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Berner Oberland (Lauterbrunnen Valley)

Hello. We may be visiting Switzerland in early July 2020 and am taking Rick Steve's advice to visit the Berner Oberland area first. Should I be looking at a specific town to have as a home base for 4-5 nights in this area? If so, what towns? We are active in hiking and walking, so does this make sense? Also, what is the difference between this area and Bern? If we have another 5 nights, should we go to Lake Geneva or Luzern given that we are active outside? Many thanks for your responses! We have never been to this country at all and want to get it right!

Posted by
31471 posts

Rick's advice on the Berner Oberland is spot on! This is one of the most beautiful parts of Switzerland, and if you're into hiking that's a great place. Bern is a larger city that has views of the mountains but the Berner Oberland is right in the scenery. Quintessential Switzerland including cows with large bells on their necks.

I find that the small town of Lauterbrunnen is a great home base for that areas, as it's the transportation hub for the area and you can easily reach both sides of the valley from there. If you'd prefer to be "in" the mountains with incredible views, the small town of Mürren is a great choice.

As with anywhere in Switzerland, be sure to budget accordingly as it's an expensive place to travel!

Posted by
716 posts

Ken is right. The difference between the B.O. and Bern is like day and night. You can't go wrong with 5 days in the B.O. I like to spend 2 weeks there. To see what to do with walking and hiking, click on my name to find a link to our dozen favorite trails in the area.

Posted by
16761 posts

The Berner Oberland range has been blowing people minds ever since the British invented vacations 200 years ago. I prefer the sunny mountainside towns, and Muerren is hard to beat. Cows, cheese, chalet buildings, everyone's Swiss fantasy. Yet underneath that is a decent tourist infrastructure. You won't starve or have to sleep in the streets, or run out of things to do. Might put a serious dent in the wallet though.

Bern is a city in the Berner Lowlands, the capital of Switzerland. If you can land a job in the Swiss patent office, then come up with the Theory of Relativity, its a good place to be.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you so much for your feedback! I feel a lot better now about this choice after hearing from people who have gone to Switzerland. Many thanks!

Posted by
8889 posts

Toni, for the Jungfrau Area of the Berner Oberland there are 4 places to choose from, with different characters.
All of them have rail access.

  • Lauterbrunnen - small town in a deep U-shaped valley.
  • Grindelwald - Larger town in the next wider valley.
  • Mürren and Wengen - small villages above Lauterbrunnen on opposite sides of the valley. Car free (road ends in valley bottom).

For more info and hotels in these places see here: https://jungfrauregion.swiss/en/summer/
As for hiking, topo map of the area is here. green are hiking paths, red is rail or cablecars. You can pan and zoom, and print out (to PDF) at desired scale: https://map.schweizmobil.ch/?lang=en&bgLayer=pk&logo=yes&season=summer&resolution=5&E=2636215&N=1160860&layers=Wanderland

Bern is a big city. Nice old city but as unlike the Jungfrau area as you can get.
Lake Geneva is pretty, lakeside vineyards and nice towns. Not the high Alps.
Luzern is a nice lakeside town. Also a good place to visit (mountains, lake boats, old town), but for hiking you would need to get out of town.

My thoughts for your 5 extra nights
How are you travelling in and out (rail / air to and from which route / airport)? That would influence the options.
Do Bern as a day trip (train) from Lauterbrunnen (or wherever).
Spend 2-3 nights in Luzern. From the Jungfrau Area you have the scenic Brünig rail line to get you there.
Also / alternatively the Appenzell Area has good hiking.

Posted by
416 posts

@Shoe.... LOVED your pictures! If all the planets align properly, we will be there, maybe in 3 or 4 years. It's a dream of mine for sure. I will definitely be saving this thread.

Posted by
1 posts

This is a great thread, thanks! Here's a twist on the question of visiting alpine Switzerland and, I know, it's counter intuitive- where's a great alpine village or hotel to be lazy in for a 5 nights? And when I say 'lazy' I mean spending our days waking up when we please, resting, reading, taking walks, etc., versus have an itinerary packed with things to do and places we need to be each day- i.e. a lot of moving around (stressful). We want to relax and take in the beauty of Alpine Switzerland without the stress of having every day planned from morning 'till night.
We stayed in Rigi Kaltbad (Hotel Rigi Kaltbad) for 3 night in December 2015 and it was one of our favorite places ever. The weather was wonderful that month and we enjoyed the hot tub, the breakfast spread, the views, the mountain trails around the hotel and up to Mount Rigi... we're considering just staying at Hotel Rigi Kaltbad again, but I wanted to get some other ideas too, before we finalize our plans... thanks!

