When to go? I visited in July and it was simply glorious.
Duration: 48 hours. If you’re looking to do a longer trip, consider adding on a visit to Interlaken which I’ll cover as part of a separate post.
Local food experiences: hike up and spend the night at the Faulhorn hut in the Bernese Highlands. Dining with fellow hikers around communal tables, while watching the setting sun paint the surrounding snow capped mountains in a pretty hue of peach will be an experience not forgotten quickly – oh and they do a pretty mean rosti too.
Memorable eats: Switzerland’s pristine landscapes are a feast for the eyes, but this is no foodie destination. Dining out is expensive and (in my opinion) an unnecessary expense. I stuck to self catered sandwiches during my trips.
What to do between meals: The Lauterbrunnen valley is synonymous with waterfalls and you’ll have to pinch yourself on arrival – quaint chalets sitting beneath tall cliffs with waterfalls cascading off them. Sadly my photos don’t do the experience any justice at all, but a google image search should help make your mind up pretty quickly and I’m confident it’s one of those places you’ll be raving about to your friends on your return home.
Grindelwald sits at the base of the imposing Eiger north face and serves as a convenient launching point for many day hikes in the area. It’s probably the most well developed town in the area in terms of accommodation and food options.
Below are my favourite hikes in the area which can be completed by someone of above-average fitness in 2 consecutive days. If you’ve got more than a weekend up your sleeve I’d recommend breaking the hikes up and taking the time to relax and explore the network of Swiss villages.
Day 1: Lauterbrunnen – Grindelwald – Faulhorn Hut
Starting from the Lauterbrunnen train station, make your way to the ‘tram’ station to catch a gondola to Grutschalp. You’ll no doubt marvel at the spectacular views of the valley on the way up. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of this as I was desperately trying to plug my hydration pack which had burst its gasket!
On arrival, follow signs to Murren which will take you past the signature waterfall of the Lauterbrunnen valley (Staubbach falls) along the way. From here you’ll be making your way back down to the valley floor by following signs to Gimmelwald where you’ll be able to catch a tram back down Stechelberg.
Ever heard of a waterfall INSIDE a mountain? Neither had I until I visited Trummelbach falls. As with most things in Switzerland, the entrance fee isn’t cheap but it’s worth a visit simply for the uniqueness of the natural attraction. Leaving aside the inside-mountain aspect, it’s not your typical waterfall – more a river that has carved its way through the inside of the mountain but makes for novel viewing nonetheless. From Stechelberg, it’s a short-ish walk to Trummelbach falls which will be on your right-hand side.
Those not on the weekend itinerary will probably call it a day at this point and check into their lodging. For the time-scarce weekend warriors, the race is now on to get to the Faulhorn hut before sunset. You’ll need to catch the train back to Grindelwald and get to the gondola before the last ride up at 6pm.
At this point I’d strongly recommend checking to ensure that you have at least 3 hours of sunlight. The last leg of the trail to the Faulhorn hut was still covered with snow when I visited in July, making progress very slow in parts if you don’t have crampons and/or poles. As I raced the setting sun, I was very conscious of how dangerous the trail would be if I had to complete it in the dark. 3 hours may sound conservative, but given the snow, and the sparse trail markings, it would be easy to take a wrong turn (I did) and find yourself having to backtrack.
With the safety briefing out of the way, on to the positives. The walk to picturesque Lake Bachalpsee is easy and popular with day trippers. The angle of the setting sun wasn’t favourable for photos but beautiful to the human eye nonetheless. An appetizer for the real prize which lies another hour ahead of you. To this day, it remains the most memorable sunset I have ever experienced – watching the setting sun paint the surrounding peaks a surreal shade of orange, then lavender.
The accommodation itself is basic with 25+ people sharing a room and no shower facilities. A spot needs to be booked well in advance (online), and you’ll have to bring your own sleeping sheet (although a blanket and pillow is provided). There are sinks to brush your teeth and wash your face. Water is also expensive (all supplies are flown in by helicopter), so I’d recommend bringing as much as you can carry with you. The restaurant accepts both cash and credit cards.
Day 2: Faulhorn Hut – Eiger Trail
Be sure to wake up early the next morning to catch an equally beautiful sunrise then head to the dining room where a very basic breakfast is included as part of your stay. The return journey back to the First gondola is much more enjoyable without the time pressure of the setting sun and photo opportunities are abound.
You’re likely to need to resupply once back in Grindelwald. There’s a water fountain in the gondola station and a SPAR supermarket in town. Eat a hearty meal, bring energy bars and refill your water bottles because you’re going to need all of it on the Eiger trail. When commenced from Grindelwald, the trail is a lung burning, leg cramp inducing uphill slog.
Finding the start of the trail isn’t easy so I suggest heading to the tourist info centre where you can ask a staff member to mark out the route on a local map. You’ll have to cross the river, and make your way through a few chalets before eventually ascending in the general direction of the imposing Eiger north face.
Why go through all the pain and hassle? The Eiger trail is one of the most iconic hikes in Europe and it takes you right up to the Eiger’s north face. Once there, it’s hard to not marvel at its majesty and be reminded of how small we are in the face of nature.
Along the way, remember to turn around and take in the view of Grindelwald as it slowly disappears behind you. At the top of the trail you’ll pass the Eigernordwand6er chairlift, from which you’ll make your way down to Kleine Scheidegg where you can catch a train back to Grindelwald or your next stop for a well deserved rest.