It was almost overwhelming standing at the top of this force of nature, on the Sphinx observation terrace (which we reached by Switzerland’s fastest lift – taking just 27 seconds to reach the height of 3,571 metres). I had wrapped up really warmly for the occasion, so was pleasantly surprised by how hot it was. I guess we were nearer the sun by being so high up! Mind you, I think we were lucky and I can imagine how cold it could get when the wind whips in. The average temperature across the year is -7.9C.
The Jungfrau is beautiful, and also (you won’t be surprised to hear) very popular. That’s understandable, for who wouldn’t want to enjoy the views over the Aletsch Glacier (the longest Alpine glacier, at 23km), and of the Jungrau, Mönch, Schilthorn and Eiger? When the sun is shining, the vista stretches on and on and you can see the Vosges in France and Black Forest in Germany, but cloud cover can change that in an instant (and sunglasses are a must to avoid snow blindness).
You would expect a place like this to be full of other tourists (over a million of us last year), and it is, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get space to enjoy the surroundings. Despite all the people, I found being outside and enjoying the views utterly wonderful, and very, very special.
However, I was less taken by the added extras which make this such an “experience” for visitors.
Some of this is great, and I did appreciate the ice sculpture palace with its slightly eerie, blueish sculptures, and the Alpine sensation with its story of tourism in the region (for example: it was Italian labourers who did most of the work on constructing the railway), but others – such as a very crowded Lindt chocolate shop – are less appealing. There are also numerous shops and places to eat, including a Bollywood restaurant and the Restaurant Crystal, which serves traditional Swiss cuisine, including fondue (of course).
If the weather is good, you can also hike your way over the mountains, and also take part in skiing, snowboarding and ziplining, which would be terrific fun.
A huge part of your Jungfrau visit will be how you get there, and the rail journey (in fact, there’s more than one) is spectacular, with the highest railway station in Europe nestled between the Jungfrau and Monch, at a height of 11,333ft.
We went via Interlaken to Kleine Scheidegg and then started our ascent via the Lauterbrunnen valley, with its beautiful scenery and waterfalls, although we came back via Grindelwald. I’d recommend trying both routes out, as it means you see more of the area.
I loved the views of the mountains and took far too many pictures, although the second part of the trip, from Kleine Scheidegg (which is already 6,762 feet up) to the Jungfraujoch is mainly in the Eiger tunnel, which lasts for 7km. Somehow this is still impressive – what a feat of engineering – and it was lovely to stop off twice on the way – at Eigerwand and Eismeer – to get used to the altitude and also enjoy the view from some great panoramic windows. The snow looked incredible from Eismeer, while Eigerwand gives you the chance to look at the north face of the famous Eiger.
All the trains were, as you would expect, extremely comfortable and such a lovely way to travel. Be warned, however, that they do get very crowded – we were fortunate to get seats on the way back – and we needed to sit down and recover from our alpine exertions!
My only negative about this whole experience was the cost. The rail journey is extremely expensive, around 200 Swiss Francs per person for a return trip (around £156) although there are reductions if you have a Swiss Pass (well worth it if you are going to travel elsewhere). You really need to see it as the experience of a lifetime – and budget accordingly.
More on fares and tickes here.
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Disclosure: I was fortunate to visit Switzerland as part of a wonderful Great Railways Journey to the Jungfrau, which meant all my travel was free (including the train up to the Jungfrau). However, none of the establishments had any input into this blog post.