Interlaken, nestled between the Thun and Brienz Lakes in Switzerland, boasts tantalising views of the Alps, incredible outdoor adventure opportunities, mouth-watering chocolate and so much more. Known as one of the thrill-seeking capitals of the world, extreme sport possibilities in Interlaken are endless, ranging from paragliding to skydiving. Scenic views abound as well, meaning that the charming town offers plenty for those who prefer to remain solidly on their feet. Whether you want an outdoor experience of hiking or skydiving, or a cultural experience more along the lines of dining and castles, Interlaken is the perfect destination.
Hit the hiking trails
The easiest, cheapest and arguably most rewarding activity in Interlaken is heading out on one of the beautiful scenic hiking trails. Interlaken is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the Alps including Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, and a plethora of paths allow hikers to choose trails based on length of time and fitness level required. Options range from spots like Panoramaweg, an easy two-hour circuit, to Pizol’s Five Lake four- to five-hour circuit, which is purportedly one of the best in the region. Interlaken contains everything from moonlight hikes to cogwheel-train-facilitated hikes (like the one from Wilderswil) or treks between stations, such as a downhill hike from Lauterbrunnen station to Stechelberg.
Nothing beats a beautiful bird’s-eye view of the enchanting and formidable Swiss Alps, no matter the time of year. Admire snowcapped peaks or rolling hills of green dotted with idyllic village homes as you swiftly make your way down through the sky and onto the landing site (which is often the beautiful field of Interlaken’s Höhematte Park). If a weightless floating sensation is what you have in mind, then paragliding activities can be booked through a variety of companies including Paraglide Interlaken, Swiss Paragliding and Skywing Adventures.
Dive from the sky
Skydiving takes the thrills of paragliding to new levels (and can be done in a range of weather conditions). Board a company van and stare out at the emerald mountainside as the anticipation builds. The van delivers participants off-site for preparation to board a small prop plane. Clutch your seat or tandem guide as the plane makes its way into the sky and the world shrinks away. After screaming through the sky, the whoosh of a parachute accompanies a swirling of beautiful vistas as you glide down towards a grassy field. After a slightly turbulent landing (that the guide will help direct you through), you will land an ecstatic skydiving veteran in the best place for it – the Swiss Alps. For pricing and options, check out Skydive Switzerland.
Get your fix at the Funky Chocolate Club
For a respite from all the outdoor activity, the Funky Chocolate Club offers a unique chocolate-infused experience. It not only serves hot chocolate, but also chocolate fondue, and customers can even make their own cocoa treat. Run by two young business partners, Tatiana and Michaela, the store opened in 2014 to great acclaim. It’s a must for any chocolate fanatic, or lover of unique experiences. Be sure to check out the chocolate workshop and, in the words of Tatiana and Michaela, “Get chocolate-wasted together!”
Explore the St Beatus Caves
Legendary Saint Beatus supposedly chose St Beatus Cave for his hermitage after driving a fire-breathing dragon into Lake Thun. This is, of course, only a legend, but what is clear is that the cave features wide halls, gorges and stunning limestone structures, as well as criss-crossed stalactites and stalagmites near the underground waterfalls. Not only do waterfalls flow inside, but they also pour out of the exterior of the mountain, rushing beneath an old Swiss-style house perched on the mountain, and adorned with stone as well as ivory and auburn detail. Moreover, a cave museum awaits, appealing to those craving a memento of their excursions, and guided tours are also available every 30 minutes.
Visit the highest railway station in Europe, Jungfraujoch
The awe-inspiring summits in the Jungfrau Region are home to the highest railway station in all of Europe, rising 3,454 metres (11,332ft) above sea level. The Jungfraujoch train winds around the towering Eiger and Mönch Mountains, snaking its way through Eismeer and Eigerwand stations, each with stupendous views of their own. It overlooks dramatic landscapes from viewing platforms on the Aletsch Glacier or the Ice Palace. On a clear day, the station platform is said to have views as far as Italy, Germany and France. The region also holds a music festival in July and early August that features performers from all over the world.
A quick boat ride or more scenic Thurnersee cruise from Interlaken takes you to Oberhofen Castle on the edge of Lake Thun. Built in the early 13th century, this enchanting lakeside bastion includes both exquisite architecture as well as an exhibition of life in the region from the 16th to 19th centuries. Walk through centuries of history in Summer Hall, Knight’s Hall, the Neo-Gothic Dining Hall and the Middle Eastern Smoking Salon. It boasts a fantastic tower, a view of the lake, a picturesque English-style garden along the riverbank, an extensive park, a historic museum and a whimsical lakeside turret. The chapel, adorned with 15th-century frescoes, also remains in use for baptisms and weddings. You may come to Interlaken for the amazing outdoor experiences, but end up coming away with a yearning for a time harkening back to the days of castles and historic adventure among the Bernese Alps.
Go whitewater rafting on Lütschine River
Want more water-related adrenaline-packed adventures? Tackle the Lütschine River’s class III-IV rapids on a whitewater rafting expedition in the Grindelwald valley – check out one option at Alpin Raft. After taking the company van through the charming countryside and fanciful chalets, get to the rapids and navigate the frothy white torrents in your raft of choice. End your adventure bobbing in the calm, cool waters of Lake Brienz as you look up at the beautiful Swiss mountains. All that before an optional quick dip, and a return to base camp for a rejuvenating coffee or beer while you check out the professional photos that provide irrefutable evidence and documentation of your voyage.
Enjoy the blossoms at the Schynige Platte Alpine Garden
If you need another respite from adrenaline overload, relax amidst the tranquility of the Alpine Gardens, with stunning views of not only the Alps but also of 650 vibrant plant species in their natural habitats. A nature reserve and conservation site, the vivid gardens subsist at 1,967 metres (6,453ft) above sea level, which gives you an unparalleled peek at the mysterious Alpine flora. You enter the garden from the Schynige Platte Railway, after which you can embark on a self-guided circular tour, which can last anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours, or you can request a guided tour. Enjoy the beautiful blossoming spring and autumn colours provided by a huge variety of plant communities, the majority of which are blue sesleria, rusty sedge scree, milkwort and the petite, woolly petalled flowers, edelweiss. For a look at a different kind of garden, check out the Japanese Gardens. A feat of sustainability and scientific research, the Gardens flourish along with their plant inhabitants, and luckily for travel enthusiasts, they remain open to the public from May to October.
Depending on how much strain all the outdoor activities and extreme sports have had on you, a quieter afternoon’s activity could be grabbing a drink and food at the 150-year-old Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel. It’s hard to miss, conveniently located by the Höhematte Park, where you can watch the paragliders make their graceful landings while sipping a cup of hot cocoa or indulging in a zesty cocktail. La Terrasse offers fine French cuisine, the Brasserie provides Swiss specialties, and La Pastateca, as you might have guessed, is a great choice for pasta. The Victoria Bar also offers cocktails and afternoon tea, whilst Intermezzo bar offers a cigars-and-malts vibe. The hotel itself boasts beautiful views, or if you’re exhausted from all the outdoor activity, hit the Spa for promised “endless relaxation”.