin monastery and a great view of the lake. There is also a swimming pool there. At the fish market square, overlooking the harbor, you can end the day in one of the many restaurants.
The fourth stage on the Via Jacobi begins with an extraordinary highlight: You walk along the 800-meter-long wooden walkway that connects Rapperswil with Hurden. In the shallow water you can admire various fish and bird species. To the right of you is the beautiful Lake Zurich, on the left the not less beautiful Obersee.On the other side of the river the path leads you through the village Pfäffikon. Then you hike on quiet paths up to the 950 meter high Etzelpass. In front of you a great panorama opens up. About one kilometer after the pass you can visit the birthplace of Paracelsus. The physician and philosopher, who worked in the 16th century, is today regarded as one of the pioneers of modern medicine.The last part of this stage takes you along the blue Lake Sihl. In Einsiedeln you can cool off in the clear water of the lake. Also the viaduct, the Einsiedeln over the lake with Willerzell connects, is worth seeing.The village and the surrounding communities are also winter sports resorts and therefore welcome you with a good choice of accommodation.
You can start this 18-kilometer stage with a visit to Einsiedeln Abbey. The generous complex is considered the most important baroque building in Switzerland and is known beyond the country's borders because of the figure of the Black Madonna. The pompous and detailed interior of St. Mary's Church is breathtaking.Following the creek Alp, you walk parallel to the village street. The mountains that surround you become higher and higher. Over the Haggenegg this section leads through the beautiful high valley of the Alp. The two peaks of the Little and Big Myths, 1,811 meters and 1,899 meters high, you always have in view.The contemplative town of Schwyz could have sprung from a hiking guide: manorial houses stand on the cobbled main square and behind it rises an impressive alpine panorama. During the peak season, it is advisable to book your accommodation in advance, as Schwyz is a small town.
This stage is one of the longest on the Via Jacobi, but it rewards you with incredible views of Lake Lucerne. On the short boat trip from Brunnen to Treib you can relax and sit back. At the beginning you walk through a hilly landscape from Schwyz to the shore of Lake Lucerne. With the ship you transfer to Treib. Information about the timetables can be found here: lakelucerne.ch/fahrplan-preise/fahrplan.On the other side, we lead you high up in the Swiss mountains. The view gets better with each altitude difference and shortly before the winter sports resort Emmeten you cross the impressive Risleten Gorge. The pedestrian bridge spans the deep ditch which the Choltalbach created over thousands of years.From Emmetten it goes back down to the shore of Lake Lucerne. Accompanied by the nostalgic ships, you get to Beckenried and then to Buochs. On the last kilometers to Stans you will again expect a slight incline and the crossing of the babbling brook Aawasser. Stans lies at the foot of the impressive Stanser Horn and is your destination today.
The seventh stage takes you on a good 16 kilometers from Stans to Flüeli-Ranft. On the flank of the Stanserhorn, it goes up to fantastic vantage points, from which you look down on Lake Lucerne and the Stanser Boden. Above the river Sarneraa and the Wichelsee you wander through the Kernwald.After a good ten kilometers, you have the opportunity to take a break in the small pilgrim table. The simple cabin with wooden seating offers coffee, tea and snacks. From Pilgerstibli the path leads steadily uphill, past farms and meadows.The highlight at the end of the stage are the Ranftkapellen, nestling in a quiet valley on the slope. On a wooden bridge you cross the Great Melchaa and then you can visit the two chapels and the hermitage of your brother Klaus. Stylishly, you can stay in Flüeli-Ranft in the Art Nouveau Hotel Paxmontana or alternatively look for accommodation in the village.
Between Flüeli-Ranft and Brünigpass you will find two wonderful lakes and a waterfall. You follow the varied route down to Sachseln on Lake Sarnen. During the descent you can enjoy a wonderful lake and mountain panorama. In Sachseln worth a visit to the pilgrimage church, whose interior is splendidly decorated.At the village of Giswil you can visit the castle ruin Rudenz. There, a bench with a great view invites you to take a break. Then the ascent to the crystal clear Lungerersee follows. On the western shore of the lake you walk along the water.At kilometer 17 you come to the impressive Dundelbach waterfall. In two steps the water rushes down over wooded rocky slopes. South of the village Lungern starts the climb up to Brünigpass. The path winds parallel to the pass road through the deep forest.At 1,005 meters is your current destination, the small town Brünnigpass. Here you will find two guesthouses to stay overnight and just outside the village the Naturfreundehaus Brünig.
