8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in the Jungfrau Region
The Jungfrau massif, with its three famous peaks - the Jungfrau at 4,158 meters, the Mönch at 4,099 meters, and the 3,970-meter Eiger - has been the goal of climbers since the early 1800s and, more recently, of skiers who head for its 206 kilometers of slopes and runs, all set against the backdrop of the three peaks. The rack-railroad to the Jungfraujoch opened in 1912, and its upper station is the highest railroad station in Europe at 3,454 meters. Known for their long runs - some as long as 12 kilometers - and reliable deep snow, it's no wonder the three major ski areas draw winter sports enthusiasts from around the world. Dozens of lifts and cableways give skiers and sightseers access to the mountains. Beginners will find the slopes near Wengen the best for learning to ski, while experts will find Murren's slopes the most challenging in the Jungfrau region. The postcard-pretty towns, scenic splendor, and natural attractions all add to the Jungfrau's appeal to tourists in any season.
The highest railroad station in Europe at 3,454 meters, the Jungfraujoch is like a small village, with a hotel, restaurants, research stations, and underground passages leading to an Ice Palace carved from the glacier and to sports venues for skiing and dogsledding. An elevator climbs even higher to a viewing platform at the 3,573-meter summit of the Sphinx, not far below the summit of the Mönch. To the south, you can see the Aletsch glacier, 22 kilometers long, and to the north, the mountain world of the Alps. On clear days, the view extends to the Vosges in France and to Germany's Black Forest.
The Jungfraubahn railway begins its climb at the Kleine Scheidegg, which you can reach from Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald. The best plan is to go one way and come back the other. The rail line from Grindelwald to the Kleine Scheidegg runs below the treacherous north face of the Eiger, the most dangerous rock wall in the Alps. The first stop on the Jungfraubahn is Eigergletscher (Eiger Glacier), at 2,320 meters and surrounded by magnificent, wild scenery. Further on is the Eismeer (Sea of Ice) at 3,160 meters on the south face of the Eiger, with views over the much-crevassed surface of the glacier towards the Wetterhorn, the Schreckhorn, the Fiescherhörner, and the great crevasse under the Mönchsjoch. From here, it is a journey of 50 minutes along the rack-railroad to the Jungfraujoch.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Jungfrau Region
The Lauterbrunnen valley extends from Zweilütschinen to the foot of the Breithorn in the Jungfrau massif. The typical high alpine valley is enclosed between sheer rock walls over which several magnificent waterfalls drop in frothing ribbons. Plunging into the village itself are the Staubbach falls, which tumble from an overhanging crag in a sheer drop of 300 meters. The falls inspired Goethe to write Song of the Spirits over the Water, later set to music by Schubert. Lauterbrunnen is a popular summer resort and the starting-point of the funicular to the Jungfraujoch. The valley is a walkers' and skiers' paradise offering beautiful climbs in all skill levels and ski-runs as long as 17.5 kilometers. You can see a collection of agricultural tools in the museum.
3 Schilthorn and Piz Gloria
The Schilthornbahn, a 6,967-meter-long cableway, ascends in 34 minutes via three intermediate stations to the Schilthorn, at an elevation of 2,970 meters. The views are spectacular, and the ski trails from here run all the way back to Lauterbrunnen, 12 kilometers below. But the reason most people come to this peak is for its revolving restaurant, Piz Gloria, and its associations with James Bond. In the late 1960s, when location scouts were looking for a spot to film Ian Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, they found this revolving restaurant under construction. Its futuristic shape caught their imaginations, and they saw it as the perfect setting for Piz Gloria, the mountaintop hideout of the film's villain Blofeld. The producers helped finance its completion, and it featured prominently in the film, afterwards taking the name of the fictional hideout. Today, Piz Gloria makes the most of the Bond experience with a special Bond Breakfast menu, interactive Bond exhibits, memorabilia, and film clips. Apart from the James Bond connection, the magnificent 360-degree panorama from the summit rewards the trip, encompassing the trio of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, and reaching to Mont Blanc and into Germany's Black Forest.
A car-free resort halfway up the Eiger and overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley, Wengen can only be reached on foot or on the Wengernalpbahn, a rack railway from Lauterbrunnen that was built in 1893. The town is beautifully set at the foot of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau and is an ideal base for walks and climbs in the mountains and alpine meadows of the Bernese Oberland. You can climb to the Wengernalp, either directly in less than two hours or by way of the Mettlealp, immediately opposite the Jungfrau, in three hours. You can also take the railway to the Wengernalp, where you'll find the Hotel Jungfrau and splendid views of the Trümleten valley and the Jungfrau. Each January, the Lauberhorn Downhill Ski Race, one of the most spectacular in the world cup circuit, is held in Wengen.
A village of narrow streets and picturesque chalets set among alpine meadows, Grindelwald lies at the foot of the dramatic ledges of the Eiger's sheer north face. To the left of the Eiger is the 3,104-meter Mettenberg and the 3,701-meter Wetterhorn, the most characteristic landmark of the Grindelwald valley. Between the three mountains are the two Grindelwald glaciers. The Upper Glacier, about a 1.5-hour walk from the village, has an ice cave carved into its right-hand side. The Lower Glacier is reached through the impressive Lütschine Gorge, where you can see glacial potholes carved into the rock by meltwater. In the village of Grindelwald you can visit a small museum to learn about alpine life, local cheese-making, and the history of skiing and mountaineering in the valley. At the Bergsteigerzentrum (mountaineering center), you can join tours and courses for both beginning and advanced climbers and hikers. The best views in Grindelwald are from the Terrassenweg, a panoramic path that branches off the road about 20 minutes' walk above the church and runs along the mountainside above alpine meadows.
At the foot of the Schilthorn, a sunny terrace above the Lauterbrunnen valley, Mürren maintains its 19th-century atmosphere by allowing no private vehicles on its narrow streets. Access to this rustic chalet village is from Lauterbrunnen by funicular to Grütschalp and from there by a 5.5-kilometer narrow-gauge railroad or from Stechelberg by a cableway that goes past waterfalls and craggy rock faces into the center of the village. Wengen, on the rocky plateau opposite, is also accessible by cableway. Mürren developed during the 19th century into a popular resort, particularly among the British, who founded the Inferno Race. It is the biggest amateur ski race in the world, and still takes place here annually on the famous black-diamond Inferno run down the Schilthorn. From the town are magnificent views of the Jungfrau, and a half-hour walk or a cable car ride takes you to Allmendhubel, at 1,938 meters, with panoramic views.
7 Trümmelbach Falls
Almost hidden inside the Schwarze Mönch, the Trümmelbach Falls plunge down in five rushing cascades that swirl through a corkscrew-shaped vertical gorge carved out by the meltwaters from the giant ice walls of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Elevators take you inside the mountain and to a series of walkways to view the individual waterfalls. It's easy to see how their force has worn away the rock, as they thunder and swirl down through the mountain at a volume of 20,000 liters per second, carrying rocks and gravel with them. These are the world's only underground glacier waterfalls that are accessible by lift, galleries, tunnels, and platforms inside the mountain.
The 2,681-meter Faulhorn is one of Switzerland's most renowned viewpoints, where you can see the giant peaks of the Bernese Oberland in all their magnificence. To reach it take the chair-lift (30 minutes) to the First station and from there, it's an hour's walk north to the Bachalpsee, at 2,264 meters. Or you can walk 3.5 hours from Grindelwald to the Bachalpsee and then climb 1.5 hours to the summit where there is a hotel open in the summer.