Things to do around Interlaken
You’ll find plenty of things to do around Interlaken. Interlaken is a fantastic base for seeing the best of central Switzerland’s magnificent scenery while enjoying the comforts of a chic lakeside resort. Many tourist attractions are all around it, with boat tours on Lakes Brienz and Thun at either side of the town and thrilling train and funicular rides to the spectacular surrounding mountain peaks. Interlaken is one of the oldest, best known, and most popular summer holiday resorts in Switzerland. The first visitors arrived in the 17th century, and as transport facilities improved with the coming of the railroad, boat services on the lakes, and most recently the expressway, Interlaken became the major tourist center of the Bernese Oberland. Along with the almost endless variety of walks, climbs, and outdoor excursions, there are many other sports available for active travelers.
1- Harder Kulm
The views over Interlaken and both lakes from the Harder are spectacular. Beyond the bridge over the Aare River, next to the Harder Alpine Wildlife Park, the Harder-Kulm funicular climbs at a 64-degree gradient up the Harder to an altitude of 1,322 meters.
2- Schynige Platte
From Wilderswil, a five-minute walk from the Interlaken Ost railway station, you can take a rack-railroad that has been carrying sightseers up to the Schynige Platte since it opened in 1893. The hour-long ride is a series of ever-changing Alpine panoramas, and at the top, you’ll find one of the finest panoramic views of the Alps, encompassing the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau peaks as well as Lake Thun. You can enjoy these from a 45-minute panoramic walk along an easy trail, which also leads to an excellent alpine garden with 600 species of flowers and high-altitude plants.
On the west side of Interlaken is Lake Thun, a long, narrow lake surrounded by mountains. The best way to explore the lake is on one of the cruise boats that operate from Interlaken year-round or in the summer on the beautifully restored historic paddle steamer. At the western end of the lake, you can stop in Thun with its medieval Old Town and lakeside castle with a striking keep that overlooks the lake. It was built in 1191 and enlarged in 1492, and today houses a historical museum with 14th-century arms and armor, tapestries, furniture, and prehistoric and Roman artifacts. Other castles and several Romanesque churches are in villages that dot the shore of Lake Thun. Schloss Shadau, easy to spot right on the water, is a smaller replica of Chateau Azay-le-Rideau, on the Loire in France.
5- Lake Brienz
On Interlaken’s east side is Lake Brienz, a narrow body of water that’s really an enlargement of the valley of the River Aare. Lying between the limestone ridge of the Brienzer Grat and the Faulhorn mountains, it is seven meters higher than Lake Thun, on Interlaken’s west side. Like Lake Thun, it is best seen from one of the five boats that connect Interlaken to towns around its wooded shores. The most atmospheric of these boats is the restored steamer the Lötschberg, built in 1914; other boats offer special dining cruises with Swiss food specialties. Like Lake Thun, Brienz is popular with boaters of all sorts and you can rent kayaks, row boats, and pedalos to explore the lakes on your own.
From the town of Beatenberg, a short bus ride from Interlaken, you can reach one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the Bernese Oberland (which has plenty of them to offer). A cable car takes you up to a halfway station, where a funicular continues up the Niederhorn to a restaurant and view across Lake Thun and the Alps. Along with its scenery, the Niederhorn is known especially for its nature and wildlife. It’s home to ibex, marmots, mountain goats, golden eagles, deer, and even the rare cuckoo. Weekly wildlife tours guided by a local wild animal specialist include visiting wild ibex colonies. You can rent unique stand-up scooter-type bicycles for the descent, and the Niederhorn is a favorite place for hang gliding, as well.
7- Interlaken castle & monastery
Interlaken’s former Augustinian monastery dates to the 12th century. You can see the 14th-century bell tower along with a Gothic cloister and remains of a chapel dating from 1452. Notice especially the variety of window designs in the castle church. Before the property was turned over to the state in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation, the monastery was an important hostel for pilgrims headed to the former hermitage of Saint Beatus, believed to have been in the caves above Lake Thun.
8- Waterfalls & Beatus Caves
More than one kilometer of walkways lead through the chambers and passageways of these hillside caves, where legend holds that a dragon took shelter when hunted by the monk, Beatus, whose hermitage was nearby. But the geology is no legend, and you can tour these underground caverns to see mirror lakes, underground waterfalls, stalactites, and stalagmites accompanied by a guide or at your own speed using a descriptive app. The entire area is quite beautiful, with a series of waterfalls cascading down the cliffs. You can get here by bus from Interlaken (it’s about a 10-minute walk from the bus stop) or by boat from Interlaken West station, but it’s quite a steep climb from the lake to the caves.
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