10 Cheap Outdoor Activities in Interlaken

Thanks to its unique location between two turquoise lakes and as a gateway to the beautiful mountains of the Bernese Oberland, the little Swiss town of Interlaken is a popular spot for nature lovers, extreme sports athletes, and outdoor fans.

However, Switzerland is not only known for its nature but also for being an expensive country for foreign travelers. Yet even if traveling on a budget often means having to renounce some of the nice stuff, there are plenty of affordable things to do in Interlaken for you to have a good time and discover the beauty of this area.

Our list of cheap outdoor activities in Interlaken – from cheap to less cheap – will give you some fun, budget-friendly ideas from Kayaking down the River Aare and River Rafting near Interlaken to Hiking on the Harder Kulm for a breathtaking view. You’ll find the activities represented on the below map, with their respective number.

Map of the Interlaken Region

Please note that “cheap” by swiss standards and for the purpose of the article is < CHF 99. However, we simply HAD to add paragliding to the list even if more expensive because Interlaken is an iconic place to do this activity. Soaring like a bird over the shiny lakes and surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery! 

Before getting started on our list, here’s another thing that’s good to know and might help to spare your budget. There are two peak seasons in Interlaken: summer, for all the fun outdoor sports in the valleys and on the water, and winter, for the different snow sport activities in the mountains. Traveling in between these high seasons can help to save important money on accommodation or transport. And one could say that this again means there’s more money left for fun outdoor activities… So, get ready for our affordable selection!

1. Hiking up to Harder Kulm

Hiking up on Harder Kulm, a free activity around Interlaken
(c) Jungfraubahnen 2019

Starting off the list with the cheapest activity: hiking up the Harder Kulm. For the sporty ones hiking up and down, this activity is completely free! Harder Kulm lies between the two turquoise lakes with Interlaken at its feet. So you can start your hike directly in Interlaken and follow the signposted hiking routes. It’ll take you around 3 hours to climb the 750 altitude meters and to arrive at the top of Harder Kulm at 1.323 m. The difficulty of this hike is moderate, so be sure to stay on the trail and to have appropriate shoes with good soles.

Your efforts will be more than rewarded when discovering the breathtaking views of the Bernese Alps and the turquoise Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Either you bring your own picnic or you treat yourself to a typical Swiss dish, like Rösti or cheese on toast, that is offered in the restaurant at the top of Harder Kulm. And if you are motivated enough (or just really need to save money) you can hike back down to Interlaken. Otherwise, you have the possibility to take the funicular. Depending on the season, a one-way ticket costs between CHF 13 and CHF 20. There is however a special hiker’s ticket for only CHF 8.50. Check on their website for up-to-date offers and prices.

Free (if you hike up and down)

2. Visit the typical villages

Isletwald on Lake Brienz

Another outdoor activity that won’t harm your wallet! Around Lake Thun and Lake Brienz you will find many pretty villages with traditional wooden chalets worth visiting.

Stroll through Brienz for example. This village with a bit more than 3000 inhabitants not only gives the name to the lake it’s located on but is also home to Switzerland’s most famous school of woodcarving. That’s why you’ll find nice wooden statues all over the little town. Or visit Isletwald (on the picture above), also on Lake Brienz. The little village has a small peninsula that is home to a nice castle, the Schloss Seeburg. By the way, from Isletwald you can hike up to the beautiful Giessbach Falls (see activity number 3) and enjoy great views over the lake.

Located on the northwestern part of Lake Thun and not far from the city of Thun, you’ll find the villages of Hilterfingen and Oberhofen. The castle of the latter, the Schloss Oberhofen, is situated in an impressive park right at the turquoise water. On the opposite shore of the lake, the Castel of Spiez dominates the picture. In the backdrop, you’ll see the Niesen, a mountain high of 2362 m (7700ft) called “the pyramid of Thun” because of its shape.

