High in the Swiss Alps north of Lucerne lies a jewel of a village called Lungern, gracing the shores of a shimmering emerald lake of the same name.
Lake Lungern offers incomparable scenery amid the imposing peaks of central Switzerland. Its appeal is legendary. Hikers, skiers, fans of water sports and lovers of nature have journeyed to the area for centuries. Its crisp, pure mountain air is at once recuperative and invigorating.
“I want to go about like the light-footed goats,” wrote Johanna Spyri in her book Heidi.
The seasons are well-defined in the land of cheese, chocolate and cuckoo clocks. December through March, Lungern becomes a handy base camp for hiking and snowshoe tours. The trail from the summit of Brünig Pass via the Chäppeli mountain restaurant down to Lungern is easily traversed and rewards hikers with breathtaking picture-postcard views.
3,800 feet above Lungern, the snowy slopes of Mörlialp, Melchsee-Frutt and Hasliberg serve up endless miles of runs from easy to difficult for snowboarders and skiers, both alpine and Nordic.
In the summer, a patchwork quilt of hiking and biking trails and themed routes cross-cross Lungern and its environs. One of the most popular is the six-mile loop around the lake, punctuated by a dozen waterfalls. Another is a shorter family-friendly hike through the woods from Lungern up to the Chäppeli restaurant. Signs along the route describe what kinds of plants and animals you’re seeing.
On the Brünigstrasse from Lucerne to Interlaken, high above Lungern, you’ll come to a bend in the road and suddenly, there it is – the famous Viewing Point Schoenbuehel. Stretching out before you are jaw-dropping vistas of Lungern, the lake and the magnificent valley beyond.
The “new” Catholic Church of Lungern was built in 1893, replacing a church destroyed by a thunderstorm. The striking sandstone columns, the colored church windows by painter Albert Schweri and the crucifixion group created by Lungern sculptor Beat Gasser are remarkable. The often-photographed remnants of the old church tower, the Alter Kirchturm, was built in 1383.
Lake Lungern’s amazing viridian water is clean and pure and about 70 degrees in the summer, inviting swimmers to enjoy the 180-foot water slide, diving tower and fine sandy beach. Two-person paddle-wheel craft called pedalos can be rented, the fishing is quite good and a sailing school has popped up thanks to reliable winds, attracting yachters and windsurfers alike.
If the weather is inclement, check out the Brünig underground shooting range. Rentable weapons include crossbows, blowpipes, bows and arrows and small caliber firearms. While there, stay for dinner at Cantina Caverna, which as the name implies, is built inside a mountain just off Brünig Pass Road. Fine dining with a decent selection of European wines.
In Lungern, the Restaurant Bahnhofli serves traditional Swiss cuisine in an ambiance steeped in Swiss hospitality with a scattering of antiques and artifacts. The Cordon Bleu gets rave reviews, as does the Schweinsschnitzel.
Suggested accommodations include the Hotel Kaiserstuhl, located on the lake, offering simply-decorated rooms, a rustic restaurant and bar and sun terrace. Views of the mountains and the lake are ubiquitous.
Another noteworthy option is Emma’s Hotel Bed & Breakfast. Quite close to the train station with stylish rooms, superb mountain panoramas and an outstanding breakfast buffet.
Getting to Lungern is easier than you’d think. Rent a car in Zurich. It’s about an hour’s drive to Lungern. Or take the train from Zurich airport to Lungern, which takes about two and a half hours. Better yet, fly into Lucerne. It’s even closer – just 22 miles to Lungern; about 45 minutes by train.