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Field Journal

Destination Guide: Interlaken

Destination Guide: Interlaken

The Adventure Capital of Europe
Written by Harriet Osbourne // Photography by Samantha Dugon
Produced in partnership with Switzerland Tourism

Escape the ordinary in Interlaken by immersing yourself in unforgettable outdoor adventures. Experience the thrill of gliding soundlessly over 4,000m peaks. Navigate whitewater rapids, explore mountain bike trails, and hike over panoramic mountain ridges. Then slow the pace on a nostalgic railway journey, meander through the picturesque lakeside town, and indulge in Swiss cuisine infused with wild Alpine herbs.

Interlaken is an idyllic Swiss town situated in a narrow valley between two glacier-fed lakes: Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Picture Belle Époque architecture with ornate balconies and turrets mixed with contemporary designs and views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains in the distance. Out of town, Alpine meadows and traditional timber houses spread out from the banks of the turquoise River Aare.

Once enchanted by its tranquil lakeside location, you’ll discover just why Interlaken is so popular with adventure seekers. Heralded as the Adventure Capital of Europe, it is perfectly placed to access a huge range of adrenaline-fueled and outdoor experiences all year round.

Whether hiking across magnificent mountain ridges, racing down a surge of a whitewater rapids, or swooping in a paraglider across 4,000m peaks: there is something for everyone in this spectacular region in the heart of Switzerland.

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Things to do


Switzerland has a comprehensive hiking trail network and Interlaken is no exception. You can explore the area’s many landscapes on foot, from riverside to peak, mountain lakes and panoramic ridgeline trails. You’ll be spoilt for choice but here are a couple of our favourites.

Lake Brienz (accessible)
The 5.36km trail from Iseltwald to Giessbach has been rated one of Switzerland’s most beautiful lakeside walks. Starting from the former fishing village of Iseltwald, the route stays close to the banks of Lake Brienz’s turquoise waters. The undulating trail passes through fairy-tale mountain forests with plenty of opportunities for a quick swim. A more demanding ascent from the Glotten picnic area is the perfect way to warm up before the final descent through the woods.

The walk ends at the Giessbach jetty, where you can take a 10-minute climb up the hill or take a ride on Europe’s oldest funicular cable railway to Grand Hotel Giessbach. The famous Giessbach Falls tumbles 400m down beside the hotel and makes a great finishing viewpoint. The trail should take around 1.5 hours to complete – but this is also a perfect opportunity to slow the pace and soak in your surroundings.

Bällenhöchst (challenging)
At 2,095 m above sea level, Bällenhöchst is one of the most beautiful viewing points in the Bernese Oberland region. Starting from the charming mountain village of Saxeten, this 14km trail winds across flower-filled meadows, past Alpine huts, and up to the slopes of Sulegg. The strenuous ascent is rewarded with magnificent views of Leissig and Därlig mountain ridges. From here, you will enjoy your first view of the Bällehöchst before passing along the saddle, where you can hear glacier water gurgling on a still day.

Once you have reached the Bällenhöchst, take a moment to appreciate views of the surrounding peaks: Niederhorn, Hohgant, Schrattenflue, and Brienzergrat. You can see out over Lake Brienz and the eastern part of Lake Thun, and south down Lauterbrunnen Valley. The descent via Sulwald towards Isenfluh is an experience in itself, passing Sulsseewli: an Alpine lake whose still waters capture the reflections of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Set aside a good six hours for this impressive trail.

Tip: You can avoid part of the steep descent by taking the cable car down from Sulwald to Isenfluh.

Mountain Biking

Now you’ve found your footing, it’s time to cover more ground. Mountain biking, e-biking, touring, and road cycling are some of the most popular ways to explore this sporty region. Discover picturesque tracks along the bank of lakes, through idyllic villages, and high plateaus with stunning mountain panoramas. For leisurely touring and adrenaline-fueled adventures. Here are our top picks.

eBike Tour around Lake Thun (accessible)
Reach a meditative state as you glide along the 54.3km circular trail around Lake Thun. Starting from Sigriswil, the loop reveals ever-changing views of the deep turquoise waters and surrounding mountains to Oberhofen and via Hünibach to Thun.

