Whilst having the most amazing and adventurous trip possible in Interlaken, Switzerland we decided to change the pace a little and head up a huge mountain!! This time instead of clinging to the side of a cliff or even launching ourselves off it we would take the cable car, because when you visit the Swiss Alps, you really have to get up high and take it all in from as many perspectives as you can. Here, up on the Schilthorn where the air was thin and cold, we took in that jaw dropping alpine view we had always dreamt of!
Why the Schilthorn?
In our initial plans for Switzerland was a trip up the famous Jungfrau, to the “top of Europe”. Soon we realised that despite many of our usual frugal ways going out of the window on what had become a bucket list ticking trip, our funds would not stretch to the cost of taking the trip up to Jungfraujoch: 205.60 CHF/ £137 / $212.36 – EACH!
As we weighed up the pros and cons of taking the trip up we came across a poster for the Schilthorn. At around 10,000ft high itself it was still an monster and not only that but it boasted amazing views of the big three: Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau! Kind of like when you go up the Rockefeller instead of the Empire State Building just so you can get amazing views of…the Empire State Building!
We realised that at only 80 CHF/ £53.26 / $82.62 (From Murren) it worked out at less than half price. This meant that we would be able to afford to do all the other crazy activities we wanted and still get up a mountain!
Ok, I will admit to being a little disappointed at first when I realised we wouldn’t be going up Jungfrau, seeing the glacier and getting up close with the North Face. But then again, when we stepped out of the doors of the cable car at the top of the Schilthorn I could have taken in that view for the rest of my life!
What we came to realise is that sometimes you have to make small compromises, I know I would rather have gone canyoning, paragliding, rafting and done the Via Ferrata instead of just going up Jungfrau.
Not only that but we totally fell in love with Interlaken and the surrounding areas, like, more so than almost anywhere we have ever visited. We know it’s not the last time we will be here, but who know, life sometimes goes by so quick.
Next time we are here even with the best intentions might end up being in 20 or so years time. By then we might not be able to or even want to do all the crazy stuff anymore, we might also have a little more spare money too. That’s when I will sit back on that train for hours as it wanders up through the mountainside!
For now, the magnificence of the Schilthorn fulfilled our ambitions of being right in the heart of the alps and of being surrounded by views almost too amazing to believe.
Getting up there
The whole area surrounding the Schilthorn is covered extensively by cable cars going up many of the major mountains, towns and passes. Your starting point will alter the price but it all balances out to being around about the same price.
We actually were up in Murren doing the Via Ferrata on the day we headed up The Schilthorn so made use of our location to save money on cable car tickets. Both are probably a half day activity if you set off early. If you plan on going up to Murren (which you should!) or the Via Ferrata then doing it on the same day will save money and time!
The best place to begin your trip from is Lauterbrunnen as it is the nearest large town and is served by a train station as well as having a multi-story carpark for visitors.
It is around an 8 mile drive from Interlaken (An hour from Bern) and the train takes around 20mins.
From Lauterbrunnen cable car station you can purchase a ticket/return all the way up to the Schilthorn or in fact many other destinations even if you can’t directly connect.
From here you take the cable car up to Grütschalp train station and then connect to Murren via a short but stunning train journey. From Murren you must walk through the village to the other side of town and take two further cable cars via the stunning Birg. In total the journey takes around about an hour from Lauterbrunnen up to the summit.
Stechelberg is also a good place to start and many recommend it but it is a bus ride away down the valley from Lauterbrunnen and personally I think the trip from Lauterbrunnen itself is more convenient and also allows you to see the wonderful village of Murren and the picturesque train ride too!
Prices vary according to where you set off from but essentially it all equates to the same price from the valley as it all balances out.
Lauterbrunnen to Schilthorn:
Murren to Schilthorn:
Stechelberg to Schilthorn:
Return: 102 CHF
There are discounts available for children, holders of Swiss half fare cards, Eurail passes and Swiss travel passes too. Also, if you are willing to go up very early in the morning or last up there are also discounted rates.
There are many other locations you can start your trip from, check out the website here for more info and timetables/ changes in price:
Taking in that most amazing of views: The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau!
After speaking to a few folks here and there it turns out there are many out there who actually preferred the trip up The Schilthorn to Jungfrau, now I can’t comment as we have only done one, but all I can say is WOW!
Many of the reasons people give for preferring the Schilthorn is that is it a proper mountain top experience, whereas Jungfrau joch is in a glacial pass, not only that but the ride up the Schilthorn via steep and exposed cable cars is more thrilling than the Jungfrau railway. Now that is something I can attest to!
Having already swung off a wire by my hands 2000ft above the valley below you might think that a cable car would be a breeze, well actually I was much more nervous on here than any paragliding, canyoning, rafting or Via Ferrata…the car was swinging from side to side on the horrendously steep cable over the side of the mountain…this was thrilling alright!
However one of the things I did hate was the crowds, in many other areas we had been on our own in these wonderful surroundings or with a small group of fellow explorers. The cable car we took in the morning was all but empty but for a man and his dog!
These cars were packed, pretty much to the levels of the Tokyo
subway and full of Chinese tourists who clearly haven’t heard of either the concept of queuing or patience!
But hey, that’s one more reason we stayed away from the even bigger tourist magnet of Jungfrau! But clearly we weren’t the only ones who had heard of The Schilthorn! Many are not only draw to this peak due to it’s amazing 360 panoramic views in the centre of the Bernese Alps, but also because it featured prominently in the 1969 James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.
The first stop on the journey up to the top is the summit of Birg (2,684 m), at first this may appear to be a simple connecting station before the final destination…but oh no, it is so much more!
it’s just simply spectacular! As the wind howled up the jagged mountainside and we stepped of the car the stunning view of The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau came into view. WOW!
This was as clear and close as we had seen these magnificent mountains and standing out on the viewing platform hanging high over the valley it was hard to believe we were really here! For us this view was a dream come true, having spent a lot of time in the UK mountains we had a longing to see the giants of the Alps, especially The legendary Eiger!
After sitting here and taking in the view whilst enjoying some food at Birg we headed for the next cable car up to the summit of The Schilthorn. As the panoramic gondola set off up the steep cable track the sheer cliffs dropped away dramatically below. From beautiful turquoise lakes to isolated rocky outcrops the landscape we travelled across was everything we expected of the Alps
Stepping out into the now crisp cool air at the summit was a refreshing break from the heavy 30c down in the valleys. From here we were treated with a panoramic view of the amazing Swiss Alps we found ourselves at the centre of. This was the true mountain top experience we had been seeking.
At the summit there is a James Bond museum to go and explore but to be honest, as much as we love Bond, we just wanted to spend as much time as we could outside, soaking in that view and hiking around the summit plateau.
Speaking of hiking many do actually hike up here, for an alpine peak of almost 10,000ft the journey by foot takes just over 5.5hrs and is doable for most experienced hikers. For us after spending hours on the Via Ferrata
climb in the morning we took the more leisurely route and saved our legs for canyoning
the day after!
Of all the amazing things we did in Switzerland it’s hard to say which was the best, but this was unexpectedly one of the most thrilling. The 360 degree views of the snow capped alps was head spinningly breath taking! They just seem to go on forever, in fact, you can even make out Mt Blanc in the distance!
Have you ever been up the Schilthorn or other alpine peaks?
When we got home we ended up getting tattoos
to memorise this trip of a lifetime!
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