I have always heard people describe Switzerland as beautiful but it wasn’t until we were planning a trip to the Dolomites that actually got me thinking about visiting Switzerland as well (in particular the Swiss Alps) due to its proximity to Italy (and my love for alpine lakes and mountain views).
Read Also: 10 PLACES YOU HAVE TO VISIT IN SWITZERLAND
I have to admit I had never really heard much of Bernese Oberland until I started seeing photos and videos of Lauterbrunnen on Instagram. Our original Dolomites trip actually ended up turning into a Switzerland trip to visit the famous Jungfrau region (where Lauterbrunnen is located) in the Swiss Alps at the end of summer.
Read Also: 9 Reasons To Visit Switzerland In The Winter
In this Bernese Oberland Itinerary, I use Lauterbrunnen and Jungfrau Region interchangeably because most people have not heard of Jungfrau. Lauterbrunnen by itself would take no more than half a day so the majority of this itinerary will be focused on day trips from the Lauterbrunnen area.
- DAY 1: JUNFRAUJOCH DAY TRIP TO THE TOP OF EUROPE
- DAY 2: HIKING FROM MANNLICHEN TO KLEINE SCHEIDEGG
- DAY 3: FIRST, BACHALPSEE, AND TROTTIBIKE
- DAY 4: LAUTERBRUNNEN, MÜRREN, AND SCHILTHORN
- DAY 5: VISIT INTERLAKEN & HARDER KULM
- DAY 6: OESCHINENSEE LAKE
- DAY 7: ZERMATT & THE MATTERHORN
- 8 – JUNGFRAU PASS AND OTHER TRAVEL PASSES
DAY 1: JUNFRAUJOCH 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 called 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.
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.
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!
DAY 2: HIKING FROM MANNLICHEN TO KLEINE SCHEIDEGG
One great thing about the Lauterbrunnen Valley is that it’s 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 a detailed timetable as it varies by season). The cable car between Grindelwald and Mannlichen is under construction.
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
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 Mannlichen summit has a platform shaped like a crown with a panoramic view of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks as well as the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
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 regardless of where you are coming in from. 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 (there’s no other way around it).
Besides being a train station, Kleine Scheidegg actually is great for day hikes in the Lauterbrunnen region.
The Panorama Trail
Time: 1.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 160m descend
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.
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 Kleine Scheidegg area, consider the Eiger Trail, the Lauberhorn Trail, Trail to Grindelwald, etc.
DAY 3: 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).
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’s 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.
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.
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 that 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.
From Bachalpsee, you have the option to continue hike 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 amazing.
Bachalpsee to Waldspitz to Bort Hike
Time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy, mostly downhill
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.
The hike is easy with almost all downhill. Some part of the hike has a wide dirt path whereas other parts of the hike are mostly stone/rocky path. 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).
Once you reach the Bort cable car station, fuel up with some food at the restaurant (the restaurant was really good and reasonably priced by NYC standard) and get ready for your Trottibike Scooter adventure.
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 Trotti bike.
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.
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 to walk 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).
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.
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 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.
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 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 film, so you bet it’s a big tourist attraction. If it’s your birthday, then you are in luck because birthday person can ride the cable way to Schilthorn for free, otherwise it costs CHF 100+ to visit and it’s not covered in the Jungfrau Pass (it’s covered in the Swiss Travel Pass). Once at the summit, you can enjoy the panoramic view of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
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. Most people choose to cruise on Lake Brienz so be sure to check out this boat cruise.
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 early.
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.
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 (5177ft) in the foot of the Blüemlisalp. It is only an hour’s 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).
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 lakefront 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 that go to different huts and having an even higher vantage point of the lake.
If hiking is not your thing worry not, 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.
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’s also one of the most touristy towns on this Switzerland 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 as 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 a round trip).
From the town of Zermatt, you can already see Matterhorn on a clear day. But if you went 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 personally 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 a perfect reflection of the majestic Matterhorn on a breeze-less day (if it’s windy you can’t see the reflection).
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.
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 also 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.
It cost about CHF 100 for round trip tickets from Zermatt to Gorgergrat 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.
8 – JUNGFRAU PASS AND OTHER TRAVEL PASSES
Switzerland is not a cheap country to travel in terms of everything except for groceries. Transportation is especially expensive in Switzerland. Fortunately, if you are spending a week in Switzerland, especially in the Jungfrau region according to this itinerary, you could benefit from the travel passes.
If you plan to travel throughout Switzerland, you should consider the Swiss Travel Pass as you get on most trains, buses, and cable cars for free within Switzerland and you get heavy discounts on other attractions like Jungfraujoch.
If you plan to follow this 7 day Bernese Oberland Itinerary, I highly recommend you get the Jungfrau Pass. The Jungfrau Pass covers the Jungfrau region (you can basically use it from day 1 to 5 of this Switzerland itinerary) and you Pay CHF 61 for Jungfraujoch instead of the full price of CHF 200+ (during peak season). I personally had the Jungfrau Pass and it covered pretty much all of my transportation. Note that you cannot buy the Jungfrau Pass in the winter, there is a special pass for the winter.
Another pass you can consider is the Bernese Oberland Pass, which covers the entire Bernese Oberland region (bigger than the Jungfrau region) if you plan to travel more in the area aside from my itinerary. I didn’t need it since Jungfrau Pass covered all I needed.
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. Alternatively, you can buy the Jungfrau Pass online from GetYourGuide to get a voucher. Then take the voucher to the train station to get the pass. This may be the easiest way besides buying it from the train station.
Make sure you don’t lose your pass because it’s a paper ticket with bar codes and they won’t replace it for you if you lose it (happened to us haha…).
Whether you decide to buy the travel passes or not, you need to have a valid ticket (or pass with you) on the trains at all times. Switzerland is pretty strict about rules and they do have people inspecting tickets on trains from time to time (maybe half of the time).
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.