Stunning views from The Cambrian hotel in Adelboden
I have yet to meet an expat in Switzerland who is familiar with Adelboden at first mention, although I know the resort is popular with Swiss ski fans as it hosts the FIS Ski World Cup in January (2012 dates are January 7-8).
Adelboden is in the Bernese Oberland, a mountainous area packed with natural beauty. I’ve covered Mürren and Grindelwald on the blog; Adelboden is in the valley before the Lauterbrunnen/Mürren/Grindelwald exit as you head down the motorway towards Interlaken.
Adelboden is less iconic than these other attractions and subsequently much quieter from a tourist perspective. The scenery is slightly less “wow” than staring at the north face of the Eiger; that said, it’s stunning and an excellent addition to an itinerary in this area if you have a few additional days to spare.
Kid-friendly hiking galore
The road ends in Adelboden although the lift system extends to Lenk. The atmosphere is relaxed with zero flash. Everyone here seems to be interested in one thing and one thing only: enjoying the outdoors.
I can’t comment much on winter sports in Adelboden as I have yet to experience them, however, my sense is that skiing is epic as there are 185 acres of skiable terrain between Adelboden and Lenk. We’ll be heading back there this season for sure.
Summer highlights include the usual suspects: hiking, mountain bike riding, and mountain climbing. A few kid-friendly suggested activities include:
Valley leading from Adelboden center to Engstilgenalp
Adelboden to Engstilgenalp
Engstilgenalp falls are the third highest in Switzerland. The walk from town takes 60-90 minutes through a relatively flat, idyllic valley (you can bike through the valley too). There is a cable car that can take you to the top of the falls where there’s a circular wheelchair/stroller-friendly trail in a high mountain meadow.
There are restaurants on the top and bottom of the falls if you decide not to pack a lunch and want a hot meal.
Trottiland is a network of 45 km (28 miles!) of routes for motorless Trotti/scooter bikes. We experienced this activity at Grindelwald — it’s a blast for all ages and requires little exertion as you go down only and use gondolas for the up.
My only caveat is that the routes in Adelboden are shared by cars in the lower elevations so it’s essential that an adult be present for kids under 12.
World Cup Trail
We lost the time to do this, but you can follow the World Cup route on Chuenisbärgli on foot where there is an interactive guide to the race. As we discovered, this trail is not for very young kids as it is 8.5 km, but it would certainly doable with school age and up kids used to hiking.
See Adelboden’s family guide for more ideas, but there is quite a bit of terrain here to explore.
Kandersteg is in the adjacent valley and can reached in 45 minutes from Adelboden via Frutigen.
We are throughly enchanted by this hiker’s paradise. I can’t believe what little attention Kandersteg gets in the standard Swiss guidebooks given the staggering alpine beauty here. A short excursion brings you to eye-popping glacier-covered peaks and an emerald green lake I’m still dreaming about, the UNESCO-protected Oeschinensee.
The kid-friendly bonus here is that you can take the gondola up and choose from an ample supply of amazing hikes — either a short 20-minute walk to the lake or you can continue on and make the day more challenging. Either way, you feel like you’ve hit alpine gold and are miles away from civilization.
We were there on a warm day and the lake was filled with families swimming, paddling, and relaxing on the shore. There’s a hotel by the lake and a number of Swiss Alpine Club huts in this area too (although they appear to be up steep slopes and decidedly not for young kids).
There is also a summer toboggan run at the top of the gondola which is ideal for pre/post hike bribery.
Reception at The Cambrian
I found The Cambrian before I found Adelboden (in fact, The Cambrian led me to Adelboden). It’s one of Switzerland’s few rural Design Hotels and when I saw that they catered to families, I had to give it a whirl.
The hotel is deceiving from the outside as the exterior appears traditional. It’s also right in town so at first glance it’s hard to fathom how the views can be so phenomenal.
When you walk into the reception, however, you are transported to fresh, modern, and exceptionally designed hotel. High-quality furnishings, fixtures, and art are at every turn. Massive windows highlight a show-stopping panoramic view of peaks and the Engstilgenalp falls.
Guest rooms are equally impressive. An essential note is that only south-facing rooms have the extraordinary view. You pay for this so if budget is an issue, you may want to opt for a non-view room and know you’ll take plenty of it in from public areas. Spacious Junior Suites, bi-level Family Suites, and connecting Double Rooms all work for families.
Room with a view at The Cambrian
There are plenty of places to hang out inside including indoor/outdoor lounge areas, a bar, and billiards room. Our 8-year-old was addicted to their afternoon tea service from day one as he realized it included “free cake”.
The onsite restaurant is excellent and offers fresh and inventive Swiss cuisine featuring local products. There’s a kid’s menu available. Although the atmosphere is upscale, it’s relaxed with plenty of families, particularly for the early seating.
Service at the restaurant can be a uneven during busy periods like breakfast, but overall, it’s friendly and everyone at the hotel is eager to please.
The spa area is another design highlight. An appealing indoor pool welcomes kids until 5p. There’s an outdoor whirlpool-style “hot” pool that looks straight at the mountains. It’s small but glorious. There’s not much room for lounging outdoors during summer months (and no room for kids to run around), but it’s well worth an all-family stop at the end of the day.
A full spa treatment menu is available for parents that need pampering. Read the complete family-friendly review of The Cambrian Adelboden and check availability (note, our requests go directly to the hotel for best available rates and specials).
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