To the younger generation, Grindelwald is most familiar as a villainous character from the Harry Potter franchise. But did you know it is also the name of a mountain resort in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland?
The pretty alpine village, which has just 105 permanent inhabitants, is popular with British skiers in the winter season. Yet when the snow melts and the temperatures rise, it transforms into a buzzing summer destination for hikers and adrenaline junkies looking for their next fitness fix.
The gently winding village is lined with traditional wooden chalets, shops selling watches, trinkets and outdoor clothing, and neat little hotels with flower-covered balconies. Yet Grindelwald’s crowning glory is its scenery: surrounded by vast, snow-topped mountains and acres of lush, green fields dotted with pine trees, the stresses of everyday life feel far, far away.
As alpine resorts go, there are few places on earth which offer such a huge range of outdoor activities and experiences. Here’s our pick of the best.
Activities on the majestic Mannlichen
At 2,343m above sea level, Mannlichen is a popular starting point for hikers and offers plenty of activities for both adults and children. It can either be reached by gondola from Grindelwald, or via an aerial cable car from Wengen. The latter offers seven minutes of uninterrupted views of the Lauterbrunnen valley as it edges towards the station. From there, it is just a 15-minute walk to the summit.
At the top of Mannlichen there’s a giant cow-themed childrens’ playground which includes bouncy udder trampolines and a huge “cow tongue” slide.
One of the more unusual activities on Mannlichen is the Summer Gemel, a gravity powered three wheeled cart with a lever in the centre that controls the speed. It may sound a little bonkers but it’s easy to handle and so much fun.
The winding, downhill trail takes between 30 and 45 minutes to complete, depending on how many times you want to stop and take photos. The lovely views are accompanied by the cheerful clinking of cow bells, and there are plenty of places to stop and take in the view, including a little hut with three traditional alpenhorns.
Defying gravity at Grindelwald’s glacier canyon
Located around a 35 minute walk from the centre of village is the glacier canyon. It was formed by the now defunct Lower Grindelwald Glacier and until the 1920s it was an important site for ice harvesting, and huge blocks of ice were transported to all corners of the globe.
Nowadays, the canyon has been transformed into an adventure attraction. A “sensory” walkway is flanked by 300m vertical rock walls and the choppy waters of the Lütschine River and weaves through exposed rock galleries and tunnels, leading to the Spiderweb: a 170m squared net which stretches over the Lütschine River. You can walk, jump and crawl on the surprisingly bouncy net as water rushes and roars below.
If you’re feeling very daring, have a go on the Interlaken Canyon Swing. Standing on a platform perched 90m above the canyon, you’ll be attached to a harness and told to jump. You’ll free fall 70m, reaching speeds of up to 120kph (70mph) before swinging between the vertical rocks of the canyon as the river flows below your feet. I took on the challenge (see the video below) and can report that it was one of the most incredible experiences of my travelling life.