Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland – 5 must do experiences for any visitor & where to stay


Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the Earth you can visit. The small village located in a valley of 72 gushing waterfalls is about an hour’s drive from Bern, the capital of Switzerland. The village is best known for its location within the valley allowing visitors to have a front row seat to the waterfalls that bring with them the icy cold water from the melting glaciers above.

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This small out of the way town is an ideal place to visit if you want to get away from the big cities and experience the Swiss countryside. Lauterbrunnen is a great place to base yourself with the region offering an array of activities and sights to see from the base of the Swiss Alps.

Getting here couldn’t be easier, travelling solo there are plenty of trains that can link you up to Lauterbrunnen from the town of Interlaken. Another option for stopping over at Lauterbrunnen is to travel on a group tour with many Topdeck and Contiki tours stopping through the town for usually two nights, or you can also experience the village at your own pace with Busabout using the Hop-On Hop-Off coach network.

Below is loneXplorer’s guide to five of the top things to do if you plan on visiting Lauterbrunnen including a sixth bonus experience and also what is without a doubt the best accommodation option in Lauterbrunnen.

1. Train journey to Jungfrau, the top of Europe

One of the most amazing experiences you can do in Switzerland and in the Lauterbrunnen region is to travel to the highest train station in Europe, Jungrfau. Things to note before traveling to the top, it will not just be cold, but freezing cold and this is even at the beginning of summer, so have a coat, beanie, scarf, sunglasses and sunscreen, you will get burnt on a sunny day with many people coming back looking like they spent the day at the beach.

Not only will it be cold outside but it gets incredibly cold inside the tunnels under the mountain and at that altitude some people will find it hard to breathe and possibly fall ill due to altitude sickness. However despite being about -3 degrees at one point I was quite warm and took my coat off, it can get a bit warm in the sun if you have been walking around constantly and you can also go hiking.

There are many things to do at the summit, there is a lookout on top of the hill outside where you can stand in the snow and have the obligatory photo opportunity with the Swiss Flag. You can take a lift up to the observatory or the ‘Sphinx‘ as it is called, explore the Ice Palace which has been carved inside the mountain along with the many tunnels where you will find ice carvings of penguins, seals and other icy animals, or go for a long hike in the snow on the freshly plowed walking track.

Being 4000 metres high, personally I found it the most difficult when walking through the cold underground tunnels, the lack of air made walking difficult and I needed a break. Outside was fine, but the main thing to do is pace yourself, you will spend the whole day up there anyway and will get to see everything. I traveled to the summit whilst travelling on a Topdeck tour and during my time here we traveled to the summit as a tour group but were then left on our own and were able to come back down the mountain anytime we liked, so you can see everything at your own pace.

Some advise for visiting is that the day out is quite expensive, tickets to the summit alone are not cheap but they are well worth it. If you are travelling through Switzerland with a Swiss Travel Pass take advantage of the discounts on offer for travel to the summit, although not much of a discount, every little bit helps. You may want to consider bringing your own lunch with you to the summit, prices once up there are inflated even more than what it is normally in Switzerland so be prepared for this. Think CHF5 for just a small bottle of Water (about AUD$5.50).

2. Cable Car journey to the Schilthorn, the James Bond 007 experience

Fans of James Bond will know this place very well as the main location of the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starring one hit Bond George Lazenby (or not so much a hit depending on how you look at it). Sitting at a height of 2,970 metres within the Swiss Alps, the Schilthorn is more than just a famous filming location but once you arrive at the summit offers amazing views of the region.

Before you arrive at the summit getting there is half the fun as you travel along a series of cable cars and a train that takes in the stunning scenery of the area. The best time to visit is early in the morning on a clear day, departing Lauterbrunnen from outside the main train station is the cable car station that will take you to the summit of the valley to Grütschalp Railway Station. From here it is a scenic train journey to the small village of Mürren where there are no cars allowed. From here there are a number of cable cars departing as well as a funicular taking you to the summit of a mountain close by called Allmendhubel.

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.

3. The thrilling Trümmerbach Falls

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 definitely 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 above in a sky dive.

4. Wonder around the small villages of Mürren & Gimmelwald

Mürren is a small quaint village where no cars are allowed to access the town. From Lauterbrunnen to get here you can catch the cable car from outside the train station up to the awaiting train that will take you across to Mürren. 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 which will either take you up to Birg or down to Gimmelwald. 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.

Heading down from Mürren to Gimmelwald you take the cable car where you need to change cars anyway so it is worth taking a look around. There isn’t anything here other than people’s homes but none the less it is still interesting to see the way locals live in the area. This is also a car-less village and it will only take you about 5 minutes to see the whole thing. From here you can take the cable car down the steep decent which gives you stunning views of the valley below and one of the many waterfalls that plummet into the valley below.

5. Climb inside the Staubbach Falls and take in the valley

A great activity to do whilst in Lauterbrunnen is to get up and close to Staubbach Falls which are right next to Camping Jungfrau and are the main falls you will see in the centre of the Lauterbrunnen village. 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.

You can then take this opportunity to take in the view of the valley below from a unique perspective. When you enter this space make sure you have sturdy shoes on, with all the gushing water it comes inside the rock face where you are standing and you will have to walk over some water. The summer times of the year are the best times to visit the falls as they are frozen over in winter and reduced to just a trickle.

Bonus: Skydiving over the Swiss Alps and the Lauterbrunnen Valley

If you’re looking for that extra thrill during your stay in Launterbrunnen why not consider Skydiving over the Swiss Alps. This would have to be one of the most unique places in the world to do this and an additional uniqueness about this is that you jump from a helicopter rather than a plane. There are a few Skydiving providers in the region, I have provided links to two of them below. Outdoor Interlaken also has a shop set up at Camping Jungfrau if you are staying there.

Skydive Lauterbrunnen: website

Outdoor Interlaken: website

Accommodation: Camping Jungfrau

While staying in Lauterbrunnen you can’t go past the amazing Camping Jungfrau where you are given a warm welcome by the staff waiting to show you to your room and to check you in. I arrived here as part of a Busabout group and this is one of the central points of the whole Busabout network. 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 while also keeping the noise down for other 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.

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Just your average guy doing his 9 - 5 job as a Senior Payroll Officer by day, writing about his travel adventures and hopefully giving you inspiration and ideas for your next travel adventure here at loneXplorer...

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