My absolute favourite day of our recent Switzerland trip was our first full day in the Swiss Alps. A day which would see us hiking through meadows filled with wildflowers, with the gentle clanging of cowbells providing the soundtrack. Crazily hiking up a mountain to save a few CHF on cable car fares. And eating an ice cream in a village perched high above the valley. This is A Brummie Home and Abroad Guide to a perfect day in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Lauterbrunnen lies 13km south of Interlaken and can be easily reached in just 20 minutes by train. Alternatively there’s ample pay & display parking at the station and at the church (kirchenparkplatz). It’s one of the most idyllic places I’ve ever visited. The town itself nestles in a valley, surrounded by towering cliff faces with waterfalls cascading over the edges. It’s known as the Valley of 72 Waterfalls. With good reason.
We begin our walk from the train station, stopping to inhale the fresh mountain air. And then stopping for that all-important jumping shot with the 300m cascade of Staubbach Falls in the background.
It’s about 7km from the station to the village of Stechelberg, through lush green meadows studded with alpine flora. The snow-capped peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau loom ahead, stretching up almost endlessly to meet the clear blue sky. Colourful paragliders drift down, casting shadows on the sheer rock faces around them. Traditional Swiss cabins with pretty windowboxes are dotted here and there. Cows stick their noses over fences to greet us, giant bells around their necks chiming loudly.
(I looked into the tradition of Swiss Cowbells, and Googled “Do Cowbells annoy cows”. They serve a dual purpose, to warn off predators, and to help locate cattle that may have wandered off from the herd. The dominant animals wear the biggest bells, a homing signal for others in the herd. There is little scientific evidence – either positive or negative – about the impact on the cow’s hearing or mental health.)
Our destination is Stechelberg, from where we can catch the cable car up to car-free Murren. We cross a bridge over the Lütschine and find ourselves in Stechelberg. It is not the bustling town I expect it to be. And where’s the cable car station? There is however a handy al fresco cafe/bar willing to serve beers to two thirsty hikers. The beer in my hand is an aide memoir as I remember that the cable car to Murren leaves from the Schilthorn station that we passed about 2km ago. As per usual, the Fletches have added unnecessary mileage onto their walk.
We drain our beers and retrace our steps to Schilthornbahn.
At Schilthornbahn we plot our next trip. We have no plans to travel all the way to the Schilthorn summit as we’ve already booked our trip to Jungfraujoch the following day. We can however get the cable car up to Murren and hike down to Gimmelwald. Or, to save a few CHF, we can get the cable car to Gimmelwald and hike up to Murren. We’re the Fletches, therefore of course we’ll opt for the most exhausting way.
You can find Schilthorn cableway ticket prices and more info here.
Everyone disembarks at Gimmelwald, but whilst most people head onto the connecting cable car, we head out into the sleepy town and begin our walk up the winding path. There are lots of people heading down. We’re one of only a handful heading up. It doesn’t hit home until we’re halfway up that we are ascending underneath the cableway. They built a cable car so that people didn’t have to do this walk any more. Still, we’ve committed ourselves now. Plus we’ve saved about 10CHF. Which might buy a beer.
There are plenty of switchbacks, which soften the ascent a little, but makes the 2.5km walk seem so much longer. Particularly when we can see the town of Murren above us, tantalisingly close.
It’s well worth the walk though. The views as we ascend are nothing short of jaw-dropping, and I feel like we’ve earned our overpriced sausage roll and ham baguette at the top. Elevated 1,638m above the valley, Stechelberg looks like a toy town from here. It may be isolated and only reached by cable car (or hiking) but Murren has numerous hotels, bars, shops and restaurants, two churches and even a school. Paragliders take a leap down into the valley below. We stop for an ice-cream, peering down across the dense green treetops to the sunny slopes opposite. We wave at the people in Wengen. I don’t think they can see us.
We walk from one end of Murren to the other; the town is only about a kilometre long. At Murren BLM, we purchase tickets back down to Lauterbrunnen. We take the mountain train to Grutschalp, before transferring to a gondola to return us to the valley.
Don’t head up to Murren when the mountains are covered in cloud and fog. Murren is all about the views. Without the views Murren is a cold and drizzly miserable experience. Which we found out later in the week. This cost us 44CHF for the “pleasure”. We do not consume ice cream this day.