Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lauterbrunnen is the most beautiful place in the world

Why Lauterbrunnen??
When we were planning a trip to Switzerland for this past June, I researched the country quite a bit and decided that we absolutely must visit the Berner Oberland and check out the breathtaking beauty of some Alpine villages.  I was inspired by Rick Steve's episode on Switzerland (you can see a clip on his YouTube page HERE), and after much debate between staying in the larger hub town of Interlaken, the tiny car-free Gimmelwald loved by Rick Steves, and the waterfall valley village of Lauterbrunnen, we chose Lauterbrunnen.



About Lauterbrunnen....
Lauterbrunnen is a short train ride to Interlaken, and a base for several gondolas and excursions.  It was the ideal place for us, we loved it, and seriously think it is the most spectacular place we have ever been.  This tiny valley town has incredibly steep cliffs on either side, an enormous waterfall with a path to walk up and under it, as well as several smaller ones, views of snowcapped peaks, some great little hotels and restaurants, a few shops, a playground and cemetery, and cows!  It is easy to figure out where to go and what to do in Lauterbrunnen, there is a Tourist Information Office that is very helpful and gives out maps and sells tickets to every excursion.  Andrew, age 5, had the best quote about the spectacular beauty of Lauterbrunnen, "I wish I could keep looking at this always."

How to get there?  
In Switzerland there is a network of trains which are considered "sightseeing trains."  These trains have huge windows and go through areas of spectacular scenery.  The train ride from Lucerne to Interlaken is part of one of these scenic routes, and it WAS a really cool train ride with views of valleys, villages, mountains and waterfalls around every turn.  There is a regional train that goes from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen.  You can also drive, the hotels in Lauterbrunnen have parking, unlike some of the higher altitude towns which are accessible only by gondola or funicular and are car free.

Where we stayed...
We researched housing options in Lauterbrunnen and wound up booking at Chalet-Hotel Rosa through booking.com.  It was reasonably priced, very centrally located, and we had a huge room with a private entrance with a double bed, bunk beds, and a crib for Hailey.   There is also a cozy common room that we spent some time reading and drawing in.  The people who run Chalet-Hotel Rosa are all English speakers from the UK, and are incredibly kind and helpful.  Breakfast was included and was incredible!!

Things to do...
There is SO much to do in and around Lauterbrunnen.  The town itself is gorgeous and walkable, and the waterfall is amazing, and the playground is really sweet.  We had three days here and this is what we chose...

The Schilthorn
There are two huge peaks easily accessible from Lauterbrunnen, we decided on the one that was at a slightly lower elevation of almost 10,000 feet above sea level.  It was accessible by a series of incredibly fun, fast moving gondolas with altitude meters and takes you to a lunar landscape with snow, even in the end of June.  It was cloudy the day we were there but we could still get the feel of it.  There is a rotating restaurant from a James Bond movie, but it felt a bit fancy for the kids so we just walked around for a bit.


Murren
Murren is a car-free town accessible by gondola from Lauterbrunnen, we stopped there after our Schilthorn excursion.  This village is adorable, totally scenic, and very walkable.  There are some tiny main streets, fields of wild flowers, and gorgeous views everywhere.  We really liked it, and happened upon a very delicious Chinese restaurant run by the nicest couple, called Tham Kok Keong.  We sat outside and people watched and devoured the freshest Chinese food ever.







Gimmelwald....Also through the network of gondolas that make the Schilthorn trip possible, one can pop up to Gimmelwald.  Rick Steves has really put this tiny town on the map, and for good reason.  It would be a bit quiet and remote for us to actually stay there, but for an afternoon it was a perfect place to visit.  Gimmelwald is so amazing because it is so authentic and untouched.  There are cows with cow bells everywhere, and only a handful of tiny shops, and almost no people.  It is a true Alpine village, and is very special.  We love fancy cheese and purchased some homemade cheese from a family's garage (on the honor system) and checked out an unstaffed curiosity shop (purchases also made on the honor system).  There are some restaurants and hotels, and a really neat little playground.  It was a memorable afternoon and we are so glad we visited.  



St. Beatus Caves
It rained one of the days we were in Lauterbrunnen.  So, we asked the lovely staff at Chalet Rosa and they suggested taking the train to Interlaken and then a bus along the edge of the lake to St. Beatus-Holdel Caves.  This was a great suggestion.  The bus trip was beautiful and dropped us off at the base of the steep path that leads to the caves.  I brought the Ergo carrier for our two-year-old as I had read that the caves were not exactly stroller accessible or toddler friendly.  We had to wait a while for the English/German tour, and had a snack at the more casual of the two restaurants at the cave entrance.  The tour was delightful and the caves are spectacular.  They were created partially by water so you can see the waterfalls, lakes, and beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.  My kids were fascinated by the colorful history of the caves, they were resided in by stone age peoples, housed a dragon that was expelled by a Saint, who then lived in the caves.  As a bonus for little ones, there is even a dragon themed playground.  This was fun, fascinating and interesting, and a great rainy day activity.

Other things to do...
There are tons of other day trips, excursions and adventures to be had from Lauterbrunnen and the easily accessible Interlaken.  Other mountains, museums, car free towns, hikes, gondolas, funiculars, etc.  One could easily spend a week or more in this region.

 Overall...
We loved our time in Lauterbrunnen!  It was a great Alpine experience, very family friendly and memorable.  Absolutely awesome.






9 comments:

  1. i love your post! our family lives in Poland but will be visiting Switzerland next summer - we will have 3 very small kids and i've been on the search to make it enjoyable for our boys (they will be 3 1/2, 2 and 10mths!) Looks like the hotel you stayed at is closed :( Do you have any other recommendations?

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  2. i think i just found the hotel - http://www.chaletrosabb.com/
    hopefully they reply to my email! we're hoping to visit gimmelwald and see the beautiful waterfalls and towns around - do you have any other tips for us with small kids? we'll have a double stroller and backpack for the littlest one.

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  3. Krista!
    Thank you for your messages! We booked our stay at Chalet Rosa through booking.com, but when I visit booking.com's site for Chalet Rosa, it does say that it is impossible to book at this point. I would suggest anything on the main street in Lauterbrunnen, such as Hotel Oberland or Hotel Jungfrau. We ate at both places and enjoyed them.
    You will LOVE Lauterbrunnen, it's truly spectacular!!
    Amy

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  4. Krista,
    I just saw your other post. Your boys will love exploring Lauterbrunnen. You can walk right up to the waterfall in the town, and at it's base is a little water feature - like a fountain that kept my kids entertained for some time while I just stared at the water fall. There is also a sweet playground in the middle of Lauterbrunnen, and lots of cows to look at (be careful though, some of the fences are slightly electrified, my 5 year old did not believe me and touched one and said it hurt "only a bit").
    You should definitely check out the spots we visited - all were really fun and could manage strollers and backback babies nicely.
    If you are in Lauterbrunnen for a more extended period of time you can also head into Interlaken and check out the boat cruises and explore around the lake.
    My only suggestion for something to skip would be the Trummelbach Falls. I have heard that they are not very child friendly for little ones.
    We also LOVED Lucerne, which is not far!!!
    Happy travels, please let me know if I can help in any way!!! Perhaps you can suggest some activities for us when we visit Poland, which we will at some point!
    Amy

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  5. Great post! From the train station can you walk to the waterfalls? We will be arriving from Wengen and won't have a car.....

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