You will ride through picture-perfect villages, lush green meadows, and past historic castles. Recharge your batteries in the friendly town of Thun at one of the riverside restaurants before getting back in the saddle. The tour continues via Gwatt and Spiez to Därligen and back to your starting point in Sigriswil. It’s easy to lose your sense of time on this magical trail. But it should take most riders around 4.5–5 hours.

Don’t miss: Two highlights await when you cross the 340m-long and 180m-high panoramic suspension bridge at Sigriswil and the 142m-long suspension bridge at Leissigen.

Tip: Cool off with a dip in the water during or after your tour.

Downhill trails and dirt park
If a fast and action-packed agenda is more your thing, put your skills to the test on a technically demanding flow trail. The bike park on the Wiriehorn offers several downhill stages, trails, and a skills park. A chairlift to the start allows you to save up energy for your best tricks and stunts.

The Dirt Jump Park in Steffisburg has 16 jumps, a woodchip landing, and a big quarter pipe. Jumps are divided into four lines, offering training opportunities for beginner to experienced riders.

If you want to test your strength, there are a number of loops and trails that will make your heart race. Take the easy way uphill on Wednesday afternoons and weekends, when a Bike Shuttle brings bikers directly from Thun to Goldiwil, where the Rabenfluh Trail and the Goldiwheel Trail start.

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For a more peaceful experience on the water, see Interlaken from a new perspective on a half-day or evening kayaking tour. Rent a one- or two-person kayak and get close to nature, while surrounded by impressive peaks, and paddle into the sunset.

Half-day kayaking (accessible)
While away a morning or afternoon on a relaxed kayaking tour. Starting from The Beach in Bönigen on the shores of Lake Brienz, a certified guide will help you develop your paddling skills. They will lead you across the lake to the north shore, exploring the waves below steep cliffs. A small beach allows you to hop out and explore on foot the 12th-century Ringgenberg Castle, overlooking Lake Brienz. This trip is three hours in total, with two hours on the water.

Evening kayaking (accessible)
If you have filled your days with high-adrenaline adventures, then an evening’s kayak tour provides an active way to wind down. Following the same route as the half-day tour, but by night, the atmosphere on the lake transforms from energising beauty to peaceful tranquillity. Feel any tension melt away as your kayak forms ripples on the surface and the setting sun casts golden light across the water.



Explore hard-to-reach corners of the natural landscape, push mental and physical boundaries – and have a lot of fun. Canyoning involves navigating down a mountain stream on foot, travelling with the water as it descends the gorge. You’ll be abseiling, climbing, sliding, swimming, and jumping to get down. Even with wetsuits, helmets, and buoyancy aids, the water is very cold.

Canyoning Grimsel (accessible)
Set in a mountain pass with pale-coloured rock formations and long Alpine views, the Grimsel canyon starts by rappelling 50m down a near-vertical cliff, from the roadside, to reach the bottom of the gorge. Once in the river, follow the flow of the water on foot or by jumping into pools and sliding down wet rock slabs – nature’s own water slide. Finally, you’ll run out along a rope line and release yourself to fall straight down into a deep pool. This trip is 5.5 hours, with 1.5–2 hours in the canyon. The minimum age is 14.

Canyoning Chli Schliere
The Chli Schliere takes canyoning to the ultimate level. This canyon is considered the best in the region because it has the highest jumps and longest slides – it’s also the most challenging (mentally and physically). Chli Schliere is a physically demanding and technical canyon with a high adrenaline factor. Suitable for confident, athletic people who want to be challenged and like getting wet. This is a 7.5-hour round trip from Interlaken with 3–4 hours in the canyon. The minimum age is 14.

Hang Gliding (accessible)

You’ve experienced Interlaken by land and water. Now it’s time to see it from the air as you enjoy the views of Lake Thun’s deep-blue waters and glide above the three peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. In this 10–20-minute hang gliding experience, you will descend around 800m in altitude before landing in Höhematte Park in the centre of Interlaken. Interlaken has the perfect flight conditions for hang gliding in the summer, offering a unique and unforgettable experience.

