Shockingly Interlaken is situated at the intersection of two lakes. Who’d a thunk it? Looking down from the god like perspective of Google Maps you have Thuner See (Lake Thun) to the left of town and Brienzer See (Lake Brienz) to the right. It’s worth checking out both just to see the startling difference between the luminescent, cloudy green, glacier fed waters of Brienz and the deep sea, bottomless blue of Thun, linked by the manmade, fast flowing canal in the middle of town. There you will find crazy locals swimming in the glacier water! mmmm refreshing!
Each lake serves up a myriad of fun things to see and do, from cruises to lidos and castles to windsurfing, so to help you guys narrow it down – here’s a concise guide to the best bits, along with the what, when, who and how.
If you’re serious about a swim then head towards Lake Brienz where you’ll find a great selection of lakeside resorts, complete with fluffy towel sized extras, changing rooms and by the hour, sun deck rentals. The best two in town are the Burgseeli Ringgenberg Lido in the Goldswil area and Lido Bönigen, just next to the TCS seeblick campsite. Lido Bönigen even caters for non swimmers and pros alike. Please be careful swimming in the river, it os very fast flowing and highly discouraged- stick to the lakes!
If you like boat tours then head over to the pick up point behind Interlaken West and sail on over to Oberhofen Castle, on Lake Thun. This impressive former fortress dates back to the thirteenth century and back in the day it was even owned by the Habsburgs. The approach, the interiors and the six acres of surrounding parkland are well worth the 20 minute trip, and there are a number of quiet little lidos around the area, just in case you feel like braving a dip in the lake. You can also head to Interlaken Ost and head to Giessbach waterfalls, they are stunning and in 1.5 hours you can hike back to Interlaken too.
The Easy Option: Bikes are readily available from Balmer’s Hostel (fun tandem ones for free at the Tent Village) and there’s a great selection of easy to remember routes that showcase Interlaken in all its glory. A simple little route for beginners is best embarked upon from the central square (field). From here head past the Best Western and cross the canals on Bahnhofstrasse before peddling along Scheidgasse. Take a left onto Muhleholzstrasse and ride until you encounter another lake feeding, water flow. Here endeth the slightly complex directions!Ask the super crew for easy directions.
From here on in you simply take a left along the riverside path, take in the beautiful forest all around you and check out the ruins along the way – before you reach Lake Thun. By this point you’ll be ready for a beer and a break so keep an eye out for the Golf und Strandhotel Neuhaus. You can rent a kayak, stand up paddle board or a pedalo. Why not try some wake boarding and water skiing too?? The terrace and picnic tables dotted around here are a great spot for recharging before heading back into town and along the canal towards Lake Brienz. This little jaunt and the return leg to the hostel should take you less than three hours, travelling at an average – less than sweat inducing – speed.
If on the other hand you fancy a biking challenge that’s a tad more hardcore, then look into the Interlaken-Faulhorn-Meiringen tour or the extremely extreme, three passes ride. Both rides will take up a whole day and the three passes route clocks in at a bum toning 190km, over nine hours. If you’re serious about the three passes then leave Interlaken and follow directions for the north side of Lake Brienz. Follow signs for Innertkirchen past Meiringen. At Innerkirchen you have a choice to head south and attack the Grimsel pass first, or east where you’ll encounter the Susten pass. Whatever you go for, the highest and hardest pass – the Furka – is in the middle. If you fancy eating en route, it’s best to stop around Susten where you can find a decent restaurant, as opposed to the road side cheese wagon in Furka!
This afternoon filling thrill is better known as a zip rider and attractions like it have been popular in the states for years, but now it’s the turn of the Swiss! With the aid of a hang glider-esque harness and a lot of nerve, the daring among you can travel from First to Schreckfeld on a hire rise wire above the tree line in a flash.
That’s 800 metres at close to 84 km/h, 45 metres above the ground with up to three mates flying with you. This is a fairly new attraction in the area so times are prices and still prone to the usual virginal season fluctuations – but if you fancy a flight then check out the when and how much on jungfraubahn.ch
Paragliding is a lot like jumping out of a plane – without the free fall.. Your mind thinks your body is trying to kill it and you don’t usually do it without a trained, human brake strapped to your back. It is however worth it and with the Alps in sight, and an abundance of adventure sport companies in town, Interlaken is the perfect place to try it out.
After fanning out your parachute like a peacock’s tail and strapping yourself firmly into a two man harness, you are generally encouraged to run like crazy down a super steep hillside and prey to god you take off before you reach the oh so tall tree canopy, growing up from the steep ravine immediately below you. This momentary, adrenaline junkie work-out is most certainly worth it for the views and the nerve numbing sense of serenity, on the way down. Your weightless glide down to town will, depending on the wind, take anywhere between 15 minutes and five, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to land in the grassy town center square.
Horse Drawn Tours: If you’re not the adrenaline junky, parachute loving, wire flying, mountain biking type then fear not because Interlaken has much more to offer. A brisk walk to Interlaken West station will bring you face to face with many a horse drawn carriage and while this may seem like the kind of thing your parents would shell out for on a 50th, blanket covered, red rose riddled wedding anniversary, it’s actually a very fun way to see Interlaken. At around €30 for twenty minutes this is without a doubt a splurge but there’s no better way to explore than a trot through the sleepy surrounding villages, in awe of the surrounding mountains, with fresh alpine air blowing through your hair and sage travel tips entering your ear canals – from your multi lingual, whip cracking driver.
Shopping: For the shoppers in the crowd make sure you make time for a stroll along Marktgasse, just downtown of the casino. On this stretch you lucky things can find tasty, year old cheeses made from Himalayan mountain goats, sweets galore constructed with the finest Swiss honey and charming, yet edgy knitted dolls that look like a cross between a Teletubbie and a voodoo pin cushion. If chocolate’s your thing thenbook a chocolate making course with Funky Chocolate Club where you’ll find a selection of calorie clogging good times. Beyond these vendors most of the shops in Interlaken turn around €1000 watches and super expensive Swiss Army Knives, however if a multi purpose knife is what you have your heart set on, then check with reception at Balmers Hhostel because you guys get a special discount on the best, and a special 20% on selected knives!
Last but by no means least we have the hiking option. Now there are many trails you can take but a great introductory trek can be embarked upon from just behind Ost Station. Your mountain top, viewing point is signposted as Harderkulm and can be reached at a gentle pace, in about an hour and a half. Alternatively there’s an twice hourly funicular and you get it half price with your guest card – by using it you don’t get to see the gravity defying goat park on the way up and technically speaking, this is considered cheating when you’re in prime hiking country. The end of this walk serves up a vista that includes both lakes and the snowy, surrounding peaks and a fantastic viewing point of Interlaken. There’s also a decent restaurant at the summit and regular, Friday night dancing sessions. Sorted.