WILDTHG TRAVEL

A Perfect Hiking Itinerary for the Alpine Loop Hike from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren and Gimmelwald

by , on
Nov 21, 2018

Ringed by 72 waterfalls and luscious, rolling green hills, Lauterbrunnen is a spectacularly beautiful place – not only renowned in Switzerland (and understandably, becoming more popular amongst global tourists) – but in the entire world. If you love the outdoors and want to get a bird’s eye perspective on this beautiful valley, there is no better way to acquaint yourself with the area than setting off for a gorgeous hike. Here I aim to provide you with a near-perfect itinerary to get you started on your journey.

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Early morning in sleepy Lauterbrunnen

In order to plan my hike, I modified this helpful hiking guide. There are many ways you could choose to walk, including starting at the other end of the valley and doing the complete opposite itinerary from what I will lay out. Based on weather, timing and overall experience, I’ve narrowed it down to something doable and enjoyable.

As the link summarizes, this hike can last 2-8 hours, depending on variation. An important thing to also factor in is how long and often you plan on pausing to take photos, picnic, enjoy the views, etc. As with all of my hikes, I did quite a bit of all the above.

While you can complete nearly if not all of this specific route by mechanized means, I only used them a few times; primarily to save time for when the hiking would really count and not waste time walking across less scenic areas. If you plan on moving fast or want more exercise or don’t feel challenged enough, just know that in the following plan, anywhere that I have taken a cable car or bus can be done on foot. My itinerary takes one from Lauterbrunnen Station up to Grütschalp, over Allmendhubel and down to the village of Mürren (part of the hike where I spent the majority of time), then down again to Gimmelwald and back across the valley to Lauterbrunnen.

Prep & Info

Adventurer’s paradise – Jungfrau Region

  • Cable car and bus schedules, maps: You can find a schedule of when cable cars run on a small pamphlet, available at the station or likely in most hotels, or the tourist info center. Likewise, a helpful map of the Jungfrau region, complete with hiking and cable car paths so you can visually connect the villages you’ll be visiting.
  • Dress for hiking: the trails above Lauterbrunnen to Mürren, Gimmelwald and around this area are not particularly difficult, but the uphill can be strenuous, especially if you take no pauses. As with any hike, wear comfortable clothing and good sturdy shoes/boots. I did this hike in the early autumn with still lovely weather, so did not cope with any snow or heavy weather conditions.

My Lauterbrunnen Loop Hike Itinerary

1. Cable car from Lauterbrunnen Station to Grütschalp

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View from the cable car to Grütschalp

You can purchase a cable car ticket at Lauterbrunnen Station and discounts are possible with a Swiss Rail GA Pass or 1/2 fare card. There are cars every 10-20 minutes, so you don’t have to plan too precisely. The ride up to Grütschalp only takes about 5 minutes and gives a gorgeous view over Lauterbrunnen valley (at least it would, if the world wasn’t completely socked in with fog like it was when I took this ride). Pro tip: get on very first or last to be near a window, the window facing out over Lauterbrunnen valley (on the left in direction of travel) is obviously best. Have your phone/camera ready for pictures and videos, some of these rides are even better than drone footage!

2. Hike from Grütschalp up and over Allmendhubel, down to Mürren

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There is a short and straightforward path easily visible from the Grütschalp train station that leads to Mürren in 45 min – 1 hour, so obviously I chose not to take this path. Instead, once you walk down the path a very short way, there will be a steep gravel and dirt natural path heading clearly and obviously uphill rather than onwards – take this. There are yellow signs at various crossing points pointing towards villages like Mürren; often there are multiple, up to three or four, different paths that lead to the same place, depending simply on the duration and type of hike you are looking for. Follow signs always to Mürren but using up as your guide.

