1 Week (7 Days) Bernese Oberland Itinerary: Swiss Alps Itinerary for Hikers and Non-Hikers

1 Week (7 Days) Bernese Oberland Itinerary: Swiss Alps Itinerary for Hikers and Non-Hikers

Thinking about spending 5 days to 7 days in the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland? Want to visit the famous Lauterbrunnen Valley and hike in the Swiss Alps? This 1 week Switzerland Itinerary focuses on the best of Bernese Oberland in the Swiss Alps.

Nestled in the heart of the Swiss Alps, the Bernese Oberland region offers some of the most breathtaking views and picturesque landscapes in Europe.

With its snow-capped mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and charming alpine villages, it’s no wonder that the region is a popular destination for visitors looking for that iconic Swiss experience.

In this one week Bernese Oberland itinerary, you can visit some of Swiss Alp’s most stunning destinations, including the iconic mountain peaks of Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch, the charming villages of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, and beautiful lake of Oeschinensee.

If you are a seasoned hiker you would love all the hiking trails in the Swiss alps. But even if you don’t plan on hiking, you can still enjoy the beautiful of the Swiss Alps and the many fun activities and day trips.

In this Swiss Alps itinerary I will also share recommendations for the best things to see and do, as well as practical information on transportation and accommodations options.

This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

1 Week in the Swiss Alps things to do

Who This 7 day Bernese Oberland Itinerary is For

This itinerary is perfect for someone who only has up to 7 days in Switzerland and wants to see the most beautiful part of the country aka the Swiss Alps. This is based on my experience visiting during the summer. If you are visiting in the winter you will need to modify this itinerary and skip the hikes.

If you are a nature lover then you would love this Switzerland itinerary because the places I cover are extremely scenic and beautiful.

This itinerary is also meant for people who can hike (~3 hours a day). If you are not planning to hike, you will need to modify the itinerary and can potentially make it shorter.

This 1 week Switzerland itinerary focuses mostly on outdoor activities in Bernese Oberland (the Jungfrau region). I will NOT be covering places like Zurich, Lucerne, and Geneva as I genuinely think Switzerland’s beauty lies in its mountains and nature.

Bachalpsee-to-Bort-Hike

Where is Bernese Oberland?

Now that we’ve established that this 7 day Switzerland itinerary is mainly for Bernese Oberland, I’ll give you some background on where Bernese Oberland is and why it’s famous.

You probably have heard of the Swiss Alps, Bernese Oberland is exactly that, part of the Swiss Alps.

Located in the Canon of Bern, Bernese Oberland covers an area of approximately 2600 square kilometers. Bernese Oberland (or Bernese Highlands) has 3 of the most famous Swiss mountains, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.

This itinerary will be focused on the Jungfrau Region. Some of the major towns in the Jungfrau Region include Interlaken, Grindelwald, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Mürren and one of the most famous attractions in the Jungfrau Region is Jungfraujoch, known as the Top of Europe.

Interlaken is the largest town in the region and serves as the gateway to the surrounding mountains. It is situated between two lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Grindelwald, on the other hand, is a popular ski resort known for its extensive network of ski runs, while Wengen is a picturesque village that can only be reached by train.

Lauterbrunnen is a charming Swiss village located in the Lauterbrunnen Valley of the Bernese Oberland. It is surrounded by steep cliffs, 72 waterfalls, and lush green meadows.

The most famous of these waterfalls is the Staubbach Falls, which drops from a height of 297 meters and can be seen from the village.

What’s the best time to visit Bernese Highlands

Bernese Oberland in Switzerland is popular to visit in both summer and winter.

In the winter the Jungfrau area is an expansive ski resort region with 100km of winter hiking trails and cross country ski trails.

In the summer the Jungfrau region is open for hiking and biking trails. However the summer in Lauterbrunnen valley is often rainy and wet and not very hot (high of 70sF/ 21C) with the most precipitation in June and July.

I visited Lauterbrunnen the third/fourth week of September and the weather was perfect (high 70 low 45F with week long sunny days). Keep in mind that weather changes every year so you may still run into rainy days even in September.

Lauterbrunnen Valley

How to Get to Bernese Oberland/ Jungfrau Region?

It is very easy to get to Bernese Highlands whether you are traveling within Switzerland or internationally. The region is accessible by plane, train and car.

Traveling to Bernese Oberland by Plane

The closest airport to Bernese Highlands is the city Bern (BRN) followed by Zurich Airport (ZRH).

Bern is located about 45 minutes away from the region and there are mostly European flights going into Bern.

