The Swiss town of Interlaken is located between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. It’s a popular holiday destination and the gateway into the Bernese Alps via the Jungfrau Railway.
Here are seven reasons why Interlaken and its Alpine hinterland are worth a visit:
1. Spectacular snow-capped mountain scenery
The Alpine landscape has been drawing travellers since the early 1800s. Over the course of the 19th century the evolution of the Jungfrau Railways gradually made the mountains accessible to a broader public. Their popularity has grown even further in recent years. You’ll now hear accented English from around the planet as well as Hindi, Mandarin and Japanese.
No matter where people come from, the mountain scenery impresses.
Three of the peaks top 13,000 feet. The Jungfrau (13,638 ft) rises above the neighbouring Mönch (13,474 ft) and Eiger (13,024 ft) mountains. For those of you who prefer metric measurements that means two break the 4,000 metres mark while the Eiger is just 30 metres shy.
2. It’s home to the largest glacier in the Alps
In this era of global warming the glaciers around our planet are shrinking at an alarming rate.
Surf the internet and you’ll find that the length of the Aletsch Glacier is given as 23 kilometres, based on measurements taken in 2014.
The terraces of the Jungfraujoch Alpine station provide views down onto the crevassed surface of the vast sheet of ice.
3. You can pull in at Europe’s highest railway station
At an altitude of 3,454 metres, the Jungfraujoch railway station is the highest in Europe. Inevitably, locals are proud of the hard work that went into creating the railway line running to the station. It transports more than a million visitors a year.
Now known as Jungfrau – Top of Europe, the station opened in 1912 after 16 years of labour. The perilous work claimed a number of lives. Memorials to those who perished form part of the Alpine Sensation, which also shows off the world’s largest snow globe.
4. Take a spin in a jet boat (with a guided tour)
If the prospect of accelerating to faster than 60 kilometres per hour and being slammed into 360-degree spins isn’t enough to tempt you, a jet boat tour on Lake Brienz also includes pauses for information about the region.
You’ll learn the lake is almost 250 metres deep and holds water pure enough to drink.
The tour, by Jetboat Interlaken, brings opportunities to hear tales about lakeside buildings and snippets of history.
5. Dip into Kneipp therapy at the Shynige Platte
During the 19th century Sebastian Kneipp, a German priest, developed a system of water-based therapy as treatments for physical ailments.
Exercises, involving dipping parts of the body in cold water, form a key part of Kneipp therapy.
By the Hotel Schynige Platte you can take off your socks and shoes and make use of a facility that’s said to stimulate metabolism, blood circulation and well-being. After warming up you can walk through a trough of cold water.
Walking like a stork is recommended. That means you need to raise your foot completely out of the water then plunge it, toes first, back in. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
Afterwards you’re well-placed (and hopefully sufficiently energised) for a stroll around the Schynige Platte Botanical Alpine Garden.
6. Try a couple of First activities
A gondola runs from Grindelwald to First, where a flying fox, the First Flyer, descends 800 metres (2,626 feet) to Schreckfeld at up to 84 kilometres per hour (52mph).
If that sounds a tad fast you could enjoy a more leisurely mountainside thrill by taking the First Cliff Walk by Tissot. The walkway skirts the rockface and leads to an observation platform that juts below the First mountain restaurant.
7. Enjoy dinner or drinks with a view from Harder Kulm
If you’ve already spent the day walking why not board the funicular that ascends the mountainside to the 1,322 metre (4,337 feet) summit of Harder Kulm. The average gradient of the track is 64 degrees. A path winds 2.4 kilometres up to the top.
The Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant has fine views of the Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau, across the far side of the valley. The spire-topped chalet was constructed as a grand hotel but now holds a beer garden, making it a popular spot to enjoy schnitzels and sundown drinks.
Getting to Interlaken
KLM flies from UK airports, via its Amsterdam Schiphol hub, to Zurich and Geneva.
Sit back and travel by train to Interlaken. The journey from Zurich Airport, including changes at Bern and Spiez, takes two hours and five minutes. SwitzerlandTravelSystem passes and the Swiss Transfer Ticket provide access to a public network of buses, boats and trains for travelling around in Switzerland.
Where to stay
The Hotel Interlaken (Höheweg 74, CH-3800 Interlaken; tel. +41 (0)33 8266868) is less than 10 minutes’ walk from both Interlaken Ost railway station and the centre of Interlaken. Remarkably, the hotel has been providing hospitality since the 15th century. Guestrooms are modern and the hotel’s Restaurant Taverne serves Swiss food and wines. If you’re tired after a day of activities you could pop into the Kloster Lounge and Bar for a nightcap.
When to go
Interlaken’s summer season is at its busiest from June until September. If you enjoy culture book a ticket to see a cast of locals performing an adaption of Friedrich Schiller’s William Tell, set to music by Balz Burch, during the Open Air Tell Festival.
The Interlaken Tourism website is a good source of information about Interlaken and the surrounding area.
See the Jungfrau Railways website about the rail network that provides access to mountains around Interlaken.
Take a look at My Switzerland for practical information plus ideas on things to do and see in Switzerland.