The alarmingly picturesque mountain village of Grindelwald sits under the North Face of Eiger, a monumental wall of rock that inspires and intimidates in equal measure. Small white houses dot the landscape where green, tree-studded hills give way to swelling mountains. Every once in a while, a bright red train trundles through.
What to do: The achingly idyllic Alpine pastures of Grindelwald are best explored on foot. Here you won't find jewellers next door to chocolatiers next door to more jewellers. There is nothing but mountains and silence around — just beautiful for a stroll.
If you are looking for a quicker pace, explore the various sign-posted hiking trails crisscrossing the countryside. From gentle rambles to hardcore alpine climbs, it's easy to find a route to match your timeframe, sense of adventure and fitness level. My favourite was the hike to Bachalpsee Lake at an altitude of 2,265 metres. An hour-long trek sound-tracked by cowbells and littered with wildflowers leads to a quintessentially Alpine scene of a stunning lake with grassy banks against a mountain backdrop. When the skies are clear, the mighty Schreckhorn, Wetterhorn and Finsteraarhorn are reflected perfectly in the water for postcard-like photos. History buffs can visit the museum located next to the church. The collection, started by local people many years ago, reflects the origins of a village which relied initially on farming alone and then developed into an international tourist resort.
Lastly, do take the red train to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway in the world. At the penultimate stop, there are windows into the interior of the Aletsch Glacier. After that you’ll be on “The Top of Europe”, marvelling at the glacier and the 4,000 metre peaks around like Mönch and Jungfrau. Go even higher to the Sphinx Observatory for 360° views as far as the Vosges in France, or enter the frozen wonderland of the glacier at the Ice Palace.
Where to stay: Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof, located only two or three minutes walk from the centre of Grindelwald, is both peaceful and beautiful. The imposing backdrop of the world-famous Eiger and Lauberhorn adds to the thrills of staying here. The ambience is outstandingly luxurious with first-class service. Don’t miss the live piano music in the evening.
Lauterbrunnen is so beautiful that you may think you have stumbled into a picture-postcard filled with gorgeous deep blue lakes, romantic snow-capped mountains, lush verdant forests and chalet-style houses with flower boxes. But what this typically Swiss town is famous for more: It is home to 72 waterfalls, two of which are prominently but casually hanging out in the centre of the town like it’s no big deal. It’s no wonder that Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien modelled the Elven city of Rivendell from what he saw on a visit here in 1911.
What to do: The best thing to do in Lauterbrunnen is go waterfall chasing. Nestled in a valley, the village sits surrounded by these huge cliff faces from which 72 waterfalls spill over, and each morning you wake to the soothing sounds of water rushing over the rocks. The most gorgeous of them is the Trummelbach Falls, an easy 30-minute stroll from town. Consisting of a series of ten glacier waterfalls, these thunderous waterfalls have carved corkscrew channels through the valley walls over millions of years. Mind you, this is no dainty, Instagrammable waterfall. Its sheer force and power will astound you.
After a stroll in the crisp mountain air, reward yourself with a typical Swiss meal or coffee at a sunny outdoor café looking out at the massive mountain peaks. If you are keen to get your adrenaline pumping, you can go paragliding or skydiving. Be sure to take the cable car and the scenic train up to Mürren via Winteregg for stunning mountain and valley views complete with lots of Swiss cows and cowbells! Afterwards, you can either hike down to Gimmelwald or take a cable car.
Where to stay: Away from the main road (only 150 metres from the railway station serving the ski and hiking regions), Hotel Silberhorn is the prettiest hotel in town. It has a beautiful sun terrace with an amazing panoramic view of the Jungfrau mountains and an Alpine-style restaurant. Even the bathtub overlooks the Lauterbrunnen valley and the famous Staubbach waterfall! The restaurant has a cosy, crackling open fire. Do try the Swiss speciality Käsefondue — cheese fondue with melted cheese in a pot with jacket potatoes and bread cubes.
The snow-capped mountains of Schynige Platte are so beautiful, they look as if someone has drawn them into the flat landscape. The ride to get there is an attraction in itself: A narrow gauge historical cogwheel train gets you up the mountain in 50 minutes, offering spectacular views along the way.
What to do: Take the vintage cog wheel train from Wilderswil to Schynige Platte. The higher the train climbs, the view becomes more stunning, with the mountain revealing itself. And as soon as you step out of the train, your eyes are met by the magnificent scenery — green meadows, rocks carved by erosion and a little farther, the glittering white glaciers. When you finally manage to pull your eyes away, you should take your camera out and use the two gigantic picture frames on the Schynige Platte to capture memorable moments.
The Alpine Garden here is home to some 500 species of flowering plants and ferns. Relax on the vast sun terrace of the Mountain Hotel, which is more than 100 years old. A typical Swiss meal of Rösti (made of fried grated potatoes with bacon and in some cases topped with a fried egg), and a glass of cold Rochefort Trappist beer is the perfect way to wrap up a beautiful day. The plateau offers magnificent views of the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau as well as Lake Brienz. The mountain station, at 1967 metres, is the starting point for various delightful hikes.
Where to stay: Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa in Interlaken is located amidst the mountain scenery of the Bernese Oberland, overlooking the Jungfrau. The spa here is one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. The restaurant Pizzeria Sapori is a great venue for some Italian fine dinning whereas La Terrasse is dedicated to the southern French cuisine of the Mediterranean. The Victoria Bar with its extensive selection of cocktails is a place to linger all day long. And yes there is a sun terrace to lounge and take in the breathtaking scenery.
* International airports exist in the cities of Zurich, Geneva and Basel, all serviced by multiple airlines including SWISS.
* The public transportation system is so efficient that you can literally set your watch by it.
* Additionally, the superbly well-maintained alpine mountain roads make travelling through Switzerland a pleasurable experience.
* Outlying towns are accessible by train, bus, or boat, but due to the sparseness of some areas it’s advisable to check timetables beforehand. Cities and towns should
be explored on foot or by bicycle.
* Most town also have bike-rental facilities conveniently located throughout the city. Just show your passport, leave a deposit, and borrow a bike for free!
* In winter, many mountain passes are closed, so drivers should contact Automobile Club der Schweiz before starting your journey.
* Drivers are also required to purchase a tax disc (vignette), costing 40 Swiss Francs.