72 Hours in Lauterbrunnen

After another great breakfast at Hotel des Voyageursthe breakfasts offered by each of our hotels throughout our time in Switzerland were delicious–we hopped on the metro and rode to the Lausanne train station.

 

 

 

Ever thankful for our decision to travel with backpacks rather than suitcases, we rode from Lausanne to Montreaux where we would begin our journey to Lauterbrunnen on the GoldenPass line. There are multiple options if you’re looking to see Switzerland by panoramic train and we would definitely recommend working one of them into your schedule! You can see more about the different routes at the SBB website.

 

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The panoramic trains are designed so that passengers have access to incredible views for the duration of their train ride

 

Since we were traveling with our Swiss Travel Passes during the off-season (late October), we didn’t need to buy tickets or make reservations for the first train of the morning but we would recommend reserving seats when traveling during busier times of the year. The GoldenPass Line was very tourist-friendly with well-designed and easy-to-make connections along the route.

 

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The views along the GoldenPass Line were incredible for the entire duration of our ride

 

I had my book out on my lap when the train left the station but I don’t think I opened it once—the views from the train were so beautiful and the huge windows almost made you forget that you were seeing it all from a train! The stretch from Montreaux to Zweisimmen was the most beautiful portion of the trip and we passed through multiple little towns that we would have loved to explore along the way! You don’t have to worry about which side of the train to sit on, you will see everything thanks to the panorama windows–just bring your sunglasses!

 

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Another shot taken from the train during our trip from Montreaux to Interlaken

 

After switching trains at Zweisimmen, we continued on to Interlaken. The GoldenPass Line continues all the way to Lucerne but we were stopping here to spend a few days in the Berner Oberland region before hopping back on the GoldenPass Line in Brienz. While Interlaken itself is beautiful with much to offer, we opted to hop right onto a train headed for Lauterbrunnen.  

 

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Lauterbrunnen was the place that I spent the most time reading about for this trip and I was secretly wondering (and worrying) if it would live up to the hundreds of photos I had seen during my research. Even before we had stepped off of the train, any preconceived ideas or hopes I had for our stay were completely blown away. No matter how many photographs we admired or travel blogs we had read, nothing prepared us for being there, seeing the Alps for the first time in this sweet village!

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The Hotel Staubbach (left) was the perfect place for our stay in Lauterbrunnen 

 

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The hotels and cafes that line the main street in Lauterbrunnen are much busier during the summer and winter seasons

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Our hotel was located a short walk away from the train station in the direction of the famous Staubbach Falls

 

If you’re looking to explore the Alps, Lauterbrunnen is the perfect location. The village sits at the base of overwhelmingly tall cliffs with more than seventy waterfalls pouring into the valley. We were lucky enough to book a hotel room that had a balcony view of the Staubbach Falls so the first thing we did after checking in at the Hotel Staubbach was enjoy a cup of coffee on the balcony!

 

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We knew our room would be very small (hotel staff actually e-mailed us ahead of time to make sure we knew it was smaller than most Americans expected) but did not care given the balcony view!
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In addition to the view of the Staubbach Falls, we had incredible views of the valley itself
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The breakfast room at the Hotel Staubbach offered a delicious buffet in the morning and coffee, tea, and water throughout the day–plus, nothing could beat the views!

 

Sufficiently caffeinated, we got some guidance from the front desk about how to navigate the lifts throughout the valley. We took the lift directly across from the train station up to Grutschalp where we caught the narrow gauge railway into Murren.

 

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Between the lift ride and the journey on the narrow gauge railway, I moved quite a bit closer to conquering my fear of heights

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This view greets you almost immediately after you disembark from the narrow gauge railway

 

We didn’t know it at the time but this was actually the last day that this particular route into Murren would be open as they close different routes from the valley floor into the higher villages seasonally for routine maintenance. Be sure to check which routes will be open during your visit and don’t be afraid to get advice from hotel staff! We were amazed at how friendly and genuinely helpful everyone was in Lauterbrunnen and the nearby villages.

 

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As the railway moved across the edge of an impossibly tall cliff, clouds moved through the valley and we’d catch glimpses of the mountains across the way. The temperature was dropping and snowflakes were starting to fall so we paused for some fondue and rosti at Murren’s Hotel Edelweiss. We embarrassed ourselves and probably inconvenienced the waitress by asking to be seated on the outdoor balcony during a snowstorm but the meal ended up being one of our favorites!  

 

 

 

From here we wandered through Murren with the intention of hiking down to Gimmelwald but we figured we were better off taking the lifts all the way down to the valley floor as the snow continued. Before we arrived in Lauterbrunnen I was unsure about how to navigate the lift system that connected the mountain villages of Murren, Gimmelwald, and Wengen to the valley floor but that uncertainty was gone almost immediately after we arrived. The entire transportation system throughout the region–including buses, trains, hiking trails, and lifts–is incredibly easy to use and so well designed!

 

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By the next day, Murren would have a few inches of snow 

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We took this photo in the lift while traveling from Murren to Gimmelwald–can you see the other lift down below?

