Justin and I spent our anniversary weekend exploring the Jungfrau Region, one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist destinations, located in the Bernese Oberland (the Highlands within the Canton of Bern). We quickly fell in love with this beautiful slice of Swissness, where regal mountains and dramatic valleys welcome outdoor enthusiasts and encourage the imagination.
After 200+ years of drawing visitors with elegant hotels, an innovative railway system, and access to the Alps, Interlaken is the most distinguished town in the area, and it serves as the gateway to the Jungfrau Region. This darling of the Victorian Era is literally locked in between the pristine blue waters of Lake Brienz and Lake Thun and surrounded by rising foothills – a natural stage set for both romantic leisures and gripping adventures.
Undeniably, Interlaken is not short on scenery nor compelling activities. However, this acclaimed city did not make our weekend itinerary. Justin and I bypassed Interlaken to spend time exploring the valleys that fork south from the city: Lauterbrunnen Valley and Grindelwald Valley. In this compact sector of the Alps, the triple peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau dominate the skyline, while quaint villages rest under their perilous splendor. With just a few glimpses from our train of those towering mountains and gushing rivers, the Jungfrau Region immediately captivated our attention.
Here are some of the highlights from our weekend in the heart of the Jungfrau Region.
PARAGLIDING OVER LAUTERBRUNNEN VALLEY
As mentioned in my previous post, Justin and I went tandem paragliding – an unforgettable anniversary gift to ourselves. Needless to say, paragliding was a epic start to a remarkable weekend!
After our flying escapade, we enjoyed complimentary drinks at Airtime Café before leaving romantic Lauterbrunnen Valley by cogwheel train.
We spent two nights in the mountainside village of Wengen. This little town is full of Swiss charm, which (I hear) turns up a million notches in the winter months. Like many of the villages in the area, Wengen is a ski resort paradise – but it’s only accessible by train. With spectacular vistas that include the imposing peaks of Mönch and Jungfrau and the roaring waterfalls of Lauterbrunnen Valley, Wengen certainly sits on prime real estate. Could anyone ever tire of this view?
JUNGFRAUJOCH, THE TOP OF EUROPE
In 1893, Adolf Guyer-Zeller decided to try the unthinkable: build a railway that would lead to the summit of Jungfrau, the highest peak in this portion of the Alps. Sixteen years and sixteen million franc later, the project was completed, and thanks to Adolf’s grand dream, millions have set foot upon the glacier pass between Jungfrau and Mönch.
The journey to the “Top of Europe” is costly. One adult round-trip train ticket could set you back as much as 200 Swiss franc… and that does not include a bar of dark chocolate at “the highest Lindt Chocolate Shop in the world!” Therefore, travelers would do well to visit only when the weather forecast is promising.
Although we were tempted to pay the price one clear morning, Justin and I decided to save this glacial encounter for another trip. Maybe with some others who dare to reach the Top of Europe with us? Who’s in?
HIKING FROM SCHYNIGE PLATTE TO FIRST-GRINDELWALD
Instead of heading to the Top of Europe, we made our way up to the “Top of Swissness” via a different cog-wheeled choo-choo. Opened since 1893 (the year Herr Guyer-Zeller dreamed up the path to Jungfraujoch), Schynige Platte is the Swiss version of a State Park – a natural space open to the public where weekenders and tourists can picnic, hike, and gawk at the outstanding views. Visitors are frequently greeted at the top by a troupe of Alphorn players, whose forlorn tunes carry over the Alpine meadows until they fade into the mountainside.
From the train station at the summit of Schynige Platte, Justin and I set off on the Faulhorn-First hiking trail, listed as a six-hour trek. Along this “classic” Alpine route, we marched through grassy fields, waved hallo to munching dairy cows, clamored over stone-boned gorges, and huffed up mountain ridgelines.
The diverse terrain matched the fickle weather conditions we encountered along the trail. After we passed the Guardian Cow of the Ridge, we continued through patches of grey clouds that shielded views of rumored grandeur. Ultimately, the clouds broke apart to reveal an absolutely breathtaking panorama just beyond the Bachalpsee – the final feature before the gondolas at First that carried us down to Grindelwald.
We completed the hike from Schynige Platte to First in less than five hours. As a reward for our efforts (and for reaching the First gondola before closing time!), we enjoyed a fantastic Swiss meal and some tasty brews in Grindelwald. Zum Wohl!
WE HEART THE BERNESE OBERLAND
The Jungfrau Region was a great place to celebrate our marriage in our new country of residence, but one weekend was not enough time in this Alpine paradise. Although we enjoyed the summer’s contrast of green pastures and white peaks, we cannot wait to go back to explore more of the Bernese Oberland after it transforms into a winter wonderland!
Does this setting appeal to you and your travel style? What other mountainous destinations have you explored? Can you recommend other places in the Alps that we should visit?