On a Wing & a Prayer
Interlaken is Europe’s nerve center. The array of spine-tingling adventures available in this staggeringly pretty place makes it something of a mecca for adrenaline junkies. But before you get busy with the many ground-level activities here (hiking, biking, rafting, sailing, or canyoning, just to name a few), get a bird’s-eye view of the greater Jungfrau region by hang gliding over it.
Set between two lakes (Thun and Brienz) in the Berner Oberland, Interlaken began as a summer resort more than 300 years ago. Since then, it’s evolved into a hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts. Today, hang gliding in tandem with an experienced pilot is actually one of the easier extreme sports to do here—if you can muster the courage to try it. A 10- to 20-minute flight provides a huge rush while displaying the most thrilling views of the sparkling white snow-covered peaks, bright turquoise water, and green grassy meadows.
After getting into a helmet and sturdy harness with multiple ropes and carabineers, you go through a pre-flight training with your pilot and then together are attached to a colorful wing. Side by side, the next step is just to run. As you jog down a hill for a few paces, suddenly your legs are spinning through thin air. And as the adrenaline gushes through your body, you realize you’re flying. You can even reach your arms out and soar like an eagle as the pilot steers your flight and you just take in this amazing new perspective of the earth far below. But before you’ve had too much calm, your pilot can get your stomach flip-flopping again with tricks like stalls and spinners that take you on a roller coaster ride through the sky. You speed up and go higher, then drift back down, and then fly straight ahead, until finally, you make your way toward the ground and coast toward a grassy landing pad. With a few gentle bumps, the wildest ride of your life comes to a smooth end.
Interlaken Tourism Office, Hoheweg 37 ( 41/033-826-5300; www.interlaken.ch) and Bernese Oberland Tourism (tourismus.berneroberland.ch).
Tour: Hang Gliding Interlaken, Brunngasse 30 ( 41/079-770-0704; www.hangglidinginterlaken.com).
When to Go: Mar–Oct.
Zurich Airport or Geneva Airport, followed by a 2-hr. train ride to Interlaken.
$ Hotel Rugenpark, Rugenparkstrasse 19 ( 41/033-822-3661; www.rugenpark.ch). $–$$ Hotel Lotschberg, General-Guisanstrasse 31 ( 41/033-822-2545; www.lotschberg.ch).