If you are traveling internationally, most likely you will be flying into Zurich Airport (ZRH), which is the largest airport in Switzerland. Zurich is located about 150 km away, it takes about 2-3 hours from Zurich to Bernese Highlands depending on whether you are traveling by train or by car.

Visiting Jungfrau Region by Train

Train travel is extremely convenient in Switzerland and is actually my recommended way to travel to Bernese Oberland within Switzerland.

Wengen Train in Bernese Oberland Swiss Alps

The closest city (and train transit) is in the city of Interlaken, many trains to the towns of Bernese Oberland (such as Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen) go through Interlaken or Bern.

For example, it takes 20 minutes on the train from Interlaken OST to Lauterbrunnen and 2.5 hours by train from Zurich with transfers at Bern and Interlaken.

Visiting Bernese Oberland by Car

Bernese Oberland can be reached by car but keep in mind that most likely you will need to park your car in the town of Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen as many villages in Bernese Oberland can only be accessible by train or cable car.

We drove over from Milan after visiting the Dolomites since taking a train from Milan to Lauterbrunnen would require too many transfers. Looking back, I wish we had just taken trains around Switzerland instead since we basically parked our car in Lauterbrunnen for almost a week.

If you are driving in Switzerland, you need to buy a Swiss motorway vignette if you plan to drive on the motorway.

You can buy it online or at a gas station (we did at a gas station near the Italian border). You don’t need it if you are renting a car from Switzerland, but since we rented the car in Italy and drove over, we had to buy it ourselves.

Jungfrau Region Map

How to get around Bernese Highlands?

The best way to get around Bernese Oberland and Jungfrau region is by train and cable car. There is an amazing network of trains, cable cars and buses connecting the various towns and attractions in Bernese Oberland.

You can see the current status of all the train and cable car lines on the official Jungfrau website and see the map below.

Jungfrau Region map
click here to see a larger one

Trains in Bernese Oberland in the Jungfrau Region:

  • Jungfraubahn: Kleine Scheidegg -> Eigergletscher -> Jungfraujoch
  • Wengernalpbahn: Lauterbrunnen -> Wengen -> Allmend -> Wengernalp -< Kleine Scheidegg
  • Berner Oberland-Bahn: Interlaken OST -> Zweilütschinen -> Lauterbrunnen
  • Berner Oberland-Bahn: Interlaken OST -> Zweilütschinen -> Grindelwald
  • Wengernalpbanh: Grindelwald -> Grund -> Brandegg – Alpiglen -> Kleine Scheidegg
  • Lauterbrunnen Murren: Lauterbrunnen -> Grütschalp -> Winteregg -> Murren
  • Schynige Platte-Bahn: Wilderswil -> Schynige Platte

Funicular in Bernese Oberland in the Jungfrau Region:

  • Harderbahn: Interlaken -> Harder Kulm

Cable Cars in Bernese Oberland in the Jungfrau Region:

  • Firstbahn: Grindelwald -> Bort -> Schreckfeld -> First
  • Grindelwald-Mannlichen Bahn: Grindelwald Grund -> Holenstein -> Mannlichen
  • Eiger Express: Grindelwald -> Eigergletscher

Train Passes To Save Money in Bernese Highlands

Switzerland is not a cheap country to travel in in terms of everything except groceries. Transportation is especially expensive in Switzerland.

You will need to take a lot of trains and cable cars to travel around Bernese Oberland. As you can imagine, these train tickets do add up to a significant amount of money.

There are several different kinds of travel passes available for you when traveling through Bernese Highlands. Some of the passes are only limited to the Jungfrau region whereas other train passes can be used in the entire Switzerland.

You can choose the best travel pass based on how many days you will be spending in Switzerland or just in the Jungfrau Region.

Jungfrau Travel Pass (3 – 8 days)

Jungfrau Pass

The Jungfrau Travel Pass is only available between April 7, 2023 to November 5, 2023.

You will not be able to use this pass during the winter.

The Jungfrau Travel Pass includes most train routes, cable car routes in the Jungfrau region and discounted prices to Jungfraujoch.

You can find out everything that’s included in the link above.

Unlimited Jungfrau Summer Pass

The Jungfrau Unlimited Summer Pass is only available between April 7, 2023 to November 5, 2023.

Unlike the Jungfrau Travel Pass which has limitations on the number of days, with the unlimited pass you can stay and travel for as long as you want as long as it’s between April 7 and November 5th. This is great if you are planning to spend a long time in the Bernese Oberland region.

In addition, you can get unlimited rides to the Jungfraujoch with this unlimited Jungfrau summer pass.

