Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof in Interlaken, Switzerland
A great base for hiking in the Alps is the town of Interlaken, Switzerland. The small town is home to a little over 5000 people, many of whom are employed in a occupation that is related to tourism. Tourism is active throughout the year. Hiking, hang-gliding and canyoning are popular in the summer, while skiing draws many visitors during the winter.
Among travelers, Switzerland, in general, is known as an expensive place to visit. A quick look on TripAdvisor shows the least expensive of 40 hotels in Interlaken charges $200 per night – the most expensive one, over $750. However, there are ways to keep the costs down. In Interlaken, one way to keep your budget under control is to rent a room in a hostel. Hostel World lists 17 different hostels, starting at around $5 per night. Hostels usually charge per person, rather than per room. (For more information on staying in hostels, see Planning your Itinerary – Inexpensive Lodging).
When we visited Interlaken, the place where we chose to stay was the Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof. The Sonnenhof is located close to the center of town, with a bus stop right outside the door. It is a mid-range hostel, but includes many amenities that help make it a great deal. Each guest is given tokens that can be used for laundry – right in the building. The rooms come with passes for the indoor and outdoor public pools, mini golf and city bus transportation. Breakfast is simple – bread with cheese or jam, muesli, orange juice and coffee. If you want bacon and eggs – or if you want to cook dinner – you are free to use the kitchen at any time of the day.
We have stayed at the Sonnenhof twice – finding it comfortable and a good value for our money. We had two very different experiences, though. The first time we stayed, there were four of us in our group, so we rented a room that slept four. We arrived after hours, but followed the instructions and easily found our sheets and towels.
We had two sets of bunk beds – my daughters let me have one of the lower bunks. We slept well, enjoyed the hostel-style breakfast, and were on our way to enjoy the day.
The second time, there were only two of us. Although we again arrived late, we made it in time to check in at the desk. We got our keys and headed up to the room. To save money, we had decided again on a four person room, and figured we could share with a couple other women. We were actually assigned to the same room where we had stayed the first time.
The problem was that since we had arrived late, our roommates were already in bed. We tried to be quiet and not wake them, and we didn’t want to turn on the lights. Unfortunately, they had spread their luggage and other items all around the room, taking up most of the floor space and the one available chair. They had chosen to sleep on the lower beds, leaving the upper ones for us (they, of course, had first dibs).
It is difficult to make up an upper hostel bunk in the dark without making any noise, but we managed. Sleep didn’t come very easy that night and I woke up early in the morning. I didn’t want to awaken my daughter to tell her I was leaving the room and I didn’t want to leave the room without telling her, but there was nowhere to sit. Then, I remembered that the room had a balcony, so I made my way through the luggage obstacle course and went outside.
When my daughter woke up, she wondered where I was, but soon figured it out. We waited until the roommates had left the room and then were finally able to assess the situation. We decided to get some breakfast and by the time we got back, the roommates were packed up and ready to leave.
What lesson did we learn? Next time we will not arrive so late that our roommates think they have the room to themselves. The problem was with us – not them.
Each time we stayed at the Sonnenhof, we took advantage of the laundry facilities that were available. On the lower level of the hostel, there were washers and dryers. In my travels, I’ve found that dryers are not nearly as common as they are here at home. Many people just hang their clothes to dry them.
Our main reason for visiting Interlaken was that we wanted to spend some time hiking in the Alps. As we ate breakfast, we studied the map and watched the trail monitor. The trail we were most interested in was not yet open for the season. (We were in Interlaken on June 1st). Next time we will be a bit more mindful of the seasons and remember that the snow melts later at higher elevations.
When we finished eating breakfast, we went to the check-in desk where we talked to the knowledgeable attendant. We were given great advice about the trails and were able to pick one that suited our interests and abilities.
After our hike, we tried out the public pool. It felt great to relax in the water after a day hiking in the Alps. I would have loved a hot tub, but for that I would probably have to stay at one of the expensive hotels.
Views of the Alps
The best part of staying in Interlaken, is the location. Since the town in located at the foot of the Alps, the views are amazing – the view from the balcony, the view from the pool, and the views while hiking or participating in another activity.
Would I stay at the Sonnenhof again? Yes, without question. I could easily put up with the inconvenience of roommates in order to save money. More importantly though, I’d love to go back to Interlaken again to spend more time hiking in the Alps.
When can we leave?