Weekend in Switzerland

I’m not sure why I waited so long to return to Switzerland, but my weekend visit this fall is certainly not going to be my last! People are always asking me which country is my favorite. I tend to have different categories - favorite place for food, outdoor adventure, beach, nightlife, etc. New Zealand, Chile, and the U.S. are among my favorites for outdoor exploration. Switzerland just gave them all a run for their money though - The Jungfrau region is by far the cleanest place I have ever visited (I saw one piece of liter the entire time) plus it is super accessible with public transportation.

I traveled by train from Paris to Interlaken and then from Interlaken to Florence. If you are studying abroad or planning to travel to either place, Interlaken is easy to get to while still being scenic enough to give you a break from the hustle and pollution of the cities.  I stayed three nights at an Airbnb in Interlaken. Staying at an Airbnb is one great way to save money, plus I got some great tips from my host. There was a mini-fridge in the room, so I was able to buy groceries for breakfast, snacks, and store left overs. My host provided me with a discount card for travel within the region as well. You will need to take regional trains for day trips into the mountains.

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Interlaken was a great home base for exploring the Jungfrau region. You can easily catch a train to surrounding mountain towns. My first full day I took the train to Lauterbrunnen (recommended by my Airbnb host). It was only a 20 minute train ride and return trip cost 11.40 CHF (including a discount with my Eurail pass). You can purchase a ticket at the ticket office in advance or on the train. Be sure to carry some cash with you, if you plan to purchase tickets on board the train or bus. I didn’t have much of a plan, so I allowed myself to become entranced with the beauty of the valley and kept walking what seemed like the entire length of the valley. There are waterfalls along the mountainside and farms selling fresh cheese in vending machines. It was a mostly flat walk from the train station through the Lauterbrunnen Valley to Stechelberg (you can also take a bus).

At Stechelberg I hopped on a cable car up to Murren (8.60 CHF one way). I explored the village, took in the dramatic views from above, grabbed a picnic lunch at a small grocery store, and then decided to walk back down into the valley.  The walk from Murren to Gimmelwald is stunning and on a paved path that only takes 30 minutes. If you are fit and enjoy walking, I recommend walking all the way down to the valley. The walk from Gimmelwald to Stechelberg took about 1 1/2 hr (all down hill) on well maintained and marked hiking trails. In Stechelberg I caught a bus (5.40 CHF) back to the Lauterbrunnen train station. This whole day trip took me around 7 hours, though I stoped to take LOTS of photos.

 path from Mürren to Gimmelwald 

path from Mürren to Gimmelwald 

My second full day I took the train from Interlaken to Grindelwald. Grindelwald is about 30 minutes from Interlaken and a roundtrip train ticket cost 18 CHF (with a Eurail pass holder discount). From Grindelwald I decided to walk up to Bort, a steep climb of about one hour on a paved path with stunning views of the town and surrounding snowcapped mountains. You also have the option of taking a cable car to Bort, or further up the mountain to First. At First you can also rent mountain carts to ride down to Bort. This whole region is very touristed, but many tourists don't go far from the cable cars, so you can still enjoy some serene wilderness if you choose to walk rather than ride up and down in the cable car. There are signs at regular intervals and the towns are so small it is really difficult to get lost. 

 View of Grindelwald from Bort

View of Grindelwald from Bort

After having a picnic lunch in Bort, rather than following the paved path up to First, I veered off to a wilderness trail and meandered up the mountain a bit further before returning to Grindelwald via different wilderness trails. I didn't really have much of a plan, just went where the views guided me and I was not disappointed. Happy trails!