What’s the best hiking base in Switzerland? (my top 5 choices)

In my early twenties, I was lucky enough to call the Swiss Alps home for four beautiful years.

For the first eight months, I lived in Interlaken… which is one the most touristy parts of the entire country.

After realising how much I wanted peace and quiet by the mountains, I moved half an hour away along Lake Brienz to the little town of Meiringen.

It was bliss – and a perfect base for hiking. As I hiked across more of Switzerland in the following years, especially as part of my 400km hike across the country on the Via Alpina trail, I also stumbled upon a few other fantastic bases for hiking trips.

If you’re planning a hiking trip to Switzerland, you’re probably looking for a convenient home base to be close to the best hiking routes and mountain views. Or, you might want to stay in a few different towns to experience the best the country has to offer.

So, where’s the best place to stay to be close to the best hikes in Switzerland? Here’s my take, based on my time living and hiking in Switzerland…

The best bases for a hiking trip in Switzerland

Which area in Switzerland is best for hiking?

Based on my time living and hiking in Switzerland, I’d say that the Berner Oberland is the best area in Switzerland for hiking. It’s home to many of Switzerland’s most famous mountains, hiking trails, and picturesque alpine towns, including Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and Wengen.

Hiking bases in the Berner Oberland

Many people on hiking trips to central Switzerland decide to stay in Interlaken, but I actually think that’s a bit of a mistake. There are so many places near Interlaken that have all of the same advantages – incredible scenery, proximity to lakes and mountains – but just without the huge crowds of tourists everywhere. Here are some of my favourite hiking bases to stay instead of Interlaken…

1. Meiringen

Why choose Meiringen as a hiking base? You’re right on the Via Alpina hiking trail, a direct train journey from Interlaken and Luzern, and a bus journey away from Grosse Scheidegg, Grimselpass, and more.

I write a lot about my love story with Meiringen in my book. The main gist of it: I decided to move from Interlaken to Meiringen, and I still think it’s a perfect base for a hiking trip to Switzerland.

It’s a small and quiet town, slightly off the beaten track, and surrounded by gorgeous mountain scenery. You can also get a direct train from Meiringen to both Luzern and Interlaken to easily navigate the rest of the country.

Mountain views from my house when I lived in Meiringen. You can cross through this valley to reach Grindelwald.
The best hikes near Meiringen:
  • Meiringen to Grindelwald – 23km on the Via Alpina via the Reichenbach Falls and Rosenlaui over the Grosse Scheidegg.
  • Engstlenalp to Meiringen – 22km on the Via Alpina with views of the Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau and the peaceful Engstlensee lake along the way.
  • Meiringen to Innertkirchen – This is a low-key, town-to-town hike through the woods and mountains. From Meiringen, walk towards the Burgruine Resti (beautiful castle ruins) through the woods, follow the path downhill, and join the signposted path up towards Innertkirchen. To marvel at some geology, walk back via the awe-inspiring Aare Gorge.

Read more: The best things to do in Meiringen in summer

2. Brienz

Why choose Brienz as a hiking base? It’s one of the most stunning places to stay in Switzerland, home to one of the most gorgeous lakes, and surrounded by mountains.

Brienz is another incredible hiking base that’s just next to Meiringen. In some ways, it’s better situated than Meiringen, as it’s closer to Interlaken for travel connections and you get the stunningly beautiful Lake Brienz on your doorstep (as well as the old steam train up the Brienzer Rothorn mountain). But it all depends on the places you want to be close to.

Shore of Lake Brienz
On the shore of Lake Brienz
The best hikes near Brienz:
  • Axalp Sculpture Trail – This 2.7km woodcarving trail (or Schnitzlerweg) just a short distance above Brienz by bus, is fantastic. Brienz has a reputation for woodcarving, and I’m so happy they decided to showcase their artists’ work out in nature and free to enjoy. You can also hike a gorgeous a 7.4km loop from Axalp to Hinterburgsee and back to the bus station.
  • Brienzer Rothorn to Brünig Pass – Take the iconic Brienzer Rothorn Bahn cog railway from Brienz up the mountain, and then hike approximately 5 hours along the ridge to enjoy stunning views of Lake Brienz below. You can then get a train from Brünig, or make your hike a loop for a long day of walking.

