Ultimate Italian Bucket List

Ultimate Italian Bucket List

Dear Italy,

I have to be honest, you’ve been my not-so secret, but also not so talked about on social media, love obsession for years now. Ever since my first visit to Rome back in the spring of 2008, I’ve been head over heels for you.

And while I vowed to visit you often since that first trip, I’ve also cheated on our relationship as you opened my eyes to the world outside of my home. You were the one who showed me that there is beauty in the small things, that the world has more to offer than what I knew by staying put in one place, and that food should not be considered in calories but in mouth watering moments over a bottle of chianti among friends and strangers.

Maybe it’s because my ancestral past stems from the shores of your coasts, but I find myself dreaming of you frequently. More often than I should, or care to admit. With each trip that I plan, I consider my options to come back to you instead, but there is so much in the world to be explored by little me. But just know, I plan to to plant roots to you at some point during this life, and am determined to breathe in the beauty of each place I have on this list.

I haven’t let on to this too much on social media, but I have a slight obsession with Italy. Maybe it’s because of my Italian heritage, maybe it’s because I love to eat great food, or maybe it’s because I’m in love with beautiful places, but no matter how I spin it, Italy will always be my favorite destination.

Now, this love for this beautiful country stems not from the typical touristy reasons to check off something as seen, but because the entirety of its culture is magnifico (in my opinion).

So, in order to share my love for all things Italiano, I’ve put together an epic Italian bucket list of places to visit and what to do there (especially what to eat… I’m a girl who really loves food).

I hope these places become additions to your saved destinations and inspire you to explore even more!

 

*In order of area, north to south

Here is THE

Ultimate Bucket List for Italy

Hike CINQUE TERRE:

Made up of five beautiful coastal villages (cinque means five in Italian), each town is more colorful than the next.

Stroll along the canals of VENICE: 

While you can always take a gondola ride, they tend to be fairly pricey, so I say burn off those italian carbs & meander the streets of Venice by foot. Plus, the small local places won’t be seen or reached from the gondola canals anyways.

Watch glass be made on the island of MURANO: 

A quick boat ride from Venice is the colorful island of Murano. This island is known for its glass blowing artisans. A much more calm place to explore if visiting Venice and the pieces you purchase here will be unique to you.

Drink the best Prosecco one can find in the region of VENETO:

I’m not sure why bubbles make a drink feel more festive and celebratory, but I do know drinking Prosecco from its originating region of Veneto is worthy of clinking a few glasses together in celebration.

Relive a tragic love story in VERONA:

Verona is famous for its connection to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. You can visit her home to see the balcony she beckoned to Romeo from… and also cop a feel on her statue below.

Find more of my best sustainable travel resources here!

Marvel at LAGO DE SORAPIS & LAGO DI BRAIES:

Both lakes are within the Dolomites and stunningly bright blue. Hidden gems among all that Italy has to offer.

Hike the DOLOMITES & stay in the cute town of BELLUNO:

If you’ve ever wanted to hike somewhere breathtaking, this would be the place to do it. And after your hiking, you can stay in the town of Belluno. Which is known as the largest town in the Dolomites with wonderful panoramic views.

Transform into a classy individual at LAKE COMO: 

The entire area of Lake Como is considered an upscale resort area, with beautiful hotels and the Alps for backdrops. Put on your best formal wear and enjoy!

Take a food tour in BOLOGNA: 

The city known for gastronomy, you can book food tours that will take you to a Parmigiano Reggiano and a balsamic vinegar factory!

Enjoy a vegan lifestyle in TURIN: 

Back in 2016, the mayor or Turin, Chiara Appendino publicly stated she wanted Turin to be Italy’s first vegetarian city. With over 30 vegetarian & vegan restaurants it seems like a perfect place to enjoy italian food made for those who support animal rights, the safety or our environment their own flourishing health… the close proximity to the Alps in the winter months doesn’t hurt either.

Watch the sunset over FLORENCE: 

From the Piazza Michelangelo: Florence is filled with impactful historic sites and museums, but nothing beats the sunsetting over the city from Piazza Michelangelo. It’s not wonder it was a hub for the Renaissance with all of that beauty.

Shop at Ponte Vecchio in FLORENCE: 

It’s here where you’ll find the jewelry of your dreams… just be prepared to window shop or break your budget

Tour the town of SIENA: 

Best known for its annual horse races (I have not done any research on the ethics behind this tradition, and wouldn’t promote going for that reason), Siena is a charming Tuscan town with a great center piazza for enjoying a warm, relaxing afternoon outside.

Step back in time in SAN GIMIGNANO: 

This medieval town is known for its towers within the Tuscany region of Italy, and well worth a few days visit.

Stay in a villa TUSCANY & enjoy lots of chianti wine: 

Enough said on this one.

Have a sunrise soak at TERMA DI SATURNIA: 

Natural hot springs located in Tuscany.

Heading for a LONG flight soon?

Check out these carry on items to ensure a comfortable flight

See the beauty of ELBA from the POV of Napoleon:

Napoleon Bonaparte, a French military general during the French Revolution was exiled to Elba, and while that in itself sounds like a fascinating reason to visit, Elba is known for much more. Lush landscapes mixed with pristine beaches and Europe’s largest marine park.

Enjoy the Italian Riviera town of PORTOFINO:

And maybe spot a celebrity or two.

Then take a boat to SAN FRUTTUOSO:

A tiny bay and hidden gem in the Liguria region of Italy reached only by hiking or boat.