Skydiving (challenging)

If skydiving is on your bucket list, this is the place to tick it off. Fly over the mountain peaks and feel the adrenaline rush as you take the leap of a lifetime. Experience a bird’s-eye view of Lake Thun, Lake Brienz, and the surrounding mountains and glaciers as you free-fall into Bernese Oberland. A truly unforgettable experience to complete your Interlaken adventure.

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Must do

There are many ways to immerse yourself in everything that Interlaken has to offer. Beyond the adventures are century-old mountain hotels rich with Swiss charm, regional wines and beers, and traditional homegrown dishes seasoned with Alpine herbs. Not sure what to get your teeth stuck into first? Try these three must-see attractions.

Harder Kulm – Top of Interlaken
At 1,322m above sea level, Harder Kulm (the nearest mountain to Interlaken) promises top-down views over all of Interlaken and into the mountain valleys beyond. It’s an easy way to get your bearings at the start of your trip or recap an adventure well spent. If you have a head for heights, venture onto the overhanging Zwei-Seen-Steg (Two Lakes Bridge) for even more panoramic views.

Brienzer Rothorn
All aboard the Brienzer Rothorn as the steam train and its red carriages transport you through lush forests with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Brienz on this hour-long ride. At 2,244m above sea level, you can see an unbelievable 693 mountain peaks from the summit of the Brienzer Rothorn on a clear day. Leave your packed lunch at home and let the Berghaus Kulm team indulge you with their hearty cuisine of delicious sausage and ‘rail rack bread,’ which is baked in the shape of a cogwheel.

Schynige Platte
Starting from Wilderswil station, Schynige Platte Railway chugs along and up the mountainside to Schynige Platte, a mountaintop plateau with hiking trails and views across to Interlaken. Sit back on benches in a vintage wood-panelled carriage for the 7km ride to the top on the rack-and-pinion railway. As you pass through the forest and up to Alpine pastures, catch glimpses of towering snow-capped mountains before reaching the final viewpoint over Interlaken.

Where to stay

A room with a view is almost always a given in this region of Switzerland. From high-end hotels to budget-friendly hostels, rest easy in our top picks of places to stay.

The Hey Hotel
Kick off your hiking boots and relax with a cold beverage at this uber-cool hotel with cloud-like beds in earthy tones, an inviting sun terrace, and good-mood food that you’ll want to share with family and friends. With activities and equipment included in the room price, this hotel is designed to help you rest well so you can get out and play. Rooms are available from £125.45.

Villa Sonnenhof
With views of the magnificent Jungfrau, this is not just any backpacker’s hostel. The Villa Sonnenhof is comfortable, cool, and central, with accommodation ranging from dorms to double rooms with shared and ensuite facilities. A perfect budget-friendly option for solo travellers and friends. Rooms are available from £27.19.

Places to Eat

Restaurant Stadthaus
Serving up nostalgic Swiss charm in the heart of the old town since 1818. Restaurant Stadthaus reopened in 2014 with a new concept devised by renowned Swiss TV chef René Schudel: Alpine classics from the kitchen, wines from Switzerland, and three regional beers on tap. Indulge in delicious Swiss cuisine on the sun-soaked terrace during the summer months.

SALZANO Restaurant
Refuel with a hearty bowl of oak tree soup or satisfy your sweet tooth with pine tree ice cream. Salzano’s innovative nature-inspired menu is full of surprises. Inspired by their spa, which uses all-natural materials and ingredients, the team has transferred the same ethos into the kitchen. Pure nature on a plate.

Getting around

The Interlaken guest card gives you free travel on scheduled public transport services. Cardholders also receive discounts on local excursions and many activities throughout the entire region.

Written by Harriet Osborne // @harrietosborne
Photography by Samantha Dugon // @samdugon
Film by Summit Fever Media // @sfm_films

Produced in partnership with Switzerland Tourism and Interlaken



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