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“Do you mean Grindelwald?”
This is the common response I receive when telling people about my favorite Swiss destination of Gimmelwald. While not many people have heard of it, it’s more because of its remote location than its lack of offerings. Located in the Bernese Oberland, the tiny mountain village sits at an altitude of 4,500 feet and overlooks the UNESCO world heritage listed Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn.
Leaving the adrenaline-pumping Interlaken, I made my way to this car-free and quiet retreat by taking the cable-car from Stechelberg. Drifting higher and higher into the mountains, the buildings on the ground become like Monopoly pieces as you gently glide into the clouds. And when you step foot into Gimmelwald, it’s like heaven.
Gimmelwald isn’t a place you go for nonstop action, world-class restaurants or bustling attractions. Instead, it’s where you go to experience the quieter side of the Swiss Alps. Cozy timber homes and flower-rimmed guesthouses line the streets, which are actually footpaths since there are no vehicles allowed.
Things To Do
Because the village sits high in the mountains, you get the feeling you can fall off the edge if you stray too far. In reality, wandering beyond the wood buildings will lead you to some of Switzerland’s most scenic and challenging hiking trails. There are also easy hikes for beginners and families looking for something more leisurely than heart-pounding. Once you’re in the forest, you’ll see trail signs pointing in the direction of the nearby villages so you don’t have to worry too much about getting lost.
If you like waterfall hikes, head two hours downhill toward the powerful Trummelbach Falls, noted as Europe’s only subterranean waterfall, which sits at the base of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. There’s also the challenging Gimmelwald to Tanzbodeli hike, a steep 90-minute climb commencing in a bird’s-eye vista of the Swiss Alps. And for something leisurely, opt for the Gimmelwald to Chilchbalm trek. With no notably difficult sections, it’s two hours of caves, wild Alpine flowers, rivers, lush greenery and panoramic mountain and village views.
It’s also worthwhile to visit one of the 13 farms in the village, selling eggs, milk, sausage and cheese. During my visit, my friends and I visited Erica “The Cheese Lady.” She brought us into the small wooden building where she ages her cheese and sausage and let us sample some of the varieties. Because there aren’t many restaurants in Gimmelwald – aside for the ones in the guesthouses – it’s a great opportunity to purchase some fresh local foods for a picnic.
The main thing to take advantage of when in Gimmelwald is the ability to relax. Read a book by the fire, play a game of Jenga with new friends, sip local wine while indulging in some Swiss cheese or chocolate or stare off at the white-capped peaks while breathing in fresh mountain air.
Where to stay in Gimmelwald
If you’re on a budget, Mountain Hostel is a backpacker favorite and costs about $30 per night. There are single-sex dorms as well as one mixed dorm ranging in size from 6 to 16 beds. While there isn’t any nightlife in the area, this is the closest you’ll come, as travelers share bottles of Swiss wine and cheese and play board games until late hours in the cozy common area. It also doubles as a popular restaurant serving everything from pizza to fondue to homemade lasagna.
Esther’s Guesthouse also offers cozy accommodation in the form of two apartments and seven rooms with one to four beds. Each morning an expansive homemade breakfast as well as the chance to socialize is offered for $16, and there’s a community kitchen if you want to buy groceries from nearby Murren for cooking. In the summer, you can barbecue in the garden. Rates start at $59 per night, although you receive an $11 discount when paying in cash for three nights or more.
For those who want something rustic and romantic with breathtaking views from their room, Hotel Mittaghorn provides just that. Hosts Walter and Tim provide a welcoming ambiance, with Tim giving great advice on hikes and Walter whipping up delicious homecooked meals each night with dessert and wine accompaniments, all for $16. There is also a free breakfast of hearty breads, jams, cheese and coffee included in the $90 per night room rate.
Your visit to Gimmelwald
Have you visited Gimmelwald? Tell us about your experience in the tiny village in our comments section below.
Also in our guide: Visiting Switzerland can be hazardous to a Cheapo’s budget. If you’re planning your Swiss trip, swing by our guides to budget hotels in Geneva and Zurich. Yes, Cheapos, it is possible to enjoy this famously pricey country on a budget.