“Nooooo, not another walking holiday!!” exclaimed Daniel and Jack in unison when we revealed at the airport that Interlaken in the Swiss Bernese Oberland region was our holiday destination.
For, Teresa and I (and the boys when they actually get there) love active holidays and visiting this part of Switzerland had long been on our bucket list. So, when a combination of cheap flights from Edinburgh to Geneva via EasyJet and discounted accommodation via Travala.com (I paid and saved over £200 with this emerging and price beating booking platform on the Interlaken hotel!) presented themselves, we immediately started to plan our excursions from Interlaken. A brilliant base, as you’ll see from the Wanderlog map for accessing all the local valleys and mountains.
In hindsight, our excellent mountainside side Dorin Hotel in Beatenberg was slightly too far out from Interlaken and our day trips did tend to start slightly later than we would have wished. Although it was possibly worth waking up to this view every day from our bedroom window.
And for the opportunity to take the ferry on Lake Thun most days
That’s not to say that we didn’t pack a lot into our days with our adventures in Interlaken possibly worthy of a separate blog post. However, one day in particular stood out and even impressed the boys.
One Day In Lauterbrunnen
Nestled between the peaks of the Bernese Alps lies Lauterbrunnen Valley; gateway to the mountains of Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch but also home to one of the most scenic and wondrous family walks that we’ve ever experienced.
The three mile long and relatively flat Lauterbrunnen Valley walk starts as soon as you step off the train from Interlaken Ost in the centre of Lauterbrunnen and catch a glimpse of the stunning Staubbach Falls.
As you walk along the wide and tarmacked road , you soon notice an absence of cars and this is because this stretch of road is car free other than the occasional homeowner or delivery vehicle.
What you also notice are the imposing but majestic rock faces looking down upon you from both sides and the snow capped peaks in the distance.
As you approach the 300 foot high Staubbach Falls, its power and beauty is something to behold and yes, I did take about 30 pictures of it and those I share still don’t do it justice.
Once past the falls, the relatively gentle and flat(ish) walk continues past many of Lauterbrunnen Valley’s 72 waterfalls; past cows lazing in the sun, with their cowbells providing a relaxing and fitting soundtrack to the walk, and past to die for properties with their cute and amusing post boxes
And then the cable cars ascending from Stechelberg come into view and your journey into the clouds begins with the peak of Schilthorn the final destination (or so we thought).
Both the train to Lauterbrunnena and the Cable Car to Schilthorn are included in the cost of the Swiss Pass (it’s a must if travelling by train, ferry, bus or cable car in Switzerland) and children under 16 years of age travel for free with the accompanying Swiss Family Pass and the cable car to Schilthorn includes a few stops worth er, stopping at.
On the way down, that is, because we were advised that it is better to reach the peak in the morning when the clouds and crowds are at their lowest.
With our later start and three mile walk that included dozens of stops for photographs, we arrived at the Schilthorn Station at around about 11.30am and the view, even with the clouds, was mesmerizing.
Eiger, Junfrau and Monch were all within sight and Mont Blanc in France was even visible to the south east. The vista was incredible and other than a few other tourists, it was for our eyes only.
Anyone who recognise that James Bond pun and the James Bond gun barrel might be interested to know that Schillthorn was the location of the inevitable Bond vs Bond villain clash at the latter’s base in the George Lazenby fronted “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and wow, even 50 years later, this fact isn’t forgotten. It serves as the theme on the viewing platform, in the revolving Piz Gloria restaurant and even in the toilets.
We hadn’t booked for the revolving restaurant and with travel groups descending upon tables, we were lucky to get a window facing table. Hungry after our walk, we ordered a few bowls of tasty fries. These were only around 8 Swiss Francs each which is very reasonable given that it is Switzerland and that we were a captive (thankfully not by Blofeld) audience and a round of drinks at a price worth paying for the experience.
One experience we did avoid was the highly recommended Thrill Walk at Birg station just below Schilthorn as it was enveloped with clouds and with time against us, we wanted to explore the charming mountain village of Murren and fit in another walk.
Murren offers several short (in Swiss terms) and accessible walks including the Flower Panorama but we are practical people and decided to forego the train and instead decided to walk along the ridge to Grutschalp, above the Lauterbrunnen Valley and down to Lauterbrunnen itself via another cable car (much to wee Jack’s displeasure- he hates cables cars).
This was another relatively gentle walk and at times the views were breathtaking, especially if you look behind you
But maybe it was because the earlier walk along the Lauterbrunnen Valley spoiled us or because we were getting tired, but with the walks available in this region, I would maybe only include this one if you were staying in the area for a few days.
A combination of weather and Teresa demanding that we also see the Matterhorn on this holiday meant that we only had one day to explore the Jungfrau region and as we stood in the Lauterbrunnen station waiting for the train back to Interlaken, Teresa planted the idea of taking the train to the highest train station in Europe, at Jungfraujoch.
While the ascent to Schilthorn is now included in the Swiss Pass, the train from Wengen (from Lauterbrunnen) to Kleine Scheidegg and eventually JungFraujoch is not, although it is half price for adults and children.
And ultimately, it is an experience worth it. Just don’t take the last train up and leave yourself thirty minutes to explore the station and glacier above and the Ice Palace and museums within the mountain which takes “normal” visitors approximately two hours.
With the clock ticking until the last train, we navigated our way along the ice corridors until we reached the very fast lift to the Sphinx Observatory on Jungfraujoch where we stepped out into a scene that will forever stay with me.
I felt both exposed and excited and fearful but also elated at the bleak but beautiful panorama that lay before me. With Teresa and the boys eager to see the Ice Palace, I had a solitary few moments to enjoy the tranquility and silence as I stood alone at the top of Jungfraujoch.
I was soon running along corridors to catch up with my family and to catch the last train back to Lauterbrunnen, but I did manage to capture some of the art and ice installation. Had we more time, we might have spent more time exploring and possibly shopping as Jungfraujoch is filled with luxury shops which were all sadly closed as the staff were also heading for that final train.
And on that final train, we had one final surprise. A commemorative Jungfrau Lindt chocolate that would serve as a reminder of our visit. Or it would have, if we all hadn’t scoffed them within seconds of receiving them.
The fifty minute journey back to Lauterbrunnan was extremely pleasant and relaxing. Its descent winded its way through alpine valleys and past alpine lakes and by the time we had made our connecting train back to Interlaken, we were all ready for an early night to bed, especially wee Jack.
With good planning, good weather and armed with the Swiss Pass, a day like ours exploring Lauterbrunnen Valley isn’t just possible but also highly recommended. It is a fairly inexpensive way to spend one magical day in Switzerland.
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