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views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau en route to Mürren

If you have Google Maps, you can also simply walk directly towards the sign for Allmendhubel, which is the (“large hill” if you are from mountains; “mountain” if you are Dutch) that you will crest before descending to Mürren. This hike took me somewhere around 4+hours because I stopped constantly to take photos and admire the views – once the fog cleared. This leg of the hike takes you past beautiful grassy hillside meadows with wildflowers (a few were still left in October!), unique rock formations, and along nearly the entire way, breathtaking views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountain peaks – I mean WOW. Perhaps about halfway up the fog had finally cleared to reveal these three impressive mountains, and so we stopped near a very rocky area – you’ll know the place when you see it – for a picnic and to enjoy the views. Another way to recognize this spot is by the many rock cairns that hikers have built all over; Norwegian Rock Stacking pros welcome!

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Autumn alpine wildflowers

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strategically-placed benches to pause and enjoy spectacular views

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the only sounds in these hills are those of birds, cow bells and the alpine air stirring the grass and flowers

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surrounded by cute villages and happy cows

3. Descend to Mürren

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Amazing views at the end of an already magical hike

You will know you are nearly at the top of Allmendhubel when you start seeing lots of ski lifts and a little mini bridge, then a steep gravel hill. Turn left down towards Mürren. Now you will walk past smatterings of small country houses down in green valleys – passing a few of these, I always thought for a brief moment that any of these mountain villages could be Mürren, but be patient. You will see lots of happy cows and as you walk along the winding trail, enjoy the stunning alpine backdrop to the pleasant jingling of cowbells and the crisp mountain air. This section of the hike was probably my absolute favorite because by then, the fog had completely cleared, the sun was out, and clear blue sky illuminated the alps. The descent to Mürren should take about an hour max and again, towards the bottom when you begin to see Mürren (fantastic photo op), there are multiple paths you can choose from to extend this leg of your hike.

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overlooking Mürren after a long morning hike – one of my favorite views to date

4. Break in Mürren

Walking down through Mürren from above, it seemed like the whole village was deserted and very ghost-town style, the only sound to be heard was still cowbells. Finally after passing ski lodges and quiet houses, we came into the main downtown area, where the street was bustling with (mostly tourists). Little restaurants are open for lunch and coffee and there are a few souvenir shops. We simply grabbed a beer at the COOP and sat on a section of sidewalk right in the sun, and observed passerby while enjoying the pleasant ambiance of the village.

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Mürren village has everything you need for a pit stop – there are restaurants, bars, a grocery store and some souvenir shops

5. Cable car down to Gimmelwald

Many people choose to continue their hike to Gimmelwald at least, but due to how much time we had spent up in the hills, it was nearing evening and we wanted to have enough time to experience everything still in daylight, so we chose mechanized means from here. From Mürren Station, cable cars run regularly to Gimmelwald and then onwards to Stechelberg, down on the valley floor. You can choose to buy a ticket just to Gimmelwald or all the way down.

6. Quick stop in Gimmelwald

If you aren’t able to hike down to Gimmelwald, it is nice at least to stop for a short break, even just between cable cars, to see the small village of Gimmelwald. Similar to Mürren but even a bit more quiet, Gimmelwald doesn’t have a lot to see, but is another lovely Swiss village tucked away in the hills.

7. Cable car down to Stechelberg

Pro tip: this is one of the most scenic cable car rides and you will get lovely views over Stechelberg and the valley – try again to get a spot near the window and have your camera ready! Stechelberg is your final village stop in this loop journey before returning to Lauterbrunnen; you can choose to move right through, stop for a drink and dinner, or visit some of the popular attractions nearby, namely several waterfalls like the famous Trummelbach Falls. When we arrived into Stechelberg, it was evening and getting dark, so we vetoed the waterfall exploration idea, as much as we wanted to see them. There was a small local market going on with booths selling meats, cheeses and trinkets, so it was fun just to stroll through this and check out how the locals live. The small green field right next to the station is also apparently a popular landing spot for paragliders, and so we were able to watch several land!

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from above, the most Swiss views ever 

8. Walk or Bus to Lauterbrunnen

Because it was nearly dark and I was feeling lazy, we took the bus; it would take 45 – 1 hour to walk back and in warm summer weather, it would probably be a lovely walk, also passing by a few waterfalls. If there is time, highly recommended. This gets you back to Lauterbrunnen in time for cocktail hour, some warm dinner, and a good night’s sleep.

