Mark Twain slept here when he toured Europe, Al Gore stayed here
after his ill-fated presidential campaign, and I’m sitting here on
my private patio in the perfect late-afternoon sunlight in the
shadow of the Jungfrau, sipping champagne and eating chocolates.
Not a bad way to recover from jet lag along with two mountain hikes
and a spa treatment, in little more than two days in
Outrageous mountain scenery, chocolate-box villages, elegant
castles, idyllic farms and a mild climate have for centuries lured
the well-heeled and well-informed to Interlaken, situated between
two lakes in the heart of Switzerland. Superb new Swiss spas are
luring today’s travelers who seek health and rejuvenation along
with great scenery. Body wraps, massages, facials, fitness testing
and all manner of treatments help relieve jet lag, chronic health
problems or aching muscles from Interlaken’s huge array of
year-round outdoor pursuits, which include hiking, biking,
watersports, skiing and paragliding.
“Swiss hospitality is something special,” said native German,
Carsten Hundertmark. “The Swiss have a slower pace, are friendlier,
more hospitable and more earthy than the Germans, which is why a
lot of Germans along with everyone else come to Switzerland.”
Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa
Hundertmark is the new spa manager at Interlaken’s
Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, which has been hosting
celebrities since 1865. Hundertmark is proud to be heading one of
Europe’s largest and newest spas, where guests can take the haute
route to health, beauty and fitness. Along with haute cuisine at
four different dining venues plus a spa cafe and two bars, the
hotel offers elegant updated rooms in the historic section or
sleek, new Euro-contemporary Belair suites attached to the spa.
In 1992, the hotel opened a 60,000-square-foot Clarins spa
complex, and in December 2003 expanded it with a $13 million luxury
E’Spa, one of the world’s top spa brands. Guests arrive at the
hotel’s sprawling spa complex through an airy, two-story glass
atrium filled with plants. Warm colors and textures of terra cotta
and natural wood welcome guests to the two different spas.
Jet-lagged on arrival day, it wasn’t easy staying awake during
my soothing one-hour facial at the Clarins spa, in the softly lit,
ivory treatment room. But “scentsational” cleansing, moisturizing,
soothing and toning treatments were too good to miss.
Guests can choose among age-defying, hydrating, radiance and
purifying treatments. Body treatments include redefining,
pro-polish exfoliation with fruit enzymes and renewing with
Clarin’s special plant-based formulations and aromatic oils applied
with specialized massage movements, known as “The Clarins Touch.”
Before long, my stressed, aging and travel-weary face felt
After my treatment, I chose a dip in the indoor Roman-style pool
and frothing, open-air, saltwater Jacuzzi with mountain views.
After two days of hiking and sightseeing, “Time The Ultimate
Treatment” sounded appealing at E’Spa. This two-hour signature
treatment is customized and different for everyone. I felt like I
was transported to Japan with the Zen-like simplicity and
tranquility of the E’Spa. Done in ecru and natural wood, the
treatment room walls resembled rice-paper screens. Big,
white-shaded windows and doorways opened onto bamboo and river-rock
gardens. While the therapist conducted a relaxing and welcoming
foot ritual by massaging reflex zones on my feet, I relayed my
personal preferences and problem areas of strain or stress. She
then selected and blended the appropriate Ayurvedic-inspired oils
and herbs. A full-body salt and oil scrub, followed by a rinsing
shower and massage, was definitely the ultimate preparation for
The Palace Lucerne
Lucerne is a beautiful medieval city of swans, chestnut trees
and graceful spires about 90 minutes by train from Interlaken.
Stately turn-of-the-century hotels line Lake Lucerne, and among
them is the Palace Lucerne, a sister hotel of the
Victoria-Jungfrau, with its new spa that required the removal of 40
Quite different in atmosphere from the Victoria-Jungfrau spas,
the new $10 million E’Spa at the Palace Lucerne opened in 2005 with
treatment rooms overlooking this fairy-tale city. A private
800-square-foot spa suite located in one of the hotel’s turrets
houses a circular petal pool for two with a twinkling
planetarium-type ceiling and commanding views of the lake and city
truly a spa in a palace.
After a chilly day of sightseeing, I chose a 55-minute
energizing treatment to warm up and prepare for a gourmet dinner at
one of Switzerland’s top restaurants, Jasper, also located in the
hotel. After the massage, I treated myself to a stop in the
shimmering, aquamarine mosaic steam room with tiny ceiling lights
winking through a range of colors. A tropical-toned recovery room
offered chaise lounges, soft music, teas and fruit. This was the
perfect elixir for travel, rich meals, late nights and mountain
excursions still to come.
$216-$411 per night
Palace Lucerne, Lucerne
$218-$369 per night
Both the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel and the Lucerne Palace
are members of The Leading Hotels of the World. Both offer travel
agent commission of 5 percent for room booking and a 10 percent for
a room/spa package.
Spa use (pool, exercise room, steam room, Jacuzzi, sauna) is
included in the room price. Treatments are extra with varying
charges. The Victoria-Jungfrau offers guests the use of a Jaguar
automobile for a day.
The Leading Hotels of the World
Villa Maria B&B, Lucerne
Sends guests to the Palace Lucerne spa.
$67-$90 per night.
Hotel Hirschen, Interlaken
$46-$130 per night
|Swiss Hiking Tips|
Despite daunting glaciers and dizzying vertical peaks beyond a
mountain goat’s ability, hikers can have it easy in Switzerland if
they wish. Ubiquitous trains, funiculars and gondolas do the uphill
climbing, depositing hikers in spectacular alpine settings where
they can simply stroll downhill to the next village, rustic cafe or
One train burrows inside a mountain to the Jungfraujoch, a
11,333-foot-high saddle known as the “Top of Europe.” Nestled among
three 13,000-foot peaks the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau this is one
of Switzerland’s top attractions. A huge complex on top offers five
restaurants, souvenir shops, an Alpine museum and Ice Palace.
Outdoor enthusiasts can hike the glacier, ski, sled, visit a
mountain hut and ride dog sleds and zip lines.
The train back down can drop hikers at numerous stops with
well-marked hiking trails. We chose the Eiger Station for an hour’s
walk down to Kleine Scheidegg, a small settlement and train stop.
The nearby Eiger Glacier is a spectacular tumble of petrified ice
At Kleine Scheidegg hikers can reboard the train and return to
Interlaken or go on to the beautiful village of Grindelwald, where
many hiking trails also begin.
Forested lakeside trails around Interlaken offer a different and
less vertical experience. Tour boats ply the two lakes stopping at
various hamlets and attractions. We chose a ride on Lake Brienz
from Interlaken to Geissbach, site of a stunning chalet-type hotel
and tumbling waterfalls. From there, a two-hour amble led to the
ancient, flower-festooned village of Iseltwalt and a gleaming white
castle. A bus took us back to Interlaken.
Hiking opportunities also abound in the mountains around
Lucerne. A popular and easily accessible day trip is a visit to
Stanserhorn Mountain via vintage cable car.
Information on these and other popular hikes and tours is
available from the concierge at the Victoria Jungfrau, Palace
Lucerne, most hotels and Switzerland Tourism
TRAINS: On the Jungfrau Railways, an all-day
roundtrip ticket from Interlaken to the Jungfraujoch plus return
via Grindelwald costs $99 and includes stops at various villages.
Tickets are available at the Interlaken train stations.
For Stanserhorn excursions: