This quaint city often receives a bad rap for its hordes of tourists and strips of kitsch souvenir stores, but while it’s labeled as something of a tourist trap there are plenty of reasons why buying too much into the criticism and dismissing this Swiss destination is a big mistake.
The best thing this small city has going for it is its astounding natural beauty. Interlaken is squeezed into the modest gap between three of the Swiss Alps’ most iconic mountains and two enormous alpine lakes. Visitors will feel the sensation of being in a tiny city gripped by nature on all sides.
The most viable way in is by trains which frequently depart from Zurich, Geneva, Basel or Bern. You’ll want to make sure you catch a train that arrives during daylight hours because the journey there is a highlight in itself. Tracks are laid shallow inland from the lake, so passengers are treated to some breathtaking mountain views which serve as a tantalising appetiser for the rest of your visit.
For accommodation, don’t pay through the nose for a five-star hotel when the best thing about Interlaken isn’t found anywhere indoors. You can find charming B&B properties for around 70-80 Euro a night, but you’ll want your guiding criteria to be the view. Anything with alfresco dining is also a must. A cooked breakfast is improved tenfold when you have a panoramic view of the Jungfrau mountain range as your backyard.
Interlaken is adored by adrenaline seekers who come every year to brave the area’s uncompromising landscape. Though typically known as a popular ski destination, a visit in summer will yield some special seasonal nuances that can’t be enjoyed during any other time. Meadows are in full bloom making for some beautiful hiking trails and melting glaciers from the surrounding mountains feed into the Thun and Brienz lakes, colouring them a brilliant aqua while also making for an exhilarating swim.
Activities range from the more placid nature hikes and paddle-boat lake tours to the more pulse-raising whitewater rafting and skydiving. Those estranged to extreme sports have every reason to step out of their comfort zone here as Interlaken provides some of the best conditions and environments to make these experiences truly special.
I personally recommend starting the day with an early blast down the mighty Lütschine rapids (your instructor may even let you jump out of the raft for a refreshing dip), then taking in the afternoon with a thrilling glide beside the majestic mountain ranges concluding with –if your pilot will oblige- a dizzying downward spiral towards the town centre where many of these glides land.
When you organise an itinerary for a Swiss visit, Geneva, Zurich or even Lucerne may immediately spring to mind, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you forget about Interlaken.