08: Sachseln to Brünig Pass

The Brünig Pass, the only low-altitude pass on the Camino de Santiago in Switzerland

The Brünig Pass stands as an essential gateway for travelers seeking to journey from Luzern to the Bernese Oberland, where the majestic peaks of the Bernese Alps, rising over 4,000 meters, dominate the landscape around Interlaken. Despite its modest altitude, the winding route of the pass road delights enthusiasts of two-wheeled and mountain biking alike. A narrow-gauge rack railway accompanies the constant flow of Asian and Arab tourists towards the pass, in transit between Lucerne and Interlaken. Trains snake along this track, weaving the history of travel into the folds of these mountains since 1888.

Naturally, the pilgrim takes a distinct route, separate from that of the railway, although the latter remains always in view. From Sachseln, the pilgrim follows alongside the railway, occasionally glancing at it until ascending the slopes of Kaisersthul. There, where the train continues its journey, the pilgrims find themselves on the other side of the remarkable Lake Lungern, with its striking emerald waters. However, at Lungern, the pilgrim reunites with their metallic companion. For those wishing to avoid the on-foot ascent of the pass, the train remains the preferred option. In a matter of minutes, it transports its passengers to the summit, where walking requires more time and effort, but where the pleasure of a challenging ascent awaits, punctuated by the twists of cliffs and the opportunity for contemplation along the Stations of the Cross. The climb offers a spectacular sight, unparalleled in its grandeur.

We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live.

For this stage, here is the link:


Difficulty level: Despite the brevity of the stage, the elevation changes are noticeable (+701 meters/-206 meters). This section of the journey, although short, presents its share of challenges, including crossing a pass, albeit modest compared to the highest Alpine peaks. While the beginning of the route unfolds peacefully along Lake Sarnen to Giswil, the subsequent ascent towards Lake Lungern is steep, passing through Kaiserstuhl. Here, the slope rivals that leading to the pass. The stroll along this enchanting lake poses little difficulty, but at Lungern, the ascent to the pass begins, sometimes marked (although rarely) by gradients exceeding 25%.

State of the Via Jacobi: In this stage, trails prevail significantly over roads.

  • Paved roads : 6.1 km
  • Dirt roads : 13.4 km

It’s clear that not all travelers are comfortable using GPS and navigating via smartphone, and there are still many areas without an internet connection. As a result, you find a book on Amazon that covers this journey.







If you only want to consult lodging of the stage, go directly to the bottom of the page.





Sometimes, for reasons of logistics or housing possibilities, these stages mix routes operated on different days, having passed several times on Via Podiensis. From then on, the skies, the rain, or the seasons can vary. But, generally this is not the case, and in fact this does not change the description of the course.

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use.

For those seeking “true elevations” and enthusiasts of genuine altimetric challenges, carefully review the information on mileage at the beginning of the guide.

Section 1: Stroll along the shore of Lake Sarnen

Overview of the route’s challenges: easy route.

Like a devoted heroine, the Via Jacobi begins its journey from the venerable square of Sachseln, humbly bowing before the imposing church, before gracefully launching towards the station, majestically contemplating the tranquil waters of Lake Sarnen.

Like a delicate thread of history, it weaves under the muffled tumult of trains, tenderly nestling along the edges of a discreet marina, like a jewel nestled in the embrace of the waters. 

Thus begins your journey, in the bewitching wake of this dirt path, between the iron rails and the silvery reflections of the lake, a leisurely stroll, promised with happiness and wonder.

Today, the lake slumbers in absolute tranquility, its surface mirroring a clear blue, like an offering to the serene skies, an ethereal purity that envelops the soul.

In this German-speaking land, where order and perfection are elevated to art, rest areas stand in perfect harmony, offering the opportunity to surrender to the sweetness of the moment, between bites of charcuterie, lounging in a wooden hammock, in a ballet of flavors and sensations.

From this blessed vantage point, a dazzling panorama unfolds before you, embracing the majesty of the waters, the delicate contours of Sachseln and Sarnen, while across stands the legendary Mount Pilatus, its proud silhouette defying the heavens, carrying on its flanks the legendary and dizzying cogwheel train.

