As the title of my blog suggests, I am a big fan of mountain landscapes. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I am blessed with the Cascade mountain range in my backyard. But as soon as I transplanted from my native Wisconsin, I knew I wanted to see the biggest and the grandest mountain ranges in the world. The Himalayas, the Andes, the Pyrenees, and especially the Swiss Alps.
My friend Jay and I planned our Euro17 trip around the Tomorrowland festival in Boom, Belgium. He wanted to start the trip in Amsterdam, and I wanted to end it in Switzerland. The views I have embedded in my mind will never leave me. The following are some tips to make the most of your trip to Switzerland.
We started our trip in Geneva and ended it in Zurich. The whole country is expensive, but the big cities can easily burn through your cash reserves, so be careful if of the cities if you are trying to travel budget-friendly.
We spent our time in the Alps in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Lauterbrunnen is the biggest town in the region, but we spent our three nights in a waterfall chalet on the valley floor in a small township called Stechelberg. Stechelberg has one grocery store and it is open for exactly four hours each day. There are more cattle than people. The beauty of Stechelberg is that it has two gorgeous natural attractions uncommon to people of the United States (where I come from).
Pronounced “Lau-ter-broo-nnenn,” this place is dubbed the Valley of a Thousand waterfalls for a reason. At any time whilst on the valley floor, you can spot a waterfall cascading over a nearby cliff.
The city itself is the starting point for buses that run and down the valley floor. The residential homes are spaced out in no specific grid, and the city has eateries, and local shops that give you a real sense of Swiss culture.
Lauterbrunnen is where you can take trains or trams to either Gimmelwald to the east – which is the starting point to Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfrau (Top of Europe), or Murren to the west.
The three highest peaks that jut out of the sky in this region are named Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. Eiger can be seen above.
Just a five-minute walk from Stechelberg south gives you access to a tram that takes you to the Schilthorn. When Jay and I started out that Wednesday morning, the skies were completely gray. After a 6,000-foot increase in elevation, however, we found ourselves above the clouds. The photo seen above is from Birg, one stop before getting to the Schilthorn. The Schilthorn itself is around 9,500 feet above sea level and is the filming location to the 10th book in the James Bond 007 movies – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – filmed in 1969. The Schilthorn commemorates this movie and gives you quite the majestic view in the process.
If you want near unparalleled views of these three peaks, Schilthorn is the way to go.
Jungfraujoch sits on the saddle of the iconic Jungfrau over 11,000 feet above sea level. The train station is the highest in all of Europe and visitors get unrivaled views of the surrounding peaks and Aletsch Glacier.
The train track itself began construction in 1912 and barrels through both the Eiger and the Monch for miles. There are a few stops to use the restroom on the journey to the Top of Europe, with views of the surrounding peaks easily accessible. It’s not a cheap endeavor, but the atmosphere at that elevation is remarkable.
You can step onto one of the largest glaciers in the country and see for miles around. From Lauterbrunnen, take the train to Kleine Schiedegg and get your ticket for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Once you get to Gimmelwald, you can elect to hang out in this touristy destination or hop on a tram that takes you higher still. The end destination is a stop called First, a tiny community spread out on the hills of the Berner Oberland. Not unlike Stechelberg on the valley floor, cattle run the plains here. Yodelers and cowbells can be heard at all times.
The hike we chose to do was to Bachalpsee Lake. About a 4-mile roundtrip hike, the big payoff is to see pristine mountain peaks and glistening mirrorlike lakes. Bachalpsee can be seen above. A herd of cattle walked across the trail as we were approaching the home stretch, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
I remember just sitting at the water’s edge, breathing in and getting chills to what was in front of me. Traveling makes me truly happy, and this hike was definitely a highlight of Euro17.
This photo of Trummelbachfalle is probably my favorite shot of my time in Switzerland. I definitely tried to save the best for last in this post. Back on the valley floor of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, thousands of feet of elevation below Jungfraujoch, Shilthorn, or First lies Trummelbachfalle, or Trummelbach Falls.
Just a 10-minute stroll north from our waterfall chalet in Stechelberg, the glacier runoff of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau pools into one place. The logical explanation for that much melting glacier is a waterfall. It just so happens that over thousands of years, Trummelbachfalle has cut its path into the side of a mountain, making for this in-rick spectacle.
For fun, I grabbed one of my water bottles and ran it underneath the falls. Better than any water I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.
The hike is grueling at the beginning, about 1,000 feet in elevation gain in about a half a mile. The scenery of the valley floor is magnificent. You then ascend into the guts of the chilly mountain and get 12 viewpoints of this magnificent falls. Best three hours of the trip.