It’s time to head for the Alps! This was the main goal of our Switzerland trip: to walk around in nature and breathe in that salubrious mountain air. Admittedly I was imagining springtime when I planned the trip for mid April, but while it was springtime in the cities, it was actually still winter up at the higher altitudes. Not to worry, we still enjoyed a beautiful time in the Alps and even got a little taste of snow-globe living!
First, a little glance at some lakes on the way from Bern to Interlaken. Unfortunately, the weather forecasts were all overcast/rain/snow for our couple of days here.
After a few trains and an fun little gondola ride, I arrived in the town of Mürren, home for the next three nights! We rented a very cute and cozy cabin.
As soon as I checked in, I went on my first excursion so I could get out of the crazy mid-layer of cloud cover and try and see the tops of the mountains. I had my sights set on Jungfraujoch, which is billed as “Top of Europe” and is now built up as a tourist destination with an expensive train ride involved! Jungfraujoch isn’t actually the top of the Alps or Europe… but it is the highest train station in Europe. I had originally not been sure whether I’d even go up to Jungfrau, but given the weather conditions, I thought it would be worth trying to get up there to see it while it was clear at the top.
First I had to take the little train back down from Mürren, which is basically in the middle altitude of the mountains. Here’s what it looked like as I was leaving. Complete whiteout!
First you have to go back down to the bottom, the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Here’s what the weather looked like down there. You can see more, but still very cloudy!
And then you transfer to another train…
And board the Jungfraubahn.
I made it out of the clouds! It’s blue skies up here! This is a little viewpoint on the way up.
Back into the train!
And ta-da! Jungfraujoch is basically a big building with a well-planned trail to the different stops. One of the first is a platform viewing area.
Then there’s an indoor display about the building of this rail line. They started construction in 1896 and opened in 1912, with many lives lost along the way.
They also built this whole ice cave you can walk through… for instagram, I assume. I mean, I was indeed very entertained by it. It’s really ice underfoot!
And then there’s another section where you can walk outside and take another look at the peaks around you.
I’m always a bit reluctant to do the overtly touristy things, but I was really glad I went up to Jungfraujoch in the end! Especially since it gave me such a different perspective from being in the middle altitudes. Soon it was time for me to head back down, and luckily, the clouds had also begun clearing a bit below.
A random seatmate I met on the way down. She was also traveling alone, from Hong Kong.
Lovely and misty.
After passing through Kleine Scheidegg, we were returned back to Lauterbrunnen.
I picked up some groceries from the Coop down here, and I headed back up to Mürren.
Going back up the gondola.
And back to our bear lodge!
My snacking dinner for the night. Cheese! And nutella.
Later that night, Talya arrived in Switzerland to join me! Here’s the view from our lodge the next morning.
We wanted to try going up to the other mountaintop destination, Schilthorn Piz Gloria, and initially our intention was to hike back down from the halfway point. Alas, it was again nice to see the tops of the mountains, but we were packed in like sardines with a giant Chinese tour group the whole time we were going up and down, and it turns out the hiking trails were all still closed for the winter. So, this was definitely a less pleasant experience than my trip to Jungfraujoch the day before.
But hey! We’re here! Looking at the beautiful mountains!
These clouds roll in and out so quickly!
They built this little “thrill walk” at the Birg station, which has various sections like a see-through glass to walk on, a tightrope but with mesh all around it, and more.
I found it amusing, but I could see how it would be terrifying if you were a bit more terrified of heights. :)
This part was confusing. The moving belt wasn’t moving, so we basically hiked back up the hill and then had to walk up the snow/ice to get back in the building.
Back down to Mürren!
A very cool overlook.
So many paragliders!
Since our earlier hike plans were thwarted, we decided to hike from Mürren down to the gondola station at Grutschalp instead.
We went back down to Lauterbrunnen and decided go walk around from Interlaken. But first, some rösti.
