Although Zurich was my base during a recent stay in Switzerland, the efficient, clean and relatively cheap train services operating around the country made it impossible to pass up the opportunity to take a day trip to go hiking in Interlaken.
Hiking in Interlaken
Interlaken has long been known as the adventure capital of Europe. It offers the perfect combination of breathtaking scenery coupled with an outdoor playground for the adventurous.
From bungy jumping to paragliding, hang gliding, sky diving, canyoning, water sports, skiing, snowshoeing and ice climbing there are any numbers of ways you can get to know the mountains around Interlaken, from the ground, the water or the air.
Hiking in Interlaken is suitable for everyone from the novice to the professional with Interlaken hiking trails and those above offering an appealingly broad range of difficulty for all.
This makes it a popular destination for backpackers, solo travellers and active families alike. I was also pleasantly surprised at the number of healthy older people strolling the streets with alpine poles in hand ready to tackle the terrain.
Interlaken (568 metres above sea level) has been an international resort town for over 200 years. It was a festival, the Unspunnenfest that brought crowds to the town initially. Beginning in 1805 (and continuing to this day), the festival began during a time of unrest as a way of unifying people from the town and the countryside.
Interlaken’s fresh mountain air, natural beauty, a broad offering of hotels and reliable transportation have ensured its growth from those early days to what is now an attractive resort destination for both Swiss and international visitors.
How to Travel From Zurich to Interlaken
Taking the train from Zurich to Interlaken takes about 2.5 hours with trains leaving throughout the day. Only 48 hrs before I travelled I picked up a return journey between Zurich HB and Interlaken Ost for only CHF 50 (About $AUD71).
The Supersaver tickets for the train to and from Zurich are not refundable and you can’t change the times, so don’t miss the train.
Related: Things to do in Ghent, Belgium
When it comes to Interlaken hikes, Harder Kulm should be top of your list and is widely considered one of the best hikes in Interlaken for the magical views it delivers on the ascent right to the top.
There are two options when making the first part of the journey up to Harder Kulm. For about 15 CHF ($AUD21) each way, the cable car will carry you up there in about 10 minutes or you can hike up in about 2.5 hours.
It’s important to note, the Harder Kulm hike is steep. It’s a dirt track and not level underfoot for most, if not all of the trek, so make sure you are confident that you are fit and healthy enough for the challenging terrain.
If you do have the time and energy to do the hike you will be rewarded. It is without a doubt one of the best hikes I have ever done. The view that awaits you is nothing short of spectacular. At 1,322 metres above sea level, the viewing platform at Harder Kulm hangs over the cliff, enhancing the whole experience.
If you are fit and enjoy a challenge, then you really need to continue onwards and head in the direction of Roteflue. This part of this Interlaken hike takes you through wooded forests along the top ridgeline with spectacular views both north and south.
Remember there are no 7-Elevens along this track so please take water and food with you as your last opportunity to get supplies is at the Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant.
The hike from Interlaken to Harder Kulm, on to Roteflue and then back to Interlaken (with a short break to snap some photos and drink a little water ) took me five hours in total.
Related: 5 of the Best Hikes in Norway
If you can plan on staying at overnight in Interlaken then the journey to the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest-altitude railway station (3,454 metres above sea level), is a must.
You may not know its name, but you have no doubt seen a postcard or Instagram picture from Jungfraujoch before. People enjoying a meal or drinks above the clouds is a typical scene at this bucket list spot.
Visitors can take advantage of the viewing platforms on the Aletsch Glacier or in the Ice Palace and see the high alpine wonderland of ice, snow and rock formations. On a clear day, you will be able to see from the Vosges Mountains to the Black Forest.
Tips for Interlaken Hiking
- Remember to pack water, food and any medicine you may need for your hike. There is also a comprehensive checklist here.
- The information desk at Interlaken Ost station will be able to give you maps, directions and the length of time you should allow for each hike, but its always smart to prepare for additional time, just in case. There are a number of tracks with GPS. You can find them here.
- If you can, stay for longer than a day. I wish I had more time to explore further.
- Travelling on to Basel? Try these hotels.
Related: Five of the Best Hikes Near Wanaka New Zealand
Andrew Mates is Skye’s husband and favourite travel partner.
When he’s not travelling the globe with The Fit Traveller, he spends his time on the road as a corporate traveller for a large multinational.
Andrew is equally at home at a 5-star hotel, a yoga mat or trying a new craft beer and chatting to locals at a country pub.