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relax mode in Lauterbrunnen

This itinerary heavily prioritizes time spent on the upper side of Grütschalp, Allmendhubel and on the descent to Mürren; on this itinerary, the majority of your time is spent admiring the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, which in my view is not a bad way to spend a weekend! You can easily choose to hike the parts in between where I took cable cars and buses, or even make the hiking day shorter by taking a proper train between Grütschalp and Mürren! For those traveling with disabilities, injuries or simply not looking for a strenuous and time consuming journey, Mürren and the other villages are quite accessible.

I hope you enjoy exploring and hiking Lauterbrunnen as much as I did!

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Day Trip to Mount Rigi from Zürich – The Perfect Natural Escape

by , on
Oct 17, 2018

Feeling cooped up with city life, or simply craving some crisp mountain air? Mount Rigi is the perfect getaway that you can do in one day (or even just a morning/afternoon), and without any special planning or gear. Trains from Zürich HB leave every hour straight to Arth Goldau station, from where the Rigi train departs. Ride the tiny blue train for about 40 minutes uphill at a snail pace, taking in some truly gorgeous views on the way up.

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Idyllic houses overlooking picturesque valleys

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Swiss life is the good life

I decided on a whim to visit Mount Rigi one afternoon and took the 2:09PM train from Züruch HB, so I arrived at the end station (Rigi Kulm) just before 4PM. This gave me a few hours to walk around the small peak grassy area and take in the stunning panoramic views of the hills and lakes below, and alpine peaks in the background, before sunset around 6:30PM (in October).

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You can even choose your desired difficulty – “the steep” path or “the comfy path” of the route to the top (it’s really quite a short walk) 

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There always seems to be someone parasailing in Switzerland!!

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The views that greet you as soon as you reach the top of Rigi Kulm are breathtaking – this is just one angle!

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The perfect place to ponder the meaning of life

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note that Swiss sheep also wear bells – definitely adds to the ambiance up here

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View over magical valleys

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I could sit up here all day

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Can you imagine living here?!

At the top of Rigi Kulm there is a full restaurant that is part of a hotel and it seems to serve proper hot meals all day (it was closed by the time we went but again, it was close to 6PM) – but you can still buy sandwiches, chips, drinks and snacks. We sat on the outdoor patio built like a jetty to jut out over the hill with a beautiful view of the mountains and facing the setting sun.

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After having a snack, we made our way down past the wooden lounge chairs to the edge of the fence to witness the stunning golden glow of a magical sunset.

 

I took this opportunity to test out a few different DSLR settings, but because I struggle with technology, I think some of my iPhone pics might have turned out better – I’ll let you be the judge of that.

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Talk about location goals

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No photo could ever possibly capture the beauty of these colors

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The last rays of the setting sun were hot magenta pink – and magical clouds formed to the right and were illuminated bright pink then deep purple after the sun went down

The views from up here – and the sunset – are things I could never ever get sick of and it makes me think twice about city life. This is a perfect place to getaway from the hustle and bustle for a bit, even just for a few hours. Take your mind off things, breathe some fresh mountain air and let your soul drink in the beauty of this amazing planet. If you want to make it a longer trip, even for several days, there are several hotels in the area and plenty of daytime activities to keep you and your family busy!

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Golden hour at Mount Rigi

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A sky on fire 

There are several trains down for those of you that wish to catch the sunset (highly recommended if you’re already there during the afternoon!!!) I took the 7:00PM train, which sadly no longer connects directly to Arth Goldau, so the way back to Zürich HB involves two middle of nowhere bus connections and then a train, but as with all trips in Switzerland – my recommendation is to simply trust the SBB app to plan your trip, and make sure you have decent phone battery on the way down!

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Last glimpse of the molten-lava sun as it dipped beneath the skyline

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Gelmersee: the Lake Louise of Switzerland

by , on
Oct 9, 2018

Any chance you’ve recently drooled over pictures of Canada’s Banff National Park? For very good reason; the stunning turquoise of the glacial lakes, like Lake Louise, is enough to make me want to go right now. Well, I can interestingly say that I’ve found the lake’s European TWIN, in Switzerland! Let me convince you of the likeness with a couple (ok, a TON) of photos.

