Cycling in the Heart of the Alps – from Chur to Grindelwald

by Pepe Strub, August 25, 2020

Electro bikes, mountain bikes or road bikes – Switzerland boasts of a sophisticated cycling network covering the entire country. In the lowlands riders enjoy their own sign-posted paths and are separated from motorized vehicles, making cycling also attractive for families with children. Single trails, downhill tracks or panoramic routes complement the choice for cycling enthusiasts.

There are 9 main routes through Switzerland which are well documented and hundreds more which connect individual villages and cities. Bikes can be rented at many locations throughout Switzerland or delivered directly to your hotel. Designated Bike Hotels cater to travelers who are looking for action and fun. Luggage transfers can be organized if you prefer to ride without. Drop your bags in the morning and pick them up at the destination hotel in the late afternoon.

Exploring Switzerland by bicycle is a thrilling activity for adventure enthusiasts and sustainable! If we have aroused your interest about biking in Switzerland, keep reading to discover a great route for your next vacation. From Eastern Switzerland over the Alps to the Bernese Oberland, the following itinerary presents you an impressive side of Switzerland.

Sample itinerary – Switzerland cycling vacation
Upon arrival in Zurich take the train to the mountain city of Chur. It is the oldest city of Switzerland and a gateway to many other mountain activities. It is also where the Glacier Express connects with the Bernina Express. You can pre-order road bikes to be delivered to your hotel before you arrive!

Visit Via Mala and easy cycling around Chur (warm up day: 32 miles). Overnight in Chur
Take the train from Chur to Thusis. Upon arrival in Thusis head up the road to Via Mala on the regular road (646′ climb). Always look out for sign-posted bike path. Via Mala is an exciting gorge (small entrance fee) where a long time ago much of the north south traffic had to pass. After visiting Via Mala ride back to Thusis and from Thusis to Tiefencastel on the regular road (8.7 miles, 1,004′ climb). Tiefencastel makes for a good lunch break before riding up to Lenzerheide. Once you reach Lenzerheide you are on top and from now on it will mostly go downhill back to Chur.

From Chur to Grindelwald in 7 days

Cycling from Chur to Disentis (38 miles). Overnight in Disentis
Today you pick up bike path #6 behind the train station, towards Domat-Ems. On the outskirts of Chur you will merge with bike path #2. For a short while #6 and #2 are one. They split in Felsberg and you have to make sure you stay in #2 (which is to the right of #6 or north of #6). It leads via Tamins, Bonaduz to Versam and Valendas before you reach Ilanz. From Ilanz you continue on #2 all the way to Disentis. Today should be all day on bike lanes.

Founded in the 8th century, Disentis is a small mountain village and today the spiritual and educational center of the Upper Rhine Valley (Vorderrheintal) with its monastery. The ancient town in which the Abbey stands is about as Swiss as it can get. It has many other attractions such as the Basilica of St Gada, the Chapel of St Luzi in Disla, the Chapel of S. Maria in Acletta and the covered Punt Russein bridge which is an engineering marvel. The abbey church is usually open and can be visited. The general area around Disentis is also a hiking paradise with more than 150 km (90 miles) of trails, many times through pristine forests.

Cycling from Disentis to Andermatt (20 miles). Overnight in Andermatt
From Disentis you continue on #2 to Andermatt via the the Oberalp Pass at 6,706 ft. This is mainly on regular roads which you have to share with other motorists. Once you reach the Oberalp Pass it goes mostly downhill all the way to Andermatt.

The Ursern valley (canton Uri) at the foot of the Gotthard Pass is one of the most impressive upland valleys in Switzerland. Andermatt (1444 m) lies at the heart of Switzerland’s Alpine passes, and is the largest of the three villages in the valley; it’s at the crossroads of the mountain passes from north to south and from east to west. The variety of tour options with the eight surrounding Alpine passes is unique worldwide.

