Our visit to the limestone caves of Dinant City in Belgium had ensorcelled us to an extent that when we learned of the St Beatus Caves in Interlaken region of Switzerland we had to visit it. Interlaken region of Switzerland holds within it plenitude of quintessential Swiss villages, picturesque locations, and natural attractions and St Beatus Caves is no exception.
How to Get to St Beatus Caves from Interlaken
There is a good frequency of public transport (bus 21 towards Thun) from Interlaken Ost (East) with a stop at Interlaken West to the caves. If you are visiting from Bern or Zurich, Bern to Interlaken Ost is less than an hour and Zurich to Interlaken Ost is close to 2 hours by train. You can also opt to take a boat (Lake Thun Cruises) from Interlaken West station to caves though it would require a bit of walking when compared to the bus that would drop you right at the foot of the hill the caves sit on.
We drove past the busy streets of Interlaken packed with tourists and charming old town which we were to visit later that day. The vistas were soon replaced by lush countryside and pasturelands dotted with grazing cows. The most spectacular leg of the journey is the breathtaking vistas of turquoise waters of Lake Thun at the foot of the Alps.
In Less than half an hour the bus dropped us at the caves. The first glimpse of the caves was mesmerizing. The entrance to the caves was atop a cliff and the entrance itself looked like clinging from the rock face. The cave entrance can be reached through a zigzagged maze of wooden boardwalk ascending the hill.
The waterfalls gushing from behind the lush vegetation hanging from the hill and cascading through the pathway several times and the entrance perched above all of this bedecked with vivid colors of geraniums was an awe-inspiring vista. Everything seemed so surreal it took us a while to take in the views and to start our hike up to the caves.
Along the hike, we came to a museum which we decided to visit on the way back. The hike up the hill was laden with lovely views all along the way of the surrounding and of the blue Thun Lake below which keeps you going.
Initially, the climb did look exhaustive as we had a kid along with us. But the vistas all along and several stops to take pictures made for it and we were on top in no time. It would take you at least 10 minutes to reach the top without any stops.
A beautiful wooden sculpture on the way up.
The zigzagged maze of the wooden boardwalk from the main road to reach the top as we look back from the cave entrance.
At the entrance are a ticket counter and the St. Beatus Panoramic Restaurant which is said to be built into the walls of the former Augustinian Monastery. The views of the Lake Thun and the snow-capped Alps from the restaurant terrace is incredible and devouring some delicious pizza and french fries with this view is an experience to relish.
There is also a small play area for kids with several types of play equipment where kids can try rope climbing and fake bungee more like swinging over the terrace under guided supervision.
St Beatus Caves Legend and History
Like every historical place, there is a legend associated with the St Beatus Caves too. The story dates back to 6th century and goes like this – there once lived a fierce dragon in these limestone caves which was expelled by a monk St Beatus from Ireland who sought hermitage in these caves.
As for the history, the excavation of caves started in 1903 as per the instructions of Hermann Hartmann (Former director of Bernese Oberland Tourism office) and was open to the public in 1904. You will find a memorial to Hermann Hartmann at the cave entrance. The Captain’s Grotto section of the cave is said to have been discovered way back in 1848 by Johannes Knechtenhofer who was captain of the first steamboat on Lake Thun along with his fellow sailors.
St Beatus Caves Tour
The guided tours run every 45 minutes so you can either buy your tickets and have something to eat or buy your tickets later. Another great way to explore the caves is to buy your tickets, join in the guided tour if you can make yourself available at tour time or download the St Beatus caves app and take a self-guided tour which can be done anytime. Read more information about your visit and the opening times for the caves here.
The tour of the fascinating history of caves starts at the St Beatus Cell. There is a small cave recreated as a hermitage of St Beatus. At the entrance of the caves is a grave of St. Beatus which is said to contain human bones and dates back to middle ages.
The labyrinth of well-lit pathways in the caves walks you through the stellar geographical formations of stalactites and stalagmites in different shapes and sizes. The tour takes approximately 75 mins along a km long well-lit pathway. There are numerous stops with extraordinary limestone formations, underground lakes and small caves peppered with stalactites and stalagmites. Stalactites are limestone formations hanging from the ceiling and the stalagmites are ones growing from the ground and each of them is equally spectacular. We had already experienced this in the Belgian city of Dinant but the caves of Dinant weren’t as magnificent as the St Beatus Caves.
After a couple of minutes walk through the tunnel we were greeted with a lovely pool with gushing water. You will find the crossings over the underground waterfalls and streams several times during the tour. As we walked closer we could spot the stalactites and stalagmites on the rock face at the back of the pool.
You could also find several varieties of plants growing here in the caves which are generally mosses, algae, and fern which can grow under limited sunlight. The radiation from the lamps of the caves is sufficient for these plants to thrive.
At every point, the rock formations would leave us awestruck. It is an astounding phenomenon to behold, the rocks shaped like claws of a dinosaur or the jagged rock formation on the ceiling or the Stalactites which look more like solid spaghetti hanging from the ceiling each of them stunning enough to challenge our imagination. It’s even more astounding to know that these rimstones grow only 3 cm every 100 years.
Three sisters grotto and the Mirror Grotto was our favorite. We loved how the stalactites and stalagmites illuminated in golden light reflected in the still pool of the cave it is mesmerizing and we would stop a little more and marvel at those views. It looks like there is another rimestones grotto.
It’s interesting that the largest of the rimstone stalagmite is named as the Kohinoor which means ‘Mountain of Light’ and refers to the largest diamond displayed in the British crown jewels.
At several points, we found underground streams, waterfalls and even water dripping from the limestone ridges. The St Beatus Caves are said to be closed one or two days every season due to flooding.
The Erosion channel stretching to approximately 400 m has amazing rock formations.
St Beatus Caves Museum
On the way back we stopped by the museum, the entrance to the museum is free if you have a ticket to the caves. The museum is small and holds exhibits on minerals and crystals found in the caves which can be explored on an audio guided tour available in French, English and German languages. There are interactive displays and shows on history and geographical phenomenon behind the cave formation. The cave is small but loaded with information. It is also an alternative option if due to some reason you cannot hike all the way up to the caves as you can get all the information on the caves in the museum.
Tips for your Visit
Though the pathways in the caves are well-lit you will find steps and uneven surfaces which makes the paths unaccessible through strollers hence you will have to leave the stroller at the entrance of the caves.
The temperature in the cave is a constant 8 to 10 deg Celsius and hence warm clothing is recommended.
The pathways have stairs with several twists and turn and may be wet and slippery at times it is recommended to wear good shoes.
Photography is allowed inside the caves but without a tripod.
BnB option is available and is located next to the museum.
St Beatus Caves should definitely be on your list if you are planning to visit Switzerland. The otherworldly rock formations are astounding and worth a visit if you are looking for things to do in Interlaken region of Switzerland.
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