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Bernese Oberland

The Bernese Oberland is one of 13 holiday regions in Switzerland that have come together because of geographical and cultural similarities.

Its alpine landscape, which ranges from the highest peaks of the Bernese Alps, such as the Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger, to the gentle foothills of the Alps just before the de facto capital of Bern, makes the region one of the most popular holiday regions in Switzerland.

The Bernese Oberland is divided into a pre-alpine zone and a high-alpine zone. The northern pre-alpine zone includes the Gental, Meiringen, Grosse and Kleine Scheidegg, Sefinenfurgge, Hohtürli, Kandersteg, Adelboden and Lenk, while the Jungfrau region forms the high alpine zone.

Deep blue lakes, picturesque valleys, wooded mountains, fragrant alpine pastures and flower-filled villages offer active vacationers, nature lovers and families with children in the Bernese Oberland a wide range of leisure activities.

One of the most important rivers in the region is the Aare, which rises at the highest peak in the Bernese Alps, the 4,274-meter Finsteraarhorn.

In this video you can see in over 380 timelaps what the Bernese Oberland has to offer in terms of landscape:

The Aare is one of the longest rivers that only runs within Switzerland and is one of the Rhine’s most water-rich tributaries. The most popular vacation resorts are either in the middle of the mountains or in lovely valleys, such as Interlaken, Thun, Spiez, Brienz, Frutigen, Gstaad and the Eiger village of Grindelwald. They are ideal starting points for activities and excursions in the entire Jungfrau region.

Incidentally, the name Bernese Oberland originally goes back to a decree by Napoleon, who separated the surrounding area from the Canton of Bern after his invasion of what was then called the Helvetic Republic of Switzerland.

Since the enthusiasm of the population was very limited, this decree was revoked only three years later and the Bernese Oberland was administratively reattached to the canton of Bern.

Thanks to its varied landscape and long tradition as a tourist destination, the Bernese Oberland offers countless leisure activities. From traditional summer and winter sports activities to modern adrenaline-fuelled trend sports, you can do just about anything in the Bernese Oberland.

In the cultural city of Thun, there are also varied events and interesting cultural treasures for culturally interested holidaymakers. That’s why the Bernese Oberland vacation region is a year-round popular vacation destination that fulfills all vacation wishes.

 

Summer activities

In the whole of the Bernese Oberland, there are around 800 large and small bodies of water, most of which are crystal-clear mountain lakes and ice-cold mountain streams. Among the most famous bathing lakes in the Bernese Oberland, which also offer water sports activities, are Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.

View of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz
View of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz

Choose a vacation at the two closely situated lakes connected by the river Aare and you will be greeted every morning by an incredible mountain panorama, as the highest peaks of the Bernese Alps rise a few kilometers behind the southern shores. While sailing, windsurfing, wakesurfing and canoeing you always have the snow-covered mountains in view.

There are several providers for water sports activities around Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. From Thun to Berne along the Aare, you can even go on tours by rubber dinghy with a guide. Just a few minutes from Interlaken, exciting gorges open up for canyoning, such as the Saxeten Gorge, which is also suitable for those interested in trying out the canyoning adventure. Most mountain lakes, on the other hand, are not suitable for swimming, but are popular hiking destinations and can sometimes be navigated by boat.

The mountain world of the Bernese Alps is dotted with numerous first-class hiking trails and panorama paths of varying degrees of difficulty. Hay-scented alpine pastures, thunderous waterfalls, rugged rock formations and a wealth of natural beauty attract active vacationers every year to hike to the coniferous and deciduous forests of the Grindewald, the Aare Gorge, the Schynige Platte and the Aiger Trail. A hiking classic is the route from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. A mystical moorland hike on the Lombachalp is recommended. If you don’t want to go so high up, you can also choose easier paths, for example from Brienz to the Giessbach Falls.

Around Lake Thun, a 56 kilometer long panoramic path has been laid out, on which you will cross several adventurous suspension bridges. The countless romantic and crystal-clear mountain lakes are ideal hiking destinations. It is difficult to decide which is the most beautiful mountain lake, but the Bachalpsee, which you reach from Grindewald with the cable car First, is in the forefront. The water of the Blauseesee, which you will find in the idyllic Kandertal, has an almost Caribbean effect.

Bachalpsee Wetterhorn Grindelwald
Bachalpsee Wetterhorn

From the train stations in the villages of Kandersteg and Frutigen there are regular buses to Blausee. Walking paths and picnic areas with fireplaces line the lake shore. Next to the only hotel at Blausee, a trout farm is operated. The delicious fish is on the menu in restaurants and hotels throughout the Kandertal. One of the best ways to get to know a region is by bicycle.