This stage starts with a magnificent view of the eternal snow covered high peaks of the Bernese Oberland. From Brünigpass you descend to Lake Brienz and experience the beauty of the local landscape along the way. If you need a cool down, you can hop in the Brienz beach in the water.The Via Jacobi leads you directly along Lake Brienz. The shore path is partly overgrown and shady, but again and again it gives a wonderful view of the lake. The absolute highlight of this stage is the Giessbach Falls: 400 meters, the water plunges into the depths. Halfway up, you can walk over a bridge behind the waterfall and feel the power of the element.Along the riverside path you will always come back to resting places and drinking fountains. The tranquil town of Iseltwald is ideal for a break. At the harbor you can watch the ships and from the sole you have a great view of the wooded Schnäggeninseli.Just above the water surface, we take you on the shores of Lake Brienz to Interlaken, your stage destination. In Interlaken you have the opportunity to visit the park and the beautiful castle. Or you can take the train on the Harder Kulm and end the day in the panoramic restaurant there.
From Interlaken, this stage takes you along Lake Aare to Lake Thun. At Weissenau it is worth taking a detour to the castle ruins. Over many decades, the plant decayed and was only listed as a historical monument in 1980. From the tower you have a beautiful view of the bay of the old Aare.About wooden boardwalks and beach sections, it goes through the nature reserve Weissenau with its wet meadows and reed belts. Following the path on the shores of Lake Thun, you come to the unique Beatus caves. The wide-ridden grottos and passageways are worth a visit and for centuries a place of pilgrimage in honor of Saint Beatus. In the attached restaurant with a magnificent view you can stop.From the Beatus caves, the path meanders through dense forest. The last section you can tackle very relaxed: From Merligen you take the ferry to Spiez and can during the crossing the view of the beautiful Thunersee and the Bernese Alps on you.Before you move into Spiez your overnight accommodation, you have the opportunity to explore the castle and the associated church and the adventure path Spiezer vineyard.
The first section of this stage will take you along the beautiful Lake Thun. From Spiez it goes over wide meadows, on which sheep graze, direction Wattenwil. You wander through the contemplative landscape, with the Stockhorn chain in the background.After six kilometers you cross the river Kander and then climb up to the castle ruin Strättligen. From the hill you have a fantastic view of the lake. The thick walls of the ruin provide the ideal space for a short break.In the tranquil Amsoldingen you can visit a 1,000-year-old church: The Romanesque basilica has a massive-looking tower and an impressive crypt. In the quiet place Amsoldingersee there is a café and a restaurant, which are suitable for a stopover.Passing the Übeschisee, you follow Via Jacobi to Blumenstein and on to the north. The run of the Fallbach brings you to the romantic Gürbeweg, where the brook flows into the Gübre. High trees and bushes provide shade and the lapping of the water accompanies you to Wattwil, your stage destination.
The twelfth stage takes you from Wattenwil to Schwarzenburg and offers not only a lot of nature but also cultural highlights. Via winding paths you ascend to the Burgistein Castle. From afar you can see the turrets and high roofs of the complex. A shady avenue brings you to the 15th century castle, from which you have a great view.You hike to Rüeggisberg through the intact alpine landscape with its tranquil places. There stands the mystical ruins of the former monastery Rüeggisberg, which was one of the most important of its kind in the Middle Ages. Stride through the meter-high arches and let the atmosphere affect you.After a good 14 kilometers you cross the river Schwarzwasser and can stop there in the rustic restaurant Lamm. On quiet paths you reach your destination today Schwarzenburg. The village is nestled in the hill of the Gantritsch region and the castle of the same name is worth a visit.
At the beginning of this stage you leave Schwarzenburg and descend into the Sensegraben, which is a popular recreational and nature reserve.At the Sodbach Bridge you cross the border to the catholic canton of Friborg and are accompanied from here by sacral buildings. Small chapels invite you to linger along the way. In the villages, such as Heitenried, you can visit churches from different centuries.Along forest edges and past colorful fields you get to Sant Antoni and then follow the course of the stream Taverna. In the center of the tranquil village of Tavers you can visit the Church of St. Martin, the neighboring chapels and the interesting Sensler Museum. It documents the life and culture of the region over the centuries.Your way continues over the Maggenberg towards Freiburg. At the hill at the castle Übewil you can enjoy a great panorama of the city. In the medieval old town of Freiburg you can expect narrow streets, paved squares and highlights like the Red Tower.
From Freiburg you continue hiking through the French speaking part of Switzerland. You leave the historic city of Freiburg and arrive in the varied river delta between the Glâne and the Saarine. In the meandering watercourses gravel islands have formed and in the clear water you can see fish.
