“If Heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald.”
It’s an old folk saying, but whoever said it first just might be onto something.
It is easy to see why so many people consider Gimmelwald and the surrounding Lauterbrunnen areas heaven on Earth. If you are heading to the area, come back next Tuesday to find more on:
Lauterbrunnen: What to do and where to camp
Grindelwald: Near the top of the world! (NOT to be confused with Gimmelwald)
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I often complain about my home-state of Nebraska. While I love Omaha, there just really isn’t that much else in the Good Life state. Well, there is plenty of corn and open space. However, I have decided that even though I absolutely hate that you can drive for 8 hours and still be in corn fields, it really does make you appreciate other landscapes and geographical features so much more since we so badly lack them there.
I often wonder what people from places like Colorado or Florida think of their mountains and beaches. I am sure it is like anything else in life, once you get used to it, you think nothing of it and eventually take it for granted.
For me, going to the Lauterbrunnen area of the Swiss Alps is simply breath taking…literally.
Sometimes, while hiking I use the excuses of
“Oh, I’m just going to stop here and take a few pictures” or
“Can we just sit here and enjoy this scenery?”
When actually that is code for
“Holy crap, I am exhausted from just climbing up that mountain, can I please just sit on this rock for five minutes!?”
But in all seriousness, I really could just sit and look out at the jagged, snow covered peaks all day and not get tired of that view.
Which Side of the Valley To Go To
We went to the Lauterbrunnen valley several years ago and I fell in love. Essentially, there is a flat valley and on either side are your picture perfect Swiss Alps. Both sides are great, beautiful and breathtaking. However, I absolutely LOVE the Gimmelwald side. Regardless, whichever one you go to, you won’t be disappointed.
About Gimmelwald and Murren
Gimmelwald and Murren (the next little hamlet over from Gimmelwald) is on the Western side of the valley. You can only access the villages via cable car or by hiking. Personally, I love to take the cable car up, saving my energy for the spectacular views, hikes and walks higher up in the mountains!
From this side of the valley, you can peer out over the steep canyon and upon the Eiger, Monch and Junfrau mountains, three of the most iconic and stunning peaks of the Swiss Alps. This is one of the reasons why I like being on the Gimmelwald side. While hiking those mountains is great (and beautiful) there is just something about being able to gaze upon them with every step of your walk or hike.
How to Get to Gimmewald and Murren
If you have a car, this is the easiest way of getting to the Lauterbrunnen valley. You will then go to the Stechelberg Gondola (just type in Stechelberg into your GPS, the town is so tiny that once you get there, just follow the signs to the cable car)
Note: You do have to pay for parking at the cable car. Parking in the lot is significantly cheaper than the garage and plenty safe
2nd Note: To drive in Switzerland, you will need the year-long Vignette. This is quite pricey coming in at around $40! This is good for a calendar year (not a year from when you purchase). You can purchase it at any gas station as you enter the country.
1) Interlaken Ost-Lauterbrunnen train: This train is a two- parter, so be extremely careful to get on the first half to Lauterbrunnen (the other half would take you to the other side of the Valley- Grindelwald). However, they are marked well, so just be mindful of which car to hop on.
2) Take the bus from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg: Right off to your right, you’ll find a small bus stop. There is only one bus that runs there and Stechelberg is the last stop, so it’s super easy and drops you off right at the station
3) Take the Cable Car Up to Gimmelwald
OR if you want to go to Murren
– At the Lauterbrunnen station, go across from the train station to the Grütschalp cable car. At Grütschalp, you’ll get off and then get on the railway car that will take you directly to to Murren
Tip: The best views on the railway car to Murren are on the left side of the train!
The cable car rides aren’t exactly cheap. This is why we personally like to take the gondola only up (half price) and then hike it back down. It is a very relatively easy hike down (only a little over an hour) and, again, beautiful the whole way! For current pricing, time-tables, etc. check out the official site HERE http://www.jungfrau.ch/en/winter/tourism/travel-information/tickets-rates/interlaken-ost/fares-for-individual-travellers/
Depending on your travels, consider and look into the Swiss Pass as it gets you a discount on several mountain railways and cable cars. This is especially good if traveling with a family and not wanting to hike as much but still want to get up into the Alpines and peaks for the spectacular views. If there are residents at the location, the journey should be covered by the pass. Therefore, Stechelberg to Gimmelwald would be covered on the Swiss Pass, but not all the way up to the Schiltorn.
