Interlaken’s nearest mountain, sandwiched between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, Harder Kulm is the easiest way to get a taste of the Bernese Alps without having to don your hikers. An eight-minute ride on the funicular railway – a modern version of the carriages that have traversed the 1,322-meter summit for the past 100 years - will land you at the top, affording staggering views over the neighboring mountains on the breathtaking ascent.
The dramatic vistas might be the mountain’s biggest selling point – best viewed from the garden terrace of the mountaintop castle-cum-restaurant or by gawping through the glass floor of the vertigo-inducing Two Lakes Bridge – but there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained. Spot ibex in the Alpine Wildlife Park, let the kids loose in the playground, enjoy the easy 1.5-hour circular Theme Trail or stick around until dusk when regular folklore evenings take over the mountaintop.
Known as “the mountain of mountains,” Matterhorn is one of the Swiss Alps’ most famous peaks. Its rocky triangular apex reaches some 14,000 feet high into the natural skyline and on a clear sunny day, it is recognizable from miles away.
Matterhorn has four steep faces that attract adventurers from across the globe. Whether it’s mountaineering, skiing or hiking, this iconic wonder has become one of Switzerland’s premiere outdoor destinations.
Locals in Zermatt warmly welcome travelers—whether they’re looking to explore the rugged landscape or relax in a quiet community tucked amid some of the country’s most incredible Alpine scenery. And while venturing into the hillside of the great Matterhorn is certainly a highlight on any visit to Zermatt, travelers agree that the less strenuous trip to the mountain climbers’ cemetery, which pays homage to adventurers who lost their lives on the mountain, is a sobering—if memorable—stop, too.
Tucked between the alpine villages of Brienz and Bönigen, the pristine Lake Brienz makes a prime photo candidate with its backdrop of forested mountainsides and deep, turquoise waters. Stretching 14 kilometers across and a whopping 250 meters deep, the lake, fed by the river Aar, makes an uneasy swimming spot, but a great location for boat trips and paddle steamer sojourns.
There’s more to this lakeside haven than great picture spots though – hike from the lake on one of the area’s 500 kilometers of walking trails, explore the traditional villages littering the lakeside or get a bird’s eye view of the lake by catching the old steam train from Brienz up the nearby Brienzer Rothhorn mountain. Most spectacular are the Giessbach Falls on the south shore, 500 meters of plummeting waterfalls reachable via the country’s oldest funicular railway from Giessbach village.
Recognized as the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps, Altesch glacier stretches across nearly 50 square miles of protected mountain terrain. While visitors lament its far-flung proximity to any major Swiss city, most agree that the well-kept hiking trails, impressive views and natural beauty make it worth a trip. Active adventurers can explore the glacier on foot, while less intrepid travelers can venture to the top of Aletsch aboard one of the famous cable cars. Uninhibited 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape make for a most memorable journey regardless of how visitors voyage to the top.
Often called the Town of Roses, Rapperswil’s beauty comes from more than just its 15,000 rose plants. Medieval alleyways, towering old structures, scenic wood bridges and picturesque chapels tucked into rolling hillsides make this quaint destination truly worth a visit. Beautiful gardens, a 13th-century castle and an old-world monastery lend Rapperswil its classic charm, while the unique and colorful collections showcased at Circus Museum, Knie’s Kinderzoo and the Polish Museum offer a nod to Rapperswil’s historic roots.
First is a summit at roughly 2,200 meters above sea level near Grindelwald and Interlaken in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland region. It’s most well known for being a popular hiking and skiing area, as well as for having a stunning alpine panorama surrounding it. One of the best views can be enjoyed around the idyllic Bachalpsee. The little mountain lake is enclosed by flowering alpine meadows and reflects the majestic peak of the snow-capped Schreckhorn in the blue waters.
During winter, First is part of the huge Jungfrau Ski Region and transforms into a winter sport paradise with several slopes connecting to and from the peak. In summer, a network of trails offer great views of some of Switzerland’s most famous mountains: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. At the gondola station, the First Mountain Restaurant feeds hungry hikers, climbers and skiers with hearty meals.
Locals know that Grimsel Pass has a sacred place in Swiss history, as traders once rode donkeys along the dangerous paths of Grimsel to transport local cheese to far flung regions of the country. This painstakingly beautiful wild mountain road connects Goms in Valais to the Hasli Valley in the Bernese Oberland. Travelers who venture along Grimsel Pass will bear witness to rugged granite cliffs, towering snow-capped peaks, crystal clear reservoirs and plenty of lush green foliage. And while the pass is home to some of the country’s main power producing plants, visitors will find that much of the land still remains untouched.
Travelers can hike the two-hour loop around a man-made lake and absorb the breathtaking wonder of the surrounding beauty or hop aboard the aerial cable car from Handeck to Gerstenegg and take it all in from above. And those who are interested in the powerhouse facilities can register for guided tours that start in Innnerkirchen.
The Rhone glacier in the Swiss Alps has several claims to fame. It is the source of the Rhone River, the largest glacier in the Urner Alps, and it contributes plenty of water to beautiful Lake Geneva. Travelers love the stunning views of nearby mountaintops and the pristine blue lake and say the scenic Furka Pass offers easy access to the picturesque glacial scenery. Curious visitors can also pay a nominal fee to venture inside the glacier, where it’s possible to explore ice caves on a self-guided tour.
Acting as a microcosm of Swiss rural tradition and history, Ballenberg Open-Air Museum covers 66 hectares in area and displays a collection of around 100 historic buildings from different regions and different times, all carefully reconstructed in scenic Alpine foothills. The museum was opened in 1978 with just 16 wooden chalets and barns; since then stables, bakeries, mills, ornate half-timbered townhouses, a chapel, and cuckoo-clock-cute chalets have been added to the mix, with many Swiss francs spent relocating these buildings brick by brick. They are located among flower gardens and crop fields to create a convincing 17th-century rural community, where horses and cows – complete with tinkling bells – roam free and costumed characters farm the land, work the waterwheel, weave textiles and make cheese and chocolate. There are exhibitions of clothing, tools and herbal medicines in many of the buildings; a full schedule of craft demonstrations – and even Swiss wrestling.