When it comes to mountains in the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland, Harder Kulm is a mere pimple on the skyline at just 4,337ft (1,322m). In fact it is slightly smaller than the UK’s tallest mountain Ben Nevis. But it holds its own, facing off against the 10,000 footers Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau like an impudent younger brother. Or the short friend (which I know all about). But it towers over Interlaken and is the best place to view both the town and the two lakes that it sits between – Thunsee and Brienzsee. And the towering spire of the Panorama restaurant at the top can be seen from all over town.
We decided to visit on Tuesday evening, after a long and sweaty day walking around Grindelwald and Lucerne in 30° heat. Where better to freshen up than the top of a mountain? The Interlaken Harderbahn is just a short walk from Interlaken Ost railway station, on the other side of the River Aare. We have an impromptu picnic first and scope out the queue. It’s much shorter than they have been over the weekend so if you’re planning on visiting you may want to factor that into your plans!
Staying at a hotel in the Interlaken region means that we have a Guest Card. This means free public transport in the region and also reductions on attractions such as Schynige Platte and Harder Kulm. This means that a return journey only costs us 28 CHF each (approx £22.50) rather than 38. Every franc helps. Especially in Switzerland.
Of course, for further money-saving you can take the funicular up and then hike back down to Interlaken. Or for extreme money-saving, hike up and down. We decided to splurge and save our legs but if we hadn’t been going up for sunset then we may have considered hiking down. We didn’t fancy tackling the descent after dark. And I was wearing inappropriate footwear.
We’re crammed into the funicular for the short but steep ride up to the summit. We pass under bridges and through a tunnel before we reach the top. The views are already pretty spectacular as we stroll along the short footpath to the plateau. There’s no doubt that Harder Kulm is a mountain for the tourists, with a bar and restaurant, large terrace and a glass-floored walkway jutting out over Interlaken at the top. We even have musicians in traditional Swiss attire playing Eidelweiss on cowbells.
We queue to have our photo taken at the perfect spot at the end of Two Lakes Bridge. Despite our photographer taking a myriad of shots from different angles I am wearing a particularly unflattering pair of trousers and therefore these photos will never see the light of day.
The sun is setting behind the mountains, although oddly it’s not a great sunset spot. Mr Fletche does his best on the wobbling bridge, trying to stabilise his tripod. The results are yet to be seen. It’s only fair that we partake of a mountain-top beer. Will it be as good as our one at Mount Tegelberg? Of course it does – all food and drink consumed at a great height tastes good.
The crowds have thinned out as the penultimate funicular leaves the station. We ponder on what happens if we don’t make the last one. Surely they wouldn’t just leave us up here? Worries averted, we safely make the final descent back down to Interlaken.
Although the early evening views were beautiful, the better photographs may well have been taken earlier in the day. At the time we visited, the light was dimming and we couldn’t see the beautiful emerald green and turquoise blue of the lakes. And the town lights didn’t really start twinkling until we were descending. But even so, it’s an impressive sight.
Operating dates: 13 April to 1 December 2019
13/04 – 27/10/2019 | 09.10* to 20.55 (last descent at 21.40)
28/10 – 01/12/2019 | 09.10 to 17.40 (last descent at 17.55)
*Sundays from 08.10
The train runs every 30 minutes.