St. Beatus Caves: Switzerland’s Best-Kept Secret

(Last Updated On: April 28, 2022)

Nestled in the Alps, overlooking Lake Thun between Thun and Interlaken, is Switzerland’s best-kept secret: St. Beatus Caves.

You shouldn’t miss this natural attraction with cave hiking, waterfalls, a panoramic restaurant, a museum, and amazing views overlooking the lake with the Alps in the background. Yet, many don’t even know it exists!

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Visiting St. Beatus Caves in Switzerland

st beatus caves waterfalls
St. Beatus waterfalls and caves. © @sennarelax
St Beatus Caves inspired JRR Tolkien when creating Rivendell for LOTR
Rivendell. © Lord of The Rings Fandom

You may recognize the green foliage and waterfalls if you are a fan of Lord of The Rings or The Hobbit, as St. Beatus Caves inspired JRR Tolkien’s vision for Rivendell (the Elven realm in Middle Earth).

Tolkien visited the area when he was 19 in 1911 – about 40 years before LOTR was published.


Shop JRR Tolkien Essentials


Legend of St. Beatus Caves

These caves weren’t always a safe and fun sight to see. According to legend, they were once home to a terrifying dragon that brought havoc upon the local Swiss population.

Until Beatus of Lungern, an Irish monk came to slay that dragon.

Perhaps there was more than just aesthetics to Tolkien’s inspiration?

Not only did they name the caves after him, but thanks to Beatus’ heroic efforts, visitors are now welcome to spend time here, rain or shine, enjoying the beautiful scenery (dragons not included).

Visiting St. Beatus Caves

Once you arrive at the caves, you must hike for 15 minutes through waterfalls before getting to the cave opening, museum, and restaurant.

The hike through the waterfalls is free of charge and jaw-droppingly beautiful. I suggest packing a picnic lunch to enjoy the views from one of the many benches along the trail or plan to savor a delicious Swiss meal at the panoramic restaurant.

The hiking trail and waterfalls are open year-round. However, the caves, the restaurant, and the museum are only open from March-November. When planning a trip to Switzerland, keep that in mind if you’d like to have the full experience.

Related: How to Get the Most Out of Two Weeks in Europe

hike through waterfalls to get to the caves
What the hike looks like through the waterfalls to the caves. © Chris Corbaz

Tour the St. Beatus Caves and Museum

While the waterfall hike is gorgeous, it’s worth getting the whole experience while you’re there. For 18 CHF (Swiss Francs), you can tour the caves and museum or visit just the museum for 6 CHF.

Cave tours can be self-guided or with an English-speaking guide at no extra cost. Tours last 75 minutes and depart approximately every 45 minutes.

During the tour, you will see underground waterfalls, walk through narrow passages, and see grottos with stalactites and stalagmites (geologic formations). The museum has displays on the history, zoology, and geology of the site.

Visit the St. Beatus Caves and Swiss Tourism websites for more information.

get to st beatus caves from interlaken or bern
St. Beatus Caves are in between Interlaken and Thun in the canton of Bern.

Staying in Interlaken, Bern, or Thun

St. Beatus Caves are easily accessible from these three cities (listed in most recommended to least):

  • Interlaken – about 10 minutes by car
  • Bern – about 45 minutes by car
  • Thun – about 25 minutes by car

You can find hotels, hostels, or Airbnbs in these areas, but remember that Switzerland is expensive – we have a whole Switzerland budget guide for you – and these cities are popular tourist destinations.

Thun should be your last resort for accommodations in the area. It is close to the caves, but it’s a small town with only a few expensive accommodation options.

It’s better to focus on hostels and budget hotels in Interlaken and Bern. Here are some options.

Hostels Near St. Beatus Caves

The most affordable, convenient, and recommended option is to stay in a hostel in Interlaken.

Several, including Balmers Hostel and Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof, prices start at about $25-$30 for a dormitory bed and include breakfast.

More Hostels in Interlaken

Hostels in Bern

Remember that your transportation to the caves will be more expensive if you’re coming from Bern because it is a 45-minute drive away.

Related:

Hotels Near St. Beatus Caves

Hotel rooms near St. Beatus Caves will cost considerably more per night compared to hostels.

Airbnb rooms might be slightly cheaper than hotels, and worth checking out before booking. Click here to find your next Airbnb.

Budget Hotels in Interlaken

Budget Hotels in Bern

BOOK A HOSTEL OR HOTEL TODAY

Campgrounds Near St. Beatus Caves

If you are adventurous, there are campground options all along Lake Thun.

Camping in Interlaken allows you to enjoy the many free or cheap outdoor activities in the area, including endless hiking options, going to the lake, taking a short train ride to Lauterbrunnen, etc.

How to Get to St. Beatus Caves

From Interlaken, take bus 21 headed toward Thun Train Station. St. Beatus Caves is right on the route, and the bus will stop right in front of the caves. How convenient! It’s the same if you’re coming from Thun, just in the opposite direction.

From Bern, take a train to either Thun or Interlaken West with a “supersaver ticket” from the SBB Mobile app. Then take a short ride on bus 21.

Cheap hourly parking is available in front of the waterfalls if you travel by car.

You can also take a ferry from Interlaken, Thun, or Spiez to access the trailhead of the caves. The stop is called Beatushöhlen-Sundlauenen, and you can find prices and timetables here.

Related:

waterfalls at st beatus caves entrance
© Chris Corbaz

Why You Should Visit St. Beatus Caves

St. Beatus Caves is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Once you step off the bus, it’s like stepping into a LOTR book. Tolkien could not have picked a more mythical and magical place for the Elves to live.

The day I spent here is a memory I cherish deeply. I encourage anyone visiting Switzerland to make it a priority to stop here because it encapsulates the country so well – waterfalls, mountains, lakes – even a little bit of fantasy.

By: Chris Corbaz