To compensate for the region's almost impossible geography, Swiss engineers have crisscrossed the Oberland with cogwheel railways (some of them still driven by steam), aerial cableways, and sinuous mountain roads. Though often a confusing experience, getting to a particular resort can be part of the fun. The region's busiest railroad junction, and the point where most travelers change trains for local railways, is Interlaken.
You can buy a transportation pass for the Bernese Oberland from the Swiss Rail System. The train ticket is valid for 7 days and costs 234F in second class and 283F in first class. Another pass, valid for 15 days, costs 293F in second class and 350F in first class. With the 7-day pass, you'll travel free for 3 days and pay a reduced fare for the final 4 days. With a 15-day pass, you'll travel free for 5 days and pay reduced fares for the rest of the time. Children travel at half-price. The pass is valid on most railroads; all mountain trains, cable cars, chairlifts, and steamers on Lakes Thun and Brienz; and most postal-bus lines in the area. The ticket also qualifies you for a 25% reduction on the Kleine Scheidegg-Eigergletscher-Jungfraujoch railway, the Mürren-Schilthorn aerial cable line, and the bus to Grosse Scheidegg and Bussalp. You must purchase the pass at least 1 week before you arrive. For information about the pass, call tel. 058/327-32-71 or visit www.myswissalps.com.
Since Interlaken is the focal point of one of the most complicated networks of ski lifts in the world, most visitors opt to buy a comprehensive pass that allows unlimited access to the cog railways, buses, cable cars, chairlifts, and gondolas (incorporating every mechanical lift in and around Interlaken, Wengen, Grindelwald, and Mürren). Sold at the Interlaken tourist office and tourist offices at the other leading resorts, it's called the Jungfrau Top Ski Region Pass. You can buy the 2-day pass for 129F, the 5-day pass for 275F, or the 7-day pass for 348F. Discounts of 10% are offered to seniors 62 and older, discounts of 20% to youths ages 16 to 20, and discounts of 50% to children 6 to 15. Kids 5 and under travel for only 10% of the above rates. This pass also incorporates access to 44 ski lifts, 204km (127 miles) of well-groomed downhill runs, 99km (60 miles) of prepared walking and cross-country ski paths, and 50km (31 miles) of tobogganing runs. It covers the region around Grindelwald, Wengen, and Mürren.
Other passes include the following:
- First Region Ski Pass is a small-scale cluster of ski lifts, favored by beginners and intermediates, that includes six lifts and a gondola. It's available only for the region immediately around Grindelwald and does not include Wengen. A 1-day pass costs 62F, a 2-day pass 112F.
- Kleine Männlichen and Scheidegg Pass offer the same scale of difficulty as the First Region Ski Pass, as well as the same price (1- and 2-day passes are the only offerings).
By Mountain Bike -- Hundreds of miles of cycling paths riddle the Bernese Oberland, and most of them begin in Interlaken. Separate from the network of hiking paths, the bike routes are signposted and marked on rental maps distributed at bike-rental agencies; it's the law to use only specially signposted routes and not destroy plant and animal life or ride across private fields. Hikers, incidentally, are given the right of way over bikers. To make arrangements to rent a bike, call tel. 033/823-15-34. Rates usually begin at 45F per day, going up.
On Foot -- The Bernese Oberland is ideal for walkers and hikers. The natural terrain here will satisfy everyone from the most ambitious mountain hiker to the casual stroller.
Trails designed for walkers branch out from almost every junction. Most are paved and signposted, showing distances and estimated walking times. Tourist offices can suggest itineraries for walkers.
For the more athletic, itineraries include long hikes far afield in the mountains, with suggestions for overnight accommodations en route.
Even if you don't feel up to scaling alpine peaks, you can still go on walks. Take one of the Swiss postal-bus rides uphill to a village, then stroll back down to Interlaken, for example. Be warned, however, that walking downhill in Switzerland can still strain your calf muscles.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.