I was so excited to visit the Swiss Alps during our Euro trip but it took a bit of research to find out which city would be a good base for 3 days of winter bliss. In the end we decided on Interlaken and, though I had no regrets, it wasn’t long before my first, ‘Now what?’ moment.
As other backpackers were carrying skis around town and inquiring about daily lift passes, I was stumped because skiing wasn’t even on my agenda. Here’s why:
My first (and last) ski trip was in the 7th grade. I was eager and excited but apparently the concept of stopping was too difficult for me to grasp at the time. The trip essentially ended for me after I flew down the bunny hill at full speed only to crash land against the bumper rails that had been set up at the bottom of the hill.
I’m sure you can see why I was in no rush to jump back on skis again, right? And even though Wes and I really enjoyed learning to snowboard together in Alberta (we mastered them bunny hills!), neither one of us was all that eager to tackle the Swiss Alps while in Interlaken.
So there we were, in some of the most beautiful surroundings with gorgeous landscapes and perfect white snow and zero intention of doing any winter sports whatsoever. What’s the point of that, right?
Despite missing out on the thrill of skiing and boarding, we both had some good times in Interlaken. There’s plenty to do in town from the casino to the winter skating rink, shopping and great dining but everything comes at a cost when in Switzerland. While Wes explored the town, I had high hopes for a perfect day in Interlaken. I wanted to take advantage of the clear blue skies and had plans to go on an excursion and get as close as I could to the towering Alps.
A Day in Interlaken
I asked at our hostel reception for some advice on a solo excursion for the day. I told her I wanted a bit of everything: walking, panoramic views and some great photo ops. What I didn’t want was to cough up the money needed to make it all the way to Jungfraujoch. A trip to the highest railway station in Europe would have to wait. But, with her advice, I decided I wanted to get up to Schilthorn – Piz Gloria where you can find the world’s first revolving restaurant and some spectacular views of the snow-capped peaks. Still a significant cost but I had a really, really enjoyable day.
From Interlaken, I took the bus to Wilderswil Station and then the train to Lauterbrunnen. At Lauterbrunnen, I boarded the cable car and enjoyed some beautiful panoramic views on the way to Grutschalp. In a perfect world, I would have walked all the way to Murren, which is about 5kms of perfectly snowy, scenic trails. But the combination of being naturally slow at everything, stopping for pictures an insane amount of times, and struggling with several inches of fresh snow along the way, meant that things didn’t go quite as planned for Fel (yet again).
In the end, I walked to the village of Winteregg, which was only about 2kms but still so enjoyable. Being up there (over 5,000 feet in altitude!) was so surreal and the winter landscapes quite literally took my breath away. Very few people were walking on the trails and most of the time I felt like I had the mountains to myself.
Views from Schilthorn
In Winteregg, I caught the cable car to Murren and walked around some more. By pure luck, I made it to the next station mere minutes before the very last cart was heading up to Schilthorn. I was the only one buying a ticket for the ride up! I was so excited at the thought of literally being the only tourist at the Schilhorn observation deck almost 10,000 feet up in the Swiss Alps. And then my bubble of excitement burst when a tour guide scrambled to get her group of 40+ tourists on the cart behind me. Womp, womp.
Even so, the views were spectacular. But there’s a catch. The thing about heading up to the Alps purely for observing is that you can never rely on the weather. It’s a bit of an investment and even with a sunset discount, the return ticket for Murren – Schilthorn still set me back about 64 CHF. And once you’re at the top, there’s a risk that the clouds and fog will obstruct your entire view. As my luck would have it, the clouds swept in just as we got on the cable cart and I panicked at the thought of having zero visibility after paying so much money.
With a bit of patience, and my finger ready on the shutter button of the camera, I was able to capture a few shots of the majestic peaks from the platform. Even though the clouds didn’t budge, the skies seemed bluer and brighter at this altitude.
Will I ever go skiing again? I don’t think I’m ready to brave the slopes just yet. For me, the real magic took place at the many observation decks and lookout points on my walk that day. I already have my eyes set on a few different walking trails for the next time I’m in Interlaken!
Have you visited the Swiss Alps before? Share your experiences below!