Take the iconic leaning tower of PISA picture:

Yes, everyone looks ridiculous doing it, and yes you need to do it too because it’s hilarious and we all need to laugh at ourselves more often

Breath in the fresh air of CASTELLUCCIO:

It’s the highest village up in the Apennine Mountain Range

Set up a home base in the Eternal City, ROME: 

This is 100% a personal bucket list item of mine, but I would suggest it to whomever I could. While I could state the obvious ‘tour the coleseo’ or ‘eat gelato’, I firmly believe that there is SO much to experience in Rome.

From underground capuchin bone churches to breathtaking vistas in manicured gardens, layers of history buried in the ground to delicate high fashion around every corner, Rome is a city to fully experience not just planned as a layover pit stop.

Take a cooking class in Rome: 

Learn from the best, Andrea Consoli. We took his full-day cooking class in the heart of Roma & fell in love with the experience. The chef, Andrea was fantastic!  You can’t get food much fresher than in this class.

Step into two different countries within Italy, VATICAN CITY and SAN MARINO:

Vatican City is a country, and San Marino a small independent nation. Both are within the country of Italy, and while you may not get a new stamp on your passport, you’ll have witnessed incredible history.

Get baci (kisses) in PERUGIA: 

The city of Perugia is most well known for its chocolate, due to the popularity of Baci chocolates. Plus it’s beautiful.. As is all of Italy if you’ve been reading this entire post.

Pay tribute to Saint Francis in ASSISI: 

The hill town of Assisi is home to the birthplace of the patron saint of Saint Francis, who is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment.

Tan in Italian style on the beaches of SPERLONGA:

Known for its pristine beaches. All you need to do is rent a beach chair, put on a large fancy hat and relax in style.

Enjoy pizza perfection in NAPLES:

There seem to be misconstrued ideas that the city of Naples is covered in trash (due to workman strikes), but there is so much beauty in this city to be experienced and Neapolitan pizza (yes, food can be beautiful) is one of them!

Discover the brothels of POMPEII:

A ruined city thanks to Mount Vesuvius – that’s both a sarcastic thanks because hello, an eruption of lava destroyed the entire place, and a literal thanks because that destruction created a well preserved, historical landmine for us visitors.

There are so many historic spots in the city of Pompeii to explore, but if you aren’t going with a guide, you are choosing to wander through a petrified CITY on your own. Meaning the place is massive.

So you should go with a plan, and why not have finding the preserved brothels of Pompeii on your plan?

Eat lemon candies in SORRENTO:

Known for their delicious lemon groves, Sorrento has lemon-flavored items exploding from every storefront. While limoncello liqueur is an international favorite, for those who want something for everyday enjoyment I’d suggest the lemon candies many stores sell.

Cliff Jump in CAPRI:

and visit the Blue Grotto (be a pro-Italian when you visit, by pronouncing it the Italian way – emphasize the ‘a’ in Capri, not the ‘i’).

Rent a boat in POSITANO:

The stunningly picturesque town of Positano leaves all first-timers speechless with its buildings carved into the cliffside. Take in all of its beauty from the comfort of your own boat.

Spend a colorful weekend on the island of PROCIDA:

A Mediterranean haven for color & coastal beauty, Procida is just a boat ride away from Naples.

Visit PIETRAPERTOSA, the town carved into stone:

I’m not sure how Europeans were able to build towns right into rock surfaces, but I sure can marvel at it.

Learn all about olive oil in APULIA:

Apulia is Italy’s main region for olive oil production with plenty of thousand-year-old olive trees.

Spend a summer soaking up SICILY:

Sicily seems to be an underrated part of Italy, but meowzahs does it have some stunning places to visit (and some of the most delicious Italian food I’ve ever had). Soaking up all the island has to offer requires a few months of time to truly immerse yourself there.

Spend the following summer indulging in SARDINIA:

Just like Siciliy, Sardinia is not to be missed. Surrounded by beautiful beaches, Sardinia is a must-see summer destination for all

This ultimate Italian bucket list will continue to grow, as I find myself reading about the country, so be sure to come back to see what’s been added every few months.

And if you think I’ve missed one, comment below and let me know!

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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Eight Reasons why you NEED to visit Interlaken

Eight Reasons why you NEED to visit Interlaken

Many travelers tend to stay put in the major metropolitan cities of Western Europe, which do indeed offer many breathtaking sites. Yet if you step outside of those major cities you will often be greeted with charming towns. Just a short two hour train ride outside of the major cities of Switzerland lies just one of those places, called Interlaken. Interlaken is a namesake town in Switzerland and for good reason, with the best part being that it hasn’t become over crowded with the buzzword term we call ‘over tourism’.

Here are eight reasons

why you need to visit Interlaken:

(1) The Adventure

Interlaken is one a world favorite adventure capital! Many visitors flock here for extreme sports such as skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, canyoning and more! With a mix of mighty Swiss Alps, low lying lakes and everything in between, it’s no wonder this area sees it’s fair share of adventure seekers and dare devils.

(2) The Hiking

Interlaken’s centrally located setting between the Swiss Alps and lakes makes it a perfect setting for beautiful hikes. We loved how the hikes ranged in length and difficulty so that anyone visiting Interlaken would feel comfortable getting outside and hiking.

(3) The Natural Beauty

There is a reason the Swiss Alps are internationally known. The natural and pristine beauty that accompanies the reputation of the Alps will leave anyone speechless. And Interlaken has a wonderful combination of lakes and mountains, with idyllic swiss homes nestled in between.

