The Jungfrau Region is a kind of triangle connecting three towns; Interlaken, Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. The Jungfrau itself is the tallest (4158 meters) mountain of the three iconic peaks dominating the skyline; the Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau. Meanwhile, the Berner Oberland is the alpine region of Kanton Bern where all the towns are located.
ALPSinsight is heavily focused on the Jungfrau Region, it’s our home, however some suggested itineraries are outside the immediate area as Interlaken itself is a superb basecamp for the Central Alps. The three towns are the primary areas in which visitors stay, deciding which one is best depends on what you want.
The appropriately named Interlaken truly sits between two huge alpine lakes, the Thunersee and Brienzersee (“see” is lake). Situated at the gateway of a valley leading straight into the Alps, Interlaken is 15-25 minutes from both Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald and has perfect views of the famous Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau. At 570 meters, Interlaken is lower in elevation than Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald, and it’s a larger town (pop. 6,000) with far more services and life.
Advantages / Disadvantages
The whole region is easily accessible from Interlaken, but you do have to drive or take the train to get deeper into the mountains. There is certainly fun to be had from Interlaken itself, but the vast majority of things to do are higher. The town is both bigger and more diverse as the lakes offer an completely different look and feel.
One of the true alpine hubs of the European Alps, the village of Grindelwald is known primarily for one thing, the Eiger. Dominating the view from town, the Eiger’s famous Nordwand (North Wall) rises nearly 3000 meters straight up. While the dark, icy wall commands much of the view, the surrounding landscape is laced with friendly trails. Meanwhile, immediately south of town are several easily accessible alpine valleys with astounding alpine scenery. Grindelwald is a place every mountain lover must visit.
Advantages / Disadvantages
To see the Eiger when you first wake up, or go to sleep, is a thing of beauty. Here, you are in the mountains with countless things to do right out the door. Grindelwald’s one drawback is that it is a victim of it’s own fame and can be very crowded, however once out of town, things get quiet pretty quickly.
Arguably the most beautiful valley in the Alps, Lauterbrunnen is like Yosemite Valley with glaciers hanging above. The valley floor is at 800 meters while the Jungfrau, directly above, is 4158 meters. A staggering 3358 meter (11,000 feet!) difference. The valley itself is long, narrow, and a dead end. Lauterbrunnen village, which sits at the entrance of the valley, has several small hotels and is typically full of young, outdoor loving travelers.
Advantages / Disadvantages
Lauterbrunnen seems to be more for the true mountain lover, or travelers seeking a getaway. The only disadvantage might be that if you are staying in Mürren, Gimmelwald, or Wengen you are a bit isolated, and it takes time to change areas as a tram and/or train is required to leave. There is also Stechelberg, in the back of the valley, a bit of a secret hideaway and in many ways, perfection…
The area around Interlaken is very diverse, and all superb. With the beautiful azure lakes, quick access to the big alpine passes, and even a short trip to the fairy tale like UNESCO Biosphere of Entlebuch – there is plenty to do.
Lauterbrunnen Valley is super mellow, and astoundingly beautiful. An enjoyable combination. Mürren sits on top of the cliffs to the right while the 4000 meter peaks rise straight up on the left.
On both rims of the Lauterbrunnen Valley sit three tiny villages with no auto access. Trains and/or trams must be taken to reach them. They are all true getaways, and place you directly in the Alps with countless trails right out your door. Wengen is situated such to provide huge views down into the chasm of Lauterbrunnen or up to the Jungfrau. It is the biggest of the three rim villages and famous as the finish line of the Lauberhorn Downhill World Cup Ski Race.
On the west side of Lauterbrunnen Valley, and with the full panorama of the Alps, sits Mürren. Everywhere you go in town the view serves as a reminder that you are in one of the Alps most dramatic landscapes. Reachable by either a tram then train ride, or tram direct, Murren is a place to settle into if you want a peaceful holiday.
Just below Mürren sits a much, much smaller version, accessible only by tram. Gimmelwald is what you picture when you imagine the Alps, it is truly the perfect Swiss village. Although tiny, there are several smaller lodging options. Made famous by Rick Steves many years ago when he called it one of his favorite places, Gimmelwald is always full of Americans.
High above Interlaken with big views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
So… where to stay?
The beauty of Interlaken is that you have all the options for each day of your visit, but you’ll have a 20 minute commute each day. Lauterbrunnen is for peace and quiet, while Grindelwald is for the Eiger and alpine access. In my opinion, the best thing to do is to either stay in Interlaken the whole time, or split your stay between Grindelwald and one of the Lauterbrunnen Valley villages.