The lake landscapes and sights can be explored more comfortably on well-developed cycle paths on bike tours in the Bernese Oberland. You cycle through dreamy villages, past castles, churches and through intact nature. With the ferry it is also possible to shorten the distances. Challenging routes such as to the Oberried lookout point are suitable for cycling professionals.

Where there are mountains, mountain bikers and freeriders can also be found. With a mountain bike you can start from Kandersteg and follow various tour suggestions, such as the Blausee Biketour, the Allmenalp Tour and the Lötschental Panoramic Bike Tour. The Kandersteg Bike Park is open from May to October.

If you like to take to the skies, there are several providers of paragliding and paragliding in the Bernese Oberland. Or how about an unforgettable helicopter flight over the Bernese Alps and the Jungfrau region? A speedy quad bike tour from Interlaken to the Alp Heubühlen will also remain in your memory.

 

Winter activities

For thousands of years the mountain dwellers in Europe have been riding down the slopes of the mountains on two boards. In the beginning mainly for hunting, because only in the 19th century alpine skiing developed as an international competition.

Switzerland took a pioneering role in this. So when you come to the snow-assured Bernese Oberland for skiing and snowboarding, you are spoilt for choice between several premium ski resorts that look back on a long skiing tradition. With the numerous mountain railroads you can even reach the highest peaks of the Bernese Alps.

Jungfrau-Region, Grindewald First, Mürren-Schilthorn and Engstlingenalp Adelboden are just a few examples of the long list of ski areas in the Bernese Oberland. For freeriders, the Bernese Oberland offers 13 varied downhill runs. One highlight is the newly designed White Elements Snowpark on the First.

In addition, in winter in the Bernese Oberland a total of 200 kilometers of signposted winter hiking trails and snowshoe trails as well as 350 kilometers of cross-country ski trails are prepared. If you get the Top4 ski pass, you can use all lifts and cable cars in the four ski regions Adelboden-Lenk, Gstaad, Jungfrau-Region and Meiringen-Hasliberg.

For sledgers and tobogganists, there is a network of trails for sledgers of all levels of ability right above Adelboden on Tschentenalp. Classic wooden sledges, modern airboards and stylish snoocs can be rented directly on site.

Sledding Bussalp Grindelwald
Sledding Bussalp Grindelwald

From Reichenbach im Kiental you can take the chairlift to Berghaus Ramslauenen, from where you can also take a 20-minute sleigh ride down into the valley. You should not miss a night sleigh ride!

Even in the cold season, the excursion boats on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz go out. Something special are the fondue ships, on which you can enjoy the hot version of delicious Swiss cheeses during the trip. Some lakes in the Bernese Oberland are also suitable for ice skating in winter.

One of the most impressive natural spectacles is the Oeschinensee, which is located above Kandersteg and is covered with black ice. In winter it is open for skating. The Lauenensee in the Louwental and the Hinterstockensee near Erlenbach in the Simmental are also popular with skaters.

Winter is a very special time in the Bernese Oberland, as the villages shine in the light of the Christmas markets and the castles around Lake Thun provide an impressive picture against the winter mountain backdrop.

 

Family activities

The vacation region Bernese Oberland is an El Dorado for children! Action and adventure awaits families with children in a diverse world of adventure between lakes and mountains. There is a lot to discover in the Bernese Oberland at any time of year.

With the Bernese Oberland Regional Pass, families with children benefit from interesting discounts on public transport, adventure parks, boat trips, excursion destinations, ski resorts and mountain railroads.

Joint hikes along the more than 60 adventure and theme trails with adventure posts and picnic areas where nature can be explored in a playful way on the Harder Kulm or the Grindewald ridge, an adventure with the Trotti-Bike or Gravity-Scooter on prepared forest roads through the Jungfrau region and lively canoeing and kayaking on Lakes Brienz and Thun are just a few examples.

How about an exciting llama hike on the Beatenberg or a donkey trekking on the Buchholterberg? Rope parks in Switzerland are also popular with families with children, such as the Interlaken Rope Park with 120 obstacles on 9 creative courses.

Rope Park Interlaken
Rope Park Interlaken

A highlight for every age group is a ride on the summer toboggan run. There are several providers in the Bernese Oberland vacation region that offer a fast-paced family experience.

The Kandersteg – Oeschinensee toboggan run, which starts right at the Bluemlisalp mountain station, leads through a fantastic landscape. Also on the Pfingstegg summer toboggan run near Grindewald you can enjoy unique views on your 760-meter-long, racy ride down to the valley in the sunshine or during the atmospheric evening tobogganing.