(4) To feel on top of the world

We’ve been mentioning seeing the Swiss Alps in Interlaken, now imagine being able to go up to the top of them and see below. There are cogwheel trains that take visitors to the top of the Swiss Alps, such as Jungfrau and Neiderhorn. And once at the top you’ll feel as if you’re on top of the world looking down on the valleys and surrounding mountains.

(5) The Castles & Legends

There are a handful of beautiful castles near Interlaken. Few can compare to the breathtaking Oberhofen Castle curled up on the coast of Lake Thun, except for maybe the Thun Castle, which is settled high up in the town of Thun, Switzerland. Both are filled with lots of history and beautiful views. There is also the legendary St. Beatus caves in between these two castles. Visitors can visit inside the caves where legend tells of a saint defeating a dragon who once inhabited the area.

(6) The Central Location

The convenient location of Interlaken is stellar for those who want the convenience of being near a city without the hustle and bustle. Interlaken and its surrounding lakes are close to the country’s capital, Bern, only a two hour train ride from international hub, Zurich and the up and coming city of Basel. You would be hard pressed not to find time to visit Interlaken if you are staying in one of these nearby cities.

(7) Perfect for Day Trips

While Interlaken is conveniently close to the major cities listed above, it is also great for exploring even further into Swiss country. There are hotels, AirBnbs and more in the surrounding areas of Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and Thun.

(8) It’s self contradicting

Interlaken’s activities are known for having variety and contrast – casual hikes along Lake Thun to skydiving thousands of feet above. Yet, it’s landscape is also vastly unique from one end to the next. With bright turquoise water lakes to white snow-capped mountains, and vibrant green forests in between. And of course it’s colorful small towns with picturesque Swiss chalet homes and storefronts.

People from all over the world flock to the Interlaken area to soak in its beautiful scenery and marvel at all of the possibilities for outdoor adventure. If you’re considering a trip to this area of Switzerland check out this ultimate guide to Interlaken.

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

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Foolproof Visitor’s Guide to Interlaken Switzerland

Foolproof Visitor’s Guide to Interlaken Switzerland

An Ultimate travel Guide for Interlaken, Switzerland!

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The stunningly pristine alpine village of Interlaken, Switzerland is one that visitors to Central Europe must add to their destination bucket list. Nestled between two alpine water lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, and epic views of snow capped Alp mountains, this area of the Canton of Bern, Switzerland continues to be a breathtakingly beautiful stop for visitors. It is also home to one of the world’s thrill-seeking capitals. Imagine having access to turquoise waters for windsurfing and kayaking, and being in proximity to major Alp mountains like the Jungfrau, for extreme sports. With so much to see, do and explore in Interlaken I guarantee you’ll leave wanting to come back to this paradise in central Switzerland.

How to get to Interlaken

        No matter what destination you are coming from, getting to Interlaken is quite easy. By taking one of Switzerland’s timely and efficient trains, you can arrive to the center of the town of Interlaken and begin your exploring soon after.

        There are two train stations in Interlaken – Interlaken Ost and Interlaken West. Interlaken Ost is closer to the Old Town part of the city, while the Interlaken West station is closer to Lake Thun. I visited Interlaken after a long weekend in Zurich, and with one easy to make connection in Bern, found ourselves at the Interlaken Ost train station (as it was closer to our AirBnb) marveling at the beautiful mountains right behind the train station. Which were dripping in natural waterfalls and springs. You can look up Swiss train schedules here.

        There is also an airport in the area called Belp Airport. However, it is typically much cheaper to fly into a major airport, like Zurich International, and take a train, rather than spend an exorbitant amount on a flight to a smaller airport like the Belp Airport.

        And of course you can reach Interlaken by car. Depending on where you are staying this may be a great option so that you don’t have to rely on public transportation (however, public transportation in Switzerland is very reliable). You can utilize the Sepp app to find and pay for parking in Switzerland, and here is a map of where you can find parking in the central part of Interlaken.

Where to Stay in Interlaken

        Deciding on where to stay can be a challenging feat for any trip. You want to have balance between great location, price, value and more. Since Interlaken is known for more beyond its city lines, such as outdoor adventure sports, there is an overwhelming amount of options. Here are quite a few options for travelers on different budgets visiting Interlaken:

    Looking for traditional Swiss architecture?

    Stay in Interlaken City. This is the urban part of Interlaken, and is very walkable. This is also where a lot of the adventure sport companies will have visitors meet near.

    Lodging in Interlaken City

      Looking for lake views?

      Stay on one of the lakes that hug Interlaken, Lake Thun or Lake Brienz. We stayed at a beautifully renovated AirBnb that had stunning views of Lake Thun (and heated bathroom floors, second best feature next to the lakeside views!)

        Looking to stay outside of Interlaken?

        Here are a few options for wanting to stay somewhere that isn’t in the main part of Interlaken:

        • Lauterbrunnen- only a few kilometers south of Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen is best known for its quintessential Swiss chalet style homes, and beautiful landscape views.

        Lodging in Lauterbrunnen

          • Grindelwald- the mountain village of the Eiger mountain, there are lots of activities to participate in here for both summer and winter months.

          Lodging in Grindelwald

            • Thun- the main town that Lake Thun was named after. Thun felt much more traditional Swiss than the (quite frankly) over touristed area of Interlaken City. It also felt like there was much more to see if you weren’t doing outdoor adventure activities during your entire time to this area of Switzerland.

