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Another valley to explore in the Berner Oberland

One valley over from Lauterbrunnen, directly south from Spiez, we found craggy mountains, alpine lakes, and fewer visitors. This is the Kandertal. Hearing North American accented English was rare, at least during our visit. Unlike in the Jungfrau Region, we found some locals who do not speak English at all, causing me to resurrect my pitiful German last studied some 48 years ago.

I’ve had Kandersteg on my list of places to check out for a few years. However, no matter how many times we go to Lauterbrunnen, it is hard to tear ourselves away from time in the Jungfrau Region on a normal 10-to-14-day trip. This year we set up Base Camp Barton for a month in Lauterbrunnen so we could work in some other exploration, including a 3-night side trip to Kandersteg.

The train trip from Spiez is lovely, rising up through the valley on a cleverly engineered railway. Normally when one passes from Spiez in the Berner Oberland to Domodossola in Italy, the travel is through the Lötschberg Base Tunnel. But this trip is on the old (early 20th Century) Lötschberg Line. I get quite a railfan education when traveling with my ferroequinologist husband.

We are here for hiking and made the obligatory trek to the Oeschinensee, an easy-to-reach alpine lake that attracts many if only to take lunch by the lakeside. Hardy souls can work off lunch with rugged high terrain hikes or, like us, one can walk to-and-from the lake in about an hour on wide paths. Going uphill on the way back was a bit of a workout (which we needed) but there is also an electric shuttle bus option which we thought quite nice as a way to make the lake accessible.

We stayed at the charming family-run Blümisalp Hotel and Restaurant. The husband is a Certified Swiss Federal Master Chef who turns out simple fare, well-prepared and beautifully presented. It is quite nice to come back from hiking and not have to think about going out so we indulged in their restaurant twice for prix fixe meals.

Our second hike, a further education in mountain railways, was a trek along the Lötschberger Nordrampe which runs for about 20 kilometers from Frutigen to Eggeschwand. We are not 20km/day walkers so we were delighted that one can take the trail in bites. We chose to walk from Kandersteg to the charming Blausee, about 3.6 miles. Here we got an appreciation for the clever “crazy-eight” (my words) tunnel required to bring the trains up the steep valley. On our 90 minute walk we saw two farmers, dozens of cows, a few passing trains, and no other people until we arrived at Blausee. Of course, there is a hotel and restaurant there, in true European fashion. We also got to enter the Blausee Nature Park through the back door from the trail and did not have to pay to enter like those who drive there do.

It is clearly cow parade season as a herd of about 15 sauntered past our terrace on Saturday, stopping all traffic through Kandersteg on a fine sunny morning. An hour later, while taking the bus to the end of the valley to start our hike for the day, the bus had to stop for three dozen cows to pass. This was not the driver’s first parade. She immediately exited the bus and shooed the cows away protecting her vehicle!

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Our final hike in the Kandertal was at Sunnbüel, up above the southern end of the valley. The lower slopes were still encased in shadows when we ascended at 10:00, but on top, at 6352 feet, the sun was brilliant and the path beckoned. The hike I chose was a lollipop to Arvenseeli, a series of three pristine alpine lakes. Except, this late in the season they were dry, rocky beds surrounded by cows nibbling on sparse alpine plants. (I think these were the cows that missed the trek to town this morning as elsewhere on the trail there were fresh indicators of recent cow passage and lots of hoof prints.) While this was advertised as easy and a family hike, there was a sketchy portion of more than 20 minutes featuring narrow trails that sometimes disappeared, difficult footing, and the aforementioned cows sometimes blocking the way as if daring one to pass. The advertised 90 minute hike took us two hours and 8 minutes. Still it was a good workout followed by a welcome lunch with a Panaché (half beer, half lemon soda) and accommodating server who spoke no English but put up with my stilted German.

We will be putting all three walks into the new edition of our book.

Now that we’ve been to the Kandertal, we see other possibilities for exploring. We learned of the Gasterntal a river valley near Kandersteg that is quite remote and only seasonally accessible. We may have to come back…

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6510 posts

Laurel, this sounds wonderful. I have bookmarked and as I look at all your recommendations for Ortisei and Lauterbrunnen and think about next summer, I will surely purchase the appropriate book when I have decided which one !

Thank you.

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262 posts

Love your blog and all the trip reports you post here. You are a wonderful resource, Laurel. Many thanks.

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921 posts

Thanks for introducing me to a new area to explore and for the new vocabulary word: ferroequinologist.

I am bookmarking this for future reference and fantasy!

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12205 posts

We enjoy visiting the Gasterntal for some nice easy (nearly level) walking with beautiful scenery. On 3 separate trips we have walked there from Kandersteg (the road is private and has little traffic), rented bikes at theKandersteg train station and ridden in (steep uphill in parts), and taken the little bus to Selden and walked back to Kandersteg.

It’s all good.

Nice photos in this blog:

https://www.andrewswalks.co.uk/gasterntal.html

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1070 posts

Thanks - I love this! I have your Val Gardena book already and will maybe wait for the new one for this area. :) Hoping to get to both of those places in 2022 or 23.

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4604 posts

Hi Laurel,

I always enjoy reading about your adventures, thanks for sharing them with us!
Enjoy the rest of your travels and keep us posted! 😊

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9779 posts

Lola, “Andrew’s Walks” is an amazing source. Actually overwhelming! They are hiking animals: like you! By contrast we are very much into “easy hiking” due to quirky knees (mine) and heart issues (hubby), but it is fun to see what others manage to do.

Thanks for the comments, everyone!