Gradually, the Via Jacobi transforms into a generous path, offering its ground to the steps of pilgrims, to the murmurs of the streams that accompany them.

Around its meanders, it modestly crosses small streams, such as the Steinbach, then the Maienbach, before reaching the station of Ewil, where industrial effervescence comes to life, witnessing the economic vigor of the region. Here, a major company specializes in precision engines. So, when the train stops, it’s not Arabs and Asians who disembark, but locals who work in the region.

Here, on this path of ecstasy, the soul surrenders to the gentle rhythm of the seasons, punctuated by the fleeting passage of trains, symbolizing the incessant flow of life, coveted by both travelers and inhabitants of distant lands. It is the little Interlaken-Lucerne line, single-track, sometimes cogwheel. This train is used by locals, but mostly by crowds of Asians and Arabs traveling from Lucerne to Interlaken.

For kilometers, nothing changes, with the restful peace of the lake and its shore ever present. Far from the bustle of cities, the horizon stretches into an infinite offering, bathed in the tranquility of the lake and surrounding countryside, where a prosperous agriculture flourishes, while modest homes rise with discreet elegance, like sentinels watching over the passing time.

Life flows peacefully with the water, punctuated by the gentle lapping of waves, where boats glide gracefully, barely touching the smooth surface of the lake, in an enchanting choreography celebrating pure beauty.

Section 2: The long journey from Giswil

Overview of the route’s challenges: a route without difficulty.

The path gracefully winds towards the end of the lake, gently advancing in front of a charming marina that seems to await the passage of travelers eager for discoveries and wonders.

In this elegant progression, signs towards Giswil loom on the horizon, guiding the journey along the shores dotted with peaceful marinas, each a refreshing stop for the wandering soul.

Like a silver thread woven by the hands of time, the Via Jacobi soon reaches Zollhaus, where the soft murmur of customs officers of yore still echoes. Zollhaus means “customs house.” It was here, before 1948, that customs officials operated between the cantons of Obwald and Bern because Brünig was too far from anywhere. This name, an echo of a forgotten past, evokes the tranquility and hospitality of the place. Now, if you seek refuge for the night, it’s here, under the roof of this house, where the pike dances in the pots and where the kindness of the landlady illuminates hearts. 

The Via Jacobi then crosses Giswil-Nord, weaving into a complex road network where the highway winds through a maze of tunnels. The narrow and winding passage forces a delicate coexistence between the river, the road, and the railway.

Indifferent to the artifices of the modern world, the Via Jacobi escapes along a rustic path, accompanying the Kleine Melchaa in its lively and uncertain course among the boulders.

It is true that crossing these rocky lands is not without challenges. Yet, the wildness of nature harmonizes with the ruggedness of the paths, creating a striking tableau where the harshness of the landscapes meets the roughness of the roads. You wouldn’t spend your vacation around here.

Further along, the route follows the river before joining the Brünig road and arriving at Giswil, where it crosses the railway. Here, the route seems quite chaotic, to say the least. It’s quite complex to cross Giswil, between roads and rivers crisscrossing the plain.

The road runs through the center of Giswil, skirting the station where one can already sense the rumble of the cogwheel, ready to climb the first hill towards Kaiserstuhl.

The watercourses here are numerous, sometimes impetuous, sometimes channeled. After the station, the path crosses the Giswiler Aa, an imposing river with tumultuous currents, quite different from the wild Melchaa. Then, its waters mingle with those of the Laui to reach the lake before the Via Jacobi veers away through the fields. One must diligently follow the direction signs, like a wandering soul in search of answers, to avoid getting lost.

Along the Laui, the Via Jacobi surrenders to the gentle melody of the water.

One might mistakenly believe that the path will lose itself in the meanders of nature. In fact, you are still in Giswil, just in another part of the town, Giswil-Rudenz. The route has simply made a detour to avoid the Brünig road. So, the Via Jacobi passes near the bridge over the Laui but does not cross it.