The pilgrim route crosses the romantic bridge Pont de Sainte-Apolline, which has been connecting the two shores for more than 500 years. Next to the arch bridge is the small chapel of the same name. Then the Via Jacobi runs through a hilly landscape characterized by forests. Again and again, you encounter streams and rivers where you can cool off your feet.Before you reach Posieux, you can visit the impressive abbey of Abbaye d'Hauterive. Especially the colorful rosette windows in the monastery church are worth seeing. Many idyllic places with narrow streets are on the way and offer you a variety of restaurants.At the entrance to Romont, you will pass the Cistercian abbey of La Fille-Dieu, founded in 1268. In the historic center is the Château, which houses the famous Glass Museum. The day you can end in one of the nice restaurants.
This stage, which connects Romont with Moudon, is peppered with beautiful vantage points. It is also one of the shortest on the Via Jacobi, 18 kilometers long. The day starts with a great view of the wide plain that you will walk through during the day.
Shortly after the exit of Romont you cross the border to the canton of Vaud on an exciting mountain trail. After descending into the valley of the Broye, you will pass the little town of Lucens. A detour up to the fairy-tale castle with its many turrets is definitely worth it. Lucens is halfway to Moudon and you can stop in one of the cafes.Continue along the quiet path along the Broye River. Fruit trees and flowering shrubs grow on the shore. Your stage destination is the contemplative Moudon. Here, too, there is a lot to discover, for example the parish church or the two castles Carrouge and Rochefort.
You are getting closer and closer to your goal: the sixteenth stage will take you to dreamlike Lausanne. You leave Moudon on the scenic path along the Broye. After some time, you will reach Bressonnaz, where you will reach a bridge and dive deep into the pre-Alpine landscape on the other bank.It is always slightly uphill and in the distance you can see the peaks of the Friborg Alps. The forest area of the Jorat is particularly idyllic and there you can reach the highest point of this stage at almost 900 meters altitude.
Afterwards you will hike through the suburbs of Lausanne, which are characterized by beautiful villas and gardens. Following the stream Flon, you walk through the wooded recreational area. This connects to the Parc de Sauvabelin, where there is a small pond and a modern lookout tower. From the platform your gaze wanders to Lake Geneva and the Alps. In the center of Lausanne, you can visit the impressive cathedral, various museums and historic sites.
In Lausanne, the Via Jacobi leads you out of the pulsating center to the west. Through the artfully designed Esplanade de Montbenon you walk through the lanes to the green valley of the Vallée de la Jeunesse. In Vidy, you will pass Roman ruins worth a closer look.Then you will reach the fabulous shore of Lake Geneva and follow the Promenade de Vidy. The rest of this stage you walk along the water to Rolle.You pass ports and small parks and are accompanied by swans and ducks. In Morges you can expect a magnificent castle and the well-kept Parc de l'Indépendance: the elaborate flowerbeds and beautiful avenues invite you to linger. Every spring, the park transforms into a sea of tulips, then the colorful chalices radiate their light.Allaman is a particularly beautiful section on the sweeping banks of the river L'Aubonne. The path meanders through quiet forest and past grapevines. The region around Rolle, your stage destination, is characterized by viticulture and romantic châteaux.
The penultimate stage follows the scenic shores of Lake Geneva to Coppet. In Rolle you start at the lakeside promenade and the castle there. You can visit the massive complex from the 13th century. The shimmering water always in view, you wander through the charming landscape. Small villages, traditional wineries and colorful meadows are on the way.At Gland you cross the green valley of the Serine and you can watch gliders at the nearby airfield. Halfway to Coppet, Via Jacobi passes through Prangins. The Château there is the cultural highlight of this stage, because the magnificent fortification is home to the Swiss National Museum. The beautiful castle garden is worth seeing.The neighboring Nyon was founded by Caesar and impresses with a charming old town. Subsequently, French-influenced settlements alternate with cozy cafes and a diverse cultural landscape.The 18th stage ends in Coppet on the River La Doye. Also in this beautiful place you can visit a castle and end the day on the shores of Lake Geneva.
From Coppet the Via Jacobi meanders to the southern end of Lake Geneva. You can tackle the final stage of your pilgrimage comfortably: It is a good 18 kilometers to Geneva. You do not have to worry about your meals, because in the romantic villages along the way there is a large selection of restaurants and cafes.You walk through the beautiful cultural landscape in the canton of Geneva, crossing crystal clear rivers like the Versoix. Following the railway route on Lake Geneva, you can enjoy beautiful views of the blue waters.The closer you get to the cosmopolitan city of Geneva, the more impressive the buildings and gardens become. Via the vantage point Domaine de Penthes you reach the botanical garden. Curved paths lead through shady avenues and past beautiful flowerbeds. The tropical garden house is a special highlight of the park.Via the Pont du Mont-Blanc you come to the center of Geneva and thus the destination of the Via Jacobi. At the historic forecourt of the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre you can sit on a bench, take a deep breath and reflect on the impressions of your hike.