Our campsite in Interlaken was a short bike ride or bus journey away from Interlaken. We were happy with the separation from the busy town. We visited a couple of times to shop for groceries but, as cyclists, found the tendency of tourists to wander into the roads on a whim very frustrating. We probably missed out on a few sights and a lively nightlife, but we gained peace and tranquillity.
Swimming in Thunersee
A short walk across the road from the campsite is Lake Thun. A track and grassed area leads to a public bathing spot, with changing rooms and lockers, facing west towards the setting sun for maximum afternoon warmth.
Every time we overheated we wandered over the road to take a dip in the clear water and watch the fishes swim around our feet. It amazed us that it was already October and we were swimming and sunbathing. It was turning out to be a beautiful Indian summer with crisp refreshing mornings, mist over the lake, drowsy warm afternoons and trees starting to show their autumn colours.
We also managed a swim in the waters of Lake Brienz on the way back from a circumnavigation of the lake on our bikes. The inviting blue water turned out to be more bracing than relaxing as we were on the southern edge of the lake and the water had not warmed up after being shaded all morning. It showed the importance of choosing the right spot.
A visit to Thun
Each of the lakes bracketing Interlaken has a town, so we made it our objective to visit both.
We took the bus for a gentle excursion to the town of Thun. We had received a tourist pass from the campsite that gave us free local bus transport, it would only take us halfway round the lake, but with the help of the SBB app we paid for the remainder of the journey. The drive along the northern shore of the lake was pleasant and scenic, if narrow and busy. It’s nice to let another driver (and vehicle) take the strain sometimes.
We alighted a little early so that we could walk up to the recommended viewpoint of Jackobshübeli. Unfortunately the footpath to the viewpoint was closed and we were thwarted in our first sightseeing attempt. Looking on the bright side, this left us with a gentle level walk instead. So we strolled along the lake shore and followed it to the town centre where scenic covered bridges straddle the River Aare and the castle sits proud of the old town.
We had originally intended to return to our campsite on a boat, but we had mis timed our return and had over an hour until the next departure, so it was back on the bus for us. On the way back to the campsite we decided that we hadn’t had enough exercise and got off the bus at Gunten to take a walk up to the suspension bridge above. This was a pleasant enough walk to stretch our legs but given the other lovely walks in the area not one I would prioritise.
Cycling around Brienzersee
Our cycle ride around Brienzersee was inspired by an instagram post about cycling around both lakes (thank you @herdytravels). There was no way that we would make the whole distance around both lakes without road bikes or e-bikes, but the post had mentioned that the route around Lake Brienz was by far the most scenic so that made it easy to choose. We also found a mountain bike route through the hills on the north side of the lake which kept us off the roads and on far more interesting terrain with views of the lake from a higher vantage point. The autumn haze accompanied us all day, slightly obscuring the distant views, but it was still stunning.
This was a favourite ride for me. The first half of the route (Mountain Biking route 451 on SwitzerlandMobility) provides beautiful views of the lake, a couple of suspension bridges over gorges and finishes in Brienz which has a very bucolic feel with many wooden chalets. A contrast to Thun’s more genteel and elegant architecture.
The route for the second half of the ride followed a local road underneath the main trunk road ad then steeply up and up until we reached the Giessbach falls. where we had to dismount. Given the number of visitors this was a fair precaution and we took the opportunity to walk up and view the falls before continuing our journey. Again the haze and low angle of the sunshine conspired to make the photos a bit disappointing.
After the falls the route follows a track and then joins a road before dropping back down to the stunning lakeshore village of Iseltwald. A lovely stop to relax by the lake.
One final smaller climb and downhill and we were on a nice level lake side meander back to Interlaken.
In all it was a 46km ride and a total ascent of over 1200m spilt across the many ups and downs. In theory this made it one of the hardest rides of our visit to Switzerland, but the pain was spread out enough that we’d forgotten the hardship of one climb before we started the next. And even the off road sections were not too rough.
Plenty of people use Interlaken to visit other destinations in the higher Bernese Oberland, but it is definitely worth devoting some time to the lakes and their eponymous towns.