With the onset of autumn, farmers across Switzerland return their herds of cows, sheep, and goats from the high-altitude pastures. It is the season of alpine cow parades.
This age-old tradition marks a milestone in a farmer’s year. And this homecoming of farm animals is a spectacle for onlookers, too. We have previously tried to convince you to see an alpine cow parade in your lifetime. And when we recently witnessed several alpine descents in Appenzell, we decided to research where the désalpes in Switzerland are taking place in 2023.
Upcoming 2023 alpine cow parades in Switzerland:
Aug/Sept: Various alpine cow parades in Appenzell
Witnessing the arrival of cows in the Appenzell region is bucket list material. Each procession consists of a particular setup: white goats lead the way, followed by dairy cows, and finally, cattle. In between, boys and girls, herdsmen, and the owner hike from the alpine pastures to the center of Appenzell.
Fun fact: the typical yellow pants for this region are only worn by herdsmen who stay on the mountain for the entire summer. Learn more about the peculiar setup of cow parades in Appenzell.
For instance, on Sept 21, arrivals in Appenzell were around 1:30 PM (Farmer Räss). Other popular spots to view cow parades are in Weissbad, where these pictures were taken.
Sign up for the free newsletter of Appenzell Tourism, announcing most of their parades ahead of time.
Sept 30: Cow parade in Kerns
After four months of grazing in the mountains, adorned herds and their herdsmen mark the end of summer with their grand return to the valley. The cow parade in Kerns is a colorful piece of living tradition and authentic culture.
Starting at 9:30 AM, the market stalls open for leisurely browsing while eateries invite you to linger and savor the atmosphere. At 11 AM, the alpine herders and their beautifully adorned animals make a grand procession through the village of Kerns. Following the parade, the village's weather prognosticator, Martin Holdener, known as "Muser," will provide a delightful summer review. Throughout the day, the village comes alive with musical performances by various talented groups.
Sept 30: Désalpe in Le Boéchet
There's only one cattle drive in the entire canton of Jura. Around 2:30 PM, a dozen farmer families and their cattle are set to return from the Jura hills to Boéchet. Music, a parade, and an artisanal market will be in the morning.
Sept 30: Cattle drive in Klöntal near Glarus
How fun: while waiting for the cattle to return from the alpine pastures around 10:30 AM, a talented Swiss yodel performer will hold a public workshop. Starting at 9 AM, Maja Keller-Roth will teach you all about natural yodeling at Hotel Rhodannenberg. (Register ahead of time.)
If you are brazen enough, you might jump into Lake Klöntal for one last swim. A small market will also occur, and alphorn players are scheduled to welcome the cattle.
Sept 30: Cattle drive in Näfels
Witness the return of alpine herds from Obersee, Schwändital, and Klöntal to Näfels' village square. Adorned and accompanied by shepherds, the cows are celebrated for their hard work, including maintaining meadows and producing milk for delicious Glarner alpine cheese.
The schedule for the alpine descent in Näfels:
- 9:30 AM: Alp Winteregg, Vogel Family
- 10:00 AM: Alp Obersee-Rauti, Kurt Fischli-Müller Family
- 10:30 AM: Alp Nidersee-Grappli, Thomas Fischli Family
- 11:15 AM: Alp Obersee-Rauti, Willi Pianta Family
- 11:45 AM: Alp Nidersee-Grappli, Fritz Fischli-Wildhaber Family
- 12:30 PM: Alp Oberlängenegg, Christian Krieg Family
- 1:00 PM: Alp Stattboden, Marco Landolt-Müller Family
Sept 30: Désalpe in St. Cergue
When hundreds of cows and other farm animals trot through the village of St. Cergue, it must be the annual désalpe. For this special event, the farmers and shepherds wear their traditional attire. You can spot them cracking their whips and waving their flags as they parade through the village. Meanwhile, their priced possessions are adorned with floral decorations and large bells.
The events in St. Cergue begin at 8:45 AM with the first processions. From 11 AM, booths will sell artisanal foods and handicrafts, alphorn concerts, and more.
Oct 1: Glarner Alpchäs- und Schabziger-Märt in Elm
Elm's picturesque town hosts a large market every first Sunday in October. Starting at 8 AM, the Glarner Alpchäs- und Schabziger-Märt features booths selling the cheese produced during the summer. Each cheese variety has a flavor profile, so we recommend you sample them all!
