The Schilthorn: Switzerland’s best day trip

Switzerland has many classic rail journeys, but this trip uses several means of transportation that is a traveler's delight filled with breathtaking vistas. Photo: The Lauterbrunnen Valley (Photo: Swiss Tourism)

CHARLOTTESeptember 8, 2012 — Not only does the outing to the Schilthorn emphasize the versatility of the Swiss transportation network, it also incorporates several means of travel.  It may just be the best day trip in the country. Best of all, except for the one short segment, a Swiss rail pass is accepted along the entire route.

A valley of waterfalls (Photo: Swiss Tourism)

Begin in Interlaken by taking the BOB (Bernese Oberland Bahn) to the village of Lauterbrunnen about 25-minutes down the line. It’s a good idea to go early, especially during high season, because the BOB is the same train used by travelers going to the Jungfrau Also, an early start promises more sightseeing time during the journey.

Lauterbrunnen is the gateway to a valley of the same name. The narrow, hanging canyon is one the deepest in the Alps, forming stunning perpendicular outcroppings of rock that create seemingly endless waterfalls.

Depart the train at Lauterbrunnen Station for a short walk to a cable car across the street.  James Bond fans may recognize the area from the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  Bond went to the next level of the journey by horse-drawn sled, but a funicular was the usual mode of transportation at the time.  Today, the aerial tramway has replaced the funicular which scales a vertical forested wall to arrive at a narrow-gauge railway.

Skimming along the mountain ledge toward Murren, the miniature train eases past a curtain of tree-lined inclines on one side and open expanses of verdant plateau on the other.  

View from the Schilthorn (Photo: Swiss Tourism)

It’s not uncommon to slow or stop along the way for a stray cow or sheep to make its way across the tracks.

At an altitude of nearly 5,500 feet, Murren is not accessible to the public by road.  With no automobile traffic in the village, walk through town to reach the next portion of the adventure.  The stroll is relatively level, and there are plenty of places en route to rest and have something to eat or drink.

Along the way, there are fabulous mountain views of the Jungfrau, the Monch and the Eiger.  In addition, the majestic, precipitous geography of Murren has breathtaking alpine scenery of its own.

At the opposite end of the village the elevation to the Schilthorn and the Piz Gloria increases to nearly 10,000 feet.  Swiss Rail Pass travelers receive a 50% discount for the 30-minute the cable car to the top, and this is the only part of the journey that requires an additional fee.

Piz Gloria, the panoramic, 360-degree revolving restaurant at the crest of the Schilthorn, was used as a set in the 1969 James Bond adventure.  When weather conditions are good, there is no better top-of-the-world sensation than the span of mountaintops that chisel the sky around the Schilthorn.  Unfortunately, there is no way to predict the weather based upon conditions below in either Murren or Interlaken.

Piz Gloria, 007 mountain (Photo: Swiss Tourism)

The snail-paced rotation of the restaurant can be disconcerting at first, but when outside elements are less than ideal, it’s a great refuge to savor a bite to eat or a warm drink.  Bond fans will enjoy the number “007” on the windows that pay tribute to the British secret agent.

To enjoy the Schilthorn trip to the fullest, take a different route for the return.  After the descent to Murren, another cable car floats gracefully over a dramatic cliff to the village of Stechelberg.  At times, when scattered, low hanging clouds hover through the valley, the sensation could almost be described as riding down from heaven.

Shortly after passing over the edge of the plateau, Staubbach Falls, the highest waterfall in Switzerland, unveils itself in all its cascading beauty.  For the next 1,000 feet, the descent follows the torrents of water and spray down the mountainside before they disappear into a rushing stream  below.

At Stechelberg more than 70 waterfalls await your viewing pleasure.  It’s a bold new dimension in aquatic art which is especially breathtaking if you are lucky enough to ride through the valley following a heavy rain.

Lauterbrunnen Falls (Photo: Swiss Tourism)

From Stechelberg, postal bus service, which also included with a rail pass, will take you back to Lauterbrunnen.  Just follow the rainbows as Mother Nature works her omnipotent magic throughout the valley.

The BOB train awaits in Lauterbrunnen for the return trip to Interlaken.  As the afternoon yields to a glowing the sun that caresses the mountaintops, travelers staying in Interlaken, or someplace nearby, may choose to complete the adventure with a cruise around the Lake of Brienz.

Visitors from Bern can opt for a different boat along the Lake of Thun from the village of Spiez.  Go to the rear of the ship and watch the sun set over the now distant mountains you traversed just a short time earlier.

Get off the boat at Thun for a short train ride back to Bern and the junket is complete.  It’s a traveler’s dream.  

Cruising the Lake of Brienz (Photo: Swiss Tourism)

Trains, cable cars, buses and boats all combined with breathtaking panoramas that have been conveniently packaged into a single, pocket-sized rail pass. 

Swiss Rail Pass holders also receive free admission to more than 400 museums throughout Switzerland.  The Swiss Travel System is a masterpiece of transportation technology.  For the traveler, it translates to comfort, convenience and independence.

Regardless of your level of travel, be it novice or veteran, the Swiss Travel System is truly a “moving” experience.

______________________________________________

 Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. Taylor is a veteran traveler with more than three decades in the tourism industry. Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com 


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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