Swiss Route (Jakobsweg)

A 350 km historic route running east to west through Switzerland from Konstanz on the German border to Geneva.
The Route. A 350 km historic route, “end-to-end” (east-west) through Switzerland from Konstanz on the German border to Geneva.  There is also a branch starting in Rorschach and leading via St. Gallen to join the main route in Einsiedeln.  Follows the general direction taken by pilgrims to Santiago in previous centuries although alternatives paths are used in places where the original route has now become a modern road.  In many sections there are also two options, to the north or south of the several lakes the route passes.  One goes via the Brunnig pass (1002m), Interlaken and Thun, the other via Lucerne and Bern, joining up again near Fribourg to continue to Lausanne and then to Geneva and the French border (from where energetic pilgrims can continue on a waymarked route to Le Puy-en-Velay).

Waymarking. Well waymarked throughout, either with the white signposts of the Schwabenweg or the brown markers of the Swiss long-distance footpaths network. Note, however, that these never indicate the distance but only the time needed to walk from one place to the next.

Terrain. Strenuous!  The surfaces are normally easy to walk on (a number of  farm tracks are in fact tarmac now) but apart from sections alongside lakes the route is full of ups and downs, often several times a day.  The highest point of the route is the pass over the Haggenegg, at 1414m. (Cyclists will need to take minor roads or dedicated cycle tracks for much of the route.)

Weather/When to go. Allow about three weeks to walk the entire route.  Early May to late
September.  Wide ranges of temperature according to height and season.

What to see. Apart from the stunning scenery on most of the route there are traces of pilgrim
activity in the past, numerous interesting small chapels and churches along the way and a number of representations of St. James.  The most important ecclesiastical “sight” is the abbey at Einsiedeln, a pilgrim gathering place in the past and also a pilgrim focus in its own right.  The route also passes the birth place of St. Nikolaus de Flüe (and after whom the new refuge in Ponferrada is named).

Accommodation.  Plenty, but none of it very cheap.  Some youth hostels, very few campsites, but in the German-speaking areas in particular there is a network of spartan accommodation known as Schlafen im Stroh/Aventure à la Paille.  Farms belonging to the scheme provide a barn where you can sleep in the hay (with your sleeping bag), washing facilities and a good breakfast the following morning.  All charge the same price (20 Swiss francs per person in 2002).  Details are given in the accommodation lists provided by the Swiss pilgrim associations (websites below)

Guide books.

  • Jakobswege Schweiz: Von Konstanz, Rorschach und Rankweil bis Genf. 36 Etappen. Mit GPS-Tracks (Rother Wanderführer), 2014, by Renate Florl, ISBN 978-3763340682.  This is the most up-to-date and considered the best available guide at the moment by the Swiss Pilgrim Association.
  • Les Chemins de Saint-Jacques à  travers la Suisse, by Jolanda Blum, Ott Verlag + Druck AG: Thun, 1999.  This is a direct translation of the original German version, published in 1998.  Both guides provide detailed historical information and route descriptions but nothing on accommodation or other services.
  • Wandern auf dem Jakobsweg, by Peter Witschi, Appenzeller Verlag-Herisau, 2002.  Route description, very good (Ordinance Survey type) maps, historical information.
  • Unterwegssein auf dem Jakobsweg, vom Bodensee zum Genfersee durchs Berner Oberland is a very useful (free) 128 page booklet (even if you can’t read German very well) and is widely available in Tourist Offices, church bookstalls etc.  It gives timings from place to place, historical information and many small photos helpful in recognising places of interest and also includes small sketch plans.  This covers the route from Konstanz.  A parallel booklet, Von Rorschach nach Romont durchs Berner Oberland deals with the St. Gallen branch.
  • A CSJ guide (route description, accommodation and services, what to see) is in preparation.
  • The Swiss Association now publishes a set of A4-size colour maps of the route.  Enquiries to the address of the French-language branch (below).

Mapping. Peter Robins reports [October 2007]: “… detailed online mapping of the Swiss route(s) is available on the IVS’ excellent GIS site http://ivs-gis.admin.ch/ – high quality, as ever with CH.”

Websites:

www.viajacobi4.ch  Swiss association of pilgrims

www.jakobsweg.ch  Another Swiss association http://www.jakobsweg.ch/en/eu/ch/ takes you directly to the English-language pages of the site

www.pilgern.ch Site for information for Bregenz, Rorschach – St.Gallen to Einsiedeln

www.wanderland.ch/en/routes/route-04.html    English-language page

www.pilgerherbergen.ch  lots of information about refuges along the Jakobsweg.

 

Thanks to Alison Raju, 2005.  Updated December 2016 with assistance from Josef Schönauer of Pilgern Auf Dem Jakobsweg

 

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