Day in Andermatt: Gotthard Pass via Tremola (16.4 miles). Overnight in Andermatt
Take the bus from Andermatt to Airolo (reservation for bicycle required). From Airolo on the south side side of the Gotthard back to Andermatt it is a total of 16.4 miles and takes about 3 hours. You climb 3,146 ft. and descend 2,247 ft. The Gotthard Pass is one of 3 main passes through the Alps and as an option includes the “Tremola”: the historic cobble stone road (bike trail #3). The Passo Tremola in Italian, is one of the most unique passes in the Alps thanks to these top 5km of original cobble stone road. But not only is the pass cobbled, and steep, but thanks to the Gotthard tunnel, it is not used by many cars. Besides a few motorbikes and curious tourists, cyclists have the bumpy experience to themselves.

Cycling from Andermatt to Meiringen (43 miles). Overnight in Meiringen
From Andermatt over the Furka Pass down to Gletsch and via the Grimsel Pass down to Meiringen. This is the most demanding biking day. If you feel it is too much then you could also take the train from Andermatt to Realp before you head up and over Furka Pass. The bike path from Andermatt to Gletsch is on path #1. In Gletsch before you head up to the Grimsel Pass, you are changing to path #8. Once you have reached the Grimselpass it is pretty much downhill for the rest of the way, except for a small hill before Meiringen.

Meiringen / Haslital
The tradition-imbued, Bernese Oberland holiday resort of Meiringen lies in the Hasli Valley, south-east of Lake Brienz. A nostalgic funicular leads up to the mighty, tumbling Reichenbach Falls; the smaller, lower waterfalls can already be admired during the ascent. The viewing terrace of the mountain station affords an excellent view of the flooding waters of the 120-metre-high «Upper Reichenbach Falls». In the murder mystery «The final problem», the master detective Sherlock Holmes is supposed to have plunged into the depths here to meet his end.

Day in Meiringen (Hiking / History / Lake Day). Overnight in Meiringen
Ballenberg, Switzerland’s Outdoor Museum lays just above Lake Brienz close to Meiringen. Since the 1970s a few old farmhouses, stables, bake houses or barns have no longer demolished been when due to be replaced by modern buildings. Instead, the buildings have been dismantled stone by stone, and rebuilt in the Ballenberg Open Air Museum. You can take bus #174 every hour from Meiringen to Brienzwiler Bahnhof. From there you can reach the entrance to Ballenberg within 20 minutes on foot. Or you ride your bike from Meiringen to Ballenberg which is approx. 6 miles.

Or you could ride the bike to Interlaken Ost and head up Mt. Harder which provides beautiful vistas over the Jungfrau massif to which you will be close on your last 3 days. Alternatively, you could take a boat from Brienz to Interlaken and head back via bike. You can also take your bike on the boat (and pay children fare for bike).

Cycling from Meiringen to Grindelwald (17 miles). Overnight in Grindelwald
Today you have a steep beginning and then it continues going up in Rosenlaui valley until Grosse Scheidegg. On #61 up and over the Grosse Scheidegg Pass at 6,437 ft, then down to Grindelwald. Mostly regular road restricted to postal bus with several restaurants along. You will also pass by the Belle Epoque Hotel Rosenlaui and the famous Rosenlaui Glacier (and Glacier Gorge) which you can see from the road.

Grindelwald is among Europe’s oldest mountain resorts and lies in a valley in the beautiful Bernese Oberland, surrounded by the spectacular mountain trio “Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau”. The village looks back on a long standing tradition of tourism and offers lots of mountain excursions including to the Jungfraujoch, First, Kleine Scheidegg, Bussalp, Schnyige Platte, Pfingstegg, Grosse Scheidegg and Männlichen. These mountain excursions give visitors access to 300 km (187 miles) of hiking trails during Grindelwald’s summer months. From Jungfrau you see well into Germany and France on one side, and on the other side you see the largest Glacier in Europe, the Aletsch Glacier. On First you can enjoy various adventure activities such as flyer and glider (a sort of zip line), Trottibike and mountain cart.
If you preorder your bicycle you can drop it at your hotel in Grindelwald and the rental company will pick it up there. From Grindelwald you have a train every 30 minutes back to Zurich Airport.

Are you considering a tour through Switzerland by bycicle? Please let us know, we would be happy to organize it for you and take care of everything. The only thing you’ll have to do by yourself is biking.