Free

3. Visit the Giessbach Falls

Giessbach Falls with view on the Giessbach Hotel
(c) Bern Tourismus/ David Birri

Located above Isletwald and Lake Brienz you’ll find the Giessbach Falls. The mighty white cascades thunder down from a height of 500 meters and just a few steps away from the historical Grand Hotel Giessbach. Established in the 1870s, this hotel is very well-preserved, and you can still sleep there. But since the price of an overnight definitely exceeds the definition of “cheap” in this article we recommend you instead to have a simple coffee on the hotel terrace in order to enjoy the fantastic view of Lake Brienz, the Brienzer Rothorn and the Augstmatthorn.

You can either reach the Giessbach Falls by car and park it in front of the Giessbach Hotel or you choose the more original and sporty way which is by foot and funicular. From Isletwald you can have a scenic 1h30 walk along the shores of Lake Brienz to reach the valley station of the historical funicular railway. For CHF 10 per person, this funicular brings you up to the Giessbach Hotel and the Giessbach Falls and back down again. And for your way back, why not take the boat from Giessbach valley station to Interlaken

Apropos waterfalls, do you remember the last physical altercation between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty? Well, that was not far from Lake Brienz, at the impressive Reichenbach Falls. If you’re a fan of the British detective then you should not miss out on visiting this cascade! From Interlaken, it’s a 30 minutes ride by car to Schattenhalb next to Meiringen, from where a funicular brings you up to the Falls. 

CHF 10 / adult for the historical Funicular
Free by car or by foot

4. Adventure Park in Interlaken’s forests

Ziplining in the Aventure Park in Interlaken
(c) Seilpark Interlaken

The Adventure Park in Interlaken is a rope park in the forest with wooden bridges, Tarzan swings, and zip lines. Thanks to 9 courses with different levels of difficulty, beginners and adrenaline seekers will both find their perfect adventure. An entry for an adult costs CHF 42 for three hours of fun between the trees. The young adventurers with a minimum height of 1m can do the so-called Butterfly walk. The entry fee for this course, for which the kids don’t need a harness, is only CHF 9. 

The rope park welcomes individual guests as well as groups of friends and family and is situated in the south of Interlaken, only a 15 minutes walk away from the train station Interlaken West (the exact address is Seilpark Interlaken, Wagnerenstrasse, 3800 Interlaken).

Make sure to wear comfortable outdoor clothes and good shoes. The park is open all year round, regardless of the weather conditions. So in winter, if you are lucky enough to be there when there’s snow, you can live a magical winter adventure between snowcovered trees!

CHF 42 / adult

5. Kayaking on the Aare river

Kayaking on the Aare River

Another affordable activity on our list is a popular summer activity among the locals: going down the Aare river with a rubber boat, an activity called “Böötle” in Swiss German. The strong and steady current of this river allows you not to paddle all the time but to relax and enjoy the quiet environment. 

With a two-person inflatable Kayak that you rent in Uttigen, near Thun on the western side of Lake Thun, you’ll follow the current for 18 kilometers to Wabern, near Berne. The fact that these Kayaks are very resistant to tipping and that you can choose to stay dry makes this excursion perfectly suitable to do with children. 

For CHF 90 per two-person Kayak or CHF 55 per single Kayak, you get a relaxing and fun day on the turquoise water. The journey will take you as far as Berne so you can perfectly combine this Kayak adventure on the Aare river with a visit of Switzerland’s capital.

CHF 55 / single kayak
CHF 90 / two-person kayak

6. Tubing in the Aare river

Drifting down the Aare River with a buoy

And here’s the sixth of our 10 cheap outdoor activities in Interlaken. The itinerary for this activity is exactly the same as with the Kayaking on the Aare river (the activity just before). From Uttingen, near Thun on the western side of Lake Thun, you’ll drift down the turquoise river passing by beautiful landscapes until Wabern, close to Switzerland’s capital Berne.

But the big difference with tubing in the Aare river is that you will not stay dry, no chance! Why? Simply because with this activity, for which you need to know how to swim, you are sitting aboard your buoy and it is very likely that your friends will want to bounce on you. That’s the whole point of this fun activity. You are fully autonomous on the water and maneuver your floater as you wish. With CHF 55 per person, the tubing definitely belongs to the cheap outdoor activities in Interlaken.

CHF 55 / person

7. Kayaking Tour on Lake Brienz

Winter Kayaking on Lake Brienz

Kayaking yes, but you don’t wish to end up in Bern (see activity number 5)? No problem, because among our list of cheap outdoor activities in Interlaken you’ll find another kayaking activity: a kayak tour on Lake Brienz for CHF 75 per person (in Summer).

