The Bernese Oberland
Forming a 100-km-long strip extending westwards from the Col du Pillon as far as the summit of the Titlis, the German-speaking region of the Bernese Oberland (Berner Oberland) takes in almost half of the mountains along the northern edge of the Swiss Alps. Moving west to east, these southern `uplands’ of Bern Canton become progressively higher, peaking (both in terms of altitude and scenery) at the 4000-metre giants of the Jungfrau Region. Known as the Bernese Alps (Berner Alpen in German), this is the highest range anywhere within the large Alpine chain that does not form part of the main continental divide itself.
The Bernese Alps separate Bern Canton from the Valais, and apart from a small area fringing the Fribourg and Vaud Alps they are drained by direct tributaries of the Aare River. Remote side valleys such as the Simmental, the Kandertal, the Lötschental and the Haslital reach southwards deep into the highest mountains.
Getting to Grindelwald
Road: via Basel and Bern by motorway, then south and east through Thun to Interlaken. Grindelwald is to the south-east along a minor road or from Basel, either via Zurich or more directly to Lucerne then south-west via Interlaken.
Rail: mainline by international express to Interlaken. Change to the mountain railway at Interlaken Ost (East) station for direct trains to Grindelwald.
Air: international airports at Zurich and Bern, then rail via Interlaken.
The excursions Grindelwald are among the most beautiful and exciting in Switzerland, and you should, by all means, spend at least two days making them, even though you may have to give up some other portion of Switzerland trip.
There is probably no other place in Switzerland which has such a dramatic setting as Grindelwald. Gigantic mountains rear up over 3,962m with sheer north faces rising directly from the meadows of this little town. These faces are so steep they can only hold summer snow on a few narrow ledges.
This is the land of the awesome Eiger, scene of many mountain tragedies; the silent Manch, aptly named from its likeness to a monk’s cowl; over all towers the serene, pure white summit of the Jungfrau. Glaciers flow in frozen disarray between the peaks, their icy crevasses waiting to trap unwary climbers.
Grindelwald sits on a high, sun-trapping plateau; to the south is the giant wall of the Jungfrau massif, but the hills on its north and west sides are much gentler. Between these hills and the central plateau are miles of spectacular and yet easy walking. The use of one of the most famous mountain railways in the world, or the many cableways in the area, help reach breathtaking viewpoints and also provide many downhill walks on easily graded paths which form the most excellent system of mountain tracks around the valley sides. A trip on the Jungfrau railway, while expensive, is a must for anyone staying in the area. This famous vintage rack railway takes the traveller above the Kleine Scheidegg mountain resort, then through the heart of the Eiger to a viewing station, the Eigerwand, on the steepest section of the mountain. From here the line spirals inside the mountain, appearing briefly on the Eismeer above the Eiger glacier, and then finally arrives at Europe’s highest railway station on the Jungfraujoch pass.
Another long but worthwhile journey up a mountain is the cable car ride up the Schilthorn, probably better known as Piz Gloria since it featured as such in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The Schilthorn lift starts at Stechelburg above Lauterbrunnen, then climbs to Gimmelwald and Marren by the longest cableway in the Alps, all the way to the summit.
There is a great deal to enjoy around Grindelwald, and anyone with the least interest in mountains and mountain walking cannot help being thrilled by the experience of exploring its many highways and byways.
Where to Stay
Hotel Bodmi Superior offers superior 3-star accommodation. It is also steps from Grindelwald’s well-known tourist attractions.
Berghaus Bort provides cosy 3-star accommodation in Grindelwald. It also showcases views of Eiger and Lower Grindelwald Glacier and features cosy rooms.
This 4-star hotel is situated in Grindelwald and features an indoor pool, a Jacuzzi and free Wi-Fi, as well as amazing views of Eiger.
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