For the hardboiled there is also a fly-line through the forest at Pfingstegg, a cable car on which you float between the tree tops secured by a harness system. This unique experience is suitable for children from 4 years on.

Who has ever visited a huge glacier gorge like the Lower Grindelwald Glacier? For one kilometer, the tour takes you over adventurous suspension bridges spanning unspeakably deep rock galleries and through six themed worlds that present the wonder of the glacier.

If you are looking for more leisurely activities for a vacation in the Bernese Oberland with children, you can use the region’s mini-golf courses, go horseback riding or take a horse-drawn carriage ride through idyllic landscapes.

In addition to the sporting and active opportunities, families with children in the Bernese Oberland enjoy numerous family-friendly excursion destinations. A delicious tip is a visit to the Funky Chocolate Club and the Swiss Chocolate Chalet in Interlaken, where you can not only learn the way from the cocoa bean to the sweet temptation, but also create your own family chocolate.

Of course the five fairytale castles on Lake Thun with their turrets and gables, which can be seen from afar, are also an ideal destination for children in the Bernese Oberland. Feel like a princess or prince for a day in the museum castle of Thun, or immerse yourself in the magnificent past with the historic lady of Oberhofen Castle.

With the Castle Card, families with children receive reduced admission, on guided tours and to events at the five Thun castles. The ride on one of the many mountain railroads, which offer a magnificent view over the peaks and glaciers, is comfortable and yet eventful.

Many sights and excursion destinations in the Bernese Oberland can be found in the impressive natural surroundings. Whether summer or winter – the 3,466-metre-high Jungfraujoch is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Bernese Oberland and is known as the “Top of the Europe” or “Roof of Europe”.

Jungfraujoch Sphinx
Jungfraujoch Sphinx

A spectacular cog railway takes you to the highest station in the world, where a breathtaking panorama of the Bernese Alps awaits you. You feel as if you have been transported to another world and feel the forces of nature at close quarters. The view extends to the Aletsch Glacier, the Vosges and over several four-thousand-metre peaks.

The densely wooded Harder Kulm, the Grindewald First and the mighty, snow-covered Schilthorn are also interesting destinations for the whole family, which you can reach with the mountain railways. Take a steam locomotive to the viewing platform on the Brienzer Rothorn, where Lake Thun and Lake Brienz lie at your feet. If this is too high for you, you can also visit the breathtaking Aare gorge, which has been shaped by water over thousands of years. The Aare gorge is accessible through wooden footbridges and tunnels.

Harder Kulm Sonnenuntergang Interlaken
Harder Kulm Interlaken

Most of the attractions are suitable for drone photography. It is important to clarify beforehand whether the necessary permits for drones to fly have to be obtained.

The llama and alpaca farm in Aeschi near Spiez on Lake Thun is not only a highlight for families with children. Here you can get very close to the animals, feed them or go on guided tours with them. From Interlaken you can also take part in llama trekking tours in the Weissenau nature reserve.

Goat trekking is also possible near Gilbach. If you would like to visit all five fairytale castles on Lake Thun, you should get the Schlössercard, which gives you reduced admission to the museums of the castles. As the Schlössercard is valid for a whole year from the date of issue, you don’t have to visit all these special cultural monuments in one day. In Interlaken, exciting exhibitions are regularly presented in the gallery and culture podium IHP Spectrum.

A tour of an alpine cheese dairy followed by tasting is also interesting for young and old. The city of Berne, with its 134,000 inhabitants, also has a lot to offer those interested in culture and night owls. From Thun you can reach the university town on the loop of the Aare via the A6 motorway in around 30 minutes. Several providers provide rental cars.

Museums, galleries, monuments, zoos, theatre stages and numerous restaurants and cafés line the narrow streets of Bern’s old town, which has been placed entirely under UNESCO protection because of its architectural uniqueness.

There are of course many more interesting things for you to discover in the Bernese Oberland and there will be something new on every visit. In this multi-faceted region it is impossible for you to ever get bored.

Throughout the region there is a wide range of accommodation in all price categories. From budget guesthouses, youth hostels, hostels and B&B accommodation to luxurious spa hotels and stylish boutique hotels, you will find exactly the accommodation you are looking for in the Bernese Oberland.

Most of the hotels, chalets and holiday homes are designed in traditional Alpine style with lots of wooden elements, often romantically decorated with flowers and nestled in the beautiful natural landscape. You will enjoy the greatest possible freedom on holiday in a holiday home in the middle of the wild mountain world, where hiking trails and ski slopes are right on your doorstep.

