My absolute favorite area in the Alps is the Bernese Oberland, and within the Oberland, my favorite village is Mürren. It’s hard to imagine Mürren could exist until you see it…a tiny, car-free village, perched on top of a huge cliff, surrounded by some of the most impressive mountains in the Alps. But there are many other travel destinations in the Bernese Oberland as well.
Grindelwald has unbelievable views of the Eiger North Face (a sheer, vertical cliff of 9000 feet), fine hotels, great hikes, and lots of panoramic lifts, although it suffers from a bit too much traffic along the main road. It was my first alpine love, and it’s still a great place.
Wengen is also very pretty, and is an hour by train from Mürren on the opposite side of the valley. Wengen has a few nice shops and good views of the Jungfrau and the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and is a great place to stay for people interested in the Jungfraujoch – Switzerland’s highest train station. It doesn’t have the variety of hiking trails that Mürren has, but it has more shopping options, is much closer to the Jungfraujoch line, and has a larger ski area for winter visitors.
Gimmelwald is tiny and charming and you should see it. Gimmelwald and Mürren are basically one town. All the hotels and shops are in Mürren, while Gimmelwald has a few simple B&Bs and farmhouses. Unless you’re a backpacker, you should base yourself in Mürren, which is more convenient and comfortable.
Kandersteg is sort of the forgotten village a couple valleys to the west. It’s small and beautiful. The mountains aren’t as grand, but they’re still very, very nice, and the nearby Oeschinensee gets serious consideration as world’s prettiest lake. They get a few British travelers and lots of international scouts (there’s a huge scout camp here), but strangely very few Americans, and if you’d like to be a little more off the beaten path, it’s a good choice.
Interlaken is OK for a night, but it’s more of a transportation hub and a place to buy souvenirs than the best local travel destination – I prefer to stay in one of the mountain villages mentioned above. It is a good place to book adventure activities such as paragliding (which is possible in all of these villages), rafting and canyoning, and it’s a good base for the off-season months of May, October, and November when uncertain weather makes mountain activities less ideal.
Grindelwald has long been known as the ‘glacier village’ thanks to the nearby glaciers that extend almost into the town. The glaciers may be receding, but the views are still out of this world.
My absolute favorite area in the Alps is the Bernese Oberland, and my favorite stop is Mürren, a car-free cliff-side village surrounded by fabulous scenery. The mountains simply don’t get any better!