Switzerland is a country known for its unparalleled beauty and outdoor living. There are endless hikes with amazing views found all throughout the country. Most notably, Switzerland is world renowned for its Swiss Alps that runs across the country. In the Swiss Alps, there are 3 mountains that stand out from anything else. Coincidently, they are found side by side and form the tallest peaks in the region. The 3 infamous mountains are called Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau; they form the mountain range that is called the Bernese Alps.
All these mountains are accessible if you truly want to climb them, but the majority of people are still looking up at these peaks. That is until 1912, more than a hundred years ago when incredible engineers developed the Jungfrau Railway that could take you from a small village below to a station just below the peak of Jungfrau known as Jungfraujoch; the highest rail station in all of Europe. This was an incredible achievement at the time and still remains a marvel today. Now, this rail station serves as a huge tourist attraction as people from all around the world flock to the Jungfrau region just to visit the top of Jungfrau or what is more notably called; The Top of Europe.
Journey to the top
The journey to the top of the mountain is not the simplest for any traveler. Most people will be arriving from Interlaken and it will take 3 train transfers and 2 hours of your time for a one-way trip. Luckily for you, you have Swiss time on your side which is great at scheduling connecting trains one after another.
We cut our time in half by staying in the small village of Wengen, just below the mountain range. Assuming you’re coming from Interlaken, you will have to take the train to Lauterbrunnen (the village of waterfalls). From there, you will transfer to another train that will pass by Wengen and take you up to a station called Kleine Scheidegg. This train ride up will give amazing views of the surrounding villages and mountains. You will also come face to face with the infamous north face of the Eiger Mountain.
The initial part of the journey up to Klein Scheidegg is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful train rides I’ve ever been on. When going up, I suggest getting a window seat on the right side of the train and left on the way down to get the best view possible. Unfortunately, after Klein Scheidegg most of the journey will be inside a tunnel with a quick stop at a viewpoint.
Some of the best views you’ll get from Switzerland will be during your train rides. That’s why many travelers opt for the Swiss Rail Pass and go wild with the trains. Unfortunately, the trip to Jungfraujoch is not covered by fully by the Rail Pass and can become quite pricey; like anything in Switzerland.
The views at the top of the Jungfraujoch station is like no other as there is a specially designed viewing platform. Never have I seen somewhere so isolated yet beautiful at the same time. It was as if I was magically transported to the middle of an undisrupted glacier. For some tourists, this will be their first time encountering snow. We know this is very exciting, especially when you don’t have to shovel it.
There is a viewing platform at the top of the station and that is where most people would visit and call it a day. The views at the viewing platform are spectacular but can also get quite crowded. We spent some time exploring viewing platform then decided we would rather visit the glacier.
At the top, there is an opportunity to actually set foot on the snowy glacier! On the glacier, there is a small snow park with zip lines, children play area, tobogganing slopes, and a hiking trail.
We decided to embark on the hiking trail because we had plenty of time to kill before catching our train back down. It turned out to be one of our best experiences in all of Switzerland. For one, it is an extremely rare opportunity to be able to hike in a snowy terrain almost 4000 feet in the middle of the Swiss Alps. Also, we were extremely unprepared which made the whole experience just that much more entertaining.
Instead of wearing hiking boots, we did the entire hike in running shoes which made every step that much more difficult. We would sink into the snow after every step and for every 2 steps we took, we would fall 1 step back. Although it is not recommended, it is surely doable if you’re dedicated enough.
Also, we did not bring any sunglasses which was a huge mistake. The sunlight at high altitudes are extremely strong especially when reflecting off the snowy surroundings. So that wasn’t the best idea, both for health purposes and opening your eyes in pictures.
The hike itself did not lead you to anywhere special, but it was the journey that made the whole experience incredible. The further you went, the fewer people there would be. Most of the time you would be surrounded by nothing but alps and snowy glaciers; it was truly remarkable. From the crowded viewpoint, this was an entirely new experience. At times, there was nobody to be seen for hundreds of meters.
Walking around felt like a snowy paradise for me.
We were able to get some incredible pictures with nobody to be seen in sight.
When you’re walking in the snow, it wasn’t nearly as cold as the viewpoint. Which is why you don’t see us in our jackets like previous pictures. This was probably due to the sunlight reflecting off the snow or something like that.
The hiking trail