Posted by
6 posts

To Ken and others:

We're traveling to the Berner Oberland region from Paris in August 2019 (first time to either locale).

We've booked our TGV tickets from Paris to Interlaken Ost. But, after reviewing MANY travel passes, we're still very confused which regional travel pass is the "best value" for our travels. Berner Oberland Regional Pass?? Jungfrau Travel Pass?
We need train transportation from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen (where we're lodging). Then, we'll need multiple trains, cable cars, funiculars, PostBus, etc. for hiking around: Mannlichen-Kleine Scheidegg, Kleinie-Scheidegg Walk, Eiger Trail, North Face Trail, Schilthorn, the Cloudy Lauterbrunnen Walk, etc. We'll be in the BO area for 5 days, then return to Paris via TGV so no other travel in Switzerland.
Hoping to make a quality purchase that includes these possible travel methods: Schilthorn cable car, Grütschalp cable car, Mürren train, Allmendhubel funicular, Wengen train, Männlichen lift, lift at Gimmelwald to Schilthornbahn station near Stechelberg, PostBus to Trümmelbach Falls, etc. Totally understand that some passes will only provide a discount on Schilthorn. (Not planning on Jungfraujoch - so that travel does NOT need to be included.)
We would greatly appreciate wisdom and recommendations from those who've travelled the BO area on which pass best covers a train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, as well as the varied travel methods (mentioned above) around Lauterbrunnen, Mürren, Wengen areas?

THANK YOU!! TJW

Posted by
93 posts

TJW, we are in Berner Oberland for 6 extra days following a Rick Steve’s Switzerland tour. After my husbands extensive research, we decided the Berner Oberland pass was what we needed. We were only traveling within coverage of the BO pass. We bought the pass at the tourist office at the train station in Bern and used it for full coverage for travel from Bern to Mürren where we stayed first. This pass covers everything you mentioned, plus more. As you know, it only provides discounts to Schilthorn and Jungfrau, not free passage. We also were not interested in Jungfrau.

The pass worked great. No problems using it. It says to carry picture ID to verify your identity, to match to the pass. We did, but we were never asked for any ID. They looked at the ticket and were satisfied. Their website has a map showing everything that is covered.

We used it for pretty much everything you mentioned. In addition, we went to Grindelwald-First, and Schynige Platte with the pass. Both worthwhile destinations (if you have time), in addition to those you mentioned. Have a great trip!

Posted by
7689 posts

We like being up in the mountains( Grindelwald, Wengen) rather than down in a valley floor like Lauterbrunnen which we found dark.

Posted by
285 posts

I've just returned from 4 days in Lauterbrunnen and I'm happy to say it might just be my favorite area on earth at this point. I'm glad we rented a chalet and stayed in the valley to give us a few options in and out around the area.

I could stay there forever quite easily.

Some folks like to stay up in the higher towns like Murren, Wengen, Gimmelwald. I think it's more advantageous to stay in the valley personally but whatever you like. It's all quite close and easily connected.

Lauterbrunnen is small, but has a few spots to eat and is in the middle of everything. Murren and Gimmelwald are on the other end of the valley and the walk between them is the most incredible thing I've ever experienced. Both are small and quaint, Gimmelwald being entirely otherworldly so.

Wengen was a bit too upscale for me, with more amenities though.

It's all amazing, the views everywhere can't begin to be captured by photos.

Swiss travel pass was brilliant, I can't say enough good things about Switzerland and it's transit.

Posted by
1217 posts

I tried to spreadsheet the passes and just kind of gave up and combined a Half Fare Card with a Jungfrau Pass and individual tickets from Zurich to Lauterbrunnen and Lauterbrunnen to Basel, and I think it was probably as good as anything, even if it didn't include the Murren area lifts and funicular.

It's a truly magnificent region and I hope to get back there someday, though it would be in August when all the trails are open and we'd rent a chalet so we could do some more substantial meals in-house. (There are good restaurants in the region but sometimes cheaper and easier would be a nice option)