The pretty, typically Swiss town of Interlaken boasts an enviable setting in the heart of the Jungfrau Winter Sports region of the towering Bernese Alps and has been a favourite visitor destination both in summer and winter since the late 19th century, with tourism nowadays the most important sector of its economy. It’s a hub for outdoor activities, winter sports, extreme adventure sports and for those who arrive year-round to wonder at its magnificent scenic beauty. Set on the banks of the River Aare between two Alpine lakes, Interlaken is a heaven for winter sports fans from November to March and a treasure house of spring and summer blooms during the warmer spring and summer seasons.
Nestling in the valley below the Schynige plateau, exactly where the Aare River opens into Lake Thun, this charming town is given over to tourism, with Interlaken city centre hotels busy year-round and a great choice of international and local eateries as well as bars and a lively nightlife and après-ski scene. In winter it’s crowded with skiers and snowboarders and during the summer season it’s a hub for budget travellers and backpackers, with a good number of hostels and cheaper lodgings available. The main sights in the region are natural, with the breathtaking snow-covered Jungfrau massif visible from the town and many more scenic beauties along the route of the funicular railway leading to Harder Kulme peak over looking the town.
Hoheweg is Interlaken’s main street, crammed with souvenir shops and the setting for the imposing mid-19th century Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel, built to serve the first wave of tourists to this breathtaking region. Interlaken castle resembles more a country mansion than a castle, and pretty Hohematte Park is the setting for the 16th century Augustine convent and church. Outdoor activities are the main attraction here, incredibly diverse and varying with the seasons. Even so, a good number of visitors come here just to marvel at the glories of nature and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life for a short time.
Summer is the time for sports varying from walking and hiking to extreme adventure activities, all of which are catered for in the region. Mountain biking trails leading to amazing vistas as well as walking and hiking routes run along the lower slopes, with great walks along the lake shores a favourite. Sailing, boat trips and fishing in the lakes and river are popular, and swimming is possible in the refreshingly clear lake waters in the summer months. Horse riding is fun here, and the regular scenic flights across the Bernese Alps are an easy, if pricey way to appreciate the solitary grandeur of nature untouched by the hand of man. Adventure sports are varied, with serious adrenaline junkies going for mountaineering, caving, canyoning, white-water rafting, rock climbing, skydiving, hang-gliding paragliding and bungee-jumping. Kayaking and canoeing provide a more relaxing way to explore the lake shores and along the river.
Heavy snowfalls usually begin in late November, transforming the town and its surroundings into a sparkling wintery wonderland and bringing winter sports fans to the town in their thousands. Interlaken lies in the centre of a number of ski resorts, all easily accessed and providing enough well-maintained on and off-piste trails to satisfy skiers and snowboarders up to expert level. For beginners, ski schools and safe nursery slopes give good start to a new sport. Other activities include cross-country skiing around the lake shores, sledging, ice-skating and night-sledding, with snow machines doing their best in the occasional winter when snowfall is sparse.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Interlaken City Centre Hotels content.