A new day and a new adventure awaits us this morning as we resume our journey on the Busabout Hop On Hop Off network of coaches and depart the French capital of Paris from the drop off/pick up point hostel St Christopher’s Inn. Our destination today is one of my favourite places to visit, Lauterbrunnen in the heart of Switzerland as well as Bern the capital of Switzerland, a great place to base yourself for a couple of days to relax.
We have well are truly surpassed the halfway point of this entire trip and are coming closer and closer to making it to Munich for a load of fun at Oktoberfest, but more on that to come later on. Having travelled throughout Spain, Portugal, Morocco and France we are getting pretty exhausted from travelling with pretty much no rest days had so far. Here’s hoping that we can spend a relaxing five days in Lauterbrunnen while exploring some of the impressive sights in the area.
Paris to Lauterbrunnen via Bern – 13 September, 2015
This morning we depart Paris nice and early. Our Busabout coach arrives at 8:00am for our departure and to our surprise Didier is driving, our driver from our Busabout Iberian Adventure Tour which now seems like an eternity ago. Today will be a long day on the coach, we have to make a stop at Bern first and aren’t expected to arrive there until 5:15pm with our arrival into Lauterbrunnen not until 6:30pm.
As we pull into Bern our guide for the day Adam, points out to us that we are passing through the suburb with an unfortunate name to us English speakers of Wankdorf and that we are passing Wankdorf Stadium. We all had a bit of a chuckle at that.
When we arrived at our pick up point in Bern we are given a few minutes to go for a wonder up the hill whilst the new comers get checked in. The drop off point is right near the river that swirls its way through the capital, but it is also where the Bern Bärengraben or Bear Pit is located.
Walking to the top of the hill you will find a Tourist Information Centre for Bern and next to that the Bear Pit, home to some bears on display for the public to freely view. Unfortunately on this day the enclosure was closed and was being upgraded so we didn’t get to see any bears. Bears are the symbol of Bern with the name Bern coming from the man who founded the city deciding to name it after the first animal he came across…hint, it was a bear.
It was late afternoon and after a short scenic drive from Bern we arrived where we would call home for the next five nights, Lauterbrunnen and the impressive Camping Jungfrau. You might think why are you spending five nights at such a small place when you could have spent more time in Paris or any other major city. Well the simple answer to that is that this place is absolutely stunning and relaxing. After travelling around Europe for a couple of weeks non stop it was good to have an extended amount of time in an “out of the way” place away from the big cities.
This is not my first time to Lauterbrunnen having visited three years ago whilst on the Topdeck Mega European Tour and staying across the road at the Schützenbach Backpackers & Camping. When I was here back then I fell in love with it, coming back here was a high priority for me and even though Lauterburnnen is such a small town, there is so much to do in this area and despite building it up as a relaxing place to stay, I had an action packed couple of days planed. That’s until you get sick and your plans are thrown into disarray. But more on that later.
Arriving into Camping Jungfrau you are given a warm welcome with the staff waiting to show you to your room and to check you in, with the amount of Busabout passengers coming through they have the process down pat.
Camping Jungfrau is located in an impressive location right beneath the Staubbach Falls that cascade down into the valley and into the adjoining Lütschine River that flows through Lauterbrunnen. There are numerous accommodation options at Camping Jungfrau from camping to cabins and even hostel style accommodation.
The site also boasts its own small supermarket and a restaurant where you will get 10% off if you’re travelling with Busabout. It also has its own activities booking centre. On top of that there is also an ATM located out in the open so you can get those much needed Swiss Francs anytime of the day or night particularly if you need a cash top up whilst partying away down at the famous Bomb Shelter bar which is popular with Busabout and Contiki travelers.
Given Busabout and Contiki are the same company they both use Camping Jungfrau as their stop during stays in Lauterbrunnen with Contiki passengers having their own dedicated Chalet Jungfrau down the back end of the park so noise is kept to a minimum.
Once we checked in we were taken to our cabin not far from the main hub of Camping Jungfrau where we settled in. As it was late in the afternoon there isn’t much to get up to in a sleepy town like Lauterburnnen so we went for a walk down the main stretch of town before coming back to have some dinner at the restaurant which has really nice food and is a lot cheaper than eating in town.
We now had four full days to explore the region and tomorrow we will head out and see some of the sights I missed out on seeing last time when visiting Lauterburnnen with Topdeck.
