Jungfrau, one of the most famous mountain peaks in Europe, is part of the Swiss Alps. Together with Eiger and Monch, the three mountain peaks tower over Interlaken, making them the highest points in the Canton of Bern. The three mountains, the maiden, ogre, and monk (as their names are translated into English) form a towering wall and an emblem of Switzerland itself. Whether you’re looking to climb to the summit or just ride the trails on laid-back vacations, a visit to Jungfrau is one of those classic Swiss experiences that can’t be repeated elsewhere.
Before the railway was built, access to the top of the peak was excluded to only the most adventurous. Once the train was completed at the beginning of the 20th century, it opened up the Alps to tourism like never before. Like all of the trains in Switzerland, the Jungfrau Railway is nothing short of an engineering marvel. As the train cuts through the Swiss Alps, from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch, it motors through tunnels and climbs some 4,500 feet (1,400 meters) in the process. Once the railway reaches its destination, it has arrived at the highest train station on the continent. The views of the three peaks are simply amazing. For an even closer look, be sure to take the elevator to the observatory, where the views go as far as the Altesch Glacier—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s also a skiing and snowboarding park here, along with a restaurant to enjoy once you step off the train.
Jungfrau Climbing History & Climbing Routes
Jungfrau Climbing History & Climbing Routes Image: andreas_fischler (flickr)
While a trip on the rails is a wonderful experience, others just have to climb the mountains themselves. The third highest peak in the Swiss Alps was one of the first peaks in the region tackled. Johann Rudolf and his brother Hieronymus Meyer made it to the peak in 1811. A few more attempts were made and succeeded over the next century before the railroad was built. These days, the typical climb is not for beginners, but it’s not so hard that it shouldn’t be tried by intermediate-level climbers. This ascent includes both snow and mountain climbing before reaching the summit. Many climbers employ the services of a local company who can arrange for guides, lodging, and anything else needed for the climb to the clouds. Almost everyone follows the main climbing route, but the more skilled can forge their own path.
While Jungfrau and its neighboring peaks are easily accessible from Zurich, it can be quite a treat to spend the night in the Bernese Oberland. Many travelers choose to spend the night in Interlaken. This little town in the shadow of the three peaks lies between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Visitors enjoy Interlaken’s resorts and hotels along with its long list of things to do. During warm weather, hikers and strollers take to the trails after a ride on the railway, cable car, or chairlifts. Excursion boats ply the waters of both lakes, which is a nice and relaxing way to enjoy the scenery. In the winter, the list of activities grows to include skiing, snowboarding, and plenty of snuggling by the fire.
Another popular choices for vacations, Grindelwald lies in a green valley at the foot of the mountain peaks. This charming little town is sure to delight with its long list of places to stay and things to do. Like its bigger neighbor Interlaken, Grindelwald is known for its winter sports and off-season hiking opportunities—along with those mountain views and luxury hotels.