Encompassing jagged Alpine peaks, over 800 lakes, dense forests of evergreen trees, and the chiming cowbells and rustic lodges of authentic towns and villages, the Bernese Oberland captures the best of the Swiss natural landscape and culture. A stay here as part of a rail touring holiday is suited to those who seek an active sports holiday spent climbing, hiking, kayaking, and windsurfing, as well as those looking for a relaxing opportunity to soak up the sublime panoramas from the terrace of a gourmet restaurant or from the edge of a pool.Nestled into the steep valleys dusted with rich green vegetation, are beautiful chocolate box villages that border the many serene lakes. Mystical grottos have been carved into the rock by centuries of melting and re-freezing ice. Twisting rivers and streams have etched out their pathways down the mountainsides, flowing tranquilly in places and turbulent in others. Some of our favourite places in the Bernese Oberland include: Interlaken, poised majestically on the thin stretch of land between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun; Wengen, a picturesque village clustered between sheer rock faces; and Grindelwald, a village overlooked by harsh snowy peaks, the famous Jungfrau, and the Gletscherschucht glacial gorge.
As a place of incredible natural beauty and the birthplace of skiing, the Bernese Oberland is a destination with a host of possibility for active and cultural activity. Essential to any visit to this region is the Jungfraujoch glacier, known as the Top of Europe, accessible via the narrow cog railway (Jungfraubahnen) up to the Jungfraujoch train station, standing at 3,454m above sea level. The Peak Walk suspension bridge, crossing between two peaks above Glacier 3000, reaches a thrilling 107m long and affords walkers magnificent views of the Matterhorn, the Mont Blanc Massif, the Eiger, the Monch, and Jungfrau. We also recommend visiting the area around Grindelwald, from which it is easiest to board a rail trip to Jungfraujoch, to see the Aletsch Glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, and begin a hike or mountain walk through the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The adventure sports centre of Interlaken is perfect for lake swimming, boat cruises, hiking, biking, horse-riding, and water sports. One of the area’s quirkier landmarks is the Big Pintenfritz, Europe’s longest toboggan run, reaching 15km in length and descending a total of 1,631m. Festivals and culture in the Bernese OberlandThe festivals and celebrations in the Bernese Oberland tend to revolve around the prominence of winter sports, such as the AUDI FIS Ski World Cup in Adelboden and the International Lauberhorn ski races in January; yet, during the summer and autumn months, there are many more that celebrate Swiss culture and tradition. Unique in the winter months, however, is the Belle Epoque week in Kandersteg, when the Belle Epoque era is embodied in a series of sporting and social events. In July and August, the Lake Thun Festival brings the peaceful lakeside alive with musicals and productions from all over the continent. In October, the AlpKultur Festival in Lenk im Simmental pays homage to all aspects of the region’s traditions for a period of two weeks, with an Alpine festival, Hornussen tournaments (a type of Swiss ball game), and a range of interactive workshops. Gastronomy in the Bernese OberlandLike much of Switzerland, cheese makes up a large part of the regional food production. The Diemtigtal, in the west of the Bernese Oberland, is the largest Alpine cheese-making area in Switzerland, and so is the optimum place to visit an authentic mountain dairy. Many farms will serve breakfast or lunch alongside a cheese-tasting, or allow visitors to watch the cheese as it is made. The organic dairy on the Schwarzenberg Alp in the Wiriehorn area is one such as this. The AlpKultur Festival in Lenk in Simmental offers visitors the opportunity to briefly live life as a mountain farmer: helping with milking, cheese-making, looking after the animals, visiting farmsteads, and sleeping in the Alps. Travel arrangementsDue to the excellent rail service available in Switzerland, we always recommend navigating your tour, while in the country, by rail. Trains are known for being punctual and comfortable, and offer an excellent way of viewing the sublime scenery as you pass. Many of the most picturesque villages and towns in Switzerland are also traffic-free, or have complex, winding roads as their only access-point by car; yet, you will find they almost unfailingly have a rail station. Many iconic rail journeys allow travel from the UK direct through France into Switzerland, which we have always found adds a new dimension to your trip; however, flights from the UK into Geneva or Zurich are also regular, providing a quicker alternative for those who would like to spend their entire trip in Switzerland. From the Bernese Oberland, you are well placed to continue your tour into Saanenland, towards Bern, towards Lake Lucerne, or down into Ticino.
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