            Lodging in Thun

              Looking for convenience to travel elsewhere?

              Stay near Interlaken Ost, which is the east side of the town. It is close to the larger train station. It is also near the touristy areas; meaning lots of souvenir shops and over-priced/under value eateries.

                While I could link to multiple different hostels, hotels and B&Bs, I understand that it’s important to look at all of your options, so instead I would suggest making your own independent decision (as you know your travel style better than I ever could). I typically book through AirBnb or Booking.com.

                Hafen Lodge, AirBnb

                Where to stay in Interlaken, Switzerland

                When should you go to Interlaken?

                The best Time of Year to visit Interlaken

                        The best part about Interlaken is that it’s always a good time to visit! It really depends on what you want to do while you are there. If you’re looking for winter sports, then you can’t beat skiing or snowboarding in the Swiss Alps. If you want to be able to casually walk around and enjoy the european charm and beautiful landscapes then springtime and summer are great. And yes, it does warm up in Interlaken, even though it is near the Swiss Alps. It can get up to the mid-70s during the summer months.

                        I would suggest that you keep your budget in mind when deciding when to visit Interlaken (or any part of Switzerland for that matter). It is a fairly expensive country, and can become even more expensive during busy seasons such as mid-summer months and major holidays like Christmas.

                How many days should you stay/visit Interlaken?

                        Similar to the best time of year to visit Interlaken, the number of days you should spend in this area is dependent on what you want to while there and your preferred travel style. You could spend a solid three days there and be able to explore Interlaken, have an adventurous excursion, like paragliding, and enjoy half a day on a boat cruise of one of the lakes.

                        If you prefer a slower paced travel experience, then I would suggest taking a week here. That way you can enjoy going to the top of Jungfrau (which you would want to wait to do until the sky is clear, see more about this below). As well as be able to spend an entire day exploring the town of Thun (my favorite place during my trip to Interlaken). You would also have time to go on a few hikes, and feel as if you have experienced all that Interlaken city has to offer.

                How to get around Interlaken & the surrounding areas

                        Interlaken is conveniently compact so exploring the city center is easily done so on foot. However if you are staying outside of the city center you will be able to take their local bus lines. In order to find which route/s to take I would suggest using Google Maps or Rome2Rio. For all of our travels we use these two options. The best part is that most hotels will have free bus cards for their visitors, so be sure to ask the front desk when you check in. Even our AirBnb host had bus cards for us to use. There are of course taxis you can take around as well, but the buses were always on time, and conveniently close to everything we needed.

                        Don’t forget that Interlaken is situated between those two shockingly turquoise watered lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. There are boats that you can take around the entirety of the lakes with multiple stop off points that I would highly recommend (keep reading to find those below!). You can purchase tickets for the boats at the tourist office or at their docks. Here is a map of the stops on both lakes.

                 

                LAKE THUN

                • If you want to explore Lake Thun, then you would board near the Interlaken West train station
                • It takes about two hours to get to the town of Thun
                • Best stop off points: Oberhofen Castle, St. Beatus Caves, Spiez
                • Not every boat that departs from Interlaken West will be a multi-stop boat, so be sure to ask which one will stop at each spot
                • Map of Lake Thun boat docks here
                • Boats operate year round, so you can enjoy a round about boat trip on Lake Thun even in the winter

                LAKE THUN

                • If you want to explore Lake Brienz, then you would board near the Interlaken Ost train station

                • It takes about one and a half hours to get to the town of Brienz

                • Not every boat that departs from Interlaken Ost will be a multi-stop boat, so be sure to ask which one will stop at each spot

                • Map of Lake Brienz boat docks here

                Why should I go to Interlaken?

                Check out this blog post that includes

                Eight Reasons why you NEED to visit Interlaken, Switzerland

                  Things to do in & around Interlaken

                  Interlaken is known as an adventure seekers destination, so there is no shortage of things to do in this area of Switzerland.

                  • Spend time outdoors on a scenic hike

                  Hiking is an all time favorite travel activity of mine, and an excellent way to burn off those vacation meal calories when traveling. Interlaken has so many options when it comes to their hikes. You can find ones that are range in length and difficulty. Wherever I’m traveling to, I almost always use the All Trails app to research and choose which hike/s I want to go on. Download the app here!

                  Cost: Free!

                  • Become a bird, and paraglide!

                    Each morning you’ll be able to see paragliders swinging lightly through the clouds down to the center of Interlaken. So, why not be one of them? This fairly carefree adventure is great for those just beginning to go outside of their comfort zone (which I can say from experience, as I’ve tended to lean towards the safe side until I went paragliding in Interlaken).

                    After reviewing a few companies (based on price, reviews, years in service & level of professionalism) we chose to book with Paragliding Interlaken. Their staff were very accommodating and we loved our guides. Push past those fears of heights and enjoy a birds eye view of Interlaken!

                    Cost: 170 CHF

                  • Step up your game & be a daredevil

                    While paragliding is a wonderful activity, if you’re feeling up for an even greater adrenaline rush, Interlaken also has companies that offer skydiving, canyoning, white water rafting, ice climbing and bungee jumping. Luckily Paragliding Interlaken has lots of options for the adventurous type. *Add in Tripadvisor link if approved for their affiliate program

                    Cost: depends on activity, ranges from 40 CHF to 400+ CHF

                  • See if the legend is true, by visiting St. Beatus Caves

                    There is a legend that says Saint Beatus defeated a dragon that was living inside of these caves. You’ll have to see for yourself if you believe it to be true, but either way you’ll be greeted with stunning waterfalls both in and outside of the caves. The caves are open from March to November. Find more details about visiting here.

