Switzerland’s adventure capital is Interlaken, which lies between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz (hence the name, which means ‘Between the Lakes’) in beautiful Bernese Oberland and acts as a sort of service town and gateway to the region. It’s easily accessible by train from Bern or Zürich and is the departure point for jaunts to the Jungfrau villages, Jungfraujoch, Schynige Platte and Schilthorn.
In the 19th century the expanding railway system saw the first signs of a tourism industry in the town, but it was the 20th century that saw it become a popular destination with backpacker and adventure sports enthusiasts.
Adventure sports (many possible year-round) that can be organized from Interlaken (your hotel will generally be able to arrange anything; activities take place all over Bernese Oberland) include tandem paragliding and skydiving, canyoning and rafting, bungee jumping, glacier trekking, rock climbing and canyon jumping. The main operators are Alpin Raft, Outdoor Interlaken and Swiss Raft.
One relatively sedate, but very worthy, activity is the trip up to Interlaken’s ‘local mountain’ of Harder Kulm (1322m, 4337ft), accessible via a quick funicular ride from town (the funicular station is just near Interlaken Ost train station; adult return ticket CHF30) and with incredible views of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz thanks to a sturdy viewing platform. There’s a restaurant at the top of the mountain and a children’s playground.
Interlaken’s main street of Höheweg is book-ended by by train station Interlaken Ost and Interlaken West. Ost is best for Jungfrau excursions, West is closest to Interlaken’s center — both are connected by bus and train.
Accommodation and places to eat are bountiful: you’ll find everything from camping, sleep-in-straw farmhouses and party-hearty backpacker hostels to one of the most famous hotels in Switzerland (the Hotel Victoria-Jungfrau). Food-wise, you can indulge in your love of fondue, your need to carb load with rösti or even spice it up (to a modest extent) with Thai or Indian cuisine.
In winter, Interlaken serves as a good base for those looking to ski/snowboard the Jungfrau Region’s 213km worth of pistes, as there is a free bus service (conditions apply; check with the tourist office) to the stations.