Lauterbrunnen – A Magnificent Valley
Lauterbrunnen is part of the central area of Switzerland, referred to as the Bernese Oberland, which is marked by some of the country’s most magnificent mountain ranges. I chose Lauterbrunnen as a base because there you will find classic Swiss alpine scenery. The Lauterbrunnen Valley is the world’s deepest U-shaped valley and the region claims 72 small to spectacular waterfalls. Lauterbrunnen is nestled in the perfect location to make it both an end destination in itself as well as a commuting point to other midland areas (Műrren and Wengen). This region is jam-packed with natural beauty and it took no time at all to fall in love with it. Visitors immediately relax upon arriving.
Lauterbrunnen is accessed by train via Interlaken. My husband and I connected in Visp, where we had disembarked from the Glacier Express, which we had boarded in Chur*. But the Swiss rail system is so comprehensive that you can link to this region from nearly anywhere in the country. Upon getting off the train, you will feel as if you’ve just been transported to some magical land. You’ll look up and catch your first glimpse of the famous waterfall plummeting to the ground from the mountaintop above. Being a very small town, most everything in Lauterbrunnen is walking distance – the main town can be covered on foot, from end to end, in 15 minutes. We proceeded on foot to our hotel (there are no taxis as the town is too small to warrant them) while pulling our suitcases up a slight hill, with relative ease. Our reservation was at the oldest existing hotel in Lauterbrunnen, Hotel Staubbach. This hotel is rated consistently with high marks and deservedly so. Their staff is friendly and welcoming. The establishment does not offer the services of a four-star big city property, but does offer the basics in a very comfortable chalet-like setting. Anyone seeking to book a large room with mini bar and room service should not stay in this area. Most hotels in the valley do not cater to that level of clientele. They do an excellent job though of offering the basic comforts to those that want to soak up the scenery and take advantage of the visual beauty and sports that this region offers. The Mittelland is famous for its base-jumping and paragliding. Don’t be surprised to look up and see parachutes floating in the sky – it is one of the area’s big attractions. If jumping off a cliff or being swept up by a wind isn’t your thing, that will not preclude your enjoyment of the 24/7 natural beauty that resides here. Hiking and sight-seeing via cogwheel trains and cable cars is the next best thing to conquer the heights around you.
But the main attraction are the many mountain trains to summits which will melt your fillings. The Jungfraujoch, made up of the Eiger (13,025 ft.), the Mönch (13,488 ft.) and the Jungfrau (13,642 ft.), constitute one of the most spectacular mountain ranges you’ll find anywhere in the world and it has been dubbed "The Top of Europe" for good reason. The views are breathtaking and the time spent riding to the top via cogwheel train is well worth it. Lower viewpoints located in Műrren (2,625 ft.) and Schilthorn (9,747 ft.) can be accessed by cable car in the village of Stechelberg. My husband and I took a leisurely one hour walk through the Lauterbrunnen Valley to Stechelberg on a beautiful, clear morning. Enjoy the slow pace, and commune with the cows, goats and fauna on your way. You will actually feel yourself decompress. This is what Lauterbrunnen is all about!
*Switzerland offers many panoramic trains routes of which the Glacier Express is just one. It originates in St. Moritz in the east, for its westbound passage to Zermatt, but can be ridden either direction. Riders can hop on or off at points in between. The entire length of the scenic ride takes approximately 8 hours end-to-end.