THL does…Switzerland – Interlaken
Switzerland is obviously known for its mountains, offering lots of hiking options throughout the country. This 2-day THL does Switzerland itinerary focuses on the Eastern region of Switzerland, in the Interlaken area, close to borders with Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein.
Most of the hikes I recommend are accessed by cable car/ gondola lift, giving you an elevated starting point and making the epic views very accessible. There is a charge for using the cable cars, to ensure the upkeep of the service. That said, they can be quite expensive, most take card/ apple pay. There is the option on some trails to hike to the start point, and not take the cable car, but the majority of people take the lift up, as the most scenic part of the trail begins there, and it can be challenging hiking up. All the cable cars I took felt very safe, and I wouldn’t usually be a fan! I have included more specific information on the cable cars for each hike below. There may also be a charge for parking at the cable car entry. I recommend downloading the EasyPark App to help with this.
As well as stunning mountains this area of Switzerland has the most spectacular mountain lakes (our see in Swiss), some of which feature in my recommended hikes. All in all, hiking in this part of Switzerland is very well organised, and optimised for the hiker.
A hiking trip in Interlaken would make a good weekend break, or combine with THL does Switzerland –Appenzell for a longer trip. It is about a 3hr drive from Appenzell to Interlaken (192km).
Plane: I flew from Dublin to Zurich, which is about a 1 hour 30-minute drive from Interlaken. Both Aer Lingus and Swiss Air offer direct flights, with options every day of the week during the Summer.
Car Hire: I recommend hiring a car to get to the hiking spots. I used Sixt, but most major hire car companies operate from Zurich Airport. Driving in Switzerland is on the right, the roads are very good, with plenty of room, even on the mountain switch-backs.
Time difference: 1 hour ahead
Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF). At the moment the CHF has parity with the Euro.
Travel Tip: I travelled in July when the temperatures were 30+ degrees. If you are travelling at another time of year the weather will be different and you will require different gear.
Most hikes are dog friendly, so you’ll meet lots of dogs on the trails, and if you plan to travel with your dog Switzerland is very accommodating. You will also meet dairy cows, goats, horses and ibex on the trails, and you will have to manoeuvre around them.
Switzerland is known for chocolate, of course, fondue and their dairy produce. The menus in most places consist of meat and cheese, making for heavy meals. Being veggie is okay, however finding Vegan options outside of the bigger towns is difficult, but Interlaken had some good vegan options. I have linked my recommendations below.
Apps and digital things.
While I was in Switzerland I used Outdoor Active which is an interactive ordinance survey map, which pinpoints, where you are on the trail and shows alternative route options around you, it’s like google maps but for mountains! I also used Strava to track my hikes.
I used the yr.no weather app and website, and it was extremely accurate. There are also live web cams at most hiking destinations to check before you head out.
Hiking boots are essential
Snacks (a lot of hikes have food options on route however these can be expensive).
Mini first aid kit (blister patches, tweezer for bugs or splinters, plasters, anti-septic wipes, pain killers)
Battery pack for phone when using apps
Swimwear and towel (some hikes)
Warm clothes for post-swim
Other things to note
Paragliding is huge in this region of Switzerland, and it would be a great place to try it out if it’s something you have always wanted to do. I didn’t! Most of the hikes are also great trail running locations, should you feel the need for speed. I have accommodation options below but it’s also worth noting that the cafés at the top of the cable cars are also often hotels, so you can opt to stay at the top of the mountain if that takes your fancy.
Where to stay
Again, there are different options for different budgets. The approximate prices are per night and will change depending on the time of year.
St. Georges 400 CHF- High end
Aarburg Hotel 130CHF- good for couples
Jugendherberge 100 CHF- good for groups
Where to Eat;
Velo Café, offers breakfast and lunch, it was my favourite lunch that I had during my trip.
Aarburg Hotel, is good for breakfast and lunch, and was my number one breakfast.
Aare Korean BBQ, was amazing for dinner.
Other options that I would recommend;
The beach café
BERGHOTEL Oeschinsee (at the top by oeschinsee)
Badeplatz Niederried is a really cool swimming spot, and the Blausee Naturpark is a magical setting, for forest walks and lake swims.
There are two trail options here
- Option 1: ‘The Hardergrat Ridge Traverse’, a point to point route of 24km, and 3000m elevation.
- Option 2: Out and back to Augstmatthorn, hiking one of the best sections of the ridge and looping back down.
These hikes have different start points, I hiked option 2 as it was more manageable, given transport and the time available on a short visit.
Option1: The Hardergrat Ridge Traverse
Distance: 24km, point to point
Difficulty: Extremely hard and dangerous
Elevation: 3,000m approx.
Terrain: Narrow, dirt, rocky, scree trail along a tight ridge line.
Start point: Interlaken cable car to Brienzer cable car, you can start or finish at ether point.
Option 2: Out and back to Augstmatthorn
Distance: 7.5km, looped
Elevation: 570m approx.
Terrain: Rocky and narrow dirt trail. Steep and very narrow in places.
Start Point: Jägerstübli Lombachalp (no cable car)
From the car park follow the signs for Augstmatthorn summit.
Once on the summit take the trail left a few hundred metres toward Wytlouwihoren to enjoy the views.
Return to Augstmatthorn, from here continue to hike toward Suggiturm, then begin to hike down towards Lombachalp/Harderklum.
Look out for the sharp turn right following signs for Lombachalp, to loop back to your initial trail, returning to the car park.
There are two trail options here:
- Option 1: Oeschinensee Lower loop
- Option 2: Oeschinensee Higher Loop- Oeschinensee Panoramic Loop
Option 1: Oeschinensee Lower loop
Distance: 3.6km, out and back
Elevation: 140m approx.
Terrain: Hard surfaced trail
Marked: Yes, follow signs for the lake (Oeschinensee)
Start Point: Gondelbahn Kandersteg-Oeschinensee AG this cable car brings you up to the start point and the alpine slide.
Cable car: 30CHF per adult return. Takes about 7-8 minutes one-way. Check here for up to date information
Option 2: Oeschinensee Panoramic Loop ( I recommend doing this loop clockwise)
Distance: 12km, looped
Elevation: 600m approx.
Terrain: Rocky and narrow dirt trail, close to the ridge edge in some sections. Some sections are steep with loose rock.
To note: Oeschinensee is a swimming lake
Follow the signs for the lake, keep a look out for a sign for Oberbärgli, and turn left at the sign. This trail will bring you up high, where you will get incredible views of the lake. Before finally leading you to Oberbärgli (a good food spot) where you then descent back down toward the lake and loop around, back to the start point.
Start point: Same as option 1.
Bonus: Oeschinensee has a coaster ride, which is basically a big slide with mountain views, it’s so much fun! 4-6CHF per adult.