There are so many other train passes that you can purchase, a few of the popular ones include:

  • Berner Oberland Pass (April 1 to Oct 31, 2023 only. It covers the entire Bernese Oberland region (bigger than just the Jungfrau region)
  • Swiss Half Fare Card (available for 1 month)
  • Swiss Travel Pass (it includes museum entry and panoramic trains, available for 3, 4, 6, 8 or 15 consecutive days)
  • Swiss Travel Pass Flex (available for 3, 4, 6, 8, or 15 days in 1 month)

You can buy these travel passes at any manned train station office or online. I personally had difficulty buying them online because the official website keeps rejecting my credit cards and only AMEX seemed to work.

Make sure you have a valid pass or train ticket whenever you ride the train in Switzerland.

If you are caught not having a valid train ticket with you, you have to pay a hefty fine (example: the fine for not having a valid ticket on the short train ride from Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg is CHF 90+).

You can easily buy train tickets the same day from vending machines at the train stations (or go inside the office if you want). The credit cards work fine at the ticket machine.

1 Week in the Swiss Alps: Itinerary in Detail

The first few days of this Bernese Oberland itinerary covers the Jungfrau region.

At the end I also added 2 days outside of Bernese Oberland to show you some of the other best things around the area, including Oeschinensee and Zermatt!

If you only want to visit the Bernese Highlands then feel free to skip the last 2 days of this Swiss Alps itinerary.

Day 0: Arrive in Lauterbrunnen (or Grindelwald)
Day 1: Jungfraujoch day trip to the Top of Europe
Day 2: Hiking around Mannlichen
Day 3: First, Bachalpsee, and Trottibike
Day 4: Lauterbrunnen, Mürren, Schilthorn or Via Ferrata
Day 5: Interlaken & Harder Kulm
Day 6: Oeschinensee
Day 7: Zermatt & the Matterhorn

Day 1 in Bernese Oberland – Jungfraujoch day trip to the Top of Europe

Assuming you have arrived in Lauterbrunnen valley the night before, the next 3 days will be the “core” itinerary in the Jungfrau region. Feel free to change up the order of this itinerary between Day 1 to Day 4 based on the weather forecast.

Jungfraujoch is known as the “Top of Europe” not because it’s the highest mountain in Europe but because it is the highest train station in Europe.

Located at the altitude of 11,371 feet (3466m) in the Swiss Alps, Jungfraujoch connects the two 4000m+ peaks of Jungfrau and Mönch.

One thing to note is that Jungfraujoch is different from Jungfrau. Jungfrau is the mountain and the region is named after Jungfrau. Jungfraujoch is the saddle below Jungfrau (the mountain) and it’s the highest train station in Europe.

Jungfraujoch is one of the most famous attractions and day trip destinations in the Lauterbrunnen Valley/ Jungfrau region given its unique attraction and family friendly activities. It’s something you simply have to do if you are in the area.

It’s not cheap to visit Jungfraujoch, in fact it is very expensive to visit Jungfraujoch from Lauterbrunnen round trip without the Jungfrau Pas (about CHF 227.6 or 254 USD). So make sure you are visiting Jungfraujoch on the most clear day.

Jungfraujoch-Train
Train to Jungfraujoch

There is a webcam at Jungfraujoch that allows you to see what it looks like on top live. If you are trying to plan ahead I also suggest this weather forecast website since it shows 48 hours of cloud coverage forecast (under details) and I’ve used it in New Zealand before.

Alternatively you can just look up at the sky the morning before you visit to check for weather conditions.

Since weather can be unpredictable or bad, I would not recommend booking tickets to Jungfraujoch ahead of time since the tickets are non-refundable.

There are a number of things you can do at Jungfraujoch, including a visit to The Sphinx observation deck, walking the trail to Mönchsjochhütte hut, taking a photo with the Swiss Flag, visit the Ice Palace, and do snow activities (snow tubing, etc) just to name a few.

Aletsch Glacier
View of Aletsch Glacier from Sphinx
Jungfrauch-Monchsjochhutte-Hut
Hike to Monchsjochhutte Hut

You will most likely spend at least half a day at Jungfraujoch plus a couple of hours at least for travel time since it does take a while to get up to the highest train station in Europe!

For a complete list of things to do at Jungfraujoch, check out my comprehensive Jungfraujoch Day Trip Guide.

Best places to stay when visiting Jungfraujoch

Since Jungfraujoch is pretty far, I would recommend you stay either in Wengen or Grindelwald when visiting Jungfraujoch.

If you are wondering how to get to Jungfraujoch, use the official Jungfrau website to check train time and route (the trains in Switzerland are always on time).

Day 2 in the Swiss Alps: Hiking From Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg

One great thing about the Lauterbrunnen Valley is that it is well connected to a lot of different villages and mountains along the cliffs by trains and cable cars.

