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Traditional Alpine Descents in Switzerland (2017 Schedule)

September 2 - October 15

Alpine Descent Switzerland

(Photograph copyright Switzerland Tourism)

Watching the cows descend from the alpine pastures is one of those Swiss bucket list items for autumn.

The occasion when alpine farmers return the cows to their respectful owners down in the flatlands is deeply embedded in Swiss culture. Called “Alpabfahrt” in German, or “désalpes” in French, these formerly traditional events have gained in popularity. I am sure that you have seen pictures of livestock parading down a mountain, with each cow being decorated with flowers and their most precious bells.

Usually taking place on Saturdays in the months of September and October, herdsmen, their family members, goats and dogs can be seen as they descend from the mountains into the flats. As the alpine herdsmen approach civilization after months of solitude, they are being greeting by the townspeople. Make sure to bring a camera when you venture to one of the

Where to experience alpine descents in Switzerland

Autumn season offers many discoveries here in Switzerland, and alpine descents should be high up on your list.
 

Saturday, Sept 2

Engstligenalp to Adelboden BE
This is an alpine descent for early birds. Starting at 5:30 AM, the first farmers will leave the Engstligenalp pasture and make their way to Adelboden. The last herds will leave around 7:30 AM, so it pays to be ready in the early AM for arrivals at the Talstation in Adelboden…
How to get there and more information
 
Alp Stätz and Chötzenberg to Parpan GR
Around 11 AM, the cows will arrive at Parpan on the town square. There will be festivities, food and music.
How to get there and more information
 
Gstaad BE
Cows are expected to be arriving in Gstaad around 9:30 AM, followed by a day of music and festivities. Things will wrap up at 4:30 PM.
How to get there and more information
 

 
Grächen VS
AM arrivals expected (no fixed times were mentioned on the website)
How to get there and more information
 
Vaduz (Liechtenstein)
2 PM: Arrival of the cows in Vaduz Aubündt. They are lead by a traditional milk delivery carriage, and there will be a farmers’ market at Aubündt.
How to get there and more information

 

Saturday, Sept 9

Flums Tannenboden to Bergheim SG
The parade will start from Tannenboden around 10 AM and arrive in Bergheim at 11 AM. Call for more information: 081 720 18 18.
How to get there and more information
 
Goldingen (Atzmännig) SG
At this Alpine festival within easy reach of Zürich, there will be Swiss wrestling for the kids, horse carriage rides and flag tossing. At 4 PM, there is a guided hike to spot hawks in the wilderness.
How to get there and more information
 
Siviez (Nendaz) VS
Have you heard of the traditional cow fights? Nendaz is one of the places where they take place. On this day, expect a “désalpes” in the nearby town of Siviez starting at 9 AM – as well as cow fights, food and entertainment.
How to get there and more information
 
St. Stephan BE
10 AM – 4 PM Expect about 120 cows neatly decorated with ribbons and flowers to arrive at the festival grounds on the St. Stephan airfield.
How to get there and more information

 

Sunday, Sept 10

Gemmi to Leukerbad VS
11 AM – 5 PM The day before the descent, about 700 sheep are herded on Gemmi. On Sunday, they will make their way down the steep slopes to the Rathausplatz in Leukerbad. After a short break, the sheep have to continue their descent to Leuk, mastering no less than 1700 meters of altitude in a single day.
How to get there and more information

 

Thursday, Sept 14

Sumiswald BE
Organized by the Lüderenalpp, this alpine descent of 600 head of cattle is not to miss. Be there when the bells start chiming from high above, getting louder and louder as the farmers and their prized possessions approach Sumiswald…
How to get there and more information

 

Friday, Sept 15

Majingalp to Leukerbad VS
A batch of grass fed, happy cows will be descending from Majingalp to Leukerbad. Catch them somewhere along the way as they parade down Ringstrasse, passing by Hotel Alfa and turning into Rathausstrasse. Around 11:30, they are expected to arrive in Leukerbad.
How to get there and more information

 

Saturday, Sept 16

Belalp to Blatten VS
Starting at 7 AM, the herdsmen will be bringing down the cows and goats from Belalp to Blatten where they are expected around 11 AM. From 9 AM, there will be a farmers’ market featuring cheese and goods, a petting zoo and more. Another highlight is the crowning of Miss Belalp at 3 PM.
How to get there and more information
 
Einsiedeln
Known for its monastery, Einsiedeln is a hot spot not only for those on a pilgrimage. On this Saturday from about 1 PM, herds of goats, sheep and cows will parade by the “Kloster”. Catch it while you can because this event happens only every five years… 2022 will be your next chance!
How to get there and more information
 
Flims GR
The local call this parade “Flimserstein” because more than 100 decorated cattle will descend along the narrow path of the rock face with the same name. Around 8:30 AM, the herders are expected to arrive in the town of Flims.
How to get there and more information
 
Klosters GR
10:30 AM: Arrivals of cattle. Traffic will be restricted, so you might want to arrive by free shuttle from Klosters Platz.
How to get there and find out more
 
