8 via ferratas you wouldn’t want to fall from

Love them or hate them, there are some extremely cool via ferrata routes out there.
By Alison Mann

You don’t need to be a top climber, or own a lot of equipment, but you can have a lot of fun on hikes by giving a via ferrata a go – providing you have a head for heights.

For anyone currently wondering what exactly a via ferrata is, climbing blogger Robin Van den Hende explains: “A via ferrata is a way of accessing high and exposed mountains and cliffs without all the time-consuming gear and rope work you need in rock climbing.

“Basically, it's a cable connected to the rock at intervals that you clip on to – if you fall, the idea is that the cable and a specially-designed, shock-absorbing lanyards set stop the fall.

“Via ferrata can be broadly divided into two groups – traditional or sport.”

So if you’re inspired to give one a go, we’ve asked some experts to pick their top routes.

The village traverse

Crossing the cliffs between Mürren and Gimmelwald
Crossing the cliffs between Mürren and Gimmelwald © Robin Van den Hende

Where: Switzerland
How long: Guide time 3 hours
Scenic beauty: 8
Fun factor: 8

The nerve-wracking route traverses between the villages of Mürren to Gimmelwald and actually descends, rather than the more typical ascent. As climbers navigate along the route, they catch spectacular views of the Bernese Alps. Robin says of the via ferrata: “What makes this route fun is how it’s been built to take advantage of the natural obstacles to give you a feeling of exposure, and challenge you to overcome any nerves you might have about long falls.”

The little-known route

The volcanic via ferrata La Guagua
The volcanic via ferrata La Guagua © Valerie Van den Hende

Where: Spain
How long: 7500m
Scenic beauty: 8
Fun factor: 9

Gran Canaria plays host to Via Ferrata La Guagua – an amazing route over volcanic rock, and it is little known outside Spain. The route is set in the Parque Natural de Tamadaba, offering incredible views. Robin says: “It really tests you, it’s challenging technically, varied and very long. There's a suspension bridge, a wire rope ladder up an overhang and some fantastic rock formations. On the descent, you also pass some indigenous ruins. It’s good if you fancy a tropical location but need some time away from the beach, or in winter of course and it’s something a lot of tourists don’t hear about.”

The technical climb

Via Ferrata Roc de la Tovière
The difficult Via Ferrata Roc de la Tovière © Iris Kuerschner

Where: Val d'Isère, France
How long: 3 hours depending on the route
Scenic beauty: 8
Fun factor: 10

Iris Kürschner, author of mountain guidebooks, including Ferrata Western Alps, and Dieter Haas are avid climbers of via ferrata and selected Via Ferrata Roc de la Tovière. The route has three sections: an initiation for children and beginners; the junior – which requires a bit of strength – and the integrale, which is very exposed and for experienced climbers. Dieter says: “The Via Ferrata Roc de la Tovière is one of the most difficult ferratas of the Western Alps.”

The ‘don’t look down’ route

Via Ferrata du Roc du Vent
Don’t look down on Via Ferrata du Roc du Vent © Iris Kuerschner

Where: SavoieFrance
How long: Around 4 hours all-in
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun Factor: 7

The Via Ferrata du Roc du Vent looks over the picturesque Lac de la Gittaz in Savioe, France. Beautiful it may be, but those taking part need a good head for heights. As Dieter says: “You shouldn't be scared of heights when you start the long crossing on the rope bridge, with a deep drop.”

The sport route

Via Ferrata Rocca Senghi
The Via Ferrata Rocca Senghi © Iris Kuerschner

Where: Piemonte, Italy
How long: Takes 3.5 hours
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun Factor: 6

A beautiful view from this Italian route. It’s suitable for less experienced climbers, and because it’s split in two it allows for an escape. Dieter says of the route: “Via Ferrata Rocca Senghi is a sportive Direttissima through partly overhanging rock in the wild and remote Valle Varaita di Bellino, Italy.”

The unique location

Via Ferrata des Canyons de Lantosque
A tropical route in France © Iris Kuerschner

Where: Alpes Maritimes, France
How long: 950m
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun factor: 8

Via Ferrata des Canyons de Lantosque is an interesting route in the beautiful Valley of Vésubie, France. It’s pitched as a good route for beginners, and has three parts. It has a slight canyoning feel to it during the second stage, where users cross a gorge filled with moss and tropical ferns.

The hut-stop

The Via Ferrata Bergsee
The Via Ferrata Bergsee © Iris Kuerschner

Where: Urner Alps, Switzerland
How long: Takes almost 6 hours including walking to the hut
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun factor: 7

The Via Ferrata Bergsee, in the Göschenen Valley, Switzerland is well-known for the rock tower that looks like a crocodile, and has been suggested by Dieter for its Alpine charm. The route includes an 18m long steel rope bridge which hangs 50m above the ground. After some thrill-seeking on the via ferrata, it’s just a half hour walk back to the Bergsee Hut for a rest.

The highest in the world

highest via ferrata in the world, Mt Kinabalu
The highest via ferrata in the world, Mt Kinabalu © chendongshan/Getty Images

Where: Mount Kinabalu, Borneo
How long: 4-6 hours
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun factor: 9

This route is the first via ferrata in Asia and is also the highest in the world at 3,776m above sea level. There are two options, a leisurely two- to three-hour route, where visitors can get the amazing views without taking up too much energy on the traverse. The second route takes a bit more commitment and can allow users to summit the mountain. Of course, for both of these routes you have to climb to the start point first.

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