Lauterbrunnen – 14 September, 2015
This morning we were up nice and early to get a start on some sightseeing in this beautiful region of Switzerland. Today we are heading up to a place I have wanted to visit for a long time, the Schilthorn which is best known as the filming location of the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
In order for us to get to the summit of the Schilthorn we need to catch a series of cable cars and a train, and like many things here this can be quite costly in Switzerland. If you plan on spending a number of days in Switzerland and plan to use public transport (including cable cars) then follow this money saving tip.
A key to saving a lot of money on transport in Switzerland is buying a rail pass. Not just any rail pass but a Swiss Travel Pass which allows for unlimited travel on rail, bus and even ferries with the pass also offering discounts of up to 50% on tourist railways and cable cars.
You basically have two types of passes, a pass for a fixed number of days that must be used consecutively and a more flexible pass also with a set number of days but can be used anytime within one month. You really need to plan your time in Switzerland to determine how many days you will be using transport so you get the best value out of your pass, they are not cheap, but they are cheaper than buying individual tickets when in Switzerland.
The pass can be bought in either 3, 4, 8 or 15 day combinations and can either be purchased as a consecutive day pass which is cheaper or the flexible option to use your days within one month. For example you can buy a 4 day continuous day pass which means you have 4 days to use the pass from the first day of use. The other option is the 4 day pass which can be used within one month on any 4 days offering more flexibility but costing slightly more.
More information about the Swiss Travel Pass can be found and purchased on the Rail Europe website here, and if you purchase your pass through this link you’ll be helping to support loneXplorer.
From Camping Jungfrau we walk down the main road of Lauterbrunnen and head towards the train station at the very end of town. Opposite the train station is the cable car station that takes you to the summit of the first hill and links up to the Grütschalp Railway Station. This journey used to be serviced by a funicular but was replaced by a cable car a couple of years ago. The connection at the top of the hill is essentially a scenic shuttle train that takes you from the station along the ridge of the cliff that plummets down to Lauterburnnen, to the small village of Mürren.
Mürren is such a small quaint village that cars are not allowed to access the town. Once you jump off the train you then need to walk to the other end of Mürren to get yourself to the cable car station. This small village is quite impressive in itself with views of the alps all around and if you arrive early enough in the morning it almost feels like you have the place to yourself. There is also at the back of the village a funicular that will take you to the summit of Allmendhubel which would be quite interesting to do one day.
Boarding the cable car in Mürren you are given a taste of getting into the James Bond spirit, the theme plays over the speakers as the cable car ascends into the clouds and heads to the first stop Birg where you disembark and have the opportunity to take in the views or board the next cable car. We decided to stay and check out the view which was a good decision because everyone else in the cable car continued on and we caught the next one and had it all to ourselves. At the time of visiting it looks like all the infrastructure is getting a major upgrade, a new platform has been built with a glass bottom so you can step out over the cliff and look down under your feet.
Departing Birg we make our final approach to the Schilthorn. On arrival you get off the cable car on one of the lower levels where you have the option to go up to the revolving restaurant Piz Gloria, go outside for the impressive views or check out the 007 Museum.
Before going outside we opted to check out the 007 museum devoted to all things relating to the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The hallway leading to the museum area is lined with 007 posters from every movie made right up to the most recent at the time, Skyfall. Inside there are some exhibits set up from the movie, a large screen with a helicopter that you can sit inside to pretend you’re flying over the Schilthorn to even getting inside the orange bobsled used in the chase scene in the film. Whilst inside the bobsled you are filmed and you can then buy a photo or video of yourself in the bobsled from the gift shop. I nearly made a fool of myself by falling out and hitting my shin which really hurt so don’t be clumsy like me.
Of course the main highlight of visiting the Schilthorn is going outside for the stunning views of the region. Not thinking straight this morning I didn’t put two and two together that being this high up in the alps would be cold and didn’t bring my coat so it was freezing cold going outside, but it was only short term pain as it was still warm inside, in the cable cars and also down in Mürren.
The views are truly impressive taking in the surrounding alps looking south towards the Italian Alps and also towards what will be our next destination on this trip Lucerne and Mount Titlis. Outside you can step down from the main platform and walk along the ridge which is now a walkway dedicated to the actors and characters from the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This leads down to another viewing platform where you can look back at the Schilthorn summit.
