We already mentioned that it wasn’t the most ideal time to be in Switzerland (just before ski season but still very cold). We spent most of our time exploring the Bernese Oberland, chasing mountain lakes and alpine meadows.
Here are three easy but life-changing excursions to take from the Interlaken area:
Explore the Lauterbrunnen Valley and walk to Mürren
There are seventy-two waterfalls lining the walls of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Seventy-two. The valley floor is a quick 20 minute drive (or 25 minute train) from Interlaken. There is SO much to do here, but the journey from the valley floor to the mountain village of Mürren is the perfect introduction to this stunning glacial valley (think – the Yosemite of the Swiss Alps).
If you are driving into the valley, park at the Lauterbrunnen train station. Hop on the tram headed to Grütshchalp, and get ready to pick your jaw up off the floor as you take in the views while the tram ascends the mountain. When the tram gets to Grütshchalp, don’t get on the train waiting for passengers. Instead, cross over the tracks and walk along the trail.
The walk to Mürren from this point takes about an hour. You’ll cross over streams, through beautiful forests, and over rounded, green hills, all surrounded by staggering Alpine peaks. It really doesn’t get better. Try some locally-produced cheese for us at the Winteregg Dairy on your way (it was closed in late November).
Once you get to Mürren, make sure to catch the view from the platform next to the train station. If you are there in late November, you will realize, like we quickly did, that most restaurants were closed for a few weeks before ski season opened. We did manage to find one open spot, the Restaurant StägerStübli, and absolutely loved the pumpkin soup.
From Mürren, you can walk another hour down to Gimmelwald.
HOWEVER. Do your research beforehand. When we arrived in Gimmelwald, we found the tram station completely abandoned. It was under construction, so the trams going back down to the valley floor were passing right through. We only had an hour before the last bus left the valley floor to go back to the Lauterbrunnen train station, so we had to book it down the mountain by foot to get there in time. There was a trail, but it was really steep and slippery (my poor ankles). We made it just in time to catch the last bus, but we could have avoided that by taking the train/tram back from Mürren, had we known that the station was closed in Gimmelwald.
Venture to Grindelwald, and take a tram to the top of Jungfrau
We drove up to Grindelwald, but you can take a train from Interlaken (takes 50 minutes and leaves every half hour). Grindelwald is a quaint village with lots of cute (expensive) restaurants and shops. It is the base for skiers and mountaineers alike. From Grindelwald, you can hop on a train to Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe. Or, you can visit the impressive Glacier Gorge.
If you are planning on skiing, Grindelwald is where you’ll catch your next tram up into the mountains to the slopes of your choice.
When we arrived in Grindelwald, the live webcam at the train showed that there was zero visibility at the top of Jungfrau. So we drowned our sorrows in soup and white wine at the Restaurant Alte Post.
Grindelwald is amazing because it is completely surrounded by snowy peaks. The views from every vantage point are unreal. We recovered quickly with hot chocolate on a bench, gawking at the view of the alps around us.
Visit the Axalp area and find the most beautiful hidden lake you’ll ever see
Axalp is a ski resort above Lake Brienz. If you don’t have a car, take the train from Interlaken to the Brienz station, and then grab a bus up to Axalp (and maybe pop a Dramamine). Axalp has spectacular views of the turquoise Lake Brienz below. If you can bear the cold weather, follow the signs for “Schnitzlerweg” to embark on an hour long walk to the lake Hinterburgseeli.
The trail to this hidden emerald green lake is lined with hand-crafted wood statues. So fun! We decided to drive instead of walk because we weren’t sure how long we’d have good weather. The drive was sketchy, to say the least. Finally we had to just get out and walk through the snow and trees. We got a little lost, but we made it! The lake was entirely frozen over, and we were the only ones up there.
Listen, if you do just one thing when you’re in Switzerland, go find this lake. You will NOT regret it. This was my favorite thing we did the whole trip. Whether you drive or walk to Hinterburgseeli, pack a sandwich and spend some time on one of the benches lining the lake. This scene will leave you speechless.