Tucked in the heart of Switzerland, and nestled against the great northern wall of the Bernese Alps, the Bernese Oberland region is what you hope Switzerland will look like.
The Jungfrau Region
The Jungfrau and Eiger are the two most famous mountains, part a huge mountain wall that soars almost straight up, over 10,000’ above the flowery meadows below. This core of the Bernese Oberland is called the Jungfrau region, stretching essentially from Grindelwald to Mürren. Many other lesser-known peaks are just as inspiring as you walk the trails that cover the landscape, peering up at the glacier-covered giants above you. The mountains here are second to none in terms of sheer physical beauty and grace.
Traditional Alpine Farms
But it’s not just the mountains… the Bernese Oberland is also a lush area, filled with green meadows and towering waterfalls. Handsome brown and white Simmentaler cows with super-sized bells dot the landscape, happily munching wildflowers while the local farmers busily cut grass (often by hand) to store away for the winter months. Despite the obvious tourism draw, the rhythm of typical alpine farm life is still strong here. The Swiss national identity is strongly tied to the alpine dairy farmer, and the Bernese Oberland is where you will find the root of the stereotype.
Idyllic Mountain Inns
One of our favorite stops is the remote farm and inn of Obersteinberg. Hidden away at the upper end of the Lauterbrunnen valley, Obersteinberg is only reachable on foot, a steep two hour climb from the nearest bus stop. But that hike is rewarded by one of the prettiest landscapes in the Alps. It’s a simple inn, with private rooms (with candles instead of lights), hearty home-cooked meals, and milk, cheese and butter made fresh from the cows next door. It doesn’t get any more Swiss than this.
There are others as well… so many others. From Schwarzwaldalp to Alpiglen, Griesalp to Gasterntal, the Bernese Oberland is rich in traditional mountain inns that are always memorable.
Small Mountain Villages
If a comfortable village hotel is more your thing, Grindelwald is the most convenient mountain village in the region. Right at the base of the Eiger’s North Face, the stunning scenery and convenient access to both easy and hard trails make it easy to see why it is so popular. The main road in town can be busy mid-summer, but they close that all down for their weekly village festivals, which add a memorable cultural element. Grindelwald is a great base for easy walks and scenic train and cable car rides, and it is also easy to escape the crowds on gorgeous hikes that lead deep into the mountains. There are lots of places to stay, from simple inns to 5-star luxury, all sharing the same awesome views.
Mürren is our favorite stop, and stars frequently on our tours. A car-free village clinging to the edge of a cliff, Mürren is reachable only by cable car, and as you arrive, the fairy-tale landscape unfolds. Mürren has just a handful of family-run hotels and a couple of shops, and is surrounded by beautiful mountains, offering many days worth of great hikes right from town. If you only make it to one place in the Alps, this is where we think you should go.
Wengen and Kandersteg are all small villages in the area that have a ton to offer as well, with the Oeschinensee lake above Kandersteg a particular surprise. We think you’ll love them all.
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