Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland
|Resort:||Switzerlandâs Bernese Oberland|
DAY 1ARRIVAL IN INTERLAKEN
ARRIVAL IN INTERLAKEN
You fly to Geneva and transfer to the extremely comfortable four-star MGallery Royal-St. Georges Hotel for seven nights with breakfast and dinner. The beautifully located hotel in Interlaken’s historic centre, just a few minutes’ walk from the station has real pedigree, welcoming guests in style and comfort since 1908. Established during the golden age of travel and kept tastefully up-to-date ever since, it seamlessly blends a classical heritage with modern facilities to meeting your every need. The grand public areas with their traditional furnishings are reminders of an opulent past when only the well-to-do could afford to visit such fashionable haunts. The bedrooms (either in modern or traditional style) have everything you’d expect from a contemporary hotel with this rating – with well appointed bathrooms, satellite TV, safe, mini bar and free wifi. This evening we dine in the hotel’s ‘Les Miriors’ restaurant – before perhaps retiring to the hotel’s art nouveau bar for a digestif.
Well known for its genteel atmosphere, Interlaken’s position at the heart of the Bernese Oberland makes it the perfect base from which to explore this amazing region’s fascinating towns and villages. Mighty mountains surround you and today you’ll get up close and personal with some of the world’s most famous peaks – the majestic Jungfrau (young maiden), Monch (Monk) and Eiger (Ogre). Together they form a trio of giant snow-capped peaks soaring upwards to nearly 11,000 feet. We take the narrow gauge railway to Lauterbrunnen, nestling in a stunning vertical sided glacial valley formed millennia ago. With mountains now completely dominating the skyline, and with only upward views, we change onto the mountain cog railway. It climbs steeply through the fashionable ski resort of Wengen, across the slopes of the famous Lauberhorn world cup ski race reaching one of Europe’s highest railway junctions, Kleine Scheidegg, and some of the world’s most breathtaking alpine scenery. You’ll wonder at the audacity of climbers conquering these snowy peaks and glistening icefields. Breathe deeply and take the crisp mountain air deep into your lungs – it’s almost like wine! You’ll want to photograph the beauty here before descending to the picturesque mountain resort of Grindelwald with the flower-decked, shallow roofed “chocolate box,” chalets so typically Swiss. This afternoon we take the yellow post bus for a scenic drive over the 6,400-foot Grosse Scheidegg pass. This is one of the most beautiful routes in the region, crossing the ‘secret’ Rosenlaui Valley where no private cars are allowed to disturb the tranquility of the flower-filled alpine meadows, dwarfed by the towering jagged peak of the Wetterhorn. Finally we reach Meiringen – a wonderfully pleasant town, famous for its role in the final demise of Sherlock Holmes at the nearby Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular water torrent plunging towards the valley floor. Visit the small Sherlock Holmes Museum or just relax in Meiringen itself, before joining the train back along pretty Lake Brienz to Interlaken.
DAY 3BRIENZ ROTHORN RAILWAY
BRIENZ ROTHORN RAILWAY
Since the final years of the 19th century, travellers have been transported to the summit of the Switzerland’s peaks by some of the world’s most amazing feats of railway engineering. The lines are so steep that they have to be assisted by toothed “rack” rails between conventional tracks. Many of the original steam locomotives have long since been replaced by electric traction but today though, you have the chance to experience one of the few routes still operated primarily by steam.
After a short regular train journey to the lakeside resort of Brienz, we join the remarkable Brienz Rothorn railway for the breathtaking ride to the Rothorn. This is a dizzying peak with superb panoramic views across lakes and valleys to the surrounding summits. Although many of the locomotives are modern diesels, a few of the original coal-burning engines from the 1891 line opening are still used. The sight and sound of these “old ladies” huffing and puffing their way up the mountain just as they did over a century ago is truly wonderful. It brings out the child in all of us. There’s time for lunch at the summit and a leisurely wander around Brienz itself following the return ride. If you’re feeling energetic, you can choose instead to take the steep but enjoyable hike down the mountain. After that, we return by lake steamer to Interlaken.