Mannlichen is a mountain that sits above the Lauterbrunnen Valley and is connected to Wengen (the town above Lauterbrunnen) by a cable car.

The Wengen-Mannlichen aerial cableway operates every 20 min (check the website for detailed timetable as it varies by season).

There is also a gondola cable car between Grindelwald and Mannlichen and the entire journey only takes 19 minutes.

So what’s special about Mannlichen?

Mannlichen is the starting point of a couple of fantastic (and easy) day hikes in Jungfrau and we will be doing two hikes from Mannlichen: The Royal Walk and the Panorama Trail to Kleine Scheidegg.

There is a webcam at Mannlichen if you want to check the condition before you go.

The cable car from Wengen to Mannlichen is covered in the Jungfrau Pass but if you want to do the “royal experience” and stay on top of the cable car in an open air seat you have to pay extra.

The Royal Walk

Length: 1km each way
Time: 20 min each way
Elevation: 120m
Difficulty: Easy (Short but steep)

The Royal Walk is a short 40 minute round trip hike from the Mannlichen cable car station to the Mannlichen summit.

The Royal Walk Mannlichen
The Summit of Mannlichen

The Mannlichen summit has a platform shaped like a crown with panoramic views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks as well as the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

View from Royal Walk Mannlichen Peak
View from Royal Walk Mannlichen Peak

Once you are back from the Mannlichen summit, it’s time to hike the other way on a longer hike to Kleine Scheidegg, the Panorama Trail (Panoramaweg).

You may be familiar with Kleine Scheidegg, as it is where you board the train to Jungfraujoch if you are coming from Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald (unless you take the cable car).

In case you are not familiar with this name, all the trains from Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen and Grindelwald have to stop at Kleine Scheidegg for passengers to transfer to Jungfraujoch.

Besides being a train station, Kleine Scheidegg actually is great for day hikes in the Lauterbrunnen region.

The Panorama Trail

Length: 4.5km
Time: 1.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 160m descend
Difficulty: Easy

Most people hike from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg as you have a view of the Jungfrau mountain the entire time and it’s pretty much flat/downhill the entire way on a wide dirt path.

Panoramaweg

However you can also do the hike in reverse (which is what I did). But either way the view along the hike is stunning and the Panorama Trail is suitable for the entire family.

If you are looking for more challenging or longer hikes in the Kleine Scheidegg area, consider the Eiger Trail, the Lauberhorn Trail, Trail to Grindelwald, etc.

Day 3: Grindelwald, First, Bachalpsee, and Trottibike

One of the most popular areas for adventure activities and hiking is First.

First is a summit on the slopes of the Schwarzhorn in the Bernese Oberland but it’s more famously known for its cable car station high above Grindelwald.

Some of the most popular family friendly attractions at First include the Cliff Walk (free), First Flyer, First Glider, Mountain Cart and Trottibike Scooter (from Bort, 2 cable car stations down from First).

Hiking is popular at First as well, with the most famous hiking trail to Bachalpsee (an alpine lake) and Schynige Platt to First Hike. I personally only did the Bachalpsee hike and didn’t have time to do the Schynige Platt hike.

How to get to First

First is accessible by cable car from Grindelwald.

If you see the map at the beginning of this blog, Grindelwald is rather far from Lauterbrunnen/ Wengen (towards the west), so you will need to take a train to Grindelwald first if you are not staying there.

From Grindelwald cable car station (10 minute walk from the Grindelwald train station), the cable car takes about 25 minutes to First, which is the last station. There are several stations before First that you can get off at, but I suggest you go directly to First as early as possible.

First Cliff Walk

Once you get off the cable car, you will see the First cliff walk right there.

This is one attraction that is free and often crowded with Chinese and Korean bus tours. When I was there there was a long line to take photos at the end of the Cliff Walk so we decided to skip.

First Cliff Walk
First Cliff Walk

First to Bachalpsee (Lake) Hike

Bachalpsee is one of the most famous lakes in Bernese Oberland because it gives you that perfect reflection of Schreckhorn.

The hike from First to Bachalpsee is a relatively easy one. It takes about an hour on a wide and relatively flat path (there were some uphills the first 20-25 minutes).

The Bachalpsee lake is huge and is split by a natural dam. There is reflection all day as long as the water is calm. When I was there around noon, there was a 3 minute window where the perfect reflection came out.

There were also a good amount of people at the lake around noon but it wasn’t too bad since the lake is big.

Bachalpsee Lake in Swiss Alps Switzerland

From Bachalpsee, you have the option to continue hiking another 2.5 hours up a steep slope to Faulhorn, the highest point with a restaurant and panoramic view that allows you to see as far as Interlaken.

