Do you ever get the feeling that certain cities were created solely with one specific purpose in mind? There’s a reason that Interlaken, Switzerland, makes it onto the itinerary of almost every backpacker traveling around Europe and that is because the region caters to backpackers. It is touristy in the sense that most of the people you will meet will be backpackers and most of the activities you will take part in will be thrill-seeking once-in-a-while experiences. Now, it is not touristy in the sense that every two feet you will have someone trying to sell you an “I love Switzerland” t-shirt and matching fanny pack, but more in the sense that you will probably not see the everyday life of your average local living in Switzerland. Nevertheless, this is a destination favorite of backpackers due to the natural beauty, extreme sports, and lively nightlife of the area.
As far as transportation goes, everything that I needed, restaurants, hiking, mall, nightlife, was walking distance. The only thing that isn’t is the excursions, which will have transportation provided for you. If you plan on doing a day trip somewhere farther or going up into another town in the Swiss Alps, there are excellent bus and train systems running through the city. Stay at Balmers and you will be able to use the local bus for free.
Where to Stay
The most popular hostel to stay at for backpackers in Interlaken is hands down Balmers. While the rooms are pretty cramped, you will barely notice as most of your time will be spent socializing and taking in the outdoors in the Swiss Alps. The staff are extremely helpful and are more than happy to plan out hikes for you and help you navigate Swiss transportation. Moreover, you can book extreme sports activities on site, there is a restaurant as well as a kitchen, and a nightclub, meaning everything you will need is right there.
If Balmers is booked, your next best option is to head over to The Funny Farm. While they provide regular accommodation, for those really on a budget they also offer barn-style rooms for those who don’t plan on spending much time inside.
There is only one place to party in Interlaken, and that is Balmers. The whole town, both locals and backpackers, seem to all meet here when the sun goes down. It gets crazy, pictures lots of drunk, sloppy dancers and couples (and strangers) hardcore making out. It is a guaranteed good time as everyone is there to dance and have fun.
What to Do
Hiking! You are in the Swiss Alps so this should be the first thing that you plan out. Balmers has hikes planned out for the guests and can provide trail maps as well. While there are hikes that are walking distance from the hostel, it is worth going to the farther regions, especially the Jungfrau. There are railways and trams around the mountain if you get tired or want to skip any particular sections of a trail. Waterfalls abound as well as views that seem to be from a Bob Ross painting. At times, you are so close to the clouds you feel like you can actually grab one and use it as a pillow.
Extreme sports is your next must. There are myriad options, as this is what the town is known for. I personally did the Canyon Swing, which allows you to bungee jump into a gorge in the Swiss Alps. The views are breathtaking and the experience itself is terrifying as there are jagged rocks surrounding you and a dangerous looking river full of boulders and a rushing current below you. While you can’t help but scream during the free-fall, once the rope turns into a swing you will find yourself laughing like crazy from the rush.
Other options of extreme sports include canyoning, paragliding, hang-gliding, skydiving, ice climbing, and more. To get a better idea, visit Outdoor Interlaken. I would say the most popular excursion is canyoning, which is basically jumping, scrambling, and climbing from rock to rock in a water filled canyon. Everyone who did this activity loved it, with many of the backpackers I met doing it multiple times.
For those who would rather relax a bit, there are also cruise options as well as hot air balloon rides. Some of their cruises include a Swiss BBQ Cruise, an Indian Dinner Cruise, a Lake & Castle Cruise, and a scenic boat trip. Again, for more information you can visit Outdoor Interlaken.