                    Cost: 18 CHF

                  • Take a relaxing boat cruise on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz

                    Interlaken is great for providing ways to view this beautiful country from both above the clouds and on the shorelines. A lake cruise is a wonderful way to spend your day and they offer plenty of hop on/off stops for further exploring.

                    Lake Thun cruises depart from the ferry dock near the Interlaken West station, while the Lake Brienz cruises depart of the ferry dock near the Interlaken Ost station. Both are easy to find once you’re at the train stations. You can find the timetables here. The more difficult decisions you’ll make is which lake to cruise on. Both feature turquoise waters and stunning views of the Alps. If you have time consider going on both! Cruises are offered April through October, and there are winter cruises on Lake Thun (only).

                    COST: starting at 35 CHF

                  • Step back in time at the Oberhofen Castle

                    Since you’re already going to take a Lake Cruise (which is my number one suggestion for those visiting Interlaken!), you might as well stop off from the Lake Thun cruise to explore the Oberhofen Castle. My standards for visiting a museum and castle have become somewhat particular … after plenty of travels, I’ve seen quite a few and have decided to spend my money wisely when visiting, as not all are created equal … and I would definitely recommend walking through Oberhofen Castle.

                    We found this 13th century castle and museum to be informative, engaging and loved the way the interior has been maintained. There are also English gardens outside that you can walk around in, for picture perfect moments with loved ones (unlike these hilarious attempts we made here… not quite sure what we were trying, but sleep deprivation probably had something to do with us thinking it was a good idea, haha). Overall it is an enchanting lakeside with beautiful architecture, and remains one of my favorite stops while we were in Interlaken, Switzerland. 

                    Cost: 10 CHF, Oberhofen Castle Visitor Information

                  • Treat yourself to a first class cocktail

                    Put your fancy pants on & enjoy a cocktail at Interlaken’s finest hotel, the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel. In between all of your outdoor adventures, be sure to treat yourself to a high class atmosphere. The Victoria Bar offers traditional English tea times on the weekends as well.

                    Cost: depends on what you order

                  • Walk around Interlaken Old Town

                    There are two sides to Interlaken’s town centre, the main street and the streets north of the main street leading to the river.

                    The Main street is strictly shopping and mostly for tourists. I wouldn’t skip past it too quickly but you don’t need to spend too much time here. If you’re looking to buy some Swiss chocolate, Swiss Army Knives or souvenir type items then this is where to go.

                    After you’ve finished with your shopping, head north through the small collection of streets that lead to the river. Here you will find more traditional buildings decorated with baskets of flowers and colourful window shutters, including the Interlaken Monastery and castle.

                    Cost: free!

                  • Explore the top of a lesser known Swiss Alp, the Neiderhorn

                    Below are the top Swiss Alps to visit when you’re near Interlaken, Switzerland. However, I’ve come to love exploring the lesser known places while traveling and you will not be disappointed by taking half a day (or a full day if you want to hike up) experiencing the top of the Niederhorn. This was suggested to us by our AirBnb host, as was the restaurant that is located at the midway point.

                    You can either hike from the bottom to the top, or take the funicular. In fact, you can ride the funicular to different heights of the mountain. So if you want to ride halfway up and hike the rest (or vice versa) you can!

                    Cost: the cost has varied since we visited, I would ask your local lodging to find this for you

                  • Soak up another breathtaking view at Harder Kulm

                    Harder Kulm is a viewpoint in Interlaken. People call it Interlaken’s own mountain as the view looks down directly over the town. Visitors take a quick ten minute cable car up to the top, and can walk out over the extending platform to spectacular views of Interlaken and Unterseen from above.

                    *The cable car cost is a bit pricey, so be sure to plan to go only on a clear sky day. I would suggest visiting around sunset is best. There is also a panoramic restaurant with a glass viewing platform.

                    Cost: (for the funicular) 38 CHF

                  • Visit the beautiful Giessbach Waterfalls

                    On the south side of Lake Brienz are the Giessbach Waterfalls. Arrive either by ferry or bike, then take the funicular to the Grand Hotel Giessbach, which has incredible views. Of course you can always hike up or down instead of taking the funicular, if you want to spend more time outside enjoying Switzerland’s hikes.

                    For more details on the hike, check out this blog post.

                    Cost: 10 CHF

                  Day Trips from Interlaken

                   Just as it’s smart to have a somewhat planned out itinerary for things to do in Interlaken, there are so many beautiful places around the area that you should consider as well.

                   

                  Be enthralled with Thun Switzerland

                  Enjoy your lake cruise on Lake Thun over to the town that the lake was named after, Thun. You can enjoy your time walking through the colorful town, and the uphill walk to the Sleeping Beauty-esque castle, Thun Castle. You may even catch some surfers riding the structured tides at the wooden bridges in the town center. Yes, that’s right, Thun has wooden bridges just like Lucerne!

                  Step back in time at Unterseen

                  This medieval town is walkable from Interlaken, and worth half a day trip for those who enjoy meandering through charming European towns.

                  Explore the famous mountain of Jungfrau

                  Visitors can hop into a cogwheel train all the way to the top of the mountain and take in breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. There is a Snow Park open during the summer months, which is great for snow tubing, skiing or snowboarding.