Read more: The best things to do in Brienz if you love nature and hiking

View of glacial blue Lake Brienz while hiking from the Brienzer Rothorn to the Brünig Pass
View of glacial blue Lake Brienz while hiking from the Brienzer Rothorn to the Brünig Pass

3. Kandersteg

Why choose Kandersteg as a hiking base? You’ll be just a cable car away from one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland, the Oeschinensee. It’s stunning – and conveniently on the Via Alpina hiking trail, taking you to the small towns of Griesalp in one direction and Abelboden in the other.

Hiking from Oeschinensee to the Bluemlisalphütte
Looking back at the mountain view while hiking from Oeschinensee to the Bluemlisalphütte
The best hikes near Kandersteg:
  • Oeschinensee – Heuberg – After taking the cable car from Kandersteg to the Oeschinensee, follow this intermediate circular route for sublime views of the lake and surrounding mountains, including the Blüemlisalphore, Fründenhore, and Doldenhore.
  • Griesalp to Kandersteg – This is a demanding 17km hike on the Via Alpina across the 2778m-high Hohtürli pass.
  • Kandersteg to Abelboden – Hike 16km on the Via Alpina across the dramatic Bunderchrinde Pass at 2382m, one of the most dramatic crossings of the hiking trail.
  • Oeschinensee to Blüemlisalphütte – This steep and tiring (but incredibly beautiful) 7km route will take you from the lake to the Blüemlisalphütte, a mountain hut where you can stay overnight and enjoy a spectacular sunset before dinner with other guests. The next day, return the way you came (make sure you have hiking poles, it’s steep!) or head back in the other direction on the Via Alpina to Griesalp.
Hiking on the path above the Oeschinensee
Hiking on the path above the beautiful Oeschinensee

Hiking bases in the rest of Switzerland

4. Zermatt

Why choose Zermatt as a hiking base? Zermatt is one of the most well-known hiking bases in Switzerland, offering several stunning hikes that are accessible via cable car. The town itself is beautiful, although more touristy than some of the other hiking bases on this list.

Views of the Matterhorn while hiking above Zermatt
Views of the Matterhorn while hiking above Zermatt

What’s the most popular hike in Zermatt? The 5 Lakes Walk is one of Zermatt’s most famous hikes, offering views of the Matterhorn above you and stunning reflections in three of the lakes you pass by.

Here’s more information on this and more of the most beautiful hikes in Zermatt:

The best hikes in Zermatt:
  • The 5 Lakes Walk – This iconic hike in Switzerland is medium-difficulty, 9.8km long, and takes an estimated 2.5 hours to hike. It’s a perfect day hike that (based on fitness) you can easily fit into a morning or afternoon trip up the mountains.
  • 360° Loop Gornergrat – Starting at the 3100m high Gornergrat, this easy hike is just 0.5km, offering a short circular walk to let you take in the impressive scenic panorama of the Gornergrat. This includes the Monte Rosa massif, with Switzerland’s highest mountain among the 29 mountains over 4,000 metres visible on a clear day.
  • The Europa Trail between Grächen and Zermatt – This difficult multi-day hike is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful two-day hikes in the Alps, offering stunning panoramic views of the Matterhorn over 33.4km and an estimated 13.5 hours of hiking.

5. St Moritz

Why choose St Moritz? St Moritz is another of the most popular places in Switzerland for hiking, located in the heart of the Engadin valley in the canton of Graubünden (or Grisons, in French).

Cow on hiking path in nature around St Moritz
Enjoying the nature around St Moritz

The Engadin is full of opportunities for peaceful hikes away from the crowd, while offering some of the most beautiful mountain views in Switzerland.

The best hikes in and around St Moritz:
  • Maloja to Chiareggio – This moderate difficulty 16km hike is Stage 6 of the Bernina Tour, offering roughly 6 hours of magnificent scenery over the Muretto Pass into Valmalenco.
  • Diavolezza to Munt Pers – This 3.9km route is an easy hike, although as it’s a little steep and narrow in places, it’s best if you’re surefooted. Starting from Diavolezza mountain station, the path takes you to Munt Pers (3,206m) where you’ll be greeted by a fantastic panoramic view of the Eastern Alps.

You can find more information and more of the best hikes near St Moritz on the Engadin tourism board website.

Hiking above St Moritz in autumn
Iain hiking above St Moritz in autumn

For more inspiration for your hiking trip to Switzerland, you might like…

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