One of the attractions of this annual alpine festival is the arrival of the "Trychler" farmers carrying heavy bells. The homecoming of livestock follows their parade.
Oct 6: Cantonal cattle show in Sarnen
For one day every autumn, the Reithalle area in Sarnen is turned into a cattle exhibit. This is the chance for farmers from the canton of Obwalden to showcase their best cows and cattle. Watch the skilled judges as they walk the rows of bovines, assessing each animal based on various criteria. From alpine dairy cows to valley cattle, this competition has 40 categories of bovines. Look out for the steers along the street.
Oct 7: Annual sheep sheering in Savognin
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the famous Savognin Sheep Sheering event and farmer's market. As in previous years, the market, starting at 10:30 AM, features various wool products and handicrafts. Kids can enjoy a fairy tale hour, and you can purchase exquisite alpine cheeses at the stalls.
Around 11 AM, up to 300 sheep arrive at the Plazza Grava schoolhouse square. In the past, the sheep had a long trek from faraway Alp Flix. But in recent years, they are from much closer alpine pastures near Savognin.
Don't miss the captivating herding dog show at 11:30 AM, 2 PM, and 3 PM.
Oct 7 - 8: Alpine festival in Seewis
The Prättigauer Alp Spektakel is already in its 17th year. If there is a single happening to experience it all, this festival is it. A colorful alpine descent will involve cows, sheep, and goats. A beauty contest will also be crowning the nicest alpine beards and an artisanal marketplace.
The best way to get there is by public transport. Get off the train station in Grüsch or park your car at the valley station in Grüsch-Danusa. Every 20 minutes, a shuttle bus will take you to Seewis where the festival takes place.
Oct 13: Cattle show in Engelberg
The Viehschau Engelberg and Grafenort is an essential event for this alpine community. The festivities kick off at 9 AM with open catering. At 10 AM, witness an animal exhibition featuring around 200 well-bred livestock in the running to be nominated a winner.
By noon, relish lunch, including beef pepper, alongside musical entertainment. At 1:15 PM, special competitions crown the cattle champion and the day's winner. The breeders' evening begins at 8 PM with free admission, featuring musical entertainment by Schimbrig Power and a DJ-run bar. Free parking is available at the Brunni cable car.
Oct 14: Cantonal cattle show in Glarus
Glarus is known for having the directest direct democracy in Switzerland. On the Landsgemeindeplatz, the citizens traditionally get to vote on issues by hand. But in autumn, the square becomes the site of another kind of voting... The cantonal cattle show takes up the entire space from 8:30 AM to 3 PM, with farmers showcasing their most handsome bovines.
These alpine cow parades have already passed:
Sept 2: Alpine descent “Züglete” in Gstaad
In Gstaad, the homecoming of cows is called “Züglete,” which means as much as “relocation.” Since cows are traditionally adorned with flower bouquets, this event is a feast for the eyes.
The festivities start in the morning with a parade of bells that announce the arrivals. Another farmer's family and their beautiful Simmental cows will arrive about twice an hour. Throughout Gstaad, find market booths, a show cheese dairy, and even a petting zoo.
Sept 10: Alpine descent in Saas-Balen
This event in Valais is smaller scale but beautiful. Experience how the cows return from the Hoferälpji to the town of Saas-Balen. The bovines will depart the alpine pastures at 10 AM, which puts them in the village around noon. A cheese market where the summer’s dairy products are hawked follows the parade. Music and entertainment continue until 6 PM.
More information via email or phone: +41 27 957 21 43
Sept 15: Alpine descent in Summiswald
As early as 7:30 AM, the herdsmen will depart from their alps towards the valley. Between 8:30 AM and 1 PM, various groups will pass through the town of Wasen im Emmental. And between 9 AM and 1 PM, groups are expected to arrive in Summiswald.
Since there will be many different farmers in this event, you can expect just as many farm animals in the parades: oxen, dairy cows, cattle, and goats. And while you enjoy all the festivities of the Emmentaler Alpabfahrt, indulge in local food from the various clubs.