                  It takes two hours to get to Jungfrau from Interlaken, and I don’t believe there are any restrooms on the trains. It’s accessible 365 days a year. There is also a Jungfrau pass that’s great for those who want to explore more than one mountain town near Interlaken, as it will save you money if you want to participate in many of those activities. You can purchase the Jungfrau Travel Pass HERE.

                  Battle your adventure fears in Grindelwald

                  No, I don’t mean the J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter novels) evil Grindelwald, I mean the outdoorsy, very popular mountain town, Grindelwald. Not only is the main town of Grindelwald postcard worthy for Switzerland, there are also lots of outdoor activities for both summer and winter months. Here are more details on what to do in Grindelwald.

                  Take postcard worthy images in Lauterbrunnen

                  You’ve probably seen snapshots of this Swiss town with its iconic waterfall falling near the main town. Visitors can easily take a train or car from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, and capture pictures you will cherish for years.

                  Take a scenic train ride

                  There is something magical about train rides that weave you through the countryside, especially a countryside as adorably picturesque as Switzerlands. Take the Schynige Platte cogwheel train from Wilderswil. Only a ten minute drive or bus ride from Interlaken. *Be sure to check the weather forecast before choosing which day to do this, because if it’s cloudy outside then you won’t see the wonderfully beautiful scenery, which makes this trip worth it.

                  FUN FACTS about Interlaken, Switzerland

                  Both Lake Thun and Lake Brienz are turquoise and blue due to glacial particles. These tiny particles drip down the Swiss Alps and sink to the bottom of the lake, purifying the water as they go on their descent.

                  Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                  Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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                  Travel Guide to Bern, Switzerland

                  Travel Guide to Bern, Switzerland

                  An Ultimate Guide for what to see & do when traveling to Bern, Switzerland

                  (and what to skip!)

                  Note: this post contains affiliate links to products we love and have purchased ourselves. Clicking these links doesn’t cost you any extra money, and you’re supporting us by doing so. You can view our disclosure page for additional details

                  Experience the effortlessly charming city of Bern, Switzerland. The fifth largest city in the country, and Switzerland’s capital, Bern is a compact but adorably picturesque city. A place that was once home to the physicist Albert Einstein, known for bears, Berenese dogs and the colorful River Aare, Bern is perfect for a city break and is still an off-the-radar gem of Switzerland.

                  Below you will find a detailed travel guide to Bern, Switzerland including where to stay, why you should visit Bern and the top things to do in the city.

                  [If you found your way here through my Sustainable Travel page, then you may just be interested in my findings and viewpoints on Barenpark. Click here to scroll to that section.]

                  Why go to Bern?

                   Why should I go to Bern?

                          There are so many beautiful places to visit Switzerland and its surrounding countries, yet I would still highly recommend a visit to Bern, and here’s why:

                          The city is meticulously preserved, which is most likely why it’s old town (also called the aldstadt) was named a UNESCO World Heritage site all the way back in 1983! Literally every corner you turn there are picture perfect places to soak up. And it doesn’t hurt that life is slower paced than many other major european cities. So, you’ll be exploring a ‘big’ city but enjoying it as if it’s a small town.

                   

                  Fun fact: Bern, Switzerland earned its name from the founder around the early 1900’s after he apparently killed a bear who came too close to the city while it was being built. (More about how this fact led to a not too pretty, in fact very negative, animal rights situation… more on that later. Keep reading to find out!) Since then, the city’s flag and emblem has always shown a bear.

                  Where is Bern?

                  Bern, Switzerland is located southwest of the major city of Zurich, and only an hour train ride from the crisp blue lakes bordering Interlaken. The city is hugged by the beautifully bright & clean River Aare

                    Where to stay in Bern?

                            The city of Bern goes farther beyond the altstadt (old town), so be sure to book your lodging inside of the old town area, as this is where the charming, picturesque part of the city is located.

                            We stayed at the Hotel Savoy Bern and loved it! The location was not only within walking distance to the main train station (which will save you money from having to order a taxi or public transportation), but the rooms were very spacious, had great views and the interior was modernly beautiful.

                            Be sure to check out other lodgings options – I typically use Booking.com as they list more than just hotels. There are luxury homes, B&Bs and apartments. Lodging options in Bern, Switzerland

                      How long should I stay in Bern?

                      We stayed in Bern for three nights and felt like we were able to leisurely enjoy our time here. One day would not be enough, so I would suggest at a minimum two full days and depending on your travel style, at most four nights.

                        If you’re planning visits to other parts of Switzerland, be sure to explore my other posts about this enchanting country here!

                          How to get around Bern:

                                  While there is an airport near Bern, it’ll be much easier to arrive by train. Once you arrive via train, it is a five to ten minute walk to get to the old town part of the city. Bern’s old town is shaped like a horseshoe bend with the turquoise River Aare giving it its shape. Once there you will notice that there are trams and buses available. However, we did not once use them as the city is so accessible on foot. In fact, most of the traffic you’ll see will be pedestrian foot traffic.

                                  Bern, Switzerland has recently installed bike stations throughout the city, which I would definitely recommend utilizing. You could bike around all of the old town in half a day this way. Check out this map for the location of the docking stations within the old town of Bern.

