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The road south from Interlaken shadows the train tracks and the Lütschine river through Wilderswil and on into the deep countryside. Cliffs close in either side as you reach Zweilütschinen: the Schwarze Lütschine tumbles in from Grindelwald further east, while the road and railway continue south alongside the rushing Weisse Lütschine (named “white” for its foaminess) through a charming wooded gorge. At the point where the valley opens up, airily broad, sunlit and impossibly picturesque, you enter the busy little village of LAUTERBRUNNEN. The train station here is the junction point for journeys up to Wengen and on up to the Jungfraujoch.

The wealth of opportunity for sightseeing and exploring around and about is virtually limitless. At the entrance to the village is a funicular cresting the west wall of the valley: this serves Grütschalp, from where a cliff-edge train – one of the most scenic rides in Switzerland – trundles its way to Mürren. You might, however, prefer to follow the steep path up to Grütschalp (rising 690m in 2hr), to take advantage of the panoramic stroll alongside the tracks to Mürren (1hr 10min).

Just before Lauterbrunnen, precipitous roads and footpaths wind up west to Isenfluh, an isolated little hamlet on a tiny patch of green alp, from where little-trod hiking trails fan out and a cable-car rises to the Sulwald alp, at the foot of the distinctively jagged Lobhörner crag (2566m).

Just beyond the southern end of Lauterbrunnen village, the delicate Staubbach falls – at nearly 300m, the highest in Switzerland – gush out of a sheer cliff, like a lacy decoration on the rugged precipice. It’s a scenic half-hour walk, or an hourly postbus, 3km up the valley to the Trümmelbach falls (daily: July & Aug 8am–6pm; Sept–June 9am–5pm; Fr.10). These impressively thunderous waterfalls – the runoff from the high mountains – have carved corkscrew channels through the valley walls: a stepped catwalk leads you over and around the enclosed, boiling cauldrons of rushing water (up to 20,000 litres a second), which throw up plenty of spray and have gradually eroded the rock into weird and wonderful shapes. From the top, trails from Mettlenalp connect to paths leading to Wengen and Wengernalp.

Lauterbrunnen’s train station is at the northernmost end of the village, directly opposite the Mürrenbahn station. A 200m walk up into the village brings you to the tourist office on the main street (Mon–Fri 8am–noon & 2–6pm; July & Aug also Sat & Sun 8am–3pm; 033/855 19 55, www.lauterbrunnen.ch).

Lots of places offer dorm accommodation. If you go behind the station, cross the river on a tiny bridge and turn right, you’ll come to Matratzenlager Stocki (033/855 17 54; Fr.13) with good dorms in a converted farmhouse and kitchen use. A little before the tourist office and down by the tracks is cosy Valley Hostel (Tél. & fax 033/855 20 08; Fr.20), most rooms with a balcony. There are two campsites, both at the southern end of the village: Jungfrau (033/856 20 10) is on the west bank, while quieter Schützenbach (033/855 12 68) is on the other side, alongside the road to Stechelberg – both also have dorms (Fr.15–20) and rooms (a). Among the hotels are jovial, backpacker-ish Horner (033/855 16 73, fax 855 46 07; a), just beyond the tourist office, whose staff may slash rates to Fr.10 per person for post-9pm check-in if they have space. Beside the station is the Bahnhof (033/855 17 23, fax 855 18 47; b), with cosy, uncomplicated rooms and cooking to match. Silberhorn (033/855 14 71, fax 855 42 13; b–c) is up off the main drag but only a minute from the station, with pristinely quiet rooms – slightly pricier ones with a view. Eating and drinking are best done in the various hotels along the main street: the Horner has bargain pizza/pasta meals for under Fr.13, while the Oberland and Schützen, either side of the tourist office, are solid places for solid fare, both also specializing in afternoon tea with fresh apple strudel. The Horner has Internet access (Fr.12/hr).

Since both Wengen and Mürren are car-free, Lauterbrunnen has built for itself a huge multistorey car park directly behind the train station at the northernmost edge of the village – horrendous though that sounds, the community knows the value of its views, and has ensured both that the car park doesn’t disturb the eye, and that it filters most of the traffic away from the village centre. Parking for a 24-hour day costs Fr.9 (July to mid-Sept), Fr.11/15 (mid-Dec to mid-April weekdays/weekends) and Fr.7 at other times; eight-day equivalents are Fr.59, Fr.76 and Fr.56. Two other small open-air parking areas within the village cost Fr.5–7 per day. Stechelberg has another large parking area at the foot of the Schilthornbahn cable-car (Fr.5/day, Fr.21/week).

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