The route then returns to Giswil, where the St. Laurentius church stands proudly, an immutable witness to the vicissitudes of time. Dating back to the 17th century, this church, with its discreet majesty, seems to defy the storms of history.

Finally, freed from the grip of the town, the route finally emerges from this endless journey, passing by a vocational school to reach the Kaiserstuhl hill.

Section 3: The challenging ascent of Kaisersthul before the splendor of Lake Lungern

Overview of the route’s challenges: demanding climb; over 250 meters of elevation gain over 2 kilometers, then a leisurely stroll along the lake.

The Via Jacobi winds its way through the plain, gracelessly following the Giswilwer Aa, rediscovered here as an old companion, before daringly venturing towards the protective shade of the forest. Up above, the train, like a metallic breath, glides carefreely.

From there, the traveler is invited to climb, from Lake Sarnen to Lake Lungern, following the footsteps of the Brünig road and its faithful companion, the railway. The climb, capricious and demanding, often challenges with its boldly inclined slopes of over 15%.

Here, a modest road relinquishes the fullness of the plain, giving way to a narrow path that, like an ascetic, steeply ascends into the sanctuary of the undergrowth. It snakes beneath the Brünig road, which, from a major thoroughfare, has transformed into a semi-highway, where the hum of civilization is distinctly evident.

The path, defying the rocky terrain, climbs amidst the undergrowth, above this semi-highway artery. This stretch, with an almost melancholic monotony, proves to be a challenge with its ruthless slope and austere, unwelcoming forest, urging the traveler to seek an escape. Below, truck drivers take a break, an oasis of life, at the inn.

Under a canopy of majestic beech trees, interspersed with some oaks and maples, the path continues its quest. The ash trees at the edge provide respite for the eye, weary of the stone, plunging towards the more welcoming plain below.

Gradually, the path becomes an accomplice to the railway, making its way through scrub and wild grasses. The walker is about to leave behind the melancholy of this demanding undergrowth, where every step requires sustained effort.

When the trail meets the railway, the slope becomes less tyrannical, offering a brief respite.

Yet, this leniency is short-lived, and soon, the path resumes its ascent. Running alongside the railway, it veers away to flirt with the Sommerweid farms. Here, the panorama widens, and the mountain pass road reveals itself again, as if a revelation. 

From this privileged observatory, the gaze can sweep one last time over Giswil to Lake Sarnen, embracing Zollhaus in its embrace.

Beyond the last sentinels of Sommerweid, a humble asphalt road crosses the hilltop, as if to salute the sky. 

This path leads to Kaiserstuhl, guardian of Lake Lungern, where the train and automobiles share their incessant ballet. There’s no station buffet to welcome the traveler, but a hotel stands, like a beacon. Travelers from distant horizons, Asian and Arab, do not stop here, their gaze fixed on Interlaken.

In the distance, the Finsteraarhorn rises, majestic, guardian of the Bernese Alps, its peak reaching 4274 meters, offering a sublime spectacle. Beneath this sentinel, Lake Lungern stretches, a haven of tranquility.

Lake Lungern, a mirror of emerald and azure, harbors perch, whitefish, trout, pike, and catfish within, dancing an aquatic symphony. Fishing, a princely activity in these parts, is celebrated by local fishing tackle shops. The clarity of the waters invites contemplation, protecting its inhabitants through welcome fishing restrictions.

Here, two roads emerge: that of motorists, enamored with speed, to the left of the lake, and that of hikers, nature poets, to the right. Secret coves offer refuge for fishing, water games, or simply to anchor one’s boat, testimonies to moments of pure happiness, akin to the crystal-clear water of the lake. On the horizon, Lungern looms.

The small road, a faithful companion to the shore, swiftly leads to Bürglen, with its modest church and scattered houses, silent witnesses to simple and full lives.

Further on, the road momentarily departs from the lake’s caress… 

 …only to return, drawn by its charm, near the dwellings of Margel

Here, modest unnamed streams, full of life, descend from the mountain, as if to confide in the lake.