At the Kayak School at the Lido in Bönigen, only 30 minutes by foot or 5 minutes by car from Interlaken, you’ll be equipped with all you need for your half-day tour: wetsuit, jackets, kayak, and paddles. Together with your guide, you’ll cross the lake, travel across the River Lötschine, heading towards the north shore to explore beautiful cliffs and admire the 12th century Ringgenberg Castle and hidden beaches along the way. You’ll spend around 2h on the water, surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. Don’t forget to bring your bathing suit!

In summer, you have the possibility to do evening tours for a special and calm atmosphere. And even during the cold months, you can do some kayak tour on Lake Brienz, surrounded by snowcovered mountains that reflect in the mirror-like water.

CHF 75 / person

8. Jetboating on Lake Brienz

Jetboating on turquoise Lake Brienz

Get ready for an exceptional, yet affordable, outdoor activity in Interlaken. When Jetboating on crystal-clear lake Brienz you are surrounded by beautiful natural scenery that is spectacular in every season. Starting at the Jet-port in Bönigen, next to Interlaken, the trip takes you to the famous Giessbach Waterfalls, where water comes thundering 500m down in 14 cascades into the lake. 

This unique driving sensation provides everyone with the right amount of adrenaline to enjoy. The captain is not only in charge of a sensational ride but also he’ll give you some interesting information on the region. The price for this activity of CHF 99 per person includes free pictures of your trip in order to make your unforgettable ride really unforgettable. And for families and groups, you have special deals on this Jet boating activity.

CHF 99 / person
Special family and group prices

9. River Rafting on the Simme

Rafting down the River Simme

Here’s an outdoor activity where you get a nice adventure for a reasonable price. River rafting on the river Simme promises great sensations, also for people who have no previous rafting experience. The Simme is part of the class III rivers and located in the scenic Simme Valley in the southwest of Lake Thun and approx. 40 minutes by car from Interlaken. In the third of the six Rafting classes, you can expect small waves of a height up to 1m20. To know more about this sport have a look at our complete guide to rafting

This white water outing is perfect for a group of family and friends looking for a bit of action but not too much. It is a truly wonderful experience. Count 4.5 hours for the whole activity, from meeting the instructors at the Raft Base in Matten bei Interlaken to the end. The cost will be CHF 99 per adult. 

CHF 99 / adult

10. Tandem Paragliding over Interlaken

Paragliding over Interlaken at sunset

If you have some money left and wish to do an outdoor activity that you’ll never forget, then we suggest you do a tandem paragliding flight above Interlaken! With CHF 140 this is the most expensive activity in our selection and cannot be considered “cheap” anymore, not even for swiss standards…

But as mentioned, we just HAD to add it to our list because it’s a very unique experience! When gliding from one of the peaks down to the centre of Interlaken you’ll be enjoying spectacular views of mountain panorama and lakes. The most common take-off place in the area is Beatenberg, above Lake Thun. But you’ll meet the instructors in Interlaken and they’ll take you there. Depending on wind conditions they might suggest different takeoff places (like Bergbo, Luegibrüggli, or Niederhorn).

With the majestic 4000m high mountain trio of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau in the background and the crystal clear lakes of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz at your feet you really can take in all the beauty of this little paradise. If the weather permits you can even take the control of the glider – under the supervision of your expert instructor of course. This activity would probably be the highlight of your stay in Interlaken, so make sure to start saving for it!

CHF 140 / adult

More adventures… 

View on the mountains from the Bernese Oberland

These more or less cheap outdoor activities in Interlaken will allow you to discover the beautiful area in the Bernese Oberland on a budget. Being an outdoor hotspot, there are obviously many more activities that you could do such as Canyoning Chli Schliere, exciting Bungee Jumping on the Stockhorn, or Canyon Swing in Grindelwald. Discover all our unforgettable outdoor activities in Interlaken

To read more on Switzerland and the things to do there we suggest you have a look at our articles about the best outdoor activities in Interlaken and the top 5 paragliding destinations in Switzerland.