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Gimmelwald, like Murren, was very quiet as the snow started to fall on this October afternoon 

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The homes in Gimmelwald seem to be placed dangerously close to the edge of the mountain

 

Our first night in Lauterbrunnen ended with tea on the hotel balcony complete with a view of some local cows being moved to their new grazing spot.

 

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The view from our balcony as cows were moved from one grazing spot to the next

 

Day Two

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The view from our hotel room balcony on our second day in Lauterbrunnen

After a breakfast at the hotel we borrowed umbrellas from the hotel and took the train from Lauterbrunnen station to the small, car-free village of Wengen.

 

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We took this photo as our train made the climb from the Lauterbrunnen station up to Wengen
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Wengen was very quiet on this off-season October day but we can imagine how beautiful and lively the village is during the summer and winter busy seasons

 

Like Murren and Gimmelwald, Wengen sits on the edge of one of the cliffs that towers over Lauterbrunnen. You can reach other mountain-top destinations like Mannlichen, Kleine Sheidegg and the Jungfraujoch from Wengen or choose to hike in and around the village itself. On the morning we visited Wengen snowflakes were just beginning to blanket the mountainside, transforming the world from fall to winter right before our eyes!

 

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Because of the snow we opted to walk around in Wengen rather than venturing out to hikes above the village. We wandered around the main street of the village which was very quiet due to the fact that we were there in October, between the busier summer and winter seasons. As the snow got heavier, we stopped in at Restaurant Waldschluecht to warm up and have a drink.

 

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From here we made our way out along some of the pathways and trails that surround the village, ultimately walking down to the Wengwald station where we caught the train back to Lauterbrunnen.

 

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Every once in a while, the clouds would clear so we could see the Lauterbrunnen Valley down below 

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The snow line inched lower and lower as the day went on

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Don’t forget to push the button to ask for the train to stop if you’re leaving from Wengwald Station

 

Once we were back in Lauterbrunnen we stopped at the local Coop grocery store to grab some cheese, bread, and wine for dinner. In addition to their sunny breakfast room, Hotel Staubbach had a shared kitchen area complete with appliances and stocked with dishes, utensils, and glasses. We dropped off our food here at the hotel and had some tea and coffee before starting a walk through the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

 

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We started at the hotel and very slowly made our way to the Trummelbach Falls. I say we were moving very slowly because I think we stopped every twenty feet or so to take pictures. It was a very cold day with snow falling on us every once in a while and because of the clouds, the fall colors throughout the valley were unbelievable!

 

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Our walk to the Trummelbach Falls was also delayed by one of our greatest travel discoveries ever: a cheese vending machine. We couldn’t pass by without making an alp cheese purchase!

 

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We finally reached the Trummelbach Falls and after purchasing our tickets (CHF 11.- each) from the booth near the entrance we hopped on one of the day’s last lifts up! The lift takes you up to a lookout platform where you start your climb into the mountain for closer views of the waterfalls.

 

 

I have to admit that a stop here was not at the top of my “must-see” list but I am so glad that we went. Part of the reason why I wasn’t very excited about Trummelbach Falls was because the photographs and videos I had seen in my research do NOT do the Falls justice. It’s just not possible to capture how it feels to see and hear the glacial runoff carve its way through the mountain as you climb higher and higher.

 

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Those of you who are afraid of heights, beware! There are lookout points placed throughout the climb!

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In addition to witnessing the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site, you get to see some of the most incredible views of the Lauterbrunnen Valley itself as you make your way down the mountain!   

 

  

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Lauterbrunnen Valley as seen from the Trummelbach Falls

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As the sun set we caught the bus back to Lauterbrunnen and stopped for a beer at the Horner Pub before enjoying our cheese and wine dinner back at the hotel–including our tasty vending machine cheese!

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Day 3

After an early breakfast in the Hotel Staubbach, we caught one of the first buses of the morning and rode to Stechelberg. Make sure you check the bus schedule ahead of time (we asked at the hotel) if you’re visiting during the off-season like we were as there may be fewer stops made. From Stechelberg we started our journey up to the Schilthorn! You can read more about our visit to the Schilthorn here.

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After we spent some time admiring the views from the top of the Schilthorn, we took advantage of the sunny, clear day by hiking from Murren down to Gimmelwald. I say hike, but much like our experience exploring the Lavaux, the pathways we followed were so well-defined and easily accessible that we had to redefine our image of what “hiking the Alps” would be like. Since most of the snow from the day before had melted away, the pathway we followed was clear and didn’t require any special hiking shoes or equipment. We only passed one other set of hikers (and one cow) during our October visit!

 

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After reaching Gimmelwald–and scouting out where we’d like to stay during our next visit–we caught the lift back down to Stechelberg. We watched a few parasailers make their landings at the base of the lift and then caught the bus back to Lauterbrunnen and [reluctantly] checked out of the Hotel Staubbach!

 

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We knew we would miss Lauterbrunnen before we had even left the train station that afternoon but we were looking forward to seeing the Eiger from a different perspective in our next stop: Grindelwald!

 

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