Interlaken, nestled between lakes Thun and Brienz in Switzerland, boasts tantalizing views of the Alps, incredible outdoor adventure opportunities, mouth-watering chocolate and so much more. Known as one of the thrill-seeking capitals of the world, Interlaken is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the Alps including Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Extreme sport possibilities are endless, ranging from paragliding to skydiving; however, the charming town, scenic views, and various other activities offer plenty for those who prefer to remain solidly on their feet. Whether you want an outdoors experience of hiking or skydiving, or a cultural experience more along the lines of dining and castles, Interlaken is the perfect destination.
The easiest, cheapest and arguably most rewarding activity in Interlaken are the beautiful scenic hiking trails. A plethora of trails allow hikers to choose trails based on length of time and fitness level required. Options range from spots like Panoramaweg, an easy two-hour circuit, to Pizol’s Five Lake four to five-hour circuit, which is purportedly one of the best in the region. Interlaken contains everything from moonlight hikes to cogwheel-train-facilitated hikes (such as the from Wilderswil) or between stations treks, such as a downhill hike from Lauterbrunnen station to Stechelberg.
Nothing beats a beautiful birds eye view of the enchanting and formidable Swiss Alps, no matter the time of year. Admire snowcapped peaks or rolling hills of green dotted with idyllic village homes as you swiftly make your way down through the sky and into the landing site (which is often the beautiful field of Interlaken’s Hohematte park). If a weightless floating sensation is what you have in mind, then paragliding activities can be booked through a variety of companies including Paraglide Interlaken, Swiss Paragliding and Skywing Adventures.
Skydiving takes the thrills of para-sailing to new levels (and can be done in a larger range of weather conditions). Board a company van and stare out at the emerald mountainside as the anticipation builds. The van delivers participants off site for preparation to board a small prop plane. Clutch your seat or tandem guide as the plane makes its way into the sky and the world shrinks away. After screaming through the sky, the whoosh of a parachute accompanies a swirling of beautiful vistas as you glide down towards a grassy field of relief. After a slightly turbulent landing (that the guide will help direct you through) you will land an ecstatic veteran of diving through the sky in the best place for it – the Swiss Alps. For pricing and options check out Skydive Switzerland.
For a respite from all the outdoors activity, the Funky Chocolate Club offers a unique and delectable chocolate-infused experience. They not only serve hot chocolate, but also chocolate-fondue, and customers can even make their own coco treat. Run by two young friends and business partners, Tatiana and Michaela, the store opened in 2014 to great acclaim. So for any chocolate fanatic, or lover of unique experiences, go check out the chocolate workshop, and in the words of Tatiana and Michaela “get chocolate-wasted together!”
Legendary Saint Beatus supposedly chose St. Beatus Cave for his hermitage after driving a fire-breathing dragon into Lake Thun. This of course is only a legend, but what is clear is that the cave features wide halls, gorges, stunning limestone structures, as well as criss-crossed stalactites and stalagmites near the underground waterfalls. Not only do waterfalls flow inside, but they also pour out of the exterior of the mountain, rushing beneath an old Swiss-style house perched on the mountain, and adorned with stone as well as ivory and auburn detail. Moreover, a cave museum awaits, appealing to those craving a memento of their excursions, and guided tours are also available every 30 minutes.
The awe-inspiring summits in the Jungfrau Region are home to the highest railway station in all of Europe, measuring at 3,454 meters above sea level. The Jungfraujoch train winds around the towering Eiger and Mönch Mountains, snaking its way through Eismeer and Eigerwand stations, each with stupendous views of their own. It overlooks dramatic landscapes from viewing platforms on the Aletsch Glacier or the Ice Palace. On a clear day, the station platform is said to have a view as far as Italy, Germany, and France. The region also holds a music festival in July and early August that features performers from all over the world.
A quick boat ride or more scenic Thurnersee cruise from Interlaken takes you to Oberhofen Castle on the edge of Lake Thun. Built in the early 13th century, this enchanting lakeside bastion includes both exquisite architecture as well as an exhibition of life in the region from 16th to 19th century. Walk through centuries of history in Summer hall, Knight’s hall, the Neo-Gothic dining hall and the oriental smoking salon. It boasts a fantastic tower, a view of the lake, a picturesque English-style garden along the riverbank, an extensive park, a historic museum, and a whimsical lakeside turret. The chapel, adorned with 15th century frescoes, also remains in use for baptisms and weddings. You may come to Interlaken for the amazing outdoor experiences, but end up coming away with a yearning for a time harkening back to the days of castles and historic adventure among the Bernese Alps.
Another good respite from adrenaline overload, relax amidst the tranquility of the Alpine Gardens, with stunning views of not only the Alps but also of 650 vibrant plant species in their natural habitats. A nature reserve and conservation site, the vivid gardens subsist at 1967 meters above sea level, which allows visitors an unparalleled peek at the mysterious Alpine flora. Visitors enter the garden from the Schynige Platte Railway, after which they may embark on a self-guided circular tour which can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, or a guided tour may ensue upon request. Enjoy the beautiful blossoming Spring and Autumn colors provided by a huge variety of plant communities, the majority of which are Blue Sesleria, Rusty Sedge Scree, Milkwort and the petite, wooly-pedaled flowers, Edelweiss. For a look at a different kind of garden check out the Japanese Gardens. A feat of sustainability and scientific research, the Gardens flourish along with their plant inhabitants, and lucky for travel enthusiasts, they remain open to the public from May to October.
Depending on how much strain all the outdoor activities and extreme sports have had on you, a quieter afternoon’s activity could be grabbing a drink and food at the 150 year-old Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel. It’s hard to miss, conveniently located by the Hohematte park, where you can watch the para-gliders make their graceful landings while sipping a cup of hot coco or indulging in a tangy cocktail. La Terrasse offers fine French cuisine, the Brasserie provides Swiss specialties and La Pastateca, as you might have guessed, is a great choice for pasta. The Victoria Bar also offers cocktails and afternoon tea, whilst Intermezzo bar offers a more “good old boys” feel of cigars and malts of all kinds. The hotel itself boasts beautiful views, or if you’re exhausted from all the outdoors activity, hit the Spa for promised “endless relaxation”.