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What pops into your head when you hear the magical word, SWITZERLAND?! Maybe you immediately picture giant white-topped mountain-scapes, men in lederhosen, or CHOCOLATE! If you grew up like me, you might think of the abominable snowman from the Disneyland ride, The Matterhorn.
Switzerland is known for so many amazing things, so when we decided to backpack Europe, we knew we had to explore what Switzerland had to offer. However, most of what we heard revolved around the big cities like Geneva and Zurich. Don’t get me wrong…those are great cities.
But if you ask me, the best Switzerland has to offer is hidden within the sheer cliffed mountains, and the sprawling valleys. Welcome to what might be our favorite place in all of Europe…welcome to the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
The moment you set your eyes on the grandeur of the valley, it will take your breath away! It is one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes I have seen in all my travels! It will blow you away.
The Lauterbrunnen Valley rests between towering mountaintops and massive rock faces within the Swiss Alps. The name itself--meaning “many fountains”--refers to the cascading waterfalls throughout the region--many of them up to 1,000 feet high! It exudes idyllic beauty that will feel entirely surreal.
Switzerland has incredible beauty and serenity all throughout its cities and mountain ranges. However, Lauterbrunnen Valley is known for being a little piece of paradise that is hard to beat.
Explore the Lauterbrunnen Valley
1. Unparalleled Beauty
From the snow-covered alps down to the lush green valley floor, the entire Lauterbrunnen Valley is bursting at the seams with the stunning beauty of nature in its finest form! There is simply too much beauty to behold!
You can soak in breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps from the valley floor or venture up to the mountain peaks and gaze across the vastness of the entire mountain range. I felt like I had to constantly push my jaw up because every view from every angle is awe-inspiring!
PRO Tip: The Lauterbrunnen Valley is a perfect place to stop for a couple days. You don’t need an entire week to appreciate it, but you could easily spend that much time exploring each hiking trail and cliff side village if you crave outdoor adventures and peaceful small towns.
As if that isn’t enough beauty, the flowing waterfalls diving off the edge of the rock faces is a site to behold! Each one displays its power and peacefulness as it falls down to the valley floor.
Supposedly, JRR Tolkein visited the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and it became his inspiration for the elven kingdom, Rivendell, in Lord of the Rings. If I had to create a kingdom that looked like paradise, I would definitely start with the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
2. Hiking Trails
This area is covered in hiking trails of every kind from high altitude to ground floor. You can hike up a peak, along the valley floor, or on the edge of the giant rock faces. There are hikes that take only an hour or two, and there are longer multi-hour (or even multi-day) hikes if you are more adventurous and ambitious.
If you are traveling with your children, there are plenty of hiking opportunities that don’t involve summiting a mountain top with over 3,000 feet of elevation change. Check out the Mürren Flower Trail for an easy family hike, or hike along the Mürren Mountainview Trail for incredible views.
Opt for a flat “hike” along the Lauterbrunnen Valley Trail that goes along the valley floor. Bo and I walked along this path one afternoon and it was delightful. The sun glistens down on you as you walk past the occasional cow just casually grazing on the grass beside you.
PRO Tip: Visit a local market before your hike. Grab some meat, cheese, fruit and pastries. Toss it all in your daypack. And set off for a lovely hike with a world class view picnic to top it off. (I take advantage of ANY opportunity to eat a fluffy, European croissant! And you should too!)
In this land of many fountains, there are 72 waterfalls to be explored! There is plenty of rushing water to gaze upon in almost any part of the valley.
Our end destination for our Lauterbrunnen Valley Trail hike was Trümmelbach Falls. These are no ordinary waterfalls! These falls consist of 10 glacier waterfalls coming from the melting nearby mountains that thunder through the INSIDE of the mountains. That's right--these giant falls are completely enclosed by a rock wall.
When I say thunder…I mean roaring, crazy freaking loud, THUNDER of crashing water! 20,000 liters of water per second smashing its way through the mountain interior. It’s one of the most powerful displays of nature I have ever seen!
You will pay about $12 per adult and $4 per child to get in, and it is totally worth it. It’s a unique experience to see these falls blasting their way through the mountain to freedom!
Staubbach Falls is a central landmark in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The water free falls from around 900ft above making it one of the highest in Europe. It tumbles down the rock face spraying a mist all around it, especially when the wind is blowing.
You will see these falls in almost every iconic picture of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, as it is hard to miss above the town of Lauterbrunnen. Stabach Falls display the essence of picturesque beauty that the valley is known for.
As you hike or travel through the valley, you will notice additional waterfalls plummeting down the cliffs on either side of the valley. Each one showcasing its own distinct beauty.
Visit the top of Europe, which is 3,454 meters high at Jungfrau. You will pay over $100, but you will get bragging rights for having been to the top of Europe and soaking in spectacular 360 degree views across the Swiss Alps.
PRO Tip: Make sure to bring a winter coat and/or additional layers of warm clothing. Getting that high up in altitude with the wind blowing snow and ice into your face will probably get chilly!
We weren’t able to visit Jungfrau, but we had a great view of Eiger, Mӧnch and Jungfrau from the summit of Schilthorn. It’s 2,970 meters high, so warm layers are highly recommended.
If you get too chilly outside on the skyline view platform, you can always cozy up inside their restaurant Piz Gloria. It rotates 360 degrees as you eat, so you can take in views of more than 200 mountain peaks in every direction.
