Rick Steves' Favorite Swiss Village Is An Off-The-Beaten-Path Mountainous Paradise

Switzerland is a mountain-lovers paradise. It's home to over 48 peaks that reach over 13,000 feet, more than 2,400 cableways, and offers hikers over 41,000 miles of marked trails. Unfortunately, the secret is out, and all of this makes Switzerland a top-rated tourist destination. One of the most beautiful areas is the region of Bernese Oberland, home to the famous Eiger and Jungfrau peaks, the lively city of Interlaken, and the stunning but often crowded village of Grindelwald.

But you can escape the typical tourist spots on your Switzerland trip to the region. Here, Rick Steves has found what he calls his "favorite little village in the Swiss Alps" (per Facebook). Gimmelwald is a car-free, rural idyll where you can soak in the Alpine views and enjoy a slow pace of life. Only reachable by cableway or on foot, Gimmelwald has managed to retain its charm while welcoming the tourists who make it here. This tiny village has just 13 farms and a smattering of private houses.

Getting there is half the fun

A common way to reach Gimmelwald is the Schilthorn cableway from Stechelberg, which takes just five minutes. The cableway makes several stops up the mountain, so consider going past Gimmelwald and then turning around to approach on foot. In an article on ricksteves.com, Steves recommends taking the cableway to Birg station and walking down to Gimmelwald. During the steep descent, you can make a side trip to the Sprutz Waterfall before continuing to Gimmelwald via a flower-filled meadow. Note that this hike is long — Steves mentions the hike to Sprutz Waterfall is about five hours.

A shorter but no less scenic hike is the North Face Trail, which Steves' co-author Cameron Hewitt writes is one of Steves' favorites. This trail goes from Allmendhubel, which you can reach by funicular from Mürren. The trail winds back down to Mürren, but a detour takes you to Gimmelwald.

If you want an even shorter trek, take the cableway to Mürren. From there, you can hike downhill on the 1.9-mile trail between the villages. Happy AllTrails hikers say the views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking on this relatively easy, paved walk. More adventurous travelers can try out the Via Ferrata from Mürren to Gimmelwald, which is a hike of a lifetime. Think scrambling across the rocks from iron rung to iron rung and trying out your tightrope skills.

Experiencing Gimmelwald

Whatever way you choose to arrive in Gimmelwald, the tiny village will delight you. Sitting at 4,485 feet, towering above the Lauterbrunnen Valley but dwarfed by Jungfrau, Gimmelwald is everything you could want in a Swiss village. In summer, the chalets are draped in colorful flowers, while in winter, they are shrouded in snow. Meadows full of wildflowers spread out from the village, and you're more likely to meet a cow rumbling along the main street than pretty much any other living being.

You can stay in Gimmelwald as long as you're happy to skip the five-star resorts. Steves writes that the accommodations in the village are "poor but pleasantly stuck in the past." There's a hostel, a pension (a small cottage), and a couple of private guesthouses, all of which have excellent reviews on booking.com. Finally, one of the most charming things about Gimmelwald is its honesty shops. The most famous one sells local crafts, while others are more simply refrigerators containing locally produced meats and cheeses. There are no cash registers or people monitoring what you buy — just an honesty box for depositing a few Swiss francs in.