High above the north-eastern shore of Lake Thun, and about 19 kilometres from Interlaken, lie the limestone caves of St. Beatus. It is a true marvel of nature, millions of years old, still largely unexplored, and only a small portion is open to the public. Your adventure already begins in the carpark, a short walk from the caves through the forest, over walkways and bridges crossing the waterfalls which carve through the rock before plunging into the lake below.
The setting of the cave is reason enough to visit. A gorgeous old fashioned Swiss-style building that serves as the cave entrance clings to a vertical rock face, amidst tumbling waterfalls and lush greenery. The underground river that flows through the caves makes a theatrical exit through the cave mouths falling in a series of about five cascades down to the lake below.
Upon reaching the caves, a kilometre-long underground journey begins along a safe and well-lit pathway, where every turn opens to a new and incredible scene. Through tunnels and enormous halls, the cave tour includes many charmingly named stalactites and stalagmites, and a number of underground waterfalls and lakes. Since recently, photography and filming are allowed in the caves and visitors are allowed to discover the caves without a guide. Deeper into the caves, more than 14 kilometres of tunnels have already been explored and are being scientifically studied.
St. Beatus – a legendary place
Legend has it that these limestone caves once served as a sanctuary for St. Beatus, a monk living around 100 AD, who supposedly drove away a dragon that lived there in the 6th century. (He would have been hundreds of years old!) St. Beatus held his cross up to the beast, invoking the Holy Trinity. The dragon ran down the cliff and fell into Lake Thun below, causing the placid clear water to boil. So the legend goes. A prehistoric settlement and the cell of St. Beatus can be viewed in the caves. Today, the caves still exude a strange power within their gorges and halls.
St. Beatus is reminiscent of Rivendell, the elves’ residence created by JRR Tolkien. The similarity is not coincidental as this place was the inspiration for the author of The Lord of the Rings, who visited it during his voyage through Switzerland in 1911. The visualisation of The Last Homely House, presented in Peter Jackson’s movie, was created by Canadian artist John Howe who lives in Switzerland.
There is a cave museum at the entrance to the St. Beatus caves that informs visitors about cave exploration and charting. The St. Beatus Caves Museum was completely renovated in 2013, and it is highly recommended to pay a visit after having explored the caves. The entrance fee to the museum is included in the price of the caves. A visit to the museum is also an excellent alternative for those who cannot or do not want to walk the 1000 metres of underground walkways of the St. Beatus caves.
A few minutes from the foot of the caves, the cave restaurant offers unsurpassed views of Lake Thun and local cuisine in a tranquil environment. It is a unique setting surrounded by nature where you can enjoy hot and cold meals served all day, and dinner during the evening by reservation. For children and anyone intrigued by dragons, the Fable House is full of displays on dragons throughout history and Bernese Oberland legends.
St. Beatus Caves are, without question, one of the most remarkable tourist attractions near the lakes of Interlaken and Thun. Remember to take a jacket, as it gets cold inside the caves. You can reach the caves by taking Bus 21 from the train station or by crossing by boat from the Interlaken West station to Sundlaunen, then a 20-minute hike to the caves. St. Beatus Caves are open daily from the 4th Sunday in March until the 4th Saturday in October.
For further information on luxury chalet rental in Switzerland contact the sales team of Leo Trippi:
phone +41 81 385 1882 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For other inspiring travel ideas, have a look at Leo’s social page