They also have warm drinks and quick take away food available inside. You’ll have plenty of options to warm up while looking out at the powdered covered mountains.
Bring your camera, even though photos won’t ever do it justice. The vastness and detailed depth of the alps is near impossible to capture. That kind of beauty simply can’t be contained in a lens. BUT…you will want to have pictures that at least attempt to capture the beauty!
People kept asking if our pictures were photoshopped…nope, this place is really just that CRAZY beautiful!
5. Tranquil Towns
The small town of Mürren is perched up on the side of a SHEER CLIFF in the mountains of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. I'm talking over 2,500 ft straight down from where Mürren is perched.
Better yet, there are no cars in Mürren. As a matter of fact, you can’t even drive there if you wanted to. It is only accessible by cable car.
We spent two nights at the Eiger Guesthouse in Mürren. It was such a delightful stay. The guesthouse has 12 rooms, and it was clean and quaint. I would highly recommend it!
The best part of our room was the stunning view out our windows. Waking up to the white-capped alps and grandeur of the rock faces was such a treat! It was like waking up in a magical land every morning.
The ground floor is a little pub, so you can enjoy a pint at the end of your day before settling down in your room. They also have a restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner. You could sit inside, or outside on the terrace to enjoy more mountain views.
The Swiss are known for their cheeses--and for good reason. We enjoyed a delicious and filling cheese fondue at Panorama-Restaurant Alpina.
Like every other square inch of this town, we sat against big windows that gave us a full view of the mountains around us. It was incredible to have this spectacular view and watch the clouds roll in over the mountain tops as the evening progressed.
One day, we ventured down the mountain to Interlaken. This is where the main train station that we came through to get to the Lauterbrunnen Valley is located. It’s a cute town to explore in an afternoon.
Interlaken is located between two lakes (Lake Brienz and Lake Thun) that have the purest teal color. You would think this water was imported from the Carribean. But nope, it’s just pure crystal clear (freezing) glacier runoff.
You can shop around town, have a picnic by the lake, or get out on the water in a kayak if you like. There are a number of restaurants and cafes along the water to enjoy dinner with a view.
PRO Tip: Many people in the region speak English, so it was fairly easy for us to find someone to communicate with.
We were going to walk around the town and maybe sit out on the patio at a restaurant or cafe for a while…but…pouring rain ran us out of town and back to Murren. Dodging raindrops and running from one covering to the next became quite the fun memory though!
Getting From Town to Town
There are a number of towns to explore. Lauterbrunnen itself where Staubbach Falls are gracefully free-falling down the mountain backdrop of the town. You can also check out two other car free towns--Wengen and Gimmelwald, which are also incredible ski towns in the winter.
We went in the summer, so we did not get to enjoy the world class skiing. But most of the tiny villages that adorn the cliff sides of the valley are ski towns. Because of this, a lot of these villages are rather empty during the summer, making it even more of a tranquil paradise.
Although all of these towns are nestled in between or up on the edges of mountains, they all have accessible transportation. You can get around the towns mostly by train or cable car. You just need to do a little research before you go to determine which method of transportation is best (or available) for where you are going around the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
PRO Tip: Be prepared to buy several train and cable car tickets to get to most places and separate tickets for viewing certain mountain peaks or waterfalls. After a couple transfers, you’ll realize it’s quite easy to get around.
6. Epic Adventures
If adventure is what you are into, you have come to the right place. The Lauterbrunnen Valley is known all across the world for its rock climbing, paragliding, and base jumping…all perfectly legal in Switzerland.
Bo and I went paragliding here for the first time ever! What better location to soar through the air than among the Swiss Alps?!
Airtime Paragliding was an outstanding company to work with. Their instructors can ease any nerves that you may have with their extensive knowledge and friendly demeanor, while also making you laugh and have a total blast on your glide! Bo even got to steer his glider for a bit!
The actual act of paragliding is so relaxing and fun at the same time. It instantly became one of our favorite adventures together!
I highly recommend opting for the package that includes pictures AND video of your 15-20 minute glide. The absolute BEST VIEW of the alps and the entire valley is from the air! You want to capture every little bit you possibly can.
The only downside--I don’t know if we can ever paraglide again because the scenery was so incredible! I don’t think anywhere else could ever measure up. Maybe someday over a lovely lagoon or coastline…
Paragliding isn’t the only way that people in Switzerland are flying through the air. We watched some people base jumping off the edge of the mountain in their wingsuits. They literally look like flying squirrels soaring through the air.
Watch and stand in awe…or terror. I was wincing and holding my breath a few times, but they all managed to land safely. Wingsuit flying is a bit too life-threatening for me, so I’ll stick with paragliding.
Visit the Lauterbrunnen Valley
Backpacking through Europe was an amazing adventure. We went to giant cities, visited structures built thousands of years ago, and ate really, really well! It was fast paced, but we loved every minute of it.
However, the minute we stepped into the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Everything slowed down. You can't help but just stop…everywhere you go…you just stop.
Stop to look at the waterfalls. Each one looks like it falls in slow motion.
Stop to just watch as the cows slowly go about their day. They don’t have a care in the world.
Stop to breathe in the fresh air outside. There is beauty all around you.
If you need a place to slow down and enjoy everything nature has to offer, forget the beach, the Lauterbrunnen Valley is Worth Every Trip!