JungFrau A Hiker’s Wonderland

The Berner Oberland is one of the most visited areas in Switzerland and with good reason. It’s home to the famous mountains of Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch.  This area is blessed with one of kind natural beauty of snow capped mountains, bright green meadows, serene rivers and countless breathtaking hiking trails.

Arriving into Interlaken from Zurich I’m immediately taken in by the majestic beauty of the mountains, which were framed by the deepest blue skies I’d ever seen. I could feel the goosebumps rise on my skin and I’m only in the train station.

If you ever visit this area make sure you sit next to the windows on trains. The idyllic countryside that passes in front of you is amazing. Maybe it’s because I lived in a desert for 11 years, but somehow my brain couldn’t process how a place on earth could be this green. My face was literally glued to the windowpane as I watched nature pass me by. Getting off at Wegen, which is perched on a side of mountain, I’m greeted with panoramic views of Lauterbrunnen valley.

The train ride from interlaken is stunning
The train ride from interlaken is stunning
wengen
Wengen Village
Lauterbrunnen Valley
Lauterbrunnen Valley

I’d booked my accommodations in Wegen. It’s a small alpine village which I found to be the perfect base to explore the Jungfrau area, much better than Interlaken. It’s centrally located to most hiking trails. I’ve never hiked a day in my life, but I felt so inspired I decided I’d try a full day hike. I planned an excursion that would’ve taken me from a village called “First”, “BachAlpsee”, “Bussalp” finishing with a hike back to “Grindelwald”.

This never happened.

My plan was rubbish. I was imbued with a fake sense of confidence the amazing mountains gave me. Also when planning my hikes, the distance on paper looked reasonable. How many amateur hikers have made that mistake? Anyway, I was hit with reality right from the start.


 

Somehow, don’t ask me how, I ended up going the opposite direction from my first stop of BuchAlpsee. I quickly suspected something was wrong, this was supposed to be the easy part of my hike. Yet five minutes into the walk, I was huffing and puffing like someone who was 80 AND suffered from bad hips and knees.

The second mistake I made involved a fork in the road. I had two choices: one was a well marked and cleared path and the other was a lightly used and unmarked trail. False confidence still intact, I took the lightly used trail since it looked like the shorter path.   BIG mistake.   That path quickly became wet, slippery and covered with snow. Luckily I realized the error of my ways and doubled back.

An hour later I was back at the starting point, tired and a little embarrassed with myself.

As I stood at the beginning of the trail I found VERY clear signs that marked the trail to BuchAlpsee. How I missed them I’ve no idea. My only defense is that I was temporarily color blind and couldn’t see the brightly colored signs that where right in front of my face.

So while planning your hike in Jungfrau I recommend that you don’t listen to me, but get your information from an expert. Here are links listing hiking trails and level expertise required for each hike:

I would like to highlight a walk I took through Lauterbrunnen Valley to Zweilutschinen. This is a very easy hike that everyone in the family can do ( even your 80 year old grandfather with the bad hips and knees). It’s a beautiful hike that took my breathe away. As an added bonus I met an older gentleman from Texas and we had the most wonderful conversation along the way.

Here is my video from some of the hikes I did around Jungfrau:

 

Besides hiking the other main attraction in this area is to visit the highest railway station in Europe at Jungfraujoch. From this location you can see the Eiger and Jungfrau mountain peaks. This was a fun excursion and totally worth the expense, but I should warn you that visibility is impacted by the weather. Make sure you check the weather report prior to using or buying your tickets. Also make sure that you dress appropriately. Even though I went in June it was snowy and cold.

JungFrauJoch is the highest railway station in Europe.
JungFrauJoch is the highest railway station in Europe.

 

Below is a video from my trip up to Jungfraujoch.


 

Finally, prior to visiting Jungfrau, make sure to plan for the following to make the most of your trip:

  • Where to Base Yourself: After staying in an alpine village I see no justification to base yourself in Interlaken. Yes it’s  a beautiful and nice town that may offer more convenience but it doesn’t hold a candle to staying up in the mountains surrounded by the amazing nature. Interlaken (to me) can be covered in a daytrip. I’d recommend you consider Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald or (my favorite) Wegen.
  • Accommodations: It’s possible to find (relatively) cheap accommodations in this region. The hotel I stayed at was 73 CHF. But I recommend that you look at apartments with kitchenettes as the cost of food is VERY VERY high in Switzerland. To cut back on eating out, having a small kitchen and fridge goes a long way.
  • Transportation:
    • The first thing that you MUST do when you get to Switzerland is buy Swiss Half Fare Card. For 1 month it costs 120 CHF and it’ll give you a 50% discount on most transportation modes in Switzerland. This will pay for itself with one trip to Jungfrau. Transportation in Switzerland is abhorrently expensive.
    • Second, you should plan on buying Jungfrau Travel Pass  (offered at 3,4,5 or 6 day intervals). It gives you unlimited use on the main train lines that you’ll use during your stay in this region. This is way more cost effective than buying tickets individually (see single ticket prices here).