We headed back inside for some warmth and also some food. You have two options, you can either eat at the revolving restaurant called Piz Gloria which would be quite expensive, but if you’re up for it you can get a burger with 007 burnt into the bun if that’s your thing. The other option is at the still expensive but less expensive restaurant on the lower level that has take away style food, which is where we ate.
Below is a really cool video from Daniel Ammeter showcasing all the locations Bond was filmed from the Schilthorn, Lauterbrunnen and even the capital Bern. Check it out…
It was then time to head back down using the cable car. Once back in the village of Mürren we took a different cable car down for our decent into the Lauterbrunnen Valley going via the even smaller village of Gimmelwald. From Gimmelwald it’s a really steep decent on the cable car passing a waterfall on the way down and arriving at Stechelberg Station. From here we jump on a bus to take us to our next stop for the day Trümmelbach Falls which I missed out seeing last time I was in Lauterburnnen.
Trümmelbach Falls are a highlight of any visit to Lauterbrunnen. After paying the entry fee you catch a funicular inside the rock face that takes you to one of the upper levels. Once at the drop off point you can decide to go higher up into the rock face or start the decent down. It is definatly worth taking the funicular up and then working your way down as it is quite steep and slippery inside the caves.
The water corkscrews its way through the inside of the rock face which is melted glacier ice from the Jungfrau glaciers above. For over thousands of years it has carved these impressive caves into the rock, with the addition of the Swiss and their tunneling engineering, it has given way to this impressive UNESCO World Heritage Listed attraction.
Once you reach the end of the path at the summit you then turn around and make your way back down to the bottom where you entered at the beginning. Along the way down you stop at several openings and lookouts where you can see the sheer force of the water making its way down to the river that follows through the Lauterbrunnen Valley. You also gain some nice views of the valley from some of the viewing points that take you outside the rock face and if you’re lucky enough you might see some people descending from a sky dive.
After looking around the Trümmelbach Falls we waited for the bus out the front and caught it back to Camping Jungfrau where we spend the rest of the afternoon and evening. It was quite a long day scaling the top of the Schilthorn and with all those cable car rides my ears weren’t holding up very well from the adjustment in air pressure. It’s really worth doing this trip if you want to get your cable car fix and to take in some impressive views of the alps.
Lauterbrunnen – 15 September, 2015
Today was a quiet day on the journey as we took the opportunity just sit back and relax. Travelling for the last four nearly five weeks was starting to take its toll and I was starting to get quite ill but this wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying the place I was looking forward to visiting most.
Before leaving home and arriving in Switzerland I had planned everything I wanted to see and do whilst here, trying to work out the best way to use my Swiss Travel Pass and subsequently getting the most value for money. I bought a four day flex pass with the plan of obviously using it on four days but this also took into account two days of travelling on Busabout and then having one day spare not using the pass, that day was today.
The rough breakdown of the week spent in Switzerland looked like this, the structured wasn’t necessarily in this order but we basically decided the day before which one of these things we would do while in Lauterburnnen…
- Busabout travel day – Paris to Lauterburnnen
- Swiss Travel Pass – Lauterbrunnen to Schilthorn
- Rest Day
- Swiss Travel Pass – Lauterbrunnen to Jungfrau
- Swiss Travel Pass – Lauterbrunnen to Bern via Interlaken
- Busabout travel day – Lauterbrunnen to Lucerne
- Swiss Travel Pass – Lucerne to Mount Titlis
We decided today to make it our rest day and try and get some strength back for the next couple of days, it didn’t quite end up working out that way but more on that later. We spent most of the day nice and close, going for a walk into town, getting some lunch, having an afternoon nana nap and also purchasing our tickets up to Jungfrau for tomorrow.
The great thing about purchasing your Jungfrau tickets through Camping Jungfrau is that if you decide not to go up or you can’t because of bad weather, they will refund you the price of the ticket you paid. They also recognise here that you have a Swiss Travel Pass and will give you the 25% discount off the full fare price.
The weather report for tomorrow was showing a small risk that weather could be bad up at Jungfrau but otherwise it was looking like tomorrow could be a nice day.
Today was a good opportunity to also get up and close to Staubbach Falls which are right next to Camping Jungfrau. You are free to enter these falls anytime you like, walking up the small hill to a tunnel that takes you to the base of the rock face. You then climb the slippery and wet path inside the rock to eventually find yourself inside the waterfall with the water cascading right in front of you, overlooking the valley.
