Saturday morning, Julian and I set off bright and early for a weekend of exploring the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps. The Berner Oberland (“oberland” means highlands in German) is the higher part of the canton of Bern, Switzerland. While you may not have heard of the Bernese Oberland before, I bet you have heard of Interlaken. Visiting the famous lake town of Interlaken was high on our list of must-dos while living in Switzerland. While in the area, we decided to check out the neighboring Alpine village of Adelboden and the glam resort town of Gstaad as well. Below you’ll find our 2-day itinerary in this breathtaking region.
Bernese Oberland Itinerary:
Day 1- Intlerlaken & Adelboden
Day 2- Gstaad & Feutersoey
Interlaken is a traditional resort town known for its emerald-colored lakes and numerous hiking and skiing trails. From Basel (our home for five months), the drive is a little under two hours. You can also take the train for just a tad bit longer. But if you want to explore the small towns outside of Interlaken, a car is essential.
After an extremely scenic drive, we arrived to Interlaken just after noon. The first thing we did was walk around, admiring the snow-capped Alps and watching paragliders descend from the sky. Someday I would love to try paragliding in a place like Interlaken! A paraglider’s view of the mountains, lakes, and town in between them must be unparalleled.
History of Interlaken
Interlaken has been a popular tourist destination since the early 1800s when people would come for the fresh mountain air and spas. The completion of the Bernese Oberland Railway in 1890 and the Jungfrau Railway in 1912 caused the town to really take off. Today, luxurious 19th century hotels like the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa and the Lindner Grandhotel Beau Rivage still offer guests the best of Swiss luxury.
Harder Kulm Mountain
After grabbing a bite to eat at the Hotel Interlaken, we set off for Harder Kulm, Interlaken’s local mountain. At 1322 meters (4337 feet) above sea level, Harder Kulm offers the best views of Interlaken as well as the three mammoth mountains of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
A ride on the panorama funicular will set you back 32 francs (32 USD) but it only takes 10 minutes to reach the top. Otherwise, it’s about a two and a half hour hike. We would’ve preferred to hike but since we were on a tight time frame we opted for the easy way up.
Lake Thun and Lake Brienz
Upon exiting the funicular, I was immediately struck by the brilliant blue color of the lakes. The turquoise and emerald hues of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz are so vivid they almost don’t look natural. I had never seen that exact shade of blue before, not even in the tropics. I later learned the color results from glacial particles that reflect the blue-green sector of the light spectrum. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy when we were there but luckily the sun came out briefly, illuminating the icy blue water.
The suspended lookout boasts the best view. From it, you can see both lakes and the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. This is the place to take your selfies, panoramas, and photos. Surprisingly enough, Harder Klum was not packed with tourists and we were able to get all the shots we wanted. Perhaps the predicted thunderstorms scared people away but we were glad we didn’t let the forecasted weather deter us!
After taking loads of photos, we sat for a drink at the Harder Kulm Panoramic Restaurant. Although it’s a tourist trap, we enjoyed sipping on our drinks with such an incredible view.
After about an hour at the top, we headed back down the mountain to our next destination.
By car, Adelboden is less than a hour from Interlaken. We left Interlaken mid-afternoon and had a few hours to explore before sun down.
The Cambrian Hotel & Spa
When planning a trip, I usually decide on the destination and then find accommodations. In this case, however, it was the reverse. We’d been having some difficulty finding a reasonably priced place to stay in Interlaken so we expanded our search to the surrounding area. As soon as we discovered The Cambrian, we knew we’d found our hotel.
The Cambrian is one of the only design hotels in the Swiss Alps and it was built to showcase the natural beauty surrounding it. We later learned Adelboden has much to offer and were so glad The Cambrian led us to this charming village.
*Click here for availability and current prices at The Cambrian. For a four-star Swiss design hotel, the prices are quite reasonable!
While Adelboden does not have any lakes, it does have some amazing waterfalls. We were determined to see the Engstligen Falls, the second highest waterfalls in Switzerland, before nightfall. After a ten minute drive from the hotel and a short hike, we had arrived.
From a long way off, you can see the 600 meter (1969 feet) falls. But it’s not until you’re right underneath them that you truly grasp their immense size and force. Next to the thunderous falls and towering rocks, I felt very small. For a long while I stood on the bridge over the base of the falls in awe of their power.
Unfortunately, we were too late to take the cable car to the top of the falls. However, with Julian’s drone we were able to get the same perspective of the raging falls, expansive meadowlands, and dense pine forest below. Once the sun began to set, we knew it was time to head back.
Until Next Time…
Back at our hotel we enjoyed a delicious, fresh dinner at The Cambrian’s restaurant. If we’d had more time, I would’ve loved to have taken greater advantage of The Cambrian’s amenities. I was dying to take a dip in its gorgeous infinity pool and enjoy the spa. But I guess that’ll just have to wait until next time 🙂
Sunday morning, Julian and I woke up early to visit our friend Linda at her home in the Swiss Alps. Linda grew up in the village of Feutersoey in the mountains outside of Gstaad. Her family owns a dairy farm there, making Linda a real-life cowgirl. If you’d like to read about our morning spent learning how to make cheese, having a farm-to-table lunch in a traditional Swiss chalet, and hiking Gumm mountain, click here!
Gstaad is two hours from Adelboden and it’s well worth the trip. But before visiting Gstaad, I’d recommend hiking the magnificent mountains outside of the town. You’ll enjoy views such as these and get a glimpse of life in the Swiss Alps. And if you’re lucky, you’ll come across local wildlife such as mountain goats and marmots (small animals similar to a groundhog).
Gstaad — Ski Resort of the Rich & Famous
Since the 60s, Gstaad has been an exclusive ski destination for the rich and famous. Madonna, Kofi Annan, Valentino, Prince Charles and Princess Diana are just a few who have frequented Gstaad over the years. Today, Gstaad is more popular than ever among international jetsetters and it’s easy to see why. In Gstaad, we walked through the charming streets and browsed the high-end boutiques. I couldn’t get over the fact that the banks, restaurants, and stores are all housed in the most adorable chalets.
While we managed to see quite a lot during our weekend in the Bernese Oberland, there’s still much we didn’t see. In the future, I’d love to visit the hikers’ paradise of Grindelwald, the wood carving town of Brienz, and take a train to the top of Jungfrau. But I leave eager to return one day to explore more of this exquisite region of Switzerland.
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Have you been to the Bernese Oberland or any other parts of Switzerland?? Let me know in the comments!