This is my fifth year walking Europe’s pilgrimage routes and Switzerland is the fourth country I have walked in (not counting the US). Here are some observations that may help with your own journey planning.
- Switzerland is quite different from the other countries and well worth your consideration as a Jakobsweg section.
- The most dramatic scenery (and the most demanding climbs and descents) are east of Interlaken and mostly east of Briënz. And I do mean dramatic – comparable to Yosemite Valley in drama (not in wildness of course). Both were formed by similar geologic processes.
- The availability of lodging and stages is quite good. The section between Thun and Fribourg has smaller towns with fewer options; in some places very limited indeed.
- The availability of food shops, both location and opening hours, is quite good; the best I’ve encountered in Europe yet in fact. The variety of cheeses, butters, yogurts, prepared meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables is excellent. One could easily self-cater all three meals a day.
- While there is not a baggage transport system in place, Switzerland has Europe’s best public transport system. There are buses and trains everywhere and it is easy to shorten days or skip sections if you need.
- The way-marking is excellent, again the best I’ve seen in Europe. Still, the Swiss Mobility app with its downloadable maps for offline use was invaluable.
- The variety of lodgings is quite diverse. Sleeping on straw is in fact enormously comfortable and I highly recommend you try it. Some places were exceedingly plain and almost shabby. Others were splendidly spare and modern. Everything was clean and appropriately priced when compared to other similar Swiss lodging. That is to say, 30 francs gets you one level consistently, 60 francs a different level.
- Quality of lodgings is quite good. A sleeping sack is generally mandatory; I was very glad to have a light sleeping bag. Blankets were always available; pillows not always (apparently I should have asked, but I do not know the word). Toilet and shower down the hall and shared was common. Soap and towels were not always provided. I hung my wash in the room and it dried overnight.
- I reserved lodging two months in advance for my travel in September and even then there were some places already full. Email in German and English worked well. My reservations only covered the German-speaking zone; my French-speaking Swiss friend has been making daily reservations for us by phone, with no problem but it is near the end of the month.
- The list of available lodgings is on the Swiss pilgrim association site, www.jakobsweg.ch
- Lodgings often offer a discounted price for walkers, so do ask. The price you get by showing up in person is lower than the one offered for Internet booking, sometimes.
- Weather this time of year is lovely for walking, most days. There was a serious storm about once a week however. A lightweight fleece and rain gear are essential.
- Pricing is, well, Swiss. Over 16 days ranging from some extremely simple lodging and meals to some very comfortable, I averaged SFR 86 daily, including transport. This compares to EUR 60-65 in Germany and EUR 40-45 in France. In Switzerland one pays per person rather than per room. I could have spent less and stayed only in the simplest lodgings and self-catered all meals, reducing the average.