                            Walk around Berns beautifully preserved old town

                                      The city of Bern has transformed into a metropolis since it was rebuilt after a terrible fire in the early 1400’s. However the aldstadt has kept its european charm and has remained intact since the 15th century rebuild. Known for its 6 kilometers of ‘covered arcades’ – not actual arcades, but outdoor promenades – locals refer to them as “Lauben” – they are the longest weather sheltered shopping promenade in Europe

                                      While you’re walking around, try to find the Kindlifresser statue, aka the Child Eater statue. Yep, you read that correctly. There is a statue with a man eating a sack of babies… no one is quite sure what it depicts, but it should be a great example of the boogeyman tactics for parents to use.

                              Fun fact – there are over 100 fountains in this small old town!

                                Ogle at the Zytglogge

                                          The Zytglogge is a famous astronomical clock. It was Bern’s western city gate back in the 12th century, and is now a major site to see in the old town part of Bern. This 800+ year old clock still functions with all of its mechanical figures, and on the hour you can watch it ‘perform’. There is a museum/walk through tour you can do, but truth be told, I felt this was unnecessary. But I suppose it depends on your love for clockwork.

                                    Walk to the top of the Bern Cathedral

                                              A dominant landmark in Bern, this cathedral is the tallest religious building in all of Switzerland. Not only is it a great workout walking up the 222 steps, but the view is beautiful. I’m personally not always a fan of views from super high up because you miss out on so much detail, but the view from Bern Cathedral is perfect in terms of height without being too far away. It’s also the highest place to view the city from.

                                        Visit the Rosengarten

                                                  Bern’s Rosengarten is great for both a relaxing afternoon in a charming park and vistas of the entire city from across the River Aare. It is an uphill climb to reach the park, but you are rewarded with great views of Bern. There is a statue of Einstein sitting on a bench that is perfect for capturing cute pictures with the historical figures.

                                                  The Rosengarten would be good to visit even in the fall, and for sunset as the sun dips below the city skyline.

                                            Explore the Bundeshaus

                                                      The Bundeshaus is the Swiss Federal Assembly building in Bern. I’ve become particularly choosey when it comes to spending my travel time inside of museums and historical sites, so while I typically wouldn’t suggest going inside of a government building, the Swiss do it justice. They offer FREE tours of inside the Bundeshaus, however will be closed to the public if parliament is in session. You can find the dates they are closed here.

                                                Shop at the Parliament Square weekly market

                                                          In front of Bundeshaus is Parliament Square, which is great for people watching, and where Bern hosts a weekly market. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning you can enjoy local produce and Swiss foods.

                                                          Maybe you’ll feel inclined to buy some treats and then enjoy them while sitting on the steps in the back of Bundeshaus. This part of the building sits against the River Aare so will provide a nice relaxing place to enjoy a morning treat.

                                                    Channel Albert Einstein’s intelligence

                                                              Learn about the famous physicist and his life while he lived in Bern, Switzerland by visiting the house he used to live in. This house museum is where he lived when he developed his famous theory of relativity. Overall, it was a fairly interesting place to visit as Einstein had a unique life and also traveled the world.

                                                              (There is a good cafe directly below it as well)

                                                        Swim in the Aare

                                                                  If you plan on visiting Bern in the summer, than I’d suggest packing a swimsuit as you can swim in the beautifully clean River Aare. I can’t speak personally about this as we visited in the fall, but a local gave us the following information on how to swim in the Aare in Bern : enter at Eicholz recreation area and float down to the Freiban Marzili.

                                                            Enjoy the sunset with a view

                                                                     Grab a bottle of wine or some beers from a local store and enjoy the sun setting over the rust red rooftops of Bern at the Rosengarten or from the back side of the Bundeshaus (Parliament Building).

                                                                Take it slow & people watch

                                                                          I loved the pace of the city of Bern. A city that felt effortlessly slow paced. My suggestion, pick up a cup of coffee in the morning and sit in one of the squares to people watch. There was a square close to our hotel that had a life size chess set. We watched a group of older men play while starting their day with espressos, beers and cigars. It’s moments like these where you can begin to feel the heart of a place you travel to.

                                                                          Another way to immerse yourself in a new destination is to…

                                                                    Take part in a local event or festival

                                                                              As Bern is the capital of Switzerland there are quite a few events that you can attend. We stumbled upon a cultural food festival while there and loved it. You can find more of Bern’s events here.

                                                                                Translated this means the Bear Park. As an animal lover and protector I am always hesitant about visiting and suggesting others to visit places that house (unfortunately, ‘house’ is a light term used here, when often it’s a prison) animals of any kind. I try my best to research prior to visiting and especially spending any money on places like these.

                                                                                Unfortunately, Bern housed a cement bear pit since its inception of officially becoming Bern in the 1500’s. Looking at pictures of what it used to be, which was maintained up until 2009, it makes me feel really sad that that went on for so long. Happily though, the Bern bear pit has been transformed into a bear park. The park is over 65,000 square feet in size, is fitted on a sloping hill with plenty of grass areas for the current bear occupants to enjoy who were transferred from Scandinavia or born in captivity. (Personally, I feel that it’s extremely odd that we ship animals around like property to different zoo’s.)

                                                                                  Barenpark is free to visit in Bern. And while the space provided for them now is much much better than the cement hole in the ground they inhabited for hundreds of years, it’s still limiting for what a wild animal should have access to. For example, bears enjoy water and currently the bears at Barenpark can see the water rushing by but have no access to it. Talk about dangling a treat in front of someone face, and preventing them from having it for their own ‘safety’.

                                                                                  I suggest visiting as you can see for yourself the conditions they’re in, and may it be a reminder, note for the future or nugget of a lesson for you to better understand the rights that animals should have.