Or you can hike back to First cable car station the same way you came.

The third option is to hike downhill from Bachalpsee towards Bort, the cable car station that’s two stops down from First where you can do Trottibike Scooter all the way down to Grindelwald. This is what I did and it was a very nice walk.

Bachalpsee to Waldspitz to Bort Hike

Length: 8km
Time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy, mostly downhill
View: Amazing

When you first go to First via Cable car and at the First Cliff Walk, you are facing the massif of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

The hike from First to Waldspitz to Bort actually gives you that view almost the entire way (up until Waldspitz) and the difference is that you will have the entire place and view to yourself.

Bachalpsee-to-Bort-Hike trail

The hike is easy with almost all downhill. Some parts of the hike have a wide dirt path whereas other parts of the hike are mostly stone/rocky paths.

The hike is broken into 2 parts, the first part is the wide downhill portion from Bachalpsee to Waldspitz with the amazing view (~ 2 hours). The second part of the hike is a steep downhill through the forest from Waldspitz to Bort cable car station (~40 min).

Bachalpsee-to-Bort-Hike

Once you reach the Bort cable car station, fuel up with some food at the restaurant (restaurant was really good and reasonably priced by NYC standard) and get ready for your Trottibike Scooter adventure.

Restaurant and Food at Bort Cable Car Station
Well deserved burger after hiking

Trottibike From Bort to Grindelwald

Trottibike is essentially a scooter you stand on and go all the way downhill to Grindelwald. It takes about 30 min to an hour based on your speed (there are brakes on the Scooter) and you can stop to enjoy the view and take photos anytime.

The Trottibike is a family friendly activity but I did see two people fumble and fall while going down the hill. There were also other people who were going super fast so go at your own comfort level.

Once you reach the outskirts of Grindelwald you will start seeing cars coming down the same road. Eventually the path will flatten out and that’s pretty much when you need to push the bike back to the Grindelwald Cable car station to return the Trottibike.

Trottibike Scotter to Grindelwald

The cable car ride between Grindelwald and First (and the other cable car stations along the way) are covered in the Jungfrau pass, but you need to pay extra for the adventure activities such as the Trottibike, First Flyer, First Glider, etc.

After you are done with your Trottibike adventure, take some time to explore the down of Grindelwald.

The best place to stay to visit First is actually in Grindelwald, since you can just hop on the cable car as soon as it opens.

Day 4: Lauterbrunnen, Mürren and Schilthorn

After two days of hiking, plan a chill day where you can explore the different villages in Bernese Oberland. I’ll give you a few options around the village of Mürren based on your interest and fitness level for today’s itinerary.

Lauterbrunnen

Start your day in Lauterbrunnen if you haven’t already explored this town.

Lauterbrunnen’s numerous waterfalls and dramatic cliffs have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to use Lauterbrunnen as inspiration for Rivendell.

Lauterbrunnen is surrounded by 72 waterfalls and the biggest and most famous fall is Staubbach Falls. Standing at 279m, Staubbach plunges from the cliffs next to Lauterbrunnen and it’s in every single photo of Lauterbrunnen. You can actually use the walkway to walk up behind Staubbach.

Spend some time walking through the town (shouldn’t take that long). One of the best photo spots in Lauterbrunnen is the walk to the church from the train station to get that classic Lauterbrunnen view. Another great view of Lauterbrunnen is from the Wengen to Lauterbrunnen train (sit on the left side if you are coming down from Wengen).

Lauterbrunnen view and the waterfalls

You can also visit the famous Trümmelbach Falls waterfall from Lauterbrunnen although it’s a 40 minute walk from town. There are buses you can take to reach the fall, but it’s nice to walk through the meadow and take in the view of the valley.

Mürren

Once you are done exploring Lauterbrunnen, walk back to the train station and take the cable car to Mürren (it’s one cable car + one train ride, covered in the Jungfrau Pass).

The train ride itself is a treat as you get an amazing view of the mountain and valley (remember to sit on the left side of the train).

Once you get to Mürren, walk through the village and you will see a nice photo spot of the valley on the left hand side.

Murren view point

Mürren to Schilthorn Cable Car

From Mürren, you can take the cableway to the peak of the Schilthorn at 2971 m via Birg. The cable airway between Birg and Schilthorn is the longest and the most challenging airway to build.

Schilthorn Switzerland Bernese Oberland itinerary

Schilthorn is famous for being the setting where the 007 movie, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. The panoramic revolving restaurant at the summit, Piz Gloria was featured in the filmso you bet it’s a big tourist attraction.

