In most U.S. guides to Switzerland, Interlaken and the central two valleys of the Bernese Oberland region (the villages of Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and Murren) get all the love. So Americans and countless other tourists flock to Interlaken and Grindelwald to gape at mountains like the Eiger and the Jungfrau. That area is beautiful, but it’s overrun in summer. And there’s so much more to the Bernese Oberland region! Nearby, less well-known (to Americans, at least) valley towns like Meiringen and Engelberg are surrounded by beautiful mountains, with all of the things that tourists come to Switzerland for. Either one would make a great base for exploring central Switzerland’s high peaks and green valleys.
From our housesit on Lake Lucerne, we made four visits to the high-mountain area where the Bernese Oberland (in the Bern canton) meets the mountainous canton of Unterwalden. The region is only an hour by train from Lucerne, and the scenery along the way is so stunning that we were always glued to the train windows.
In Engelberg, we twice rode cable cars up the sides of the valley to hike past little mountain lakes. In Ballenberg, we strolled through a big open-air museum of historical houses and trade buildings brought from all over Switzerland. And in Meiringen, we experienced the awesome power of water. We visited torrential Reichenbach Falls, a place of pilgrimage for Sherlock Holmes fans because it was there that Holmes wrestled with his archenemy, Professor Moriarty, and supposedly plunged to his death. In the valley below the falls, the Aare river cuts through a deep, narrow gorge, in some places only a few yards wide. A walkway built into the cliffside let us marvel at the racing river below and twisting rock faces above from the safety of a broad, flat path.