Europe Travel

Caves, Castles and Covered Bridges: A Tour Around Stunning Lake Thun

Lake Thun is a beautiful lake to the west of Interlaken, Switzerland. There are numerous small towns along the shores and just gorgeous places to take in the view. We made our way around Lake Thun (pronounced “Tune”) stopping first at St. Beatus Caves, then at Oberhofen Castle, then the town of Thun. Here’s the story of our day!

We woke up early on our sixth day in Switzerland to bike around Lake Thun. When we got to the bike shop in Interlaken, the woman working the counter actually strongly advised us not to bike around Lake Thun. She said that biking around Lake Brienz was much more enjoyable and taking the bus or train around Lake Thun was the way to go. We trusted her judgment and hopped on the next bus out of Interlaken. The heat alone could have convinced us anyway. (And it was no big deal as we ended up biking through parts of Switzerland, Austria and Germany later in our trip.)

St. Beatus Caves

Our first stop was St. Beatus Caves. These caves are conveniently located directly on the bus route and cost $18 or $16 with a visitor’s card. They are the site of an old Augustan monastery, nestled inside a cliff side with waterfalls running down. The walk up is labeled a pilgrimage and takes you along several steep switchbacks.

The caves themselves were once home to a dragon that Beatus expelled. Now, there are well-explored, well-lit, and well-maintained walking paths that take you through several grottos, stalagmites, and mirrored pools.

We explored the caves for awhile and marveled at how they went back miles into the mountain. The self-guided tour was more than a mile in, but they say they are still discovering hidden chambers and offshoots of the system even today. Exiting the cave leads to a stunning view of Lake Thun from the top of the monastery.

Instead of heading out immediately to our bus and continuing around the lake, we enjoyed a slice of plum cake made with a rich cream and relaxed for a minute. The heat was cut by the cave for now.

Oberhofen Castle

The heat instantly hit us with the walk back down the hill. How we managed to wait the 10 minutes for the bus without bursting into flames is a mysterious miracle. But we made it on to the bus. Next stop – Oberhofen castle.

…except we accidentally got out at Oberhof – about 2 miles away from the castle. Instead of waiting 30 minutes for the next bus, we figured we could walk it and enjoy the lake. Which we did by stopping into little parks along the way and enjoying the shade and cool breeze. Folks were swimming and our jealousy was running high. We managed to get some beautiful shots of the lake along the way despite the heat.

We made it about half way and we saw our bus coming! Running in the sweltering heat, we caught up to it just in time. We still had another stop before getting to the castle. Finally we got there. Absolutely burning up at this point, we decided to enjoy a beer at Pier 17, which offers a great view of both the lake and the castle, before heading into the castle.

This helped cut the heat a bit more, but, again, not for long. We got our tickets (free with your Swiss Pass!) and headed onto the castle grounds.

We first walked around the grounds of the castle. There are beautiful gardens around the back and great places to relax along the lake. There also was a reading hut, which was a really peaceful place. A little too hot to hang out in that day though…

Once we’d had our fill, we headed inside. Immediately, we noticed children working during what should be a school day. This one was raking the stones in the driveway! Another approached us to give us a tour. Unfortunately, the child couldn’t speak English, so we sort of followed her around until she took us to someone who did: her teacher! Their teacher told us that the kids spend a summer learning to care for the castle and gaining a deep knowledge of its history. We listened as they presented in French and German.

The inside of the castle was as beautiful as the outside! Really pretty stained glass, gorgeous old furniture pieces and interesting historical writings on the walls.

Thun

After exploring Oberhofen Castle and hearing all the children’s presentations, we made our way to the bus stop to head to Thun. It wasn’t too far before we were there. There’s a river running through the city and an unmissable castle sitting high above it.

We decided to go through the town and try to get to the castle first. When we got there, unfortunately, it was closed (closes at 5 pm like a lot of attractions in Switzerland). Instead of going in then, we explored it from the outside. It was quite beautiful and looked like it would be interesting inside.

The surrounding area was also quite cool. We had to take stairway after stairway to get back down to the town.

It was ungodly hot, so we were happy to see there were covered staircases as well!

They also had a really fun directional sign (like the ones we saw all over Switzerland), with the directions for New York City and other familiar cities! With this backdrop, we were so happy to make it here.

Once we finally got back into the town, we got to explore (despite the hundred degree weather!). The town reminded me a bit of Lucerne, but much bigger. We had to find a plug with a US adapter, and actually found one here! It was overall a lovely place.

Also like Lucerne, there were covered bridges. We found two and happily walked across them. It was so hot, people were diving straight into the river and floating downstream. I loved the vibe in this town! If it weren’t so hot, we would have stayed much longer.

Even though we had seen plenty of covered bridges at this point, it was still so fun! They are quaint and make me feel like I’m walking through an older time.

Bonus city: Bern?

To round off this day-trip, we tried to fit in a quick trip to Bern. It isn’t too far from Thun by train. Alas, this proved too much. I think the heat got to us because once we got to Bern we were burning up! We couldn’t handle trying to explore. We hopped on the train to head back to Lauterbrunnen for dinner and a glass of wine. Alls well that ends well.

Here’s a fun memory to leave with you from Oberhofen Castle! They had a throne with a really heavy metal crown, and of course, Neal couldn’t resist trying it on. Adorable!

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