Berner Oberland
The Most Wonderful
Holiday Place I Know of

By Jacob Palme

Eiger

I love the thrill of walking on a narrow ledge with a thousand feet drop beside me. I love the beauty of the alps. I love riding in cog-wheel trains, chair lifts and cable cars above a beautiful landscape. I am not the kind of mountain climber who traverse vertical cliffs with climbing equipment. I like it when the mountains are prepared for easy access, and I enjoy a restaurant on every hilltop.
    The Swiss and Austrian Alps offer this to a larger extent than anywhere else in the world. If you want a really large choice of mountain rides, enough for a holiday of more

 
than a week, then the best places to stay in are Interlaken in Switzerland and Zell-am-Zee in Austria. For a shorter holiday, places like Grindelwald or Zermatt may be better. In those places, you live closer to the mountain rides, but the selection is not as large. Interlaken has the largest selection of cog-wheel trains. All in all, the Interlaken area, also known as Berner Oberland, is the place I recommend, if you can afford it. Holidays in the Swiss alps are not recommended if you are on a tight budget. Allow 250 dollars/euros per day.

Walking from Männlichen to Kleine Sheideck

If you choose Berner Oberland as your holiday destination, I recommend that you stay in the central town of the area, Interlaken. And I recommend that you stay in a hotel close to the Interlaken Ost railway station, like Carlton, Europa or Hotel du Lac. Of these, Hotel du Lac is closest to the railway station and is a very enjoyable hotel.

Hotel du Lac
Hotel du Lac

I strongly recommend that you buy the Regional Pass, which provides unlimited

 
rides on many of the best mountain rides for a somewhat more reasonable price. With the regional pass, you get a reliable and comprehensive time table. The Austrain Alps have no similar Regional Pass, and their time tables are less reliable, in Austria (but not in Switzerland) you must always call the mountain ride by phone and ask if they are really running in the morning when planning the day's excursion.
   Most people, who visit the Berner Oberland, go to the highest and most expensive places, like Jungfraujoch (Europe's highest railway station) and Schilthorn. These places are not free on the regional pass, and they are not worth their high price. Below are some places I do recommend.
   Important: The temperature goes down about 1 degree Centigrade for each 100 meters. Remember to bring sweaters, rain coats and gloves when you go up to the really high hills.

 

Cog-wheel train to RothornRothorn

The best of all the cog-wheel trains is the train from Brienz to Rothorn Kulm. It is driven by nineteenth century steam engines and offers the most breathtaking scenery and thrills. Come well in advance, you may have to queue half-an-hour to get a seat, especially if you go up before noon.

Picture from the top of Rothorn

 



View from the top of the
Rothorn cog-wheel train.

 

Small cabin ride from Grindelwald to First

First

The small-cabin ride from Grindelwald to First offers a long ride above the landscape which changes from a lushy valley to a tree-less alp. From First you can walk up into the alps or down on a narrow ledge traversing a steep cliff. First was formerly a chair lift, but very dissapointingly, they have rebuilt it into a small cabin ride, losing much of its previous charm.

At the top of the First small-cabin ride 

View from the top of the First cable car ride.

Walking from Männlichen to Kleine Sheideck
 Männlichen

Take the small-cabin ride from Grindelwald to Männlichen, and then walk the wonderful mountain walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheideck. The sight of the Eiger and Jungfrau is breathtaking.

Another place with wonderful sights of the Eiger and Jungfrau is Mürren.


Aaresschlucht 

Aareslucht

A normally broad river is pressed through a narrow ravine only a few feet wide. You walk on a narrow ledge hanging on the wall of the ravine.

Schynige Platte cog-wheel train 

Schynige Platte

Cog-wheel train, close to Interlaken, which rapidly takes you from the world down-there to the different world up-there. You cannot see the really high alp peaks from down below, but going up, the high alps seem real and the world in the valleys seems very distant and unreal.

  View from the window of the Schynige Platte-train


 
View from the
train window.

Top station of Schynige Platte cog-wheel train

 

Top station.
 

Harder Kulm trainHarder Kulm and
Heimwehfluss

Two cable-pulled mountain lifts, directly from Interlaken. They do not take you above the tree line, but they take you to heights from which you can make nice walks in the steep alp forests, including walking all the way down to Interlaken.

Rodel ride at KanderstegKandersteg

Kandersteg has spectacularly beautiful alps and several mountain lifts, including a chair lift which takes you to a rodel ride. Rodel rides let you glide down the hill on a small rodel, a kind of toboggan. There are also rodel rides at Pfingstegg and Heimwehfluh.


Oeschinensee


Map of Oeschienen reached by chair lift from Kandersteg.



Looking down from the peak of Niesen Niesen

A cable-pulled mountain train takes you to the peak of Niesen. This peak, 2350 meters high, is surrounded by almost vertical slopes down.


Lungern chair lift
Lungern

Lungern is a quiet town without the mass of tourists. But it has a very nice cable car, which goes up to one of the best chair lifts (see left picture) in the Junfrau region. The ordinary train ride from Meiringen to Lungern goes through a 1002 meter high pass and offers many exciting views.


Twing

The bus from Brünich-Haselberg to Twing and Reuti goes along a high road on a ledge of the mountain with a steep drop. You have to trust the driver to go with this bus. From Twing goes a small-cabin ride to Käserstatt and Hochsträss.

Stockhorn lake

Stockhorn

Stockhorn is a very steep mountain, and a very beautiful lake at the middle station. The haze in the top background is because the mountain top was engulged in a cloud when the picture was taken.


High walks

One of the most exciting things to do is to go up with one mountain ride, walk on a high path to another mountain ride and go down there. If you are willing to walk several hours, there are many such opportunities. Some high walks which only last about an hour or two is from Männlichen to Kleine Scheideck, from Käserstatt to Mägisalp, from Planplatten to Hochsträss and from Grütshalp to Mürren.

One alternative is also to take any ride with a middle station to the top, and then walk down to the middle station.

Mountain transportation

The transportation to the hill tops is aided by different kind of mechanical devices:
Rothorn cog-wheel train 

cog-wheel trains

Slow, sometimes incredibly steep slopes, travels in zig-zag on ledges on the mountain side. In Berner Oberland, you can find them to Kleine Scheidegg, Jungfraujoch, Rothorn and Schunige Platte. Rothorn is best, Jungfraujoch of least interest, it goes almost all the way in a tunnel.

Wire-pulled train

wire-pulled train

Not as nicely adjusted to the landscape as the cog-wheel trains. In Berner Oberland, you can find them in Beatenbucht, Harder Kulm, Niesen, Mürren, Lauterbrunnen and other places.

 
Large cabin ride

large cabin rides

Often crowded and you have to stand, schedules with long breaks sometimes.

 
Small cabin ride

small cabin rides

Better views during the ride than from large cabin rides, but the plastic windows distort the clearness of the mountain views, as compared to chair lifts.


You glide and feel almost like a bird. The best experience, but somewhat more risky. In Berner Oberland, I have found them only at Kiental, Lungern and Kandersteg. Earlier, First and Niderhorn also had chair lifts, but sadly, they have converted to small cabin rides.

chair lifts (German: Sesselbahn)

Chair lift in Lungern