Soon, a beaten earth track takes over from the asphalt, in a gesture of returning to origins. On the other side of the lake, the Brünig road watches, while the lake’s water retains its jade brilliance.

Section 4: A little more respite before the pass

Overview of the route’s challenges: a route without difficulty.

The Via Jacobi unfolds along a dirt road that majestically winds along the top of the bank, where the canopy of deciduous trees, in overwhelming dominance over the conifers, weaves a green setting. Among this vegetation, the beech, undisputed sovereign of these lands, shares its kingdom with a retinue of lush maples, some ancient oaks, as well as ash and spruce trees, punctuating the landscape with their noble presence.

Along the path, the beaten dirt turns into a winding ribbon, dotted here and there with sharper turns. Here and there, a solitary barn or a mysterious stream, whose origins elude you, mark your journey.

On the other side, in the distance, Lungern seems to flourish before your eyes, growing as our gaze lingers, like a living painting unfolding on the horizon.

Continuing your progress, just a few hundred meters more, and the Via Jacobi leaves the shores of the lake to embrace new horizons.

The road then leads you to Disselbach, a suburb of Lungern, where it crosses the Dundelbach. This latter, in a wild surge, cascades over the village like a veil of foam celebrating the power and beauty of nature.

The road, continuing its way through Disselbach, heads towards Obsee, a village nestled near the lake, where the density of life echoes a preserved past and a present built with discernment.

A cable car, like an artery connecting earth to sky, rises towards the Turren/Schönbüel ski area, offering an escape to snowy peaks.

The road, continuing its journey, reaches Obsee and crosses the Lauibach, in a region where man has tamed the waterways, a testament to Switzerland’s wealth and foresight in the face of nature’s whims.

Soon, the road winds through Obsee, a village where wooden chalets, lined up and adorned with geraniums, flirt with the shores of the lake, offering an image of serenity and quality of life.

Shortly after, the road redirects towards Lungern, crossing on its way the St. Béat Chapel, a baroque jewel from the 16th century, whose recent restoration has revived its splendor and spirituality.

The Via Jacobi, although it does not reach Lungern, serves as a guide for pilgrims wishing to reach the train ascending to Brünig. The pass, despite its intimidating evocation, represents only a minor challenge within the Swiss relief, with its modest altitude of 1000 meters. Indeed, during your passage over Schwyz, you had faced higher altitudes, exceeding 1400 meters. This pass, although it presents gradients of over 300 meters and sometimes dizzying slopes, is only a minor challenge in the grand theater of the Swiss mountains

The path rising towards the pass begins behind an imposing wooden commerce sign, marking the entrance to the Brünig road.

After an ascent on a path dotted with stones, the Via Jacobi joins a discreet road, sinking under the protective shadow of the cliff, like a well-kept secret.

Section 5: A long climb towards the Brünig Pass

Overview of the route’s challenges: a steep climb, with an intermediate descent, just for the pleasure of climbing again afterward.

As soon as you cross the threshold of this small plateau, a rocky path boldly climbs through the shadow of a forest, backed by a cliff, accompanied by a Via Crucis that seems to watch over every stray step.

No matter how intense your heavenly pleas for a less steep slope, they are met with the indifference of cliffs, polished by the gleam of shale, and the unyielding stones marking the path.

In this natural theater, majestic beech trees refuse to yield the stage to maples and oaks, those scattered solitaries.

Once the cliff is conquered, the slope finally consents to soften, although remaining at an incline approaching 15%, where the path joins the road, animated by the incessant ballet of traffic towards the pass.

The small path persists in its ascent through the woods, overlooking the pass road. The dance of stones beneath your feet and the veil of moss covering the rocks testify to a pervasive humidity, under a sun playing hide-and-seek.

Here, demand intertwines with the wild beauty of a sparse forest, where the path skirts a new cliff, weaving among rocks draped in moss, amidst a procession of beeches, maples, and birches. Sometimes, the rocks are adorned with mysterious engravings, like ancestral warrior frescoes. The slope, ever imperious, weaves its way among the interlaced stones and roots.