Mels SG
The farmers of Mels have picked several dates for the homecoming, but Sept 16 seems like the best bet to see cattle of four different farmers returning. Wait at the “Dorfplatz” for the cows to arrive between 12 to 3 PM. There will also be a farmers’ market.
How to get there and more information
 
Urnäsch AR
On this day, Urnäsch is host to a cheese market and the traditional alpine descent. Starting at 9 AM, be there to greet all the happy cows in the parking lot in front of Krone. Don’t miss the pig races and the farmers’ market with some 50 vendors. And finally, do yourself a favor and travel by train…
How to get there and more information
 
Val d’Anniviers VS
Cattle herds will be descending from several alpine pastures. Check the schedule for details.
More information
 
Wassen UR
You might know the famous church of Wassen which can be spotted from several angles while riding the train across Gotthard. On this day, about 100 cattle will descend to Wassen where you will be able to enjoy an alpine festival with alphorns, cheese degustation and a petting zoo for the little ones.
How to get there and more information

 

Sunday, Sept 17

Flums SG
On this day, cattle from four different alps in “Heidiland” will converge in Flums Dorf: Fursch, Panüöl (via Casella), Molseralp and Wildenberg. Expect the action between 11 AM and 2 PM and follow the signs to find the farmers’ market on the property of Innobas AG.
How to get there and more information
 
Crans-Montana VS
Watch the cows as they parade through this resort town.
How to get there and more information

 

Monday, Sept 18

Jaun FR
This is the annual descent of sheep which spent the better part of summer in the mountains. The tradition goes back four centuries and is not to be missed. What is unique are the traditional dances at local restaurants.
How to get there and more information
 

 

Saturday, Sept 23

Charmey FR
Here is one of the region’s biggest alpine descents, with festivities starting at 9:30 AM in the charming town of “Charmey”!
How to get there and more information
 
Flums Dorf SG
11 AM – 2 PM: Arrival of decorated cattle on Marktstrasse in Flums Dorf
How to get there and more information
 
Schüpfheim in the Entlebuch LU
Tucked away in the idyllic Entlebuch valley, more than 200 animals will descend after a summer spent in the mountains at Sörenberg. 10 AM seems to be a good time to catch the parade in Flühi, or you could skip it and go straight to Schüpfheim where they are expected at 11 AM.
How to get there and more information
 
Schwarzsee to Plaffeien FR
The annual return of the cattle is framed by cheerful festivities and a market. Over the course of the day, no less than 1000 animals will be arriving in Plaffeien.
How to get there and more information

 

Tuesday, Sept 26

Kandertal BE
This will a special kind of alpine descent… It’s with funny alpacas instead of cows!
How to get there and more information
 

Prättigauer Alp Spektakel in Küblis/Seewis, Oct 5-8

Here’s an alpine festival that has it all: A farmer tavolata in Küblis on Oct 5 and 6, an alpine descent with decorated cattle in Seewis, a farmers’ market, cheese degustations and even a meetup of the beardiest alpine herders.
How to get there and more information

 

Saturday, Sept 30

Albeuve FR
After spending more than four months grazing in the alps, cows in authentic decorations and adorned with bells will be descending to Albeuve.
How to get there and more information
 
Engelberg OW
The arrival of the procession is scheduled between 11:30 AM to 2 PM. The farmers have spent a tremendous amount of time cleaning and decorating their cattle, so please applaud when they enter Engelberg… There is also a farmers’ market with regional products from 30 vendors, as well as food and entertainment.
How to get there and more information
 
Kerns
Meet a living tradition at the alpine descent in Kerns. From 11:30 AM to 2 PM, about 400 animals will be parading through Kerns.
How to get there and more information
 
St-Cergue VD
With the sound of alphorns, farmers will proudly show off their herds of cows, goats and pigs as the parade through the village of St-Cergue in the Vaudois Jura.
How to get there and more information

 

Tuesday, Oct 3

Appenzell AI
9 AM: As part of the cantonal cattle show, farmers will gather to honor the most beautiful cows of the Appenzell region.
How to get there and more information

 

Saturday, Oct 7

Savognin GR
The annual sheering of the sheep will be taking place from 11 AM. Imagine 300 sheep parading into town – that’s going to be quite a spectacle! Oh, and there will also be a market, alphorn music and fairy tales for the litte ones.
How to get there and more information

 

Saturday, Oct 14

Lenk im Simmental BE
The valley famous for its Simmen breed will host a large Alpine Festival with a cattle drive, music and food. The highlight will be the crowning of Miss Simmental.
How to get there and more information

 

Sunday, Oct 15

Linthal GL
For those who live in Zürich, here is an event within easy reach: The “Glarner Älpler- und Bauernchilbi” features a yodeling mass at 10 AM in the church of Linthal. Afterwards, lots and lots of music and entertainment – the Swiss way!
How to get there and more information

 

Please share your désalpes photographs and video clips on our Facebook page or tag us on social media!

And here’s an article about the time we brought home the cows in Lenzerheide

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Dimitri

As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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Details

Start:
September 2
End:
October 15
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