Heart of Switzerland: Alpine Hiking and Adventure

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While hiking in Switzerland, we visit the car-free village of Bettmeralp.
Twilight in the car-free village of Bettmeralp. Photo by Ann Yungmeyer

Getting Around in Switzerland

Spectacular mountain settings that are accessible by cog rail, funicular or aerial tram are a hallmark of the Swiss outdoor culture, and many of these alpine hideaways support the adage, “Half the fun is getting there.”

With Switzerland’s efficient rail system connecting to most mountain destinations, we opted for the Swiss Travel Pass (which includes rail, bus and boat) instead of renting a car. The pass also allowed us flexibility to explore in different locations as desired.

Not surprisingly, the Swiss travel system is like clockwork. From point-to-point rail travel to daily mountain jaunts, we found the network to be pleasant and convenient, with short connections and no lost time. Select mountain excursions are included with the Swiss Travel Pass; others are discounted.

Best Views in Switzerland

I took extra time to explore other popular mountain destinations near Interlaken and Lake Lucerne – including the iconic Mount Pilatus, home of the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, with a 48 percent gradient. I also discovered some lesser-known gems, leaving countless others for another trip.  Here are a few favorites:

Guided hike to the Aletsch Glacier, with distant views of the Matterhorn. Photo by Ann Yungmeyer

Bettmeralp

Accessible by mountain tram, this high-altitude car-free village feels a bit surreal, yet authentic; you may ride the morning tram with youngsters heading to school. The village is a gateway for guided hikes to the Great Aletsch Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Take the aerial tram to Bettmerhorn or to the highest point at Eggishorn for glorious panoramas.

Brienz Rothorn

A clattering and chugging steam rack railway travels high above the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz to where you think no train could go. Passengers enjoy open-air cars for unusual geologic scenery of high cliff walls and knife-edge peaks. On top, you can walk around the summit, stay overnight or have lunch at the lodge.

Hiking in the Swiss Alpss
Hiking the trails above Engelberg in Switzerland. Photo by Ann Yungmeyer

Engelberg

A favorite among locals for summer and winter alpine sports, this village is also home of Titlis Rotair, the world’s first revolving cable car. Visitors can watch cheese-making at the historic monastery dairy and take a farmer’s mini cable car, called a “Buurebahnli,” for a lift to hiking trails.

Harder Kulm

Interlaken’s local mountain offers a funicular ride to the top for a spectacular overlook across the valley floor between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Enjoy walking trails, dine at the Panorama Restaurant, or relax on the terrace against the backdrop of the mighty Jungfrau.

On our hiking adventure in the Swiss Alps, we encounter alphorn players in Schynige Platte
Alphorn players greet visitors at Schynige Platte. Photo by Ann Yungmeyer

Schynige Platte

This small plateau surrounded by steep alpine meadows is reached by a scenic seven-mile journey on a nostalgic cog railway, dating from 1893. There is a historic hotel, recently restored in its Belle Epoque-era style, and a sun terrace restaurant with long-range views. Visitors may enjoy alphorn music, a unique Alpine Botanic Garden, and walking paths that traverse the hills.

Author Bio: Ann lives in Tennessee and is a member of Society of American Travel Writers. She contributes to regional print and online travel publications. Hiking, biking, and cultural quests are usually on her agenda, and always in search of postcard vistas, her mantra is, “On a clear day, get to the top!”

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