A clearing suddenly offers you a view of the pass road, stretching not far away. The roar of engines, like a constant murmur, accompanies the ascent through numerous points of this climb.

Higher up, the path plunges into a canyon, embraced by dense vegetation. The echo of engines reminds you of the renewed proximity to the road, frequented by a denser cohort of motorcyclists than truckers.

Soon, you reach the place called Letzi, perched at 950 meters above sea level, where granite has been shaped to offer a haven of rest.

The smell of beer hangs in the air, a promise of imminent comfort, perhaps intended for travelers rather than motorists. At this altitude, the illusion of an almost completed ascent lulls you before revealing the trickery of the path: a descent of over 60 meters awaits you before climbing again. The Camino de Santiago cunningly avoids the overly frequented arteries.

Thus, the road suddenly withdraws from under your feet, first plunging into the undergrowth, then through the meadows.

Lower down, the wake of the railway crosses the landscape.

In the hollow of this descent lies Cholhüttliwald. The Brünig Pass is now just a short walk away.

Soon, the path straightens, promptly rejoining the railway tracks. 

You find yourself on a lovely path alongside the track, bordered by a few barns and alpine chalets, silent witnesses of mountain life.

Shortly after, it leads you to cross to the other side of the tracks, but the spectacle remains unchanged, of a striking beauty.

A little higher up, advertisements for beer mingle with those of the nature conservation league, owner of a chalet nearby.

Near the pass, the path finally leaves the railway to rejoin the pass road.

The station stands at the heart of the pass. Few souls reside there, but nearby, Hasliberg, a small mountain resort, houses numerous chalets. 

The Brünig, lively pass by day and haven of peace by night, offers shelter and sustenance. A popular flea market displays its treasures near the station, attracting the curious in search of a breath of old Helvetia.

Accomodation on Via Jacobi

  • Landgasthof Hotel Zollhaus, Zollhaus; 041 675 11 72; Hotel, dinner, breakfast
  • Luisia Enz-Frezza, Gerbiplätz 4, Giswil; 041 675 11 61; Guestroom, breakfast
  • Johanna & Martin Rohrer, Brüngstrasse 10, Giswil; 041 675 28 67/079 152 76 06; Guestroom, breakfast
  • Camp Obsee, Campingstrasse 1, Giswil; 041 675 23 55; Camping, dinner, breakfast
  • Luisia Enz-Frezza, Gerbiplätz 4, Giswil; Hôtel Bahnhof, Brünigstrasse 48; Hotel, dinner, breakfast
  • Biohof Ennetmatt, Bürglen; 041 678 13 02; Guesroom, dinner, breakfast
  • Anne & Paul Knüsel. Hinterssestrasse 127, Bürglen; 079 272 09 58; Guestroom, dinner, breakfast
  • B&B Ming, Brünigstrasse 49, Lungern; 041 678 12 86/079 259 19 86; Guestroom (straw), dinner, breakfast
  • Marianne Furrer-Bucheli, Lengasse 12, Lungern; 041 678 12 38/079 928 14 11; Guestroom, dinner, breakfast
  • Theres Gasser, Badmattweg 31, Lungern; 041 666 16 63/077 401 20 08; Guestroom, breakfast
  • Brigitt Steiger, Röhrligasse 44, Lungern; 079 641 86 74; Guestroom, breakfast
  • Szilvia Herzog, Röhrligasse 45, Lungern; 076 778 46 46/076 277 04 54; Guestroom, dinner, breakfast
  • Hôtel Restaurant Waldegg, Brünigpass; 033 971 11 33; Hotel, dinner, breakfast
  • Hôtel Restaurant Silvana, Brünigpass; 033 971 17 08; Hotel, dinner, breakfast
  • Hôtel Restaurant Kulm, Brünigpass; 033 971 00 40; Hotel, dinner, breakfast


There are no major difficulties in finding accommodation on this stage. However, it can be crowded at the pass during the peak season. It is still advisable to book in advance for security.

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