The Oberland region is Switzerland at its most classic. Snowy peaks tower over green meadows filled with the world’s most happy and beautiful cows. Pastoral culture is alive and well. It is largely subsidized by a government that recognizes the value of regional culture in a touristic economy– and hooray for that!. Trails wander through meadows and climb high into the peaks with views over Europe’s most famous mountain scenery, including the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau.
Through all of this, little slat-seated cog railways chug, red cable cars ascend, airy funiculars slide, and bright yellow post buses wind their way and blow their characteristic three-note horns on the mountain curves. Even if you choose not to hike, you can have a fabulous time riding all the conveyances built for the convenience of tourists and hikers in the Jungfrau region!
Hiking is a Traditional Pastime
Hiking is a national pastime in Switzerland, and the infrastructures of lifts, mountain restaurants, and transportation make hiking alongside Swiss families and multinational tourists just part of the fun. And, there are trails where you will enjoy the serenity of the hills– if you don’t mind climbing a little or hiking a little further away from the villages.
The principal villages of this part of the Oberland are Grindelwald, Wengen, and Murren. Grindelwald is a bustling town beneath the towering North Face of the Eiger.
Wengen, over the Kleine Sheidegg from Grindelwald, is a resort that is a gem and magnificently situated. Quiet and car-free, it offers spectacular views over the Lauterbrunnen valley and to the Jungfrau, is ideally situated to explore the entire region, and offers a full range of accommodations.
Murren, the sleepiest of the resort villages, is perched opposite Wengen above the Lauterbrunnen valley, commands beautiful views of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau, and offers a small selection of modest to moderately expensive hotels.
Two lesser known villages deserve a mention: Gimmelwald, near Murren, is a quaint hamlet. It offers beautiful views over the end of the valley and a youth hostel and simple, friendly pension. Wilderswil, just below the junction of the Weisse and Schwarze Lutschine (the two valleys and rivers that are home to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen), is a small Swiss town with a convenient location and an untouristy feel.
Outside the Jungfrau region, there are a number of other resort destinations in the Oberland, including Kandersteg, Adelboden and Lenk. The southern and western portions of the Bernese mountains offer spectacular hiking without the crowds of the Jungfrau region. Kandersteg lies beneath the mighty Blumlisalp massif and offers a network of trails that climb high among the peaks to alpine club huts and a number of gentler valley walks and lift accessed trails
Adelboden lies at the head of a long valley south of Thun and offers a blend of pastoral and mountain scenery and turn-of-the-century, Victorian resort flavor, including a couple of grand old hotels. A ski resort in winter, it offers a substantial system of lifts to access hiking that sees less foot traffic than many other resorts.
Similarly, Lenk offers uncrowded hiking. A largely undeveloped and unpretentious little town, it is ideally situated for hikes in the Simmental region and forays to the western reaches of the Oberland and into the French-speaking Pays D’Enhaut, where two villages are also worthy of a visit: Gstaad despite its glitzy reputation and Chateau D’Oex despite its lack of one!
In The News
If you are a James Bond fan, then you’ll enjoy reading about the Schilthorn. This is the setting for the 1969 Bond flick On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the centerpiece of this article. In fact, you may want to book a plane ticket after reading this piece.
The Schilthorn Cableway will open Bond World 007 during the summer of 2013, in addition to a new viewing platform at the Piz Gloria. The new viewing platform is the first step in a series of renovations leading up to the Cableway’s 50th anniversary in 2017.