There is a livecam at Schilthorn so you can check the condition before you go.

If it’s your birthday, then you are in luck because the birthday person can ride the cable way to Schilthorn for free, otherwise it costs CHF 85.60 to visit and it’s not covered in the Jungfrau Pass (it’s covered in the Swiss Travel Pass). At the summit, you can enjoy the panoramic view of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

Alternative Day 4 Option

If you are not into the family friendly sightseeing in Lauterbrunnen or Schilthorn but are looking for something way more exciting/ adventurous, then consider the adrenaline pumping via Ferrata at Mürren.

Mürren Via Ferrata

If you are not familiar with Via Ferrata, it’s basically a protected path along the cliffs with a cable running through (and secured on rocks). The climber will have a kit that helps secure themselves to the cables to avoid falls. Via Ferrata allows you to walk on cliff surfaces and allows dangerous routes to be taken with safety measures.

Murren Gimmewald Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata was originally created in the Italian Dolomites to aid the Italian troops to move through mountains while avoiding Mines during World War I. But in recent years Via Ferrata gained popularity as a tourist attraction and more have been built.

While most Via Ferratas are going up the mountain, the Mürren Via Ferrata actually goes down 2000m in altitude from Mürren to Gimmewald (there is also a regular hike from Mürren to Gimmewald just FYI).

The Mürren Via Ferrata takes about 3 hours and after watching a YouTube video of it I decided to never do it. But hey if you are interested, check out the booking website as well as this incredible YouTube video. The Murren to Gimmewald Via Ferrata is only open from June 1 to the end of October.

Day 5: Visit Interlaken & Harder Kulm

After you’ve spent the last 4 days in the heart of the Swiss Alps in Bernese Oberland, day 5 to day 7 of your 1 week In Switzerland will be spent exploring other areas.

Interlaken is one of the largest cities in Bernese Oberland and many visitors choose to stay in Interlaken because it’s cheaper and trains connect Interlaken with Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald.

Cruise on Lake Brienz or Lake Thun

Interlaken is between two lakes, Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. If you are looking for a relaxed family friendly activity, then definitely don’t miss cruising on the lakes. If you want to explore Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, then be sure to check out this tour.

Kayak on Lake Brienz

If cruising is boring to you but you still want to be on the lake, then why not try kayaking on Lake Brienz? The tour will take 3 hours and let you see towering cliffs and forested hillsides.

Visit Harder Kulm

Harder Kulm is one of the most popular things to do in Interlaken.

High above the town of Interlaken with the view of Lake Thun, Lake Brienz and the majestic Mönch, Jungfrau and Eiger in the distance, Harder Kulm is easily reachable by a Funicular.

Be warned though since Harder Kulm is easy to reach, you will inevitably see a lot of tourists and bus tours unless you go when it just opens in the morning

St. Beatus Caves at Lake Thun

St. Beatus Caves is a fun place to visit with plenty of activities, including hiking, waterfall, museum, a panoramic restaurant and views overlooking Lake Thun.

Legend has it that there used to be a vicious dragon living in the cave. St Beatus, an Irish monk, slayed the dragon and now the cave is named after him. St. Beatus’s grace is between the cave entrance and the monastery.

Other adventurous activities at Interlaken include paragliding, Canyon Swing (in Grindelwald), and Tandem Paragliding if you dare.

Best place to stay: Stay in Interlaken or Kandersteg for faster access to Oeschinensee Lake the next day.

Day 6: Oeschinensee Lake

Oeschinensee is an alpine lake sitting at 1578m (5177 ft) in the foot of the Blüemlisalp. It is technically not in Bernese Oberland but since it’s pretty close there are many people that visit Oeschinensee when they are in the region.

Oeschinensee
View from the restaurant

Oeschinensee is only an hour drive away from Lauterbrunnen (closer if you are driving from Interlaken). You can also take the train from Interlaken to Kandersteg (the town the lake is in).

For more details on how to get to Oeschinensee, check out my post on the best things to do at Oeschinensee for a day.

The deep blue color of the lake and the perfect reflection of the mountain is what drew me to the lake in the first place. In all honesty I also thought the lake was similar to Moraine Lake in Banff except smaller and I was not disappointed when I visited. There is a webcam at Oeschinensee for you to see the condition before going.

Once you are in the town of Kandersteg, you can either hike up to Oeschinensee or take a gondola up. There is a huge parking lot at the gondola station which costs 5 CHF and the round trip gondola ticket costs 30 CHF.

After getting off the gondola, you can either walk 25 minutes to the lake front or take an electric bus which costs 8 CHF one way.

