Getting Oriented

Blessed with nine valleys, the lovely lakes of Thun and Brienz, jet-set Gstaad, and the ageless grandeur of the Jungfrau, this compact region contains a universe of sights. No wonder Switzerland's tourist industry began here in the early 1800s, with English gentry flocking to gape at its gorgeous Alpine scenery.

  • Jungfrau Region. A transportation hub, bustling Interlaken has upward of 130 hotels and makes the perfect base camp (it also has a lively nightlife). A short ride away are the magnificent summits of summits—the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau (with the highest train station in Europe). Nestled below are the villages of Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, and Mürren, all chalets and geraniums. In winter they have the ambience that every North American "alpine village" resort aims for—and misses.
  • Brienzersee. In the Oberland a wide variety in altitude creates a great diversity of scenery, so you can bathe comfortably in Lake Brienz after skiing on the Jungfrau slopes in July. Waterfront Brienz is home to famed wood-carvers and the storybook museum village of Ballenberg. Nearby, the plot thickens in Meiringen—Sherlock Holmes nearly met his match here at Reichenbach Falls.
  • Thunersee. This idyllic lake is named for Thun, a resort town of medieval dignity. Between bouts of waterskiing and wakeboarding, castle-hop to your heart's content: the shoreline villages of Spiez, Hilterfingen, and Oberhofen all have fairy-tale-worthy extravaganzas.
  • Simmental and Gstaad. From Spiez, the highway leads southwest into the Simmental Valley, where forest gorges hide Gstaad, a chic and modish winter resort.

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