The Breathtaking Bernese Oberland
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | June 14th, 2017
One question I get asked all the time is "What is your favorite place you have traveled to?" That is such a difficult question to answer. There are so many incredible cities and countries in the world, each one amazing in its own way. There is one country, however, that I cannot seem to get enough of. One country that I urge all travelers to see at least once in their lifetime. That country is Switzerland. It doesn't get much better than Switzerland. The clean mountain air, the stunning Swiss Alps, the fresh water, the delicious food, the lovely people, and a way of life that I could definitely get used to.
Most travelers land in Zurich, the capital city, for their first visit to Switzerland. Zurich is a great city and should not be missed, as shouldn't Lucerne, Bern, and Geneva. But if you want to see awe-inspiring sights like no other, head to the Jungfrau Region in the Bernese Oberland. With beautiful towns such as Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Wengen, Gimmelwald, and my personal favorite, Mürren, the Jungfrau Region is considered to be the gem of Switzerland. From snowcapped Alps and rolling green hills to unlimited waterfalls and picture perfect towns, the scenery is simply breathtaking. One visit to this magical place, and you'll instantly understand why Rick Steves said "If heaven isn't what it's cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald."
Interlaken is the largest of the six towns, and the first one you will encounter when arriving by car or train. This town is full of hotels, restaurants, and shops, however, it lacks the epic scenery that the other five towns offer. If you prefer to stay in a more city-like area, then Interlaken is for you. If you're looking for the jaw-dropping surroundings that Switzerland is known for, head to one of the five towns below.
Lauterbrunnen is a fantastic town that sits on the valley floor beneath Mürren and Wegen. It is a thirty minute train ride from Interlaken, and the views along the way are incredible. A lot of travelers prefer to stay in Lauterbrunnen because of its abundance of restaurants and shops, and its easy access to the higher altitude towns of Mürren, Gimmelwald, and Wengen. An excellent hotel choice in Lauterbrunnen is the Hotel Oberland. This hotel has a great central location, and its restaurant is fantastic. If you are just passing through Lauterbrunnen, be sure to have a meal on this hotel's outdoor patio. The ambiance is spectacular and the food is divine. They offer a delicious Swiss fondue, a hearty Rösti, and a banana split that will knock your socks off.
Mürren is my favorite place in the whole Bernese Oberland. This gorgeous car-free town sits effortlessly on a mountain plateau and offers quiet tranquility, numerous hiking trails, and easy access to lovely Gimmelwald. To get there, take the cable car from Lauterbrunnen up to the Grütschalp station. From there, hop on the train to the Mürren BLM station. It will take around twenty minutes to get to Mürren from Lauterbrunnen. Once you arrive in Mürren, everything is just a short walk from the train station.
If you are looking for nice accommodations in Mürren, I highly recommend the Hotel Alpina. This cozy hotel has some of the best amenities in the Bernese Oberland. Be sure to reserve a 'mountain view' room, as the balcony views are out of this world. The hotel restaurant also makes an amazing Rösti, and the hotel staff is so kind and helpful (yes, I'm talking about you, Roger!)
Another great hotel option is the Hotel Edelweiss. We didn't stay there, but we often ate at their outdoor restaurant, as it has some of the best views in all of Mürren.
A must-do while visiting Mürren is a trip up to the Schilthorn. The Schilthorn is a 10,000 foot mountain peak capped by a revolving restaurant Piz Gloria. Take the cable car up first thing in the morning when the skies are at their clearest, and enjoy breakfast with unbeatable views. You can also hike up to the Schilthorn, but it is quite strenuous. The average hiking time is around two hours each way, and the weather can change at the drop of a hat. Be prepared if you decide to do this hike.
Gimmelwald is a peaceful little town that has stolen the hearts of many travelers. There isn't much to do here, and that's what makes it so great. People love its simplicity. It is the ultimate mountain retreat. Don't get me wrong, there is some of the best hiking in the world near Gimmelwald, but other than that, there isn't much else to do. It is a place to come and relax, unwind, and enjoy outstanding mountain views.
For lodging, there is a handful of small B&B's and guesthouses. I recommend Esther's Guesthouse or Mountain Hostel.
As far as stores go, there aren't any. Other than the adorable Honesty Shop, a self-service boutique, visitors must head up to Mürren, or down to Lauterbrunnen to purchase any necessities. Mürren, being the closest, is a thirty minute uphill walk, or a ten minute cable car ride away, and there you can find a grocery store and a few souvenir shops. Lauterbrunnen is further but has a bigger variety of shops to choose from.
Wengen is a charming little town with postcard-worthy sights. It is car-free and has some of the same adorning qualities as Mürren. Known for its lovely summers and top-notch skiing, Wengen is a great place to stay year-round. To get there, take the fifteen minute cog-wheel train ride up from Lauterbrunnen.
One great thing about Wengen is its easy access to Jungfraujoch, also known as the 'Top of Europe'. After a thirty minute train ride, you will arrive at the Jungfraujoch train station, the highest train station in all of Europe. Enjoy snow-filled panoramic views, and breathe in some of the freshest air at this mesmerizing mountain peak.
Grindelwald and Gimmelwald often get mixed up. But these two towns are very different. Sure they are both stunningly beautiful, but Grindelwald is much busier than Gimmelwald. Filled with cars, hotels, shops, and restaurants, Grindelwald is more of a resort town, and an expensive one at that. Its location cannot be beat if you are looking for easy access to the Jungfraujoch, or if you're interested in some top-notch hiking and skiing.
Well, there you have it, the top six towns in the Jungfrau Region. Each town is truly captivating and has its own unique charm. I have completely fallen in love with Switzerland, especially the Bernese Oberland. I hope you get a chance to experience this exceptional place at least once in your lifetime. I can promise you this, you won't be disappointed!