History of the Via Alpina

Made up of over 3,000 miles of footpaths, the Via Alpina is the first single hiking trail to connect the whole Alpine region from Slovenia to the principality of Monaco. The creation of the Via Alpina at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st marks an age of debate on the meaning of the “Alpine identity” and the role of the Alps in the modern Europe.  Prior to World War II, the nations of the Alps region were fairly isolated and cultures did not often mix. But after the end of the war in 1945, the members of the Alpine region began to reconsider identities in the context of a new age of globalization and permeable borders. Many scholars and Alpine historians note that the rise of a broad, multinational Alpine culture coincides with other popular movements towards European integration such as the European Union. The magnificent benefit to you as a hiker is that you can now discover everything the Alps have to offer as a shared environment.

The idea of the Via Alpina can be traced back to 1991, when an international treaty among the 8 Alpine nations was signed, called the “Alpine Convention”. The goal of the treaty was to promote shared and sustainable development of the Alpine region as a whole, rather than overwhelming tourism and environmental destruction resulting from all 8 nations individually trying to exploit the mountains’ resources. The next major step came in 1999, when a French tourism association called the “Grande Traversée des Alpes” proposed a grand project to connect a network of existing trails with some new ones to create both a symbolic and a physical link between the eight member nations of the treaty and to support responsible, sustainable tourism. By the year 2000, a name and logo for the new trail was born: the Via Alpina.

The public launch of the new project was planned for the summer of 2002 – notably to honor the “International Year of the Mountains.” From 2001 through 2004, the network of trails were marked out, signposted, and carefully documented in at least 5 main languages. Local pilot studies were conducted with hikers from all over the world in order to continuous improve the hiking experience and ensure safety.

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