There are also a number of hiking trails around Oeschinensee Lake up the hills. The easiest one is no. 5 which leads you to a restaurant and a viewpoint above the lake. The harder Panorama Trail takes either 3 hours or 6 hours to go to different huts and has an even higher vantage point of the lake.

If hiking is not your thing don’t worry, you can row a boat on the lake. But on a nice day boat rentals get booked up so you may have to wait for someone to return the boat.

You cannot get too close to the cliff walls for safety reasons and when you return the boat you have to dock the boat yourself, nobody will help you with that. Life vest is not required on the boat.

rowing a boat on Oeschinensee

Best place to stay for the night: Kandersteg or Interlaken, it’s on the way to your next and final destination: Zermatt.

Day 7: Zermatt & the Matterhorn

Zermatt is the home of Matterhorn and it is also one of the most touristy towns on this Swiss Alps itinerary.

Zermatt is a cute car- free town that’s easy to get to either by train or by car.

There are trains from all over Switzerland to Zermatt. If you have a car like I did, you have to first drive to Täsch (1.5 hours from Kandersteg) then take a shuttle train into Zermatt (every 20 minutes, cost CHF 16.4 for round trip).

From the town of Zermatt you can already see Matterhorn on a clear day. But if you want to get up close to the Matterhorn, you will have to either hike or take the train to one of the 3 popular observation decks/ tourist attractions: Gornergrat, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (Klein Matterhorn), or Rothorn Paradise.

Gornergrat vs. Klein Matterhorn

The most popular attractions are Gornergrat or Klein Matterhorn.

I did Gornergrat and the main reason is because the train to Gornergrat has several stops.

The second to last stop Rotenboden is a 10 minute walk to the famous lake, Riffelsee. Riffelsee is often seen on postcards for its perfect reflection of the majestic Matterhorn on a breeze-less day (if it’s windy you can’t see the reflection).

Riffelsee reflection of Matterhorn

In addition, although Klein Matterhorn is higher and closer to Matterhorn, the view is actually better from Gornergrat. In addition to the Matterhorn, you can also see Monte Rosa (the highest peak in Switzerland) as well as Gorner Glacier, the second largest glacier in the Swiss Alps.

View from Gornergrat Glacier in Switzerland
Glacier
Gornergrat view of Matterhorn
View from Gornergrat

Klein Matterhorn on the other hand, is reached by a series of cable cars. There is an ice paradise at Klein Matterhorn at an additional cost (similar to the one in Jungfraujoch but smaller).

You can get a sense of what the area looks like during ski season as the cable car goes above some ski slopes. You may feel the altitude at Klein Matterhorn since it’s higher than Gornergrat.

view of Matterhorn in Swiss Alps itinerary

It cost about CHF 126 for round trip tickets from Zermatt to Gornergrat and the ride takes about 40 minutes. You can get off and back on at any of the stops, just make sure you have your tickets with you. Sit on the right side of the train when you go up to Gornergrat for a nice view of Matterhorn.

After you finish your day in Zermatt, take the train back to Zurich to fly out.

Budget for 7 days in Bernese Oberland and the Swiss Alps

So how expensive is Switzerland really? In this section I will provide you with the general range of prices for the most important things: Transportation, Food, and Lodging.

Transportation Cost in Bernese Oberland

Train travel is the most common form of transportation in Switzerland but it is not cheap. It’s especially expensive if you take cable cars or trains that go through mountain tunnels like Jungfraujoch.

A one way train ticket in the Jungfrau region in this Switzerland itinerary costs between CHF 8 to CHF 35 one way, depending on distance and how “scenic” the route is.

For example, the train ride from Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald is considered “scenic”, so the train ticket is CHF 32 one way (2nd Class, so no seat reservation); but if you take the train from Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen directly, it’s cheaper (only CHF 9) because it’s a different route and it’s not scenic at all.

If you plan to visit Jungfraujoch, that’s crazy expensive without the travel pass. During the high summer season a round trip ticket costs CHF 225+ (slightly cheaper during winter), with the Jungfrau Travel Pass, the ticket comes down to CHF 75.

The travel passes themselves are generally 3 day minimum and using the example of Jungfrau Pass, a 3 day pass costs CHF190 and the 5 day pass is CHF250. If you plan to take the trains around a lot and visit Jungfraujoch then the pass is well worth it.

To check for time table, routes, and cost for train travels in the Jungfrau region use the official website (Don’t use Google Maps).

Cost of Food in the Swiss Alps

Food is notoriously expensive in Switzerland. When you eat at restaurants in Switzerland (at least in Bernese Oberland), a pasta dish can cost anywhere between CHF 18-35 and a burger can cost about CHF 23-35 also, depending on where you go. A soft drink at a restaurant costs about CHF 4-6 and beer is actually cheaper.

