‘Awesome’ is the best word to describe the Via Francigena Tours Switzerland pilgrim route. Everything about it is ‘awesome’ – from the mighty Lausanne Cathedral to the majestic Lac Léman, to the Rhône Valley and up to the famous Grand-St-Bernard Pass. In addition, to all this beauty, the local food and wine at the UNESCO listed vineyards is a treat. This pilgrimage is a must do!
2018 Lausanne to Grand-St-Bernard
Day 1: Lausanne
Our Lausanne to Grand-St-Bernard Pass pilgrimage begins in Lausanne, Sigeric’s Stopover LIV or 54. We meet at Lausanne Cathedral and then continue down towards Lac Léman visiting Castles, Gardens and historic places.
Day 2: Lavaux
Then we walk for about 10 km along the shores of Lac Léman admiring the views of the Alps, lake and visiting the Old Towns. The UNESCO listed ancient Roman vineyards are a feature of this walk.
Day 3: Vevey
We continue to walk 10 km through the vineyards towards Vevey, Sigeric’s stopover LIII or 53. Here we visit the Old Town and admire the famous sculptures lining the Lake walk. After lunch we continue to Montreux. There is much to see in Montreux, but a visit to Château de Chillon is a feature.
Day 4: Aigle
Aigle is Sigeric’s Stopover LII or 52. Historically it has always had a role to play on the journey from Rome to the rest of Europe. Approaching Aigle we cross La Grande Eau using the Napoléon Bridge. Walking along the river, we come to a medieval outdoor washing area. Then, we walk along streets like, Jerusalem street, filled with history to arrive at the Church of Saint Maurice set in the vineyards. Next we tour the Château d’Aigle now a Vine and Wine Museum. And finally, we rest and enjoy the local food and wine!
Day 5: Saint-Maurice
It is a 17.4 km walk to Saint-Maurice through the vineyards, along the River and the Alp encased Rhône Valley. Our destination is Saint-Maurice Abbey, Sigeric’s Stopover LI or 51. This Abbey was founded in 515 CE and it is the oldest Christian monastery in the western world. It has been a place of continuous prayer for over fifteen centuries. Here we enjoy a visit to the Basilica, the Archaeological Museum and the Treasury. Then, we cool off in the Lavey Baths and enjoy the local food and wine.
Day 6: Martigny
We continue with a 16.4 km walk along the Rhône Valley towards Martigny. On the way we visit the Chapel of the Martyrs in Vérolliez where Saint-Maurice and his Thebian companions were executed in 300 CE. Then on to Rhonetal with is famous Pissevache waterfall and 200 m deep Trient Gorge. There are many wonderful things to see in Martigny. But our first stop-off is the Barry Foundation for lunch. Then we visit the Saint-Bernard Dogs and read about Via Francigena history in the Museum. Outside we visit the Roman amphitheatre and walk along the ancient Roman Via Poenina. Then, a quick visit to see the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition and sculpture garden at Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Followed by a walking tour of Martigny and then a well-deserved taste of local food and wine.
Day 7: Orsières
Orsières is Sigeric’s Stopover L or 50. At higher altitude is Bourg-St-Pierre, Sigeric’s Stopover XLIX or 49. This is the first place in Switzerland where Sigeric rested because the Hospice at Grand-St-Bernard Pass did not exist then.
It is a 19.3 km walk to Orsières, following the River Dranse and passing through the medieval villages Bovernier and Sembrancher. Arriving at Orsières, we visit the Church of St Nicolas with its remarkable Romanesque bell tower. And, its nearby ancient bridge of historical significance for crossing the River Dranse. For our dining experiences there is the famous Restaurant des Alpes and a traditional raclette made from locally produced cheese and wine.
Day 8: Grand-St-Bernard Pass
Grand-St-Bernard Pass is only open to traffic from June to September. So our access to the Pass will depend on the weather. Our guide, Sarah will lead us along the Via Francigena pathway as far as possible. With luck, we can access the Hospice, enjoy the afternoon there, and return by bus.