Magnificent Swiss Alps
Just driving through Swiss Alps is an amazing experience. It was first on my way from Lake Como to Amsterdam that I've felt this magnificent presence of something mighty and beautiful. I was alone and had all the time in the world to enjoy climbs across those steep passes. That was a moment to make a commitment "I have to come back!".
Getting to Switzerland is not a big deal. Highways are probably of the best quality I have ever encountered, traffic is not heavy and with their new system of tunnels you can get into the country from any side – Italy, Germany, France or Austria. Although I must warn you about the Italian crossing. This one will take you more time, tunnel works will slow you down, but for a great reason! Take this path in the midday and you will never regret it. Amazing places, especially towards Julier Pass. The merge of two great cultures, highland architecture and landscapes will never leave your heart.
We've set our nav from Amsterdam after lunch and after 888km arrived at our first waypoint – Interlaken, a village squeezed in-between two great lakes Thunersee and Brienzersee.
As the arrival was at the very dark hour there was a surprise waiting for us at the first ray of light the following morning.
As our main goal of the whole trip was pure hiking we've laid out a an ascend for every day.
Here is the map with all the Jungfrau region hiking trails – CLICK HERE (the PDF will download)
Day 1 – Harder Kulm.
So from the campsite we took the route 72 which takes you from Interlaken to the viewpoint Harder Kulm. Even though we walked this route I would say it is worth taking the funicular to it and then walking the ridge of Harder which give you great view of the Interlaken and the Brienzersee and then down with a route 75.
At the end of the day we packed the tents and moved to Lauterbrunnen to another campsite some 13 km away from Interlaken. It's considered to be one of the deepest Alpine valleys at a width of just one kilometer and length of nine kilometers with 72 waterfalls that are dropping from the completely vertical walls of mountains that are on both sides. The height of the drop varies from 100 m to 250 m of unbroken fall. The best part is to wake up to the roar of the waterfalls which sometimes don't even reach the bottom of the valley breaking into spray.
Day 2 – Grindelwald First
One of the most popular hiking destinations in Bernese Alps is the Grindelwald First.
First itself is a minor summit, but the amount of routes around it and different attractions is amazing.
We had to drive to Grindelwald in the morning which took us only 20 minutes. Finding a parking is a real battle. Eventually we parked behind one of the hotels for free for the entire day. I searched the whole street and didn't find any sign forbidding the parking, but it's a risky business. So my advice is come super early to find a parking spot.
Because of the snow that week some of the routes were not accessible and we had a slight change of plans. We took route 15, route 12 and then route 8 to get from Grindelwald to First through the stations Bort and Schreckfeld. These is a pretty easy ascend, but I strongly recommend high hiking boots, gaiters and crampons as during winter and spring there is just no way you are getting out of there with dry feet and without slipping and falling at least once or twice.
At the top of First we made a cliff walk – a metal walkway kindly put there by Tissot, so you can walk around the cliff and enjoy the views. I was skeptical about this one, but it appears to be a rewarding short walk. Very cool! You're around that cliff in just a minute or two and onto a platform perfect for taking photos.
After a short break and about 284 selfies we took route 1 to the lake Bachalpsee – the blue gem as they call it. It's an hour walk on a pretty much flat trail towards a beautiful lake split in two halves by a natural dam at a 2265 m with a stunning view of the Alps.
Officially Trail 1 was closed... but we still went for it and realized why it was closed only when we got there.
The lake has frozen. What you are supposed to witness is the next image.
Instead we ate a few sandwiches and had a beer. The walk was totally worth it.
Upon returning to First station we took the cable car back down to Grindelwald and took off to the camping tired but happy.
Day 3 – Wengen and the railway
After taking quite a beating with 45 km of hiking distance in the previous two days we decided to take it easy.
We took a route to Wengen, a moderate way up towards a car-free resort village with only 5000 residents in the winter time.
Village is beautiful and very tranquil. It is a place I would like to have my summer villa when I'm 80. There are many routes around that you can take to enjoy the scenery.
Wengen is famous for hosting FIS Ski World Cup and the rack railway Wengenalpbahn. Rack railways are not so common and are only used where the steep grade is present. They use a third toothed rack rail and the train is fitted with a cog wheel to climb and descend. Looks cool and unusual but it is also quite loud.
We took a train back down – great 17-minute journey.
Day 4 – the mighty Trümmelbach Falls
The Trümmelbach Falls is a series of ten waterfalls that are formed by glaciers... and they are inside the mountain! Made accessible by a sort of an elevator with a number of tunnels and viewing points it is a nice attraction to visit.
For a single night in Interlaken we chose Manor Farm 1 camping. A great camping with an astonishing view of the lake and a beach if you are there in the summer. Great place, but you gotta score a spot by the lake. Otherwise it's a regular camping.
And the rest of our stay we spent at an amazing Camping Jungfrau in Lauterbrunnen.
It's right in the valley further away from the village. All the amenities are there including washing machines and drying room for all your hiking gear.
Restaurant is very nice and the personnel is so helpful and kind you're curious if they're gonna charge you for being so nice. They don't.
Roads are great as I already mentioned earlier, all the passes present stunning views and the only thing you really need to invest into is the Swiss motorway vignette.
Don't panic! It's just a sticker that you need to place on your windshield.
Why? Because it is the swiss way of toll motorways. If you are planning to avoid them, then you do not need the vignette. You can buy it online or you can do it at the border or closest to the border gas station. It only costs 40 CHF (swiss francs) which is roughly 38 EUR and it is valid for the whole calendar year. So it doesn't matter if you but it in March or December it's still valid until December 31st of the current year and costs the same.
I bought one at the gas station right after we crossed the border and had no issues whatsoever. But there's also a kiosk at the border itself where you can get it. Don't forget or you'll have to pay fines which is not cool.
Parking situation is usual if you drive in Europe. More expensive than average, but everything is more expensive in Switzerland.
Winter tires and chains. If you go in winter and early spring – it's a must. In July the temperature at the top of the passes was dropping to -10 by Celsius after the sunset.
Just a friendly warning.