The Hike Of A Lifetime Is At This European Country - If You're Not Scared Of Heights

Have you ever dreamed of playing out that scene in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" where our hero finds himself on a rickety rope bridge suspended over a deep gorge filled with hungry crocodiles? If you ever find yourself in Switzerland, you can live out your fantasies on the Mürren via ferrata — just with a substantially safer bridge and without man-eating reptiles waiting below.

What is via ferrata? The term in Italian means "Iron way" because it is a perilous-looking method of traversing cliffs and ridges using a series of metal rails, wires, and footholds embedded in the rock. While it may appear scary and play havoc with the nerves of those suffering from vertigo, it is a safer way of negotiating your path at altitudes than other methods like scrambling. As such, via ferrata, also known as Klettersteig in German, is popular in mountainous regions of countries like Austria, Italy, and France.

The Mürren via ferrata takes its name from the picturesque alpine village. It serves as a jumping-off point for a fairly straightforward adventure but still gets the adrenaline pumping as you dangle around 2,000 feet above the lush green valley below. It's the hike of a lifetime for thrill seekers to try, just so long as you have a head for heights!

What does the Mürren via ferrata involve?

The Mürren via ferrata is fairly unusual in that the overall course descends towards the neighboring village of Gimmelwald, almost 1½ miles away. It is a relatively easy course, provided you are properly equipped and correctly attach yourself to the various handrails, ladders, and cables strategically placed along the route. Essential items include a helmet, harness, carabiners (metal clips), sturdy footwear, and gloves. You can rent all the gear at Intersport in Mürren and strike out on your own with minimal experience, although hiring a guide is recommended if it's your first time tackling a via ferrata. It is also important to keep an eye on the weather forecast because no one will rent you any gear in wet conditions.

Some sections of the via ferrata are simply woodland trails, but the real action starts with the daunting cliff traverse. For around 130 feet, you will have nothing beneath you other than a 2,000-foot drop as you carefully step across iron rungs hammered into the rock. Next up is an exhilarating tightrope walk over a waterfall or the chance to zipline across with a guide. A set of ladders and another tightrope awaits before you reach the spectacular Nepal Suspension Bridge, which spans a deep gorge for over 260 feet. Once you've survived that, it's a simple downhill walk into Gimmelwald for a well-earned rest!

Visiting Mürren

Mürren is a lovely resort nestling at 5,374 feet with incredible views of three mighty peaks in the Bernese Alps: the world-famous Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau, all just a little short of the 14,000-foot mark. Without road access, the route to Mürren is pleasingly dramatic. First, you need to get to Lauterbrunnen in the valley, which is a scenic one-hour drive from Bern. The only way is up from there, either by cable car and narrow-gauge railway via Grütschalp or by bus and cable car through Stechelberg.

Although Mürren only has a population of 450, it is well-geared towards catering for visitors all year around and has several hotels to choose from, plus some smart cafés and restaurants to check out. It is definitely worth booking somewhere to stay if you intend to hit the via ferrata as uncertain weather could mean a layover for a few days until the conditions are right.

In the meantime, there is plenty to see and do in the area, including a cable car ride to the top of Schilthorn Mountain. This will delight 007 fans in particular: the revolving Piz Gloria restaurant at the summit was a James Bond filming location for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," doubling as Blofeld's lair. With such incredible scenery, you won't be short of hiking opportunities before the main event.