Interlaken is one of Switzerland’s best destinations for visitors to get outdoors, breathe the fresh Swiss air, and explore the country’s rugged and breathtaking terrain. They say that the air in Interlaken, due to its insulated location, is some of the cleanest in Europe. And there are endless opportunities for exploration, just choose your mode of transportation:
Interlaken on Foot
The best hikes can be found by first getting some elevation and then heading out. One popular choice is to take the funicular from the edge of town up to Harder Mountain, where you can stop at the restaurant which has a fantastic view over the cliff face, or you can just explore the woods.
Taking the train to Schynige Platt is another popular option. Keep in mind that you’ll need proper footwear when hiking – the trails are immaculately maintained but don’t forget comfort and safety. You’ll also find some mountain passes blocked by snow even in the deepest heat of summer. One rewarding walk if you can get through the white stuff, are the trails on First Mountain. Take the train to Grund then a gondola up to First – or just hike it all the way, if you like.
Interlaken by Rail
For me, the real highlight in Interlaken is the outdoors and scenery, but for others it is Jungfraujoch, or “Top of Europe” – the highest railway station in the world. Just the journey itself is a mechanical miracle – the cogwheel railway climbs from Interlaken via a number of towns and slides effortlessly along the face of the Eiger Mountain. All during the ride you’ll be treated to spectacular views, but at the top, if it’s clear, you will be able to see across the entire country, even as far as Germany and France. The summit also has a number of kid-friendly exhibitions, glacier-related information, and refreshments.
Interlaken by Air
Gondolas float around the area as if they’re not attached to anything – it’s Swiss engineering at its best. One route that will leave you clamoring for your camera is the gondola ride up to the Schilthorn, with a viewing deck/platform that was featured in a James Bond movie. It is decidedly less crowded than Jungfraujoch and offers unreal views. They say that it is usually less cloudy on Schilthorn, but you never really know until you arrive, as it can change any minute. You’ll need to take a Postbus or train to Lauterbrunnen, but otherwise it is gondola all the way to the top!
Be sure to check out the many spectacular waterfalls in Lauterbrunnen Valley – known as the Valley of Waterfalls. The Staubbach Falls appears to pour itself right into the center of town. And the roaring sound of 20,000 liters (per second) of rushing water through the Trummelbach Falls is beyond impressive.
Interlaken on the Water
Interlaken means the place between the lakes, so it makes sense to explore one or both of the two lakes that surround this stunning city: Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. The boats depart from a central set of piers in town but service is relatively infrequent, so plan ahead. A good stop on the Brienz is Giessbach, where you can see the Giessbach Falls and then enjoy a long walk around the tip of the lake to Brienz or alternatively bring a picnic lunch and wait for the next boat. On the Thun, head to Spiez, which has a 12th century medieval castle and juts out into the lake offering more of those gorgeous greens and blues. The promenade along the lakefront is lined with restaurants, each offering tasty meals and beers that go down well in the Swiss afternoon sun.
To Learn More
Visit the official Interlaken website , where you can download the area map. Review the various routes and connections and be sure you know where you’re going for the day, and how you’re getting back. This is not a place to get stuck in the mountains without a route back down.
Written by Andy Hayes for EuropeUpClose.com