Groceries in Switzerland are much more reasonable and I would suggest you get groceries instead of eating out. While I was there fruits costed between CHF 3-5 a kilo and snacks and frozen food were between CHF 3-7.

A lot of Asian tourists buy the Korean instant noodles in a bowl, which cost about CHF 3. I guess labor is extremely expensive in Switzerland instead of the raw material which is why restaurants are ridiculously expensive.

Cost of Accommodation in Switzerland

There are hostels in Lauterbrunnen which are reasonable priced for a shared room at CHF 30. Hotels in any of the big touristy towns cost between CHF 60 to CHF 300 depending on the level of luxury.

The good thing about hotels is that they pretty much all provide breakfast and the breakfast usually consists of different types of bread, jam, Nutella, fresh juice, fresh fruits, cereals, etc. Some hotels also have sausage, bacon and eggs like the hotel I stayed at in Wengen, Hotel Barren.

You can do Switzerland cheaply if you eat grocery food, hike everywhere instead of taking the trains and stay at hostels. But if you want a relatively comfortable vacation then it won’t be cheap.

Where to stay in Lauterbrunnen Valley/ Bernese Oberland

There are many towns and villages in the Jungfrau region so it can be a little confusing on how to pick the best area to stay in the Jungfrau region.

Most of the time visitors consider staying in one of the following 4 towns. Of course there are more villages but I’ll just list the main 4 and why you should/ shouldn’t stay there.

Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen is often the town everyone’s heard of and wants to visit because of its social media fame. Everyday buses of tourists come to Lauterbrunnen so it may be tempting to stay in this famous town.

Personally I don’t recommend staying in Lauterbrunnen unless you arrived really late or need to leave for other cities early in the morning or just visiting the area for one day.

I don’t recommend it because Lauterbrunnen is pretty small and most places close by 6. I found it really dead after 5 and it’s not necessarily close to any main attractions except the waterfalls or if you want to visit the village of Mürren (you can visit Mürren from Grindelwald too).

However if you just need a place to crash for the night, check out the Valley Hostel. They have shared rooms at very reasonable prices.

Interlaken

Interlaken is the big city near Lauterbrunnen that many people decide to be based in. One reason that people stay in Interlaken is because it’s cheaper to stay there than to stay in any of the villages.

There are a good amount of things to do if you are not into hiking and trains connect Interlaken to other major Swiss cities.

I find Interlaken to be even further than Lauterbrunnen from most of the attractions in the Jungfrau region because you often need to commute to Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald first to go anywhere. For example if you go to Jungfraujoch from Interlaken it can take you 2 hours.

If you are thinking of staying in Interlaken, check out Hotel Tell or the Loft Interlaken.

Wengen

Wengen is a village located above Lauterbrunnen sitting high on the Lauterbrunnen Valley. It’s a 15 min train ride from Lauterbrunnen and the last train is around 10pm.

I stayed in Wengen and liked that it’s away from most tourists (people only go to Wengen to stay there or change trains and not to tour Wengen).

Wengen is also car free so it’s very peaceful and quiet and you get the view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

Another reason I liked Wengen is because it’s one cable car away from Mannlichen and it’s on the way to Jungfraujoch (takes about an hour instead of 2 hours from Interlaken).

I stayed at Hotel Barren with a balcony room and loved it.

Grindelwald

Grindelwald is one of the biggest towns in the Jungfrau region and many people stay there.

Grindelwald is one cable car away from First. It is also easy to get to Mürren from Grindelwald and there are many hikes near Grindelwald. It’s also faster to get to Jungfraujoch from Grindelwald compared to from Wengen because of the newly opened cable car.

The reason we didn’t stay in Grindelwald is due to its crowdedness. All the tour buses stop in Grindelwald so there are a million tourists. It’s not as quaint and peaceful and cute as Wengen but there are definitely more restaurants, hotels and shops in Grindelwald.

If you are staying in Grindelwald, check out Derby Swiss Quality Hotel, located right next to the train station.

Additional Readings To Plan Your Switzerland Trip

First to Bachalpsee to Bort Hike: https://serenaslenses.net/first-to-bachalpsee-lake-to-waldpitz-to-bort-hike-in-the-swiss-alps/

What to do at Oeschinensee for a day: https://serenaslenses.net/what-to-do-at-oeschinensee-for-a-day-lake-oeschinen-day-trip/

Jungfraujoch Day Trip: https://serenaslenses.net/day-trip-to-jungfraujoch-from-lauterbrunnen-grindelwald-is-it-worth-it/

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