Mountain peaks covered in snow, crystal blue lakes and lush greenery…
Contrary to popular belief, Switzerland does have a summer and it can be scorching.
I think a lot of people expected my holiday to involve jumpers and hiking boots but in reality it was bikinis and trainers (we’ll take the boots next time…).
We stayed for 6 nights in a campsite in Brienz, located towards the centre of Switzerland near the heart of the Alps. We had a spot looking directly out onto Lake Brienz so when we peeked out of the tent each morning, we were greeted with mountains and crystal blue water. Known as the wood carving capital of Switzerland, Brienz is truly beautiful and gives you a proper taste of Swiss heritage with 18th century wooden chalets and sculptures dotted around the village.
Some of my boyfriend’s family are Swiss and are lucky enough to live in this beautiful part of the world, so during our stay we were fortunate to be treated to authentic Swiss food and given some absolutely incredible experiences.
They also gave us some tips and tricks to make the most of our visit, so without further ado, here were my favourite memories from the trip, and the things I’d recommend if you find yourself in this part of Switzerland anytime soon…
Get on the water on Lake Brienz
Whatever you do, make sure you either swim in or SUP, canoe or kayak on Lake Brienz. It’s turquoise blue waters are unbelievable and can only be truly admired when you’re in or on it.
Be warned though, if it’s scorching hot on land it might not be in the lake – fed from mountain water, it’s glacial and fresh to say the least! Ranging 14 kilometres in length, the lake is also home to several passenger ships so if you don’t fancy getting wet, make sure you take a boat trip instead…
Take a trip on the Paddle Steamer
The Lötschberg was originally built in 1914 and has been renovated and brought up to date for the modern tourist! The paddle steamer allows you to journey across the entirety of the lake at a leisurely pace. With plenty of seating both indoor and out, a small restaurant and the ability to see the mechanisms of the boat in the centre of the deck, it’s a truly memorable experience.
The steamer is a regular boat service which links all the little places around the lake on its route, allowing you to go from Brienz to the town of Interlaken; a journey which takes just over an hour.
There are many places on the lake to visit so if you don’t fancy a trip to Interlaken, do some research on the other stops. Iseltwald is among those that we’d like to visit in future so I guess we’ll just have to make a return trip…
Picnic at Interlaken
If you do decide to stay on the boat until Interlaken, give yourselves a few hours to explore the town. From the dock, head into town and past all the tourist souvenir places into the main street. On your left will be a large open green space where, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot paragliders coming in to land.
Take your time perusing the watch shops (!) and then I’d suggest grabbing some fresh bread, Swiss cheese, Paprika crisps (trust me) and some fruit before heading off the beaten track. Not far from the main street are a series of bridges which offer a pretty impressive view of a small dam, adorned in the local crests.
Head upstream a little more and try to get to the dam – you won’t regret it. It’s truly amazing standing on the bridge with fast flowing waves crashing on one side, while on your other side lies calm, peaceful stretches of water.
And this is why you need a few hours for Interlaken. Not for shopping, but to explore and find these areas of tranquility and beauty. We spent a little time wandering, and found the perfect picnic spot along the river and directly opposite the dam. With our toes dipped in the cold water, we sat on the bank and indulged in our little picnic. And it was by far, one of my favourite meals of the entire trip.
Gondolas from Grindelwald
You can’t go to Switzerland and not head into the mountains! Grindelwald provides numerous options for mountain trails and hikes, or activity days if you’re after something more fast-paced.
Take the gondola from Grindelwald and try the panoramic walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, Jungfrau for incredible views. This route took us a few hours to walk at a leisurely pace and we were rewarded with absolutely amazing sights – glaciers, evidence of rock falls and many, many cows!
Keep your eyes peeled and you may even spot a mountain goat or a marmot en-route too!
Alternatively, from Grindelwald you can also take a gondola up to First for a more action-packed day. Taking just 25 minutes to get to the summit, you’ll be surprised at how much you can pack into one day here so it’s worth looking at their package tickets when you purchase your gondola one and cramming in as many activities as you can stomach!
Take the ride all the way to the top first to try the free Tissot Cliff Walk and get a breathtaking view of the north face of the Eiger. There’s a restaurant up here so you can refresh and unwind with truly unrivalled views.
After that, head down to the next stop and try your hand at the trike carts – three wheel go-carts which you can ride on various terrains along the mountain pass. I was terrified to start with but once you get the hang of them, they are super fun and I would definitely do them again! Be warned though – it’s fairly steep so the carts go pretty fast! You can go at any pace you feel most comfortable with but it’s over before you realise so make the most of it.
Once you get to the end of the route, you can then pick up a trottibike scooter to take you all the way to the bottom, back to Grindelwald. In hindsight, I don’t know why I was so nervous on the trike carts – the trottibikes are scarier! A huge scooter, these go flying down the mountain – all well and fun until you reach roads, start passing tractors and become aware of how much more wobbly they are compared to the trike carts. Go careful and you’ll have tonnes of fun but make sure you stop regularly to fully appreciate the scenery on the way down.
There are other options here too including zip wires but beware of long queues.
Wandering in Brienz
If you’re in Brienz, or close to any small Swiss village, I would strongly advise heading off for a day with trainers and your camera and just wander.
We had a little insider knowledge here thanks to my boyfriend’s family but we passed a truly amazing few hours climbing up to the local church and taking in beautiful views of the lake, then wandering along village paths between traditional Swiss chalets adorned in the country’s flags (we visited in the first week of August so many of these had been put up for the national bank holiday – on which they also have a parade in Interlaken and an impressive firework display on the lake).
You’ll spot wood carvings and small local shops, and be absolutely spoiled for choice with scenery to take photos of but just wandering like this allows you to truly take in the flavour of a place and understand a little more about it’s heritage, and the lives of the locals (who are all incredibly friendly).
There’s no doubt about it, Brienz in Switzerland has captured my heart. In parts, it felt like Italy with it’s beautiful lakes and hot sunshine. In others, it was what I imagined parts of Germany to be like, with it’s mountains and architecture.
But the combination of the mountains and the lakes, the snow and the sunshine, the unreal blue lakes and pure fresh air made me fall in love a little. We camped for the entire week so I feel like being in the outdoors made us truly connect to the natural landscape of the place. But with so many areas to explore and activities to choose from (or the chance to just laze by the lake), you’ll certainly never be bored.
If you’re deciding on whether to visit, I strongly suggest you do.