There are also some campsites and holiday villages in the Bernese Oberland, such as camping Jungfrau and camping Gaatz on Lake Thun. Even if you’re looking for an unusual place to spend the night, you’ll soon find one in the Bernese Oberland and the Jungfrau region. One example is the Tubbo Sky room, which belongs to the Parkhotel Gunten and was built directly above Lake Thun. In the transparent tube, you have a breathtaking panoramic view of the lake day and night from your box spring bed.

You can also spend the night in a romantic outdoor bed under the starry night sky on the roof terrace of the Carlton Hotel in Interlaken. Here breakfast is served in bed after the first rays of sunshine. In a room designed like a beehive with a glass ceiling, you will sleep in the garden of Grindewald Youth Hostel. A true temple of luxury is the ERMITAGE Wellness & Spa Hotel in Schönried.

What would a holiday in the Bernese Oberland be without enjoying the culinary delights? Numerous alpine huts await hungry hikers and skiers. The highest mountain hut in Switzerland is the Mönchsjochhütte in the Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

The huts are often enthroned on spectacular rocky outcrops and in unreal mountain and glacier landscapes. From the terrace you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the mountain world of the Bernese Alps while feasting on cheese fondue, cheese noodles and Zurich sliced meat. In many huts it is also possible to stay overnight.

bernese oberland alpine hut
bernese oberland alpine hut

However, as this is a popular way of spending the night, you should book in advance with the respective hut. It is not unusual for ibex and marmots to roam around the rustic wooden buildings.

The annual calendar is full of events in the Bernese Oberland. Whether spring, summer, autumn or winter – there’s something happening all year round in the Bernese Oberland. From internationally renowned ski and snowboard events and top concerts to cosy mountain hut magic and traditional alpine dairymen evenings, the range of events in the Bernese Oberland is very wide.

Well-known are the traditional ski world cup races held every January near Adelboden and Wengen, which have been held since the 1930s. Every year the Tell open-air plays are organised in Interlaken, which bring famous plays by William Tell to the stage.

At the ice rink area near Gstaad, various festivals and activities take place both summer and winter as part of the Gstaad Alive series of events, including the Ländlerfest, bike workshops and food events presenting delicacies from all over the world. The Mannried Open Air in the green Simmetal valley, which harmoniously combines pop music, hard rock, country, blues and folk music, is also a fixed point on the annual calendar of events in the Bernese Oberland.

The Seaside Festival near Spiez, traditional village festivals, spring, summer and autumn festivals as well as alpine cheese and bell markets round off the programme of events in the Bernese Oberland. After all, there are still more than 3,000 farms in the region, which is why there are regular tradition festivals.

Cheese Market
Cheese Market

If you feel like it, in autumn you can even take part in cheese-making, mucking out, pig herding and feeding at some of the alpine pasture farmers. As a reward, a tasting plate is waiting for you. Even classical music fans in the Bernese Oberland get their money’s worth at the Interlaken Classics, the Thun Castle Concerts, the Mendelssohn Music Week in Wengen, the Swiss Chamber Music Festival in Adelboden and the Music Weeks near Meiringen. The list of varied events could go on and on.

If you travel by car, you can easily take the A6 motorway from Bern or the A8 motorway from Lucerne. On site you will enjoy the greatest possible flexibility by car. If you choose a different mode of transport for your journey to the Bernese Oberland, there are plenty of opportunities for you to hire a car in the holiday region.

By plane, you can reach the Bernese Oberland via Zurich Airport or Geneva Airport. From Zurich, the A3 motorway leads to the A14 motorway, from where you can reach the junction with the A8 motorway, which leads from Lucerne directly to the Bernese Oberland. If you choose Geneva airport, you must first take the northern shore of Lake Geneva to the E27 European Road towards Fribourg and Bern, from where the A6 motorway leads into the Bernese Oberland.

For motorcyclists, the majestic pass roads into the Bernese Oberland are a dream come true, like the Grimsel Pass, which is the link to the canton of Valais. In winter, however, most pass roads are closed due to weather conditions.

However, you can also use the train as a means of arrival and transport on site, as the Bernese Oberland is of course also served by a railway network. The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) offer interesting multi-day tickets, including the SwissPass, which not only gives you a cheaper train journey, but also reduced admission to partner companies, such as in some ski resorts and several mountain railways.

The best local means of transport to get to the Bernese Alps are the numerous mountain railways, cable cars and cogwheel trains, as well as the historic steam trains, which provide access to the entire Alpine region. With them you can also reach the Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Also of interest is the Bernese Oberland Regional Pass, which offers free travel on all buses, trains, excursion boats and 20 mountain railways throughout the entire Bernese Oberland holiday region, as well as discounts at all participating partner businesses. As the sights in the Bernese Oberland are close to each other, they are also easily accessible by bike.