Interlaken, Switzerland was such a magical place for us that we made that road trip from Brussels (approx. 8 hours) not once, but TWICE to relive the charm that you simply can’t get anywhere else. For the outdoors-man, Interlaken should be at the top of the bucket list!
Where to stay
We had every intention in staying at Walter’s Hotel Mittaghorn in Gimmewald (firstname.lastname@example.org). However, we learned at approximately 1am (when we finally arrived in the Interlaken area) that you cannot get to Gimmewald by car…. You read that right! You have to take a cable car to get to the village which stops running at approximately 8pm…. We learned this the very hard way as a GPS will certainly try! A few scratches on the car, burned rubbery breaks and far less patience later, we found ourselves knocking on the door of Best Western (yes they exist in Switzerland) hoping to get a vacant room even at $$$$ prices. Learn from my lesson and do some advanced research into modes of transportation you will need to get to your final destination.
But back to Walter… Rick Steves loves Walter which is why we were interested in staying at his B&B. I think you share a bathroom with other guests but the trip advisor reviews were stellar and Rick really talks up his experience there. It is CHEAP.
Trip two, we plotted out MUCH better and ended up with a pretty stellar itinerary (in our opinion). As we had planned to do some hiking during our trip, we opted to camp one night in a tent. We set up camp at the Wilderswil camp grounds. It was all we needed: perfect view, flat ground, private showers and clean-ish bathrooms.
After our National Geographic hike (see below) we stayed the night at the Berg “hotel” at Faulhorn. This was really an interesting experience. I had never actually stayed at a “hostel” but that was actually what this was like. There were some family rooms you could rent but most rent a bed in a large room RIGHT NEXT to another person. Fortunately, we had an empty place next to us and were sleeping next to a wall but this is definitely up-close-and-personal. We put sleeping clothes in our backpacks but do come prepared because there is no hot water here (just freezing cold mountain water to wash with in a trough style bathroom) and no heating system….read: ITS COLD HERE, Y’ALL! Bundle up! It truly is an experience and I’m glad we did it…but mostly for the stories that came out of it. The views here though are magnificent and well worth the hike and stay.
This “hotel” is the ONLY thing at the top of the mountain but fortunately they have one restaurant that serves two options (one with meat, one with out). It was quite tasty! Helicopters bring up the food for them to cook with. So don’t worry about going hungry…Breakfast was also nice.
After all the camping, hiking and hosteling, we opted to spend an evening at a rather nice hotel, called Spa Beatus right on lake Thun to get pampered back to normalcy before our long road trip back to Brussels. This was probably the nicest hotel we had stayed in, to date….Read: $$$$. It was amazing and I only wish we had been able to spend the full 24 hours at the hotel just to experience the luxury it had to offer. Skip eating at the restaurants…our experience at Le Belair wasn’t great…Food was not very good and service left a lot to be desired….
For some adventure, trip #1 sent us skydiving from a helicopter….awesome experience but I suggest telling your tandem partner to not be in such a hurry to get down. The views and brilliant colors are unlike anything I had ever seen and those moments are worth savoring. Stuff a camera wrapped around your wrist into your sleeves or zipped in your pocket for easy access….you’ll likely want a few pics to remind you later in life just how beautiful it is. We also purchased the video and are happy to have that experience documented.
Trip #2 sent us hang gliding. There was only one company doing hang gliding at the time we went and it went very smoothly. Bernie was great and we loved the photo package that we purchased with it. These captured the awesome views without having to work for it. Both were once-in-a-lifetime experiences that we cherish!
Check out Trummelbach Falls in Lauterbrunnen. There are 72 waterfalls in the valley and at Trummelbach, you can walk up into the cliff side to get up close and personal with the waterfall flumes flushing through the rocks. It’s quite amazing.
In Lauterbrunnen, we rented bikes and biked over to the railway where we loaded up our bikes and were taken up to the top of a cliff town called Murren. It’s a very small village with amazing views and there are hiking or bike trails all the way back down to the base. There are signs for bikers to get down so it’s rather easy finding your way. You will pass lots of cattle with their cowbells on J It was a pleasant (well a little steep at times) ride all the way down and highly recommended.
For hiking, we found that National Geographics ranked the hike up to the Faulhorn in its top 15 hikes in the world….. Here is a good article. The trip starts at Schynige Platte where you can buy some last minute hiking shoes if you didn’t bring them (I recommend it…as I learned the hard way!) and some water/toiletries (there is nowhere to use the bathroom/buy goods along the way). The hike is a continuous steady climb (steeper in some areas) all the way up to Faulhorn. The views are breathtaking but the hike is certainly a workout and I would only recommend doing this hike with the right pair of shoes and clothing. An easier hike would be to go from Grindlewald to Schynige Platte, the reverse direction, so that you’re mostly walking downhill. Another tip: bring sunscreen. The sun beating down on you with the cool air is very deceiving. I rocked some gnarly tan/burn lines for about a year from this hike.
Between Faulhorn and Grindlewald, you will reach Lake Bachalpsee which will give you that ah-ha moment of why you are doing this hike. It’s truly spectacular. Even if you don’t do the grand hike, it’s very close to Grindlewald and easy to get to.
For a more leisure short hike (more like flat walk), we did the trail from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg in about an hour and 15 minutes. Stellar views and my favorite part was hiking among the cows with their larger than life cowbells around their necks. We also stopped in a grocery store at the base of the hike and grabbed some sandwiches and snacks to eat dinner at the top of the mountain on some of the benches.
Where we eat
As bizarre as it sounds, we had some of the best Thai Food we had ever had (mind you we had not been to Thailand at this point) in Interlaken. A German man married a Thai girl and brought over a few of her family members and they opened up Little Thai which is attached to a bike shop. In two trips, we ate there 5 times…. It’s located at Hauptstrasse 19 3800 Matten b. Interlaken Tel 033 821 10 17
For dinner, we ate one night at Zum Baren in Interlaken. I had some traditional Rösti that was really delish. The decor is traditional Swiss and it feels like a mountain lodge inside. We would go back.