Hikes (and walks) To Take
There are countless hikes and walks you can take from Gimmelwald or Murren. When you are at the cable car station, ask for any hiking maps they might have. Alternatively, you can stop in to just about any hotel or the hostel in Gimmelwald and ask for one as well. You can mix and match walks and hikes to meet your ability level and time constraints. Despite being high in the Swiss Alps, you have the ability to choose from a variety of ability levels.
Everything is EXTREMELY well marked. Not only are the trails well maintained, but there are frequent signs stating where paths veer off to, how much time it takes, etc. So, even for the map-impaired people like me, it is still easy to make your way around. Alternatively, there are often stones and trees marked letting you know you are on the right path.
- Gimmelwald to Murren: Even with youngins’ the 40 minute walk between Gimmelwald and Murren is STUNNING and easy to do. It is all paved and relatively flat.
- Gimmelwald to Schiltorn:
- Some people choose to take the cable cars all the way to the Schiltorn (one of the highest mountains in Switzerland) and yes….the set for one of the James Bond movies. For more information on the Schiltorn, the cable car times and more, check out their official site http://schilthorn.ch/en/Welcome
- Others choose to hike because this path is absolutely breathtaking (both for the sites and for the strenuous hiking!) Again, you can do this hike with basically no hiking experience if the paths are clear of snow (which they should be in the summer, until the very top at least). If you can walk for a long period of time, you can do most of this hike. It’s a great workout, but just go at your own pace, take it slow when you need to and just enjoy the serenity of the world around you! However, as you get higher, it will become more difficult. Unfortunately for us, on our first trip with no real hiking gear or experience (yup…I just had tennis shoes!), we didn’t realize that year-round there could still be snow on the last leg. Therefore we ALMOST made it to the top but stopped at the snowline instead. Regardless, it was one of our best and most beautiful days of hiking
- Time: It could take up to 5 hours just to reach the top. You can take the cable car back down for the crazy high price of almost $50 per person or walk back. Therefore, plan your time accordingly and have plenty of food, water and good clothing.
Do you have a hiker in your life? I LOVED these 100 gifts to give any hiker.
- Gimmelwald to Oberhornsee: This is an extremely difficult hike, especially from the start. So, I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you are more in shape. However, your hard work is rewarded with views that could have came straight from a post card.
- Time: This hike could easily take 7 hours (round trip) so again, plan accordingly.
- Gimmelwald to Allmendhubel: Don’t want to “hike”? This walk is the perfect alternative and is great for families. You don’t get much higher than the tree line, so it is still pretty easy, but with fields and views to impress everyone in your clan. Continue onto Winteregg to extend the walk a bit more, where you can grab a bite to eat, a refreshing drink to sip on and views that could keep you there all day!
- Take Bits and Pieces of the Above Hikes: Most of the hikes start out really simple. So you don’t want to do a 10 hour hike? Most people don’t! But don’t skip out on the beautiful views because of the time suggestion on the map. Instead, just go for as long as you want and turn around when you are ready to head back or when it gets too difficult. Even on the same paths, you somehow see the same things but from an amazingly different view!
For more hikes and walks for all ability levels, check out this great site with in-depth descriptions of hikes on where to go and what to see from Gimmelwald. Some are as short as an hour and extremely walk-able and easy and others can last all day and be quite strenuous.
Where To Stay
Personally, if I am going to spend the money to take the cable car up, I am going to try to stay a few days and make the most of it!
If heading to Gimmelwald, there are only a few lodging options, but the cheapest is the Mountain Hostel. For just the two of us, this has been a great option. The owners are extremely friendly and helpful and the crowd not rowdy and loud! This can book up fast as they have limited rooms, so plan accordingly. Your other options are limited with Esther’s Guesthouse, Pension Gimmelwald and Hotel Mittaghorn. These hotels come with a higher price tag, but if you are with a family, it might be your better option.
- You can grab grub to eat at any of these places as well.
If you are in Murren, you have a lot more choices of where to stay as well a grocery store option. Since I have personally never spent the night in Murren, I won’t give a particular recommendation, so just check out TripAdvisor’s Murren Page to narrow down your preferences.
Since living in Europe, we’ve been back to the Gimmelwald and Murren area multiple times; something I typically don’t do, as there are always more places to explore in the world!
However, there is just something about the tranquility, peacefulness and allure that this area has. We’ve hiked in many mountainous areas since, but nothing can compare. From hearing the clanging of cow bells in the distance (and nibbling on fresh Alp Cheese!) to the views that you can’t get anywhere else in the world,
I agree with whoever said that “If Heaven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, take me to Gimmelwald”
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