The Aletsch glacier, seen from Jungfraujoch, is Europe’s largest glacier.
I’ve always dreamt of a Swiss holiday for years and when we finally found ourselves at Lucerne on a short break in the summer of 2006, we made up our minds to do the trip to Jungfraujoch – the “top of Europe”! The Jungfraujoch is an Alpine attraction and viewing point, located in between the well-known mountains Mönch and Jungfrau, in the heart of the UNESCO Natural World Heritage property ‘Jungfrau – Aletsch – Bietschhorn.‘
Our journey to Jungfraujoch started from Interlaken, which lies in the Bernese Oberland, known for its’ picturesque scenery and is the starting point for many activities. We took the famous cogwheel train (the only way to get there!) via Lauterbrunnen, taking us all the way up across several climate zones to Jungfraujoch at 3454 metres. The train station at Jungfrau, built in 1912, is actually the highest one in Europe.
Stark, snow-covered and sombre! We went up on a near vertical climb, past lush green mountainside, hamlets and villages, and then higher up, cutting through snow-covered mountains, through a tunnel inside the mountain, into the freezing sub-zero temperatures. A gnawing feeling inside me. Travelling by a train inside a mountain can feel very strange! The thought of an unexpected avalanche also crossed my mind at one point, but thankfully, the excitement of this once-in-a-lifetime-journey outweighed my fears and I actually enjoyed the ride, wondering what would come next.
The majority of this section is in a tunnel, but still it is impressive if you just think about it: a tunnel at an altitude of 3,000 metres across the rocks of the Eiger. The train will make two short stops along the way, at Eigerwand and Eismeer. These stations allowed us to get off the train for a few minutes and enjoy the view through the panoramic windows. The views from the Jungfraujoch are absolutely amazing, and so is the trip up there. Other viewing points within the UNESCO area that we saw were the Bettmerhorn and Eggishorn. Upon reaching Jungfrau, we took the lift that took us 117 metres further up to the Sphinx observatory, from where we enjoyed a 360° view, both from the terrace and from the comfort of a building with panoramic windows.
The awesome views of Mt Eiger through the windows inside the observatory! Note the viewing platform on the right with a few curious onlookers.
The breathtaking view of the Aletsch glacier was another experience of a lifetime and a must-do for all! There was the Ice Palace with many ice sculptures to admire. The Alpine Sensation was a moving walkway with images, light and music, connecting the hall below the Sphinx observatory to the Ice Palace. Not content with seeing only through the windows, we decided to step out into the snow to enjoy the view of the Grosser Aletsch glacier and the surrounding mountains, from a nearby viewpoint. The temperatures were freezing but the experience awe-inspiring, totally worth the effort of risking the journey with a toddler in tow!
In Summers, a lot of tourists also go sledging, skiing or snowboarding in the Snow Fun Park although we decided not to, keeping in mind our two-year-old who was getting a little cranky. It was early evening and we headed back to catch the next train via Grindelwald, which was another picturesque route to take on our way down to Interlaken, having had an amazing experience that we were not going to forget in a long time.