Largely due to once seeing Rick Steve’s recommendation of Gimmewald, Switzerland, it has been on my bucket list for many years. Last fall we made that dream a reality and it was amazing.
I try not to be hyperbolic or recommend every place I’ve been (which it seems most travel bloggers who haven’t been a ton of places do), but this was as amazing to me as our recent trip to Havasupai Falls in Arizona.
In contrast, there are many places I don’t recommend, even on that trip.
Which is all to say, this part of Switzerland is actually amazing. The other parts of Switzerland I’ve been to are super scenic, don’t get me wrong. But this trip was amazing.
Planning Our Switzerland Trip
First, let me say that this trip planned itself because of the tip I’m now religious about with Using Google Maps To Save Travel Destinations.
We were planning a trip to Lyon, France and I had places saved in the Alps (like Verdon Gorge or Chamonix). But then on Roomer I saw a deal for 6 days at a suite in a nice hotel in Interlaken, Switzerland for $58 a night, which was an amazing deal alone! (See 9 Ideas For Getting Hotel Deals).
Then I checked my Google Maps and saw the following:
I saw all these places that I’ve saved on Google Maps over the years around Switzerland.
Renting a car
Renting a car from Lyon was also going to be way cheaper than public transit and subways, although the train did seem to reach everywhere we would’ve gone.
The rental car was $134.81 for our 6 days.
But in contrast, a oneway from Interlaken to one of our hiking spots was over $20 per person. That would’ve been $80 for one day of mostly hiking!
Of course, parking it Switzerland is insanely pricey (given we were often paying to park in rural areas), but I found a parking lot that was 5 Euros a day and wasn’t too far of a walk from our hotel. So we probably paid $15 a day in parking. Still came out way ahead.
Where To Go In Switzerland
The highlight of the trip was Gimmewald. This is a little town at the top of a cliff and totally disconnected from any road access.
We hiked up, but otherwise you have to take the cable car.
It is a steep hike, but it was only 1.5 miles up (which was much shorter than our Grand Canyon / Havasupai hikes).
Much like Havasupai, this is an awesome experience partly because of how remote the population is.
I can’t tell you how beautiful and peaceful it was. Hopefully the photos will do some justice.
Hiking up: We parked at a little parking lot in Stechelberg, as far up the road as we could go. Then on foot, the trailhead was pretty obvious once we crossed a bridge. Hiking trails in Switzerland are generally well marked. (You need change for the parking machine).
Gimmewald is connected to Murren, Switzerland
This clifftop town is connected by a road to a very nearby ski resort town, Murren.
How in the world they paved the road or even got cars up there in the first place is amazing. I really have no idea.
Murren is the more popular destination and it has a cable car which continues way up to Schilthorn.
And while this town is significantly more touristy, that’s relative. I’m not sure how many tourists were there, but Wiki says there are only 2,000 hotel beds in the town. Although the population is only 450… So it’s certainly a tourist-based town.
Yet, just over a mile away is Gimmewald (and it’s a relatively flat and easy walk).
Below these cliff-towns is a little valley. And stuck between these cliffs is another popular small town called Lauterbrunnen. You would have to drive through it to get to the trailhead or cablecar for Gimmelwald.
Also, there are lots of waterfalls in this area.
I think this would be a fantastic place to stay if you want to cablecar or hike up to Gimmewald, Murren, or Wengen. Also would be a great place to stay.
We hiked up to the Oeschinensee area, which has more the classic Apline scenery with the alps surrounding a tiny lake.
Per usual, you can take a cable car up, but we hiked up.
It seems to be a popular place for day trips, although there is a little lodge up there.
But the best part was the alpine slide…
The Alpine Slide!
I had totally forgotten about this place until I found it on my Google Maps and got super excited.
I had forgotten that I had seen this video (must watch!) on Reddit and quick looked it up and saved the place on Google Maps (here is a link to the exact location) and then forgot. Until I realized we were staying not that far away from it!
It was $5 per ride, or $20 for 5 rides (which I highly recommend even if there are only two of you, because you’ll want to go again!).
It was a great town in between two lakes and there’s a great hike/cable car to get a view right above the town at “Harder Kulm”.
That being said, I’d rather have spent my time in the places I talked about above or some of the other recommendations below.
It’s beautiful, but it’s a quiet boring town, and I’d rather experience a boring town up from the cliff tops.
Just my opinion.
- Trift Bridge
- Titlis Cliff Walk
- Kandersteg – Adelboden hike
These are other places I have saved on Google Maps which we didn’t visit.
Conclusion / Other Tips
Get an Airbnb in Gimmewald or Wengen and bring your family and you won’t regret it.
It is amazing.
Things “to do” in this area of Switzerland… like hiking or hiking.
What’s funny is I absolutely love Vienna, but many people have told me how boring it is. While it probably helps that I have a friend there who took us to some cool places, I agree it is peaceful and relatively quiet. I mean, compared to Berlin or Budapest, I could absolutely see why it could be considered boring.
Similarly, I think spending a week here would drive Stefan (of RapidTravelChai) absolutely nuts.
If you are happy sitting in a quiet place and if you love hiking, you’ll love this.
If you aren’t willing or able to hike for a couple of hours up a steep cliff area to get to your town, or you want to stay there and bring up luggage, don’t worry, you can always take the cable car.
Food is expensive.
Not only is food stupid expensive, but only the British have more bland food than the Germans. I’m not saying I haven’t had great meals in Switzerland, Germany and Austria, I have (usually the main ingredient is cheese in those cases)! I’m just saying I would fly around the world to eat in many Asian countries, and I don’t feel the same way about Switzerland.
Regardless, the point is food is expensive. I walked into McDonald’s just to see what was on their small menu, and there was a “value” menu that had a $12 Big Mac. Like, Big Mac the crappy sandwich.
However, knowing this, I stopped at a grocery store in France and loaded up. Then we would pack sandwiches we made when going hiking.
Although surprisingly Murren had grocery stores that were reasonable, so I didn’t really need to carry stuff up.
And you can still get meals for $20 (not including drinks), but given that in many remote places the $20 option was boxed/canned spaghetti or a bland German sandwich (redundant, I know), we packed grocery food.
Transit is expensive.
As I mentioned, the train and all transit is way more expensive than I would expect. It’s one of few places I’d absolutely recommend renting a car.
Interlaken is a 4 hour drive from Lyon, only 3.5 hours from the Milan MXP airport. So if you wanted to start in another country, you can, and you’ll likely save a little money on the car rental.
Also, look up the cable car prices for the town you want to visit, it can also be expensive, especially with a group or with taking them frequently or long distances.
We ate cheaply, we paid less than $25 a day on the car, we paid $58 for a suite in a nice hotel in Interlaken, and we hiked.
Switzerland doesn’t have to be expensive.
And regardless, it was an amazing trip and I looked at the cliff town Airbnbs for future visits with family and friends, and it’s not that bad.
This is likely my favorite place in the Alps and a very unique Switzerland experience.