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Mid-morning at Gelmersee in October 

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IMG_1531.JPGGelmersee is a hydroelectric reservoir held by a dam that was constructed in 1932. The “lake” can be reached by taking the Gelmerbahn, a ride of duration 8-10 minutes with a maximum inclination of 106%! According to a map posted at the lake’s entrance, it can also be reached by foot via a hiking trail (in red, below). One can also continue hiking further upwards to reach the Gelmerhütte, a lookout point above the lake.

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Crisp autumn morning with touches of early snow

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The lake radiates a vibrant turquoise when the sunlight hits the water

Gelmersee is an excellent place for a quiet hike and to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of the glacial water. There is a hiking trail around the entire lake, which takes about two full hours to complete with some stops. If you plan to take 3489283 photos like I did or want extra time to sit and enjoy the views every once and a while, maybe have a picnic halfway on one of the large flat rocks that are perfect for sitting and relaxing, it would be best to allow several hours up at the lake. It is important to plan your visit ahead because there is limited space on the Gelmerbahn and tickets sell out, especially in summer and during nice weather. Read more here about how to plan your trip and riding the Gelmerbahn. 

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Starting the hike around Gelmersee – The trail is quite rocky in places and narrow in others (at one point, there is a rope to hang on to for extra balance and security), so it is recommended to bring sturdy walking/hiking shoes with good soles and be relatively sure-footed if you plan to do the whole hike. It is relatively flat, so not very strenuous.

For me, this little piece of the world is a slice of heaven on earth, and I could honestly happily stay here for hours and hours and hours, hiking around the lake again and again, staring into the turquoise water and pondering my existence… alas, I had only booked 2.5 hours at the top before our return trip on the Gelmerbahn, so we had to really make every minute count – which we did!!

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Is this place even real?! 

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Attempting – and failing – to do a nice little yoga pose (it seemed fitting)

Needless to say, Gelmersee has earned a permanent spot on my life’s repeat bucket list, if that’s even a thing (you know, those absolute favorite places you simply must visit, perhaps at least once a year or every few months even?!) The dream is to visit this place in summer – even though I doubt anyone dares to swim in the ice cold glacial waters, I could totally get involved with sunbathing and reading on a rock all day, minus a few layers.

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Tips for visiting Gelmersee: 

  • Plan your visit ahead, book tickets on the Gelmerbahn
  • Allow as much time as you need, depending on how much hiking, photos and picnicking you want to do
  • Bring camera, sturdy walking/hiking shoes, layers/rain gear just in case

Why Zürich is totally underrated

by , on
Oct 8, 2018

When I visited Zürich two years ago from my base in Germany, I can’t say I was all that impressed with the city. Perhaps it was the rainy, cold gloom that had descended across all of Europe at that time, or the fact that when we went bar and restaurant hunting in the rather quiet and old neighborhood we were staying in, we were greeted with a lot of “closed” signs.

Fast forward two years, when I am calling Zürich home for a few months… and I really only have good things to say about this city! I have been here for a few weeks now and this place is nothing short of lovely. Here are are few things that I have enjoyed most about Zürich, and reasons it should have a spot on your Eurotrip list.

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Swiss people are friendly. 

Whether you are stopping to ask directions or purchase a Laugenbrötchen from a local bakery, you will find that in general, Swiss people are cute, friendly and overall cuddly – interacting with them is pleasant and you may just want to adopt some of them as your temporary grandparents. As with many European cities, I would say the English level is generally strong, but if you know a few words of German (Hochdeutsch is fine!), they will love you for trying.

It is very Instagrammable.

AKA, the modern way of saying it is simply a gorgeous city with lots of very aesthetically pleasing spots. Photographers love it, but even if you aren’t part of the Instagram game and don’t care to be, there are numerous spots around the city to enjoy a cup of coffee, glass of wine or good book with an absolutely stunning view.

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Altstadt walking into downtown, Zürich

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Amazing view of Zürich from Grossmünster Church tower 

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Sunrise on Bahnhofstrasse, downtown

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Early morning architecture strolls

There is a lot of nature.

