Berner Oberland, Switzerland

When I Went: July 2012

Was That the Best Time of Year to Go? Late June/early July. It’s been just long enough after the major snow melt so that all of the high mountain trails are open (and not muddy) and early enough that it’s not crowded.

Why I Went There: Family vacation–we were looking for somewhere with mountains, hiking, and no crowds. We found it all. Turns out, this part of Switzerland has to be one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.

Who Went With Me? Wife and kid. And yes, the parents-in-law.

We Stayed Here: Private chalet rental in Lauterbrunnen–Chalet Chaeshubl. There could not be a more perfect location in the Lauterbrunnen valley.

You Won’t Want to Miss: Three highlights (although there are about 100): Lake Oeschinensee: Take the train to Kandersteg, then the gondola up to the lake. Lake Oeschinensee is a perfect blue alpine lake ringed by 3,000-foot cliffs, snowcapped peaks, and more waterfalls than you can count flowing into the lake. Bring a picnic (include alpine cheese–raclette maybe), hike halfway around the lake, find your own private waterfall, and enjoy the day.    Giessbach Falls: From Interlaken, board a steamer boat to Giessbach. Take the oldest funicular in Europe to the top where you’ll find the Grandhotel Giessbach, a castle-like hotel at the foot of the falls. Spend the day hiking to the top of the falls, the trail taking you BEHIND the falls at one point. Don’t miss the last boat back. First and Bort: From Grindelwald, take the gondola up to First, overlooking the back side of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau peaks and the spectacular Wetterhorn. Be sure to ride the First Flieger, an almost mile-long zip line, several times. Then, from Bort, rent a couple of Trotti Bikes and coast all the way down the mountain back to Grindelwald. One of the most fun days we’ve ever had on vacation. If you have time, before heading back down, make the hike up to Bachalpsee for one of the most stunning alpine views you’ll ever see.

Eat Here: In Lauterbrunnen, eat at the Hotel Oberland. Have the Rosti and, of course, fondue–opt for the vacherin fribourgeois. Above Lauterbrunnen in Murren try the Eiger Guesthouse. Dine outside overlooking the fantastic Lauterbrunnen Valley with views of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau.

Play Here: Wake up in the morning, pick a mountain peak that looks interesting, and go there. Get high in the mountains, hike all day, eat local food at whatever mountain lodge you find yourself, and enjoy scenery unlike any other. Oh, and pack good hiking shoes (and lots of cash–lots.) They don’t call Switzerland a Fiscal Paradise for nothing.

If I Went Again: Spend a month instead of two weeks.

How Did You Get There From Dallas? DFW (Dallas) to LGA (New York) to LHR (London) to FCO (killed 3 days in Rome) to GVA (Geneva). Board the Golden Pass Train in Montreaux to Interlaken, then a short train ride into Lauterbrunnen.

Other Tips For Fellow Travelers: Buy a Swiss Pass train ticket (don’t opt for first class–it’s not worth it) AND a Jungfrau Regional Pass. Between the two of them, you can board any train, gondola or lift and travel anywhere in the country. You’ll have to pay extra for the trip up to Jungfrau or Schilthorn, but it’s worth it as well.

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