Long before I laid my eyes on Lauterbrunnen, my first trip to Switzerland was for a business affair, and a fairly stressfull one. The hearing was in Geneva, not my favorite Swiss destination. But even then I remember getting out of the hearing room during breaks, walking out to the balcony, and being amazed by the mountain scenery surrounding the city. This would always make me think how you could be in the most business-oriented city of Switzerland but still have such easy access to the amazing outdoors and landscapes, a welcome distraction from a courtroom.
In addition to the entire Scandinavia, which is hauntingly beautiful, Switzerland is the second European destination that I feel emotionally connected to. There are many regions in Switzerland that I love, but this post is dedicated to the Lauterbrunnen Valley – my favorite place in Switzerland.
This is a summary of how I usually spend my days in the Lauterbrunnen area during my annual long weekends that often occur in late May or early June before the busy summer season starts.
Lauterbrunnen Valley: not sure if it gets any more beautiful than this
There are many regions that I love in Switzerland. But if I have to pick just one place – it would be Lauterbrunnen Valley. Lauterbrunnen always reminds me that while I love the sea and water, it is the mountains that I am truly in love with.
Lauterbrunnen town, a very small town that you can cross on foot in five minutes, sits on a beautiful valley overlooked by some of the most famous Swiss peaks of Switzerland, Eiger and Jungfrau.
The unique location of the town makes it a perfect base for many outdoor activities and challenging and easy hikes. Among those various activities, my favorite is to get up early and go on a bike ride through the valley when there is no one else around (except for some wingsuit jumpers whom I ran into during my last trip!). In late spring, the entire valley, home to several waterfalls, is surrounded by wildflowers. It sure feels like a scene from the Swiss cartoon Heidi.
Take the cable car to Murren
From Lauterbrunnen, you can take a cable car up to the mountain village of Murren, which hosts several nice hotels and restaurants with breathtaking mountain sceneries. I always take the cable car to Grütschalp (the last stop of the cable car) and then – instead of jumping on the mountain train – walk the mountain path to Murren with an easy 1.5-hour hike (sometimes much longer due to inevitable photo stops). The path makes you feel like you are walking through the clouds. This is a place to truly appreciate the grandeur of the Swiss Alps and understand why they are an object of endless desire for most of the best mountain climbers in the world.
Once in Murren, I will either grab a quick lunch or move right away down to the tiniest Swiss village of Gimmelwald where it truly feels like Heidiland. Gimmelwald is about 20-25 minutes downhill walk from Murren. If you are in Murren at dinner time (early one), I recommend that you skip Murren and walk down to one of the hostel/restaurants in Gimmelwald. There are only a few cafes/restaurants in Gimmelwald but each offers some of the best sunset scenery that you may ever experience in your life. The last time I was there, I was so amazed by the reflection of the moonlight on the mountains that I – in seconds (talk about Swiss punctuality!) – missed the last cable car down to Lauterbrunnen and had to stay at the hostel in Gimmelwald. Once in Gimmelwald, you do not have to walk back to Murren and you can get another cable car down to the Lauterbrunnen Valley from where you can either walk or catch a bus to Lauterbrunnen town.
In Lauterbrunnen, I often stay at Hotel Oberland which is clean but not particularly special. It is in the center of the town and has a restaurant attached to it. Lauterbrunnen hotels all look similar to each other – clean but not design wonders. While I am very fond of nice hotels, I do not mind this in Lauterbrunnen as you are nearly never indoors in any way.
Lauterbrunnen means “numerous springs” in German and it makes sense as Lauterbrunnen Valley is full of waterfalls (72 in total!) with the biggest one being the Trümmelbach Falls. Trümmelbach Falls is a 20-25-minute bike ride from the town and you can also take the public bus there. There are ten different waterfall galleries in Trümmelbach which are all included in the ticket price (which costs around USD 10). They take you up to the first floor in an elevator from where you take the stairs to all ten galleries.
Watching the wingsuit jumpers in Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen Valley is home to numerous adventure sports such as paragliding and mountain biking. I hear that it is also considered to be the mecca for wingsuit jumpers. While I find the latter to be a sport (maybe not even a sport?) that pushes the boundaries a little too much for my taste (given the high causality rates), from an audience perspective, it is surely interesting to look up the sky and see human birds.
The last time that I was in Lauterbrunnen, I was out at around 7 am riding my bike through the valley when I spotted two human birds flying above me and gently making it to the ground to land right in the middle of the group of cows. Those two guys had just jumped off a cliff (without deploying their parachutes until the very last moments), but they looked like they just got back from a morning stroll as opposed to an activity commonly considered to be the most dangerous sport on Earth. This was around the time when one of the most famous wingsuit jumpers, Dean Potter, passed away during a wingsuit accident in Yosemite Valley in the USA putting the sport in the spotlight. I read that Lauterbrunnen was also his favorite spot for wingsuit jumps and free solo climbs (including Eiger!).
If you are looking for a perfect weekend getaway, and you are game for hikes/bike rides in beautiful surroundings – Lauterbrunnen is the place to go. There are numerous hikes ranging from easy to difficult, and the trails are well marked making it nearly impossible to get lost. I would recommend visiting Lauterbrunnen during May or at the beginning of June before the busy summer season starts.