The fact that downtown Zürich wraps around Lake Zürich automatically gives this city a very unique outdoorsy and water-based vibe. I love being around water and for those of you that miss beaches, oceans, rivers and lakes terribly when living in/visiting cities, Lake Zürich provides the perfect remedy. Swiss people have a strong reputation for loving the outdoors, which is evident by just how packed the waterfront is every evening, really rain or shine – but especially during the long sunny summer days and golden autumn evenings. Nature in Zürich isn’t only limited to the lakeside – there are many green parks throughout the city where you can go for a jog, do some yoga, or again park yourself on a bench with your journal or a good book.

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There are tons of swans in Lake Zürich at all times – if you want to see them up close, it is easy to get a big gathering if you throw them bits of bread from the shore! 

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Boats docked at golden hour

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Evening walks along the waterfront are one of my favorite parts about living in Zürich

It is an easy walking city.

 

Even though the city is relatively well-connected by public transport including trams and buses, walking throughout the city and from place to place (even if you have somewhere to be) is both convenient and pleasant. I have simply walked from my home to the Central Station several times, even though it takes 30-45 minutes, simply because it is such a nice walk! Pedestrians always have the right away on crosswalks and drivers are cognizant and courteous to let you cross. When the weather is nice, tons of people have the same idea, and you see more people walking or on bikes than on public transport.

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The food is delicious. 

While Swiss food is excellent (hello?!, land of CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE!!!), there are so many options if you’re not into more traditional German-esque fare (think sausage, spätzle, bread, cheese, etc.). Zürich offers quite a range of international cuisines and there are many hip restaurants downtown and slightly on the outskirts that seem to be open on weekends (even Sundays) and late into the evening. Even casual restaurants serve mouth-watering food; aka, you don’t have to worry about going hungry in this city, and you will likely love what you eat – it comes at a price though, so be prepared to spend a little more than you likely would at home. Plus, there are COOP, Migros and Denner stores all over the place that sell lovely fresh fruits, veggies, fresh bread and healthy pre-made meals (salads, etc.), fresh bakeries everywhere, and most importantly, LINDT is the mainstream chocolate option… it only gets BETTER from there *drool*. Don’t plan to go on a diet when you visit Zürich.

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Fresh salad, Mamarita pizza & wine at STRIPPED PIZZA

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If you are a Joe & The Juice lover (like me), you’ll be happy to find several locations downtown Zürich! 

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Gruyere is life, but there are so many more options… a beautiful breakfast assortment of cheeses from the Alps

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There is a lot to do.

If you get tired of long walks by the lakeside (or if the weather prevents these), there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained during your time in Zürich. In my case, such activities revolve heavily around EATING, but there are many cultural and social things to keep you busy as well! Here are some favorite must-do’s:

  • Opera House/Theater – There are usually several shows going on throughout the season and if you are a culture-buff, you may enjoy catching one during your time in Zürich! See showtimes and book tickets here.
  • Take a boat ride on the Limmat – this website explains dates and times when you can take a cruise along the river and admire the buildings of the Altstadt, then continue onto the lake.
  • Relax your tired muscles in a thermal spa – Thermalbad & Spa Zürich (which was converted to a spa from an old brewery!) offers lovely hot baths and terrific views of the city; what else could we want?!
  • Go upwards for a bird’s eye view of Zürich – The most famous lookout spot for the best view of Zürich is the Felsenegg Peak, which can be reached by an equally aesthetic cable car ride. For great views of this beautiful city that don’t require as much of a trip or time commitment, you can simply climb to the top of Grossmünster Church (Karlsturm) (for 5 CHF per adult, 2 CHF for youth/children). The windows inside are also incredible (they are designed by German artist Sigmar Polke, who sliced semi-precious stones and put them together to form stunning stained glass-looking patterns) – unfortunately, photos are NOT allowed (and there is usually someone standing by to sternly remind unaware tourists of this rule), but the church sells postcards with beautiful professional photos of the windows for those interested. 
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    Views of Zürich from balconies atop Grossmünster Church

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    A fine sunny day in Zürich from Grossmünster tower

Have you been to Zürich? Let me know some of the reasons you enjoyed this city in the comments below!