DAY 4FREE DAY IN INTERLAKEN
FREE DAY IN INTERLAKEN
There are countless fascinating things to do in and around the Interlaken area – and it’s nice to have a choice. So today you are free to spend as you wish. Explore the town at your leisure or you could use your included Bernese Oberland Pass to discover more of the surrounding region. If you feel like a gentle walk in peaceful surroundings without travelling too far, the Swiss footpath network is meticulously signposted. You could take the funicular to Harder Kulm, or the Post bus to Habkern or Beatenberg with its staggering views over Lake Thun and the snow-clad Jungfrau. Another peaceful option is a steamer cruise on either of the two lakes from which Interlaken takes its name. Or there’s the ride up the other side of the valley from Lauterbrunnen to the village of Murren. Perched high on a ledge, this is where Arthur Lunn developed the idea of the downhill skiing holiday, and founding the company that eventually became Lunn Poly. This lovely car-free village is a great spot for lunch.
For a supplement, take the spectacular cable car ride to the Schilthorn. Famous for its revolving restaurant with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, it starred in the Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. On the return journey you could stop to view the amazing Trummelbach Falls, hidden within a deep cleft in the mountain. And anyone with an interest in flora should definitely consider a day out riding another historic mountain cog railway which winds upwards from the pretty nearby village of Wilderswil to the Schynige Platte Peak. Here there’s an excellent alpine garden home to many rare plants – including the legendary Edelweiss. Wherever you choose to go, keep an eye out for the gorgeous pink glow on the snowy peaks as the sun sets. Once back at the hotel, you can be sure of a relaxing evening at the Royal-St. Georges.
DAY 5LAKE OESCHINEN
Today’s trip starts by train along the lake to Spiez. Here we change onto the BLS railway to twist and turn up the picturesque Kander valley to the small town of Kandersteg. Then we take a cable car for a spectacular ride to beautiful Lake Oeschinen, set in a mountain amphitheatre high above the main valley, carpeted with the most beautiful wild flowers. A short scenic walk will get you close to the characteristic Swiss cows roaming the lush high pastures, producing the rich milk whose final destination is that delicious Swiss chocolate!
Returning to picturesque lakeside Spiez, you’ll have some free time for lunch and a wander before returning at your leisure by lake steamer to Interlaken. You could take time to stop off exploring the pretty communities lining the lakeside.
After breakfast, we’re off today on a tour to Lucerne. Our outward train takes the lakeside route to Brienz, then over the steeply graded scenic Brunig Pass into central Switzerland. As you leave the station in Lucerne you’ll be greeted by the familiar scene of so many calendars and chocolate boxes – the unmistakable wooden covered bridge across the end of the lake.
You’ll have plenty of time to explore Lucerne and its charming waterfront. Then we board the narrow gauge train returning back over the Brunig Pass via Meiringen along the lake to Interlaken.
DAY 7FREE DAY
Your last day is again free for you to choose your own personal itinerary, perhaps using your Bernese Oberland travel pass. You might decide to take the easy ride to Bern – capital of the Swiss Confederation, for a day of shopping and culture in the city where Einstein worked. Another relatively short trip will take you to Mulenen for a ride on one of the world’s steepest funiculars to the conical peak of the Niesen, with dominant views over Spiez and Lake Thun. Or there’s Gstaad, the super-chic resort on the route of the Golden Pass narrow gauge “express” train.
Close to Meiringen is the excellent Swiss Open Air Museum at Ballenberg, where historic houses and farms from throughout the country have been reconstructed. They’ll give you a real insight into a former rural way of life, much of which has now sadly disappeared even from Switzerland. If the weather looks good and you’re still eager for even more high mountain scenery, why not take the train to Kleine Scheidegg and continue on the Jungfrau Railway through the heart of the Eiger mountain itself to Jungfraujoch (direct supplement payable). This is Europe’s highest railway station with breathtaking glacier views that are normally reserved for the best mountaineers. This evening we enjoy our last meal together in the Royal-St. George. It’s your last chance to swap stories and share the wonders of Switzerland’s stunning Bernese Oberland with your fellow travellers.
DAY 8RETURN FLIGHT
You transfer by coach back to Geneva airport for your return flight back to the UK.