Gimmelwald. My all time favourite “get away from it all” place in the world. Located at the end of the Lauterbrunnen valley, perched high above on a cliff, this small village in the Swiss Alps has it all. Which is to say has nothing… which is absolutely perfect. The village of 130 residents was saved from development as a ski resort by having it falsely declared an avalanche zone. There is literally nothing to do in Gimmelwald but enjoy the views or hike up to the neighbouring town of Mürren.
The “roads”, more like paths, aren’t linked to the main Swiss road network… which doesn’t matter since there are no cars anyways. The main transportation to Gimmelwald is via the aerial tramway (or cable car) that connects to Stechelberg on the floor of the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
I first visited Gimmelwald in the spring of 1999 following a bungee jumping adventure. At the time, I’d been staying in Interlaken (the closest city) and took a few days to recharge the batteries in the middle of a 2 month backpacking trip. I stayed in the Mountain Hostel and spent my time simply wandering about. I think there is only one restaurant in the village, which is part of another hotel but I chose to cook my own food in the hostel.
My second visit to Gimmelwald was on my honeymoon where we stayed in the hotel mentioned above. Gimmelwald is somewhat known for its cats. There are lots and lots of cats that just roam around the mountain-side. My wife, a.k.a. the cat whisperer, had a great time befriending the villages feline inhabitants. We bought some local chocolates from a family and hiked up to Mürren via a walking path. From Mürren, we took a couple cable cars to the top of the Schilthorn mountain where we enjoyed breathtaking 360 degree views.
Back in Mürren, we had lunch at the Edelweiss hotel and sat out on the patio which overlooked the valley. In the photo below, the rock face on the far side of the valley is nearly 2km (1.25 mi) away – just to give a sense of scale. We sat and enjoyed our lunch while watching hand-gliders and para-gliders soar through the valley below us.
We’re told that both Gimmelwald and Mürren swell with tourists in the heights of summer and winter. However, we were there in spring and it was virtually empty. I highly recommend visiting this part of Switzerland if you ever get the chance. I know we’ll be back.