So lovely to walk through neighborhoods along the lake.
We called it a night and had dinner back in our lodge. And the next morning, we awoke to snow all around! I love these snow-frosted trees!
For this day, we decided to walk through the Lauterbrunnen Valley. It wasn’t snowy down here, just cloudy and a little tiny bit of rain.
We found a gourmet vending machine! And then we visited the Trummelbach falls, which is a series of glacial waterfalls that you can go visit inside and outside of the caves.
Even though I had just seen 500 waterfalls in Iceland the week before, I still found this different and delightful! You take an elevator up to the higher levels of the falls, and then there are ten different levels and viewpoints to see different parts of the falls.
Next, we walked all the way across to Stechelberg, which has a gondola you can take back up to Mürren. But we stopped in the town of Gimmelwald on the way, and this was one of my favorite parts of our trip!
I definitely had images of cows with their big cowbells lounging around in the field, but this wasn’t quite the season for it. However, I met two horses! And saw one barn with four cows inside.
I was also so extremely delighted by this. There were multiple honor system shops in Gimmelwald. This one was just a mini fridge in the back room of a house, and I bought a block of cheese!
Just so charming.
Last night in Mürren! We had dinner at StägerStübli, which was great. I redeemed my earlier asparagus miss with some great, fresh asparagus here. And here’s Talya fresh from her swim at the local Alpine Sportscenter, which was included with our airbnb taxes.
- Where you stay depends on the kind of experience you want. I loved our airbnb in Mürren because it was lovely and cozy, and it was nice to be in a small town without car traffic but that still has restaurants. However, now that I have more of a sense of the lay of the land, I probably would’ve gone with Lauterbrunnen instead. It’s a bigger town at the bottom of the valley, so there are just more shops, hotels, and restaurants without being too trafficked (like Interlaken, which would’ve been too far on the touristy spectrum). And more importantly, we ended up going through Lauterbrunnen every single day anyway, so I think it would be a great, central home base.
- Remember that weather varies drastically across different altitudes! Keep an eye on conditions on the valley floor (Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen), in the middle (Gimmelwald, Mürren), and up high (Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn) and decide on your plans accordingly.
- Visit the Jungfraujoch. Yes, it’s touristy, yes, it’s expensive (about $190 round trip if you don’t have any discount rail passes). But I thought it was really well done and loved seeing the top of the Alps which was just so different from being down below. I far preferred Jungfrau to Schilthorn Gloria Piz. Plan for this to take up at least a half day with all the transit involved getting to and from Jungfrau.
- So, yes, I think you can skip Schilthorn Gloria Piz unless you’re really into 007, because they once filmed there and so now there’s a rotating restaurant that’s Bond themed atop this building. Or, in the summer you can hike down from the midway station Birg. But barring that, I preferred Jungfrau.
- Restaurant options were pretty limited at this time of year, but we enjoyed our meal at StägerStübli in Mürren and also just grocery shopped at the local Coop and ate at home for most of our meals.
- Hike from Mürren to Winteregg. This is a small train ride on the little orange train otherwise, but we enjoyed the walk through the woods.
- Walk along Lake Briene from Interlaken. I loved this off-the-beaten-path trail along the lake, which takes you through some residential neighborhoods. We started in Interlaken Ost and ended in Ringgenberg, taking the train back from there.
- Hike along the Lauterbrunnen Valley, walking from the train station in Lauterbrunnen along the trail over to the gondola station Stechelberg. Visit Trümmelbach falls along the way and see all ten layers of waterfalls in the cave.
- From Stechelberg, take the gondola up to Gimmelwald, the cutest little town. Say hello to horses and cows and be sure to look for the honor system shops where you can buy local-made cheese, milk, eggs, and more by leaving your money in the fridge!
Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. She creates beautiful, soft, and timeless imagery while capturing the most fleeting of moments. View her work at annawu.com, follow her daily adventures on instagram, and contact her to book your own session today.