                                                                          What are your thoughts on this?

                                                                             Not to end on what may feel like a negative tone, let me conclude by saying that Bern has much more to offer than their Barenpark. If you choose to visit this charismatic city (which I highly suggest you do!), be sure to enjoy it in its entirety by visiting and doing the items I listed above. Bern is great for taking it slow, and is one of the few places in Europe that still feels off the beaten path in terms of popular cities to visit in Switzerland.

                                                                              [Curious about why there are so many people at the same destination as you? Read about Over Tourism here]

                                                                                TIPS for visiting Bern, Switzerland:

                                                                                • Switzerland is expensive, so be sure to visit a grocery store for lunch or breakfast (and maybe some wine) to save yourself from racking up your expenses too high
                                                                                • Swiss German is the language spoken in Bern
                                                                                • Stay in the old town part of the city Bern, once there, everything is walkable
                                                                                • Visit Bern, Switzerland in the summer to swim in the River Aare, visit in the winter months for the Christmas markets
                                                                                • More general facts about the city of Bern

                                                                                  Want to see more?

                                                                                  Scroll through these pictures of from our trip to Bern, Switzerland

                                                                                    Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                                                                                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

                                                                                    Follow Along!

                                                                                    Start your own blog today!

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                                                                                    Hiking Madeira’s Mountains

                                                                                    Hiking Madeira’s Mountains

                                                                                    An experience I never expected

                                                                                            Tossing bits of dried fruit over to a pair of red-legged partridges, it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps I greatly underestimated the vast wildlife we were about to encounter on our eight-hour hike through the mountains of Madeira. The local guide and our new long-limbed friend, David, chuckled with my sudden influx of inquiries concerning the danger of mountain lions and cliff jumping goats. Much to my surprise, the only ‘predators’ to fear on this Portuguese island located off the coast of Morocco were the hungry feral canines and felines that roamed the domesticated neighborhoods. 

                                                                                            I jumped at the opportunity for an all-day nature hike in lieu of another day of urban exploration; however, amidst my excitement I neglected to research what to expect from this Portuguese archipelago. As we continued our cliff-hugging journey through the tallest peaks of this island, I was mindfully balancing out the thoughts of ‘how did I not consider the wildlife?’ and ‘do NOT look down!’  Tall, lush grass veiled the hand laid steps that furrowed into the fertile mountainside which appeared hidden from a faraway glance. The only note of caution was to not grip the slim wire that hangs like a mere barrier between the rocky mountain side and the steep descent down the sharp cliffs.  

                                                                                            Madeira is a floating garden-like island where what little was brought here has remained. A place where the most popular beverage, Poncha, uses ingredients sourced from the backyards of neighbors growing sugar cane in their own yard. The friendly and modest locals prepare seafood with inherent skill and captivate visitors with conversation in English. I learned that the only wildlife sustained on the island are birds and feral ‘pets’, at least for now. Immersed in the island’s flora and fauna, not only did my experience cultivate a newfound respect for this island that dates to the ice ages, but I didn’t feel like a tourist.

                                                                                            It’s moving to be in a place that still feels untouched by human permeation of insatiability. With little to fear from non-existent predators, it is no wonder the partridges teetering on a cliffside with us were welcoming during our midday snack break. This pearl of the Atlantic Ocean maintains much of its original beauty, and is truly a paradise in the purest form. It felt as if we were the first group to hike this trail, and when we left no trace that we had been there- I had the distinct feeling that I experienced something I never expected to.

                                                                                    The majoirty of the hike was on hand made trails with this wiring you see here.  Our guide told us to not truly hold onto it as it had sharp pieces… yet the ground was slippery, so we needed to hold on (haha).  However the views (below) were well worth the before-dawn pick up and tricky hiking conditions.

                                                                                    We took this hike with a tour group — Up Mountain Madeira

                                                                                    I would highly recommend them.  They were easy to book with, communication was always timely and the guides went above what I would have expected.  We also loved that the size of groups were limited.

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                                                                                    Visiting Mount Pilatus, Switzerland

                                                                                    Visiting Mount Pilatus, Switzerland

                                                                                    Switzerland’s mysterious mountain

                                                                                       According to Middle Age legend, Mount Pilatus was first inhabited by one or more dragons with healing powers.  As visitors creep upward in the steepest cogwheel train, these mythical dragons seem to loom closer as you slowly cross through cloud cover.  With the slow approach to the top, you will pass through barely fenced farms with cattle and goats roaming, traditional wooden cottages home to large cowbells hanging up and the occasional crow skimming the clouds.

                                                                                     Once at the top, walk about the hotel, gift shop area, and most importantly the outdoor deck space.  This place clings to the peaks surface and on a clear day allows for trail walking and panoramic views of valleys in between Alp summits.      

                                                                                    If you’re already in Lucerne for the day, you can purchase tickets at the Pilatus Lucerne store in the Aldstadt (Old Town) area of Lucerne.  They did a wonderful job describing how to get to Mount Pilatus.  Essentially you take a train from the Lucerne station to Alpnachstad.

                                                                                    We chose the visit option that was 83 CHF.  It included the cost of train tickets, the cogwheel ride up, cable car down and the bus back to Lucerne.  In total it took us 3.5 hours to visit, however it was very cloudy and snowing at the top so we didn’t spend tons of time up there.  There are short trails you can walk up there- dress accordingly for it by wearing hike worthy shoes.

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