Now we’ve got the important things out of the way (the Best Things to Eat in Switzerland) it’s time to discuss our trip in a little more detail. Here I’m giving a run down of our rough itinerary, the things we did and the things we wish we could have done. I’m not going into too much detail about each of the days, but if anyone has any questions on specific walks/excursions in this area of Switzerland then feel free to get in touch!
Flights: LGW-Basel (and vice-versa on the return leg)
Train Passes: Berner Oberland Regional Pass, and Transfer Tickets (from Bern to Basel)
Accommodation: Air B’n’B (this one, highly recommend and not nearly as noisy as the host warned us) in Interlaken
Days: Split between walking, city and sight-seeing
Basically, we booked the cheapest flights we could find, that left us with the travelling days to play with in Switzerland. We got the early flight out of Gatwick (though splurged on a taxi to get there which was SO easy, would hands-down never get the train again!) and headed to Basel – on the borders of France, Germany and Switzerland. The airport is teeny-tiny really, to the point you choose your destination country by which doors you exit. I also wouldn’t bank on using any leftover Francs at duty-free when you leave, I’ve never seen such a small offering.
This is where Switzerland can get confusing. Train travel is essential, the roads are windy (certainly not something I’d like to drive nor be driven along!) and quite often trains will cut through a mountain. Trust me, trains are the way forward and they are so much better ran than in the UK. In Switzerland, 30 seconds is a delay and anything over a couple of minutes rarely happens.
This trip we got a Berner Oberland Pass for 6 days, and Transfer Tickets to get us to/from the airport. We booked the Transfer Tickets in advance to secure a lower price, then the Pass gave us unlimited journeys in the region. Some trips are extra (e.g. the Jungfrau, Schilthorn and some boat/cable cars) but generally this pass will give you a good discount on their standard prices.
We spent half a day in Bern, being guided round by a local (it pays to have Swiss friends – both in terms of tours and supplies of cheese!). I’d definitely recommend the city, though we spent a good few hours just floating on the river which was divine on a hot (35C) day.
We also spent our last day wandering a tad aimlessly around Basel. This is somewhere I’d love to go back and properly explore – it was a gorgeous city with strong German/French influences but we definitely felt some kind of tour would have been useless. By this point we were both pretty tired and I’d managed to blister the base of my foot so we stuck to no real plan. A reason to go back I guess!
Walks in Switzerland tend to be colour coded – yellow for ‘easy’ and red for ‘mountain.’ I’d definitely advise sticking to yellow, even then some of the hikes are pretty strenuous in terms on incline. That said, it’s our goal to one day made a red walk…
My favourite walk is along a riverbank. It involves getting a train to Grindelwald (a town I’d definitely consider staying in next trip), then a bus to Schwarzwaldalp. This bus wasn’t included in our regional pass, and even with a discount the price made me wince! After some pretty hairy bends, you can reward yourself with a scenic walk through cow fields, woodlands and meadows. We originally planned to only go as far as Rosenlaui (45 minutes) – before a wander around the gorge and continuing with the bus to Meiringen – however we missed the bus and faced a 2 hours wait. What do you do in that situation? Carry on the walk. We eventually stopped at Kaltenbrunnen before catching the bus to Meiringen for a meringue overload.
This walk is a favourite for many reasons. It was much loved by W’s late grandmother, who used to watch her rings (engagement, wedding, etenity) in the river. His mother later did so for her and now, with my engagement ring made from her eternity ring, I continued the tradition.
Another walk, perhaps our most difficult, was from First to Lake Bachalpsee. There’s some pretty steep inclines here, though it wasn’t helped by being a very hot day. The views at the Lake are well worth it though – plus there’s all kinds of fun things to do on your way down from First to Grindelwald. We hired ‘mountain karts’ – go-karts with no pedals and let gravity take us down. With no barriers to stop you driving over the sheer mountain edge it took me a while to get the better of my nerves but I would 100% do again. There’s also zip lines which I’m desperate to try, though they were closed due to high-winds on our trip.
Our final walk was in the shadows of the Schilthorn. We took the cable car from Lauterbrunnen to Grüschalp, before walking to Mürren. This has some stunning views and waterfalls, and is blessedly shady for most of the route. It also passes through a small farm where they hand-make cheese and fudge pretty much fresh from the cow. Alpine Fudge is something everyone needs to try! From Mürren we took the cable car down to Stechelberg (rather than up towards the Schilthorn) and then got a bus, stopping off at Trümmelbach Falls to enjoy the coolness of the gorge and glacial falls (water passes through at 20,000 litres per second, it’s a stunning place to visit).
The main ‘touristy’ thing we did was head up the Jungfrau on our first day. Now, this wasn’t included in our pass and it’s usually very pricey. Having done it in 2012 (and W many other times) we weren’t fussed about it but his parents offered us some free tickets they had. We ended up really enjoying it, the visibility was *amazing* and there had been fresh snowfall the night before. It’s definitely something I’d advise doing at least once, and with the winter spots, snowy walks and ice-palace to explore as well as the many viewing platforms you’ll be there for a good few hours!
Our other half-days were spent mainly around Interlaken. On our first evening we ventured up the Harder Kulm, though took the funicular rather than take on the 2+ hours upward hike. We spent the evening watching the sun start to set, eating cheesy rösti and enjoying the spectacular views.
We also took in a boat trip from Interlaken to Spiez, a town I desperately want to return to as it was just so pretty. And being whisky fanatics we took a trip to the brewery/distillery in Interlaken – whilst unfortunately there were’t enough numbers for an English tour we did come away with a bottle to enjoy!
For Another Time
Realistically, we both agreed we could have spent 3 weeks there and not fitted in everything we wanted to do. There’s countless walks to do, a trip up to the Schilthorn (where James Bond’s XYZ was filmed) and the stops along the way (now featuring thrill walks). There’s white water rafting and canyoning, both of which are firmly on my bucket list. There’s more ‘city trips’ to Zermatt (home of the Toberlone mountain) and Lucerne. I’d also love to visit Geneva and properly explore Zurich at some point too!
My main aim is to one day do a glacier trek – though I certainly need to work on my fitness levels before that!
Have you ever been to Switzerland? Would you like to see more travel posts here?