Ask a mountain-lover about their favorite place in Switzerland and chances are you’ll hear about the Bernese Oberland – home of steep cliffs dotted with waterfalls, dizzying peaks covered in snow year-round, and well-marked, well-kept hiking trails for every skill level. Switzerland can be a pricey vacation but its worth the investment!
The region’s main city is Bern – the Swiss capital – but the real magic is tucked away outside the city in the Alps. It’s here you’ll find one of Europe’s most beautiful natural retreats.
Day One: 72 Waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley
10:00 a.m.: Kick off your Alpine adventure with an easy hike with some of the region’s most beautiful views.
The path starts in Lauterbrunnen and meanders along a relatively flat route to the town at the other end of the valley: Stechelberg. Along the way, you’ll pass 72 waterfalls cascading down the cliffs on either side of you. If you’re lucky, you might see paragliders and base jumpers flying from the cliffs above and floating their parachutes down into the valley.
While you’re walking, keep an eye out for vending machines along the trail selling local cheeses, spreads, and syrups. Switzerland is known for its cheese and the trail-side vending machines are a great place to get some from the local farmers.
Once you reach Stechelberg (the walk takes about two hours), you can take a bus back to Lauterbrunnen where you’ll find a cute coffee shop called Airtime, perfect for a midday break.
2 p.m.: Buy a ticket to Kleine Scheidegg, high in the mountains above you, and revel in the breathtaking train journey up. Here, you’re just below the highest peaks in the region. It’s a great place to grab a coffee and enjoy the view.
If you’re up for a short hike, follow the trail to Fallbodensee – a cold Alpine lake where you’ll find benches in the shallows where you can sit with your feet in the water.
When you’ve had your fill of high Alpine views, take the train back down to Lauterbrunnen for dinner at the Hotel Oberland’s little restaurant. They serve up rösti – a hash brown-like plate of potatoes and one of Switzerland’s most beloved dishes – with a variety of twists. Mushroom cream sauce. Veal. Meat sauce. It’s the best place in the region to try this particular classic.
7 p.m.: Stay overnight at Hotel Schutzen – a mid-range hotel with comfortable rooms that look out onto the cliffs.
Day Two: Hiking to the Region’s Best Views
9 a.m.: Get an early start in Lauterbrunnen, fuel up on coffee and a good breakfast, and then hit the trails. Your first destination is Mürren – a car-free Swiss mountain town perched on a cliff and full of classic chalets.
The well-marked trail starts near the train station and winds quickly up into the woods, switch-backing steeply upward into the Alps. You’ll cross over waterfalls and streams that turn into waterfalls, wind through shady green forest, and eventually emerge high above the valley on a trail that hugs the cliff and features sweeping views of the region’s highest peaks to your left.
The hike is steep and challenging and for most it’ll probably take two hours. For those not inclined to hike, there’s a cable car and train that will take you up the mountain to Mürren with similar views (if a higher price tag).
11 a.m.: Wander the chalet- and boutique-laden streets of Mürren and stop for a coffee or lunch in one of the cliff-side restaurants with a view. Or, if you prefer an even more relaxing break, head to the Mürren Sports Center and purchase a day pass. This will get you access to the hot tub where floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the mountains.
2 p.m.: If you still feel like hiking, follow signs for Gimmelwald and then continue following signs toward Stechelberg and the valley floor. This hike should take another couple hours but will be mostly downhill through wildflower fields and past new panoramas of the Alps.
5 p.m.: After all that hiking, you deserve something decadent. Take the bus back to Lauterbrunnen, grab a shower, and then book a train to Interlaken for the evening.
Once you’re there, beeline straight for the Velo Café where you’ll find decadent cakes the side of your face. The chocolate zucchini is rich and moist. The carrot cake perfectly tart. And the apple crumb cake (my personal favorite) is lightly sweet. If a light dinner appeals, the Velo Café also serves up light vegetarian and vegan fare.
Day Three: Switzerland’s Lesser-Known Lakeside Village
10:00 a.m.: Consult any Swizerland guide and you’ll find rave reviews about Lucerne – a mid-sized Swiss city on a beautiful lake. The secret is that the Bernese Oberland has its own charming lakeside city – and the tourists haven’t really discovered it yet. The place is called Thun and it’s where you’ll spend your last perfect day in the Alps.
The train trip from Lauterbrunnen takes about an hour and the ride is stunning. Make sure to grab a seat on the right side of the train for the best lakeside views.
11:30 a.m.: Once in Thun, make your way to the charming castle on the hill overlooking the city. Inside, you’ll find a hyper-local museum and incredible views from the turrets. Don’t forget your camera.
1:30 p.m.: Wander the cobblestones along the river in the center of town. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, boutiques, and sunny patios for lounging.
If your feet are aching from yesterday’s hikes, this is a perfect place to put them up and enjoy an afternoon of drinks and people-watching.
3:30 p.m.: Take the train back to your Lauterbrunnen hotel and if you’re up for one last adventure, hike or take a bus to Trümmelbach Falls. This roaring waterfall carved its way through the mountains and today you can pay a small fee to wander into the mountains and watch the water on its downward journey into the valley.
6:30 p.m.: For dinner, try another Swiss classic like cheese fondue or raclette (cheese grilled and slathered over potatoes, veggies, and bread).
Gigi Griffis is a world-traveling entrepreneur and writer with a special love for all things European food and adventure. She’s a pain in the butt to travel with because she’ll make you go to every farmers market twice, but she’s also pretty good at finding the best food a place has to offer. You can find her at viciousfoodie.com or gigigriffis.com.