Destination Dispatch: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
A destination dispatch will never replace a detailed guidebook, a wanderlust-inspiring travel memoir, or an in-depth travel guide. It is simply a short and sweet summary of my own travel experience in a place, designed to give you the flavor of it.
The place today is Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. I made this tiny alpine village in the Swiss Alps my home for a week in August. Lauterbrunnen makes an ideal base for hiking in the Jungfrau region of the Bernese Oberland.
If you’ve got an upcoming trip to Switzerland planned, this destination dispatch is a great place to start your research. If not, let this report transport you to the Lauterbrunnen valley for a minute or two.
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Where: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen is a 45-minute train ride from the larger city of Interlaken and a 14-minute train ride from Wengen (where some additional Jungfrau region hikes begin).
When: You’ll want to head to Switzerland in mid-summer if you’re hoping to hike your heart out. August brought beautiful mountain air, good visibility, and ideal hiking conditions.
Do: If conditions are clear and you’re a healthy, ambitious hiker, tackle the 6.5 hour hike from Schynige Platte to Grindelwald First, with a summit of Faulhorn peak. I felt like my best Swiss self, making friends with the cows, climbing through wildflowers, and drinking in the idyllic mountain scenery. I felt more accomplished than I had in a very, very long time.
To make this, and other hikes in the region accessible, I’d recommend purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass that gives you unlimited train travel and discounts on boats, cograils, and cable cars. I purchased the 8-day pass and was very happy with how much use I got out of it.
View: The view of the Lauterbrunnen valley from the Lauterbrunnen-Wengen train window can’t be beat.
Once you’re in Wengen, take the cable car to Mannlichen (or hike up if you’re ambitious!) then hike to Kleine Scheidegg for a stunning view of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau peaks. From there, you can hike down a meadow back down to Wengen to take the train with the epic view back down to Lauterbrunnen.
More on that route here.
Stay: I loved my stay at Valley Hostel. If you want alpine vibes, a really comfortable (for a hostel) bed, a great (for a hostel) kitchen, and a sunny lawn space, this is the hostel for you. I spent many post-hike hours on the lawn there, eating meals in the sun or chatting with other active travelers.
Shop: The majority of shops in Lauterbrunnen are sports shops offering quality goods at a high expense. Instead, visit nearby Gimmelwald and head to The Honesty Shop. The shop allows visitors to “serve themselves” local goods and provisions without oversight. It’s a lovely Swiss concept – some farmers also use an honor system to sell their goods on road or trail sides.
Eat: I did not make exploring the food scene in Switzerland a priority. Instead, I hit up the small but sufficient grocery store and ate granolas for breakfast, PB&Js for lunch, and pastas for dinner with the occasional midday cheese snack because we’re in Switzerland people.
Drink: I was a regular at Airtime Cafe, a shop serving great coffee with an adventurous spirit (you can also book a paraglide here). They have fast and free WIFI and a beautiful view.
Pack: A warm, high-quality hiking sock is a must anytime of the year in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. I prefer the Smartwool brand and have these short hiking socks and these taller ones. As for what to wear with them, I’ve already discussed the merits of a quality hiking shoe in my Queenstown destination dispatch.
Read: Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes is a “fascinating journey around Europe’s most individual and misunderstood country.” If you want to understand Switzerland a bit better, this is a great start.
Hoping for more Swiss books to add to your reading list? Here the Best Books to Read When Traveling in Switzerland.
Watch: The James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed on the Schilthorn summit. I’ve heard the views are stunning, but it was completely fogged over when I arrived! Schilthorn can be reached from Lauterbrunnen by a combination of cable cars or hikes (more information on how to get from Lauterbrunnen to Schilthorn here).
Listen: I’ve done quite a bit of research on what makes a great hiking song. So Long, Honey by Caamp is a calming song seemingly created to pair well with a wander through the Swiss Alps.