Tonight was an early night, tomorrow we plan on making the journey to the highest railway station in Europe, Jungfrau. We plan on going up on a relatively early train to make the most of the day up top.
Lauterbrunnen to Bern to Lauterbrunnen – 16 September, 2015
This morning still feeling a little under the weather we got up to start our journey up to Jungfrau. It was a really nice morning weather wise so we thought it would turn out to be the perfect day to make our trek up to Jungfrau. After all if it’s a miserable day there really is no point going up the top when all you’re going to see is cloud.
Before setting off for the station I stop into the Camping Jungfrau supermarket to get some food to take with me. It is quite expensive to buy food at the summit so in order to save a little it was better to get something down here first.
Once we get the the train station we wait for our first train that will take us to Kleine Scheidegg which is essentially a transfer point as you change trains here to take you to the summit of Jungfrau. Once the train arrived we jump on board and after a few minutes an announcement is made that due to strong winds, the railway to the Jungfrau summit is closed and the train will only go as far as Kleine Scheidegg.
The decision now has to be made if we risk it and catch the train to Kleine Scheidegg in the hope the weather improves by the time we get there, or we get off the train and hope that the weather is better tomorrow. We decided to jump off the train and decide at the last minute as a train heading to Interlaken is about to leave to get on this train and do our planned day trip to the capital, Bern.
The train to Bern is quite scenic in itself, travelling along the Lütschine River from Lauterbrunnen to a scenic town in itself Interlaken. The plan was to also get out and have a look around Interlaken, but we would attempt to do this on the return trip. In Interlaken we change trains at a station called Interlaken Ost meaning Interlaken East and head into Bern along the outskirts of Lake Thun.
On our journey the weather has started to turn and rain has set in, once we arrive in Bern this has changed to light drizzle so it wasn’t so bad. Not really planning what to see and do in Bern we just started to wonder around heading for the riverside and checking out some of the old buildings.
Bern has a certain feel and charm of a medieval city about it and despite being the capital city feels quite small at the same time. It’s a nice city but without planning what to actually do you can feel quite lost and clueless. We stopped for some lunch but after this time we looked around the streets a little further and the rain started to set in again.
Still not feeling 100% we decided we have probably seen enough of Bern and headed back to the train station and started our journey back towards Interlaken. I was that exhausted that I fell asleep on the train and woke up just before arriving at Interlaken Ost where we decided to find our connecting train back to Lauterbrunnen rather than looking around the town. I’m really disappointed I didn’t get to experience the real Bern and will have to return here in the future along with exploring more regions of Switzerland.
Ready to collapse on arrival into Lauterbrunnen, for me it was straight to bed hoping that I would be a lot better tomorrow to try and make the journey up to Jungfrau. I was really looking forward to going to the summit of Jungfrau again, however feeling the way I was feeling if we couldn’t make it up there tomorrow it wouldn’t be such a huge deal as I went up there last time I was here.
Lauterbrunnen – 17 September, 2015
Up early this morning and its not good news. Outside it’s raining, cold and an all round miserable day while still not feeling the best. We decide early to write Jungfrau off as it’s the one major thing that we have already seen and done the last time we were in Lauterbrunnen. You can read all about that experience here.
For most of the day we were confined to our cosy cabin occasionally going outside for a short walk when there was a break in the weather. Our final lunch in Lauterbrunnen was at the Camping Jungfrau restaurant as well as dinner, despite eating most of our meals here it wasn’t tiresome and I enjoyed the meals, once you’re onto a winner stick to it.
Even though it was a sad end to the time spent in one of my favourite destinations while not feeling so great, I still had a blast here and got to experience a lot of the things I had been itching to do since I first visited this place three years prior. I will return here again in the future and plan to visit some more of the smaller villages that surround the area, and get back to the summit of Jungfrau.
Tomorrow we jump back on board the Busabout coach, the next leg of the journey is from Lauterbrunnen to Munich with an optional stop in Lucerne. We will be stopping in Lucerne for two nights checking out this small city by the lake and also taking a day trip to Mount Titlis while giggling at every opportunity at that name.
PICK UP/DROP OFF POINT
Weid 406, 3822 Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
+41 33 856 2010
White Water Rafting Busabout Price: €109.00 Normal Price: €133.00
Paragliding – Busabout Price: €145.00 Normal Price: €154.00