Sept 16: Alpine descent in Anzère
Anzère above Sion welcomes the cows of Alp Serin home at 11 AM. The best place to enjoy the procession will be at the cable car or Restaurant de la Poste where the cows arrive. The latter is where all the entertainment occurs, and local food is sold.
Sept 16: Alpine descent in Blatten - Belalp
As summer draws to a close, the farmers of Blatten-Belalp traditionally drive their cows back to the valley. To celebrate this occasion, the farmers will decorate their cows for the long journey to Blatten.
Starting at 7 AM, the cows will embark on their journey. They are expected to arrive in Blatten near Naters at 11 AM. You might want to arrive a bit earlier, however, as the festivities at the valley station of Blatten are set to begin at 9 AM.
The program calls for flag-wavers, yodeling, and the traditional “Belalp Alpine Queen” crowning at 3 PM.
Sept 16: Désalpes in La Fouly
The alpine parade in La Fouly takes place in the French-speaking part of Valais. The village is quite a ways from even Martigny, a 35-minute drive or 52-minute ride on public transport. Nonetheless, this will be a scenic désalpes involving four mountain pastures: Mont-Percé, Ars, Peule, and Léchère/Plan de la Chaux.
A 10 AM parade precedes the arrival of the animals. The food stalls with everything from raclette to BBQ will open before noon. A definite highlight will be the cow fights at 2:30 PM. The winning cow will disappear as the official “Queen of Désalpe”...
Sept 16: Alpine descent in Innertkirchen
Each region has its traditions when it comes to désalpes. Innertkirchen in the Bernese Alps enjoys two homecomings this year, each from a different alpine meadow. While festivities begin at 9 AM, the first cows of Alp Gental are scheduled to arrive around 11:30 AM.
Then, at 1:30 PM, the second batch of beautifully decorated cows is set to arrive from Alp Engstien. Each arrival is concluded with a parade in Innertkirchen, so you could hang out there to watch it all. However, those who want to capture beautiful photographs might want to hike toward the alps ahead of the arrivals to catch the cows in a natural setting.
The program calls for an alpine descent for children. You may drop the little ones at the church at 11:30 AM dressed in traditional shirts and outfits. They will enjoy activities at Grimseltor before being returned to Innertkirchen.
Sept 16: Cattle drive in the Suldtal near Spiez
With its tall waterfall, the idyllic Suldtal above Spiez makes for a unique setting. Around noon, the parade will pass by the restaurant. Traditionally, participating children wear folk costumes while the well-fed cows are decorated with bells and flower bouquets. The herdsmen, meanwhile, are busy keeping all the goats and bovines in line...
The best way to access this event is by bus 62 from Spiez and a shuttle transfer to Restaurant Pochtenfall.
Sept 14: Alpine descent in Urnäsch
The Appenzell region offers a perfect setting for the homecoming of cows. Throughout the morning, different farmers will arrive in the town of Urnäsch. But the best time to enjoy this tradition is between 10 AM and 1 PM.
On the same day, there will be a farmer's market on Kronenplatz with over 50 stalls and various entertainment and musical performances. (Don’t miss the pig races at 11 AM, 1 PM, and 3 PM!) Park your car at Appenzellerstrasse or at Werkhof Furt. From there, hop on a shuttle bus to Urnäsch. Or better yet, arrive by public transport...
Sept 21: Wengernalp descent into Lauterbrunnen
After a weekend of cow parades in the region, farmers will bring back their livestock from Wengernalp. The best time to witness this annual Swiss tradition is late morning.
The cows will depart from Wengernalp at 9:30 AM, making their way into Wengen at 10:30 AM. You will have the best vantage points along Dorfstrasse. By 11:30 AM, the cows will arrive in Lauterbrunnen, trotting into town from the parking lot at the Lauterbrunnen church.
Sept 23: Désalpes in Blonay
Very easy to access by car is the town of Blonay near Vevey. Around noon, the herd departs from the Guedères alpine pasture. Until the arrival at the castle of Blonay around 1 to 2 PM, the bovines and herdsmen will have walked for a dozen kilometers.
Starting at 11 AM, those awaiting the cows' arrival will indulge in local food, alphorn concerts, flag-throwing performances, and more.
Sept 23: Désalpes de Charmey
Every last Saturday of September, the désalpes in Charmey celebrate the return of the cattle to the lower pastures. The rindyà (dialect for "alpine departure") is touted among traditionalists as one of the most authentic events.
Sept 23: Alpine descent and market in Emmetten
From 10 AM through 5 PM, the town of Emmetten welcomes farmers and their livestock. There will also be an alpine market in this beautiful setting on the southern shores of Lake Lucerne. Expect a selection of the summer's best cheese, meats, and honey, among other things. The children will surely enjoy the petting zoo. And who knows, you might try your luck in the milking competition.
Sept 23: Désalpe in Grimentz
The cattle drives in the Val d'Anniviers are unique in Switzerland: this region in Valais is known for the black Herens breed. From 11:00 AM onwards, the beautifully decorated "queens" and their herds will arrive from the Alpage de Moiry in the historic old town of Grimentz. A farmers market with local cheese varieties, live music, and other entertainment round off the program.
Sept 23: Alpine descent in Lauterbrunnen
This cow parade combines the stunning scenery of the Lauterbrunnen Valley with beautifully decorated livestock. What else can you ask for? Around 2:30 to 3 PM, the cows are expected to arrive in the town of Lauterbrunnen after their descent from Mäderalp. As is common in the Bernese Alps, the cows will be adorned with flowers, ribbons, and large bells.
Sept 23: Alpine descent in Mels
The alpine descents of Mels are among the most popular events in this region. They take place on various dates in September and are easy to access for the city slickers among us. We recommend arriving in Mels around 11:30 AM. The easiest is to ride the bus to the “Post” station, then walk a few steps to the central square.
The artisanal farmers’ market will be in full swing. The arrival of the cows will be one of those lasting memories. To celebrate a successful summer, the farmers would decorate their farm animals with flowers, twigs, and beautiful bells.
Sept 23: Entlebuch cattle drive in Schüpfheim
Now 18 years in the making, the Entlebucher Alpabfahrt is a spectacle in its own right. Some 200 animals from seven farmer families are expected to walk into Schüpfheim around 11 AM. Their bells can be heard from far away, but the ornate decorations can only be seen once the bovines enter the town. Pay special attention to the humans with their local folk dresses, too.
Sept 23: Cattle drive in Schwanden
The first big cattle drive arrives on Hauptstrasse in Schwanden early in the morning, so be there at 7:30 AM. Enjoy an alpine breakfast, market stalls, and crafts until two more cattle drives reach the festival grounds. It's a fantastic alpine day with impressive cattle and the official mascot Zibu, who will also be walking back home this year.
Or if you are brazen enough, you might jump into Lake Klöntal for one last swim. A small market will also be present, and alphorn players are scheduled to welcome the cattle.
Sept 23: Cattle drive at Schwarzsee in Plaffeien
After spending four months on alpine pastures, the cattle return to the town center of Plaffeien. Throughout the day, about 1000 animals are expected to arrive home.
Sept 24: Farmer's market in Isenthal
Explore the village of Isenthal and marvel at ancient, nearly forgotten crafts at various stands. Witness shingle-making, bell forging, roof shingle making, and wood carving. Watch the basket weaver or wooden clog maker at work. And who knows, perhaps you can try your hand at it, too?
At the numerous stalls of the Isenthal farmer's market, you can purchase handmade crafts and products from local artisans. How about sweet pine cheese honey or a savory "Mutschli" cheese? It's a treasure trove of curious craftsmanship and delectable finds.
We have only good memories of Isenthal from our alpine cheese-making experience. On this day, there will also be an artisanal market showcasing some lesser-known trades: , wood-carving, basket-weaving, or even the production of roof shingles.
The best way to arrive in Isenthal is by public Postal Bus. Shuttle buses will take you straight to this idyllic village above the lake. Alternatively, you could hike from Klewenalp to Isenthal in about five hours.
Nov 2022: Farmer festival in Weggis
The Sännächilbi in Weggis is hosted every five years by a local farmers' association with roots dating back to 1686. The next edition will be in 2027. During the course of this five-day farmer festival, there will be various activities such as bouldering, food stalls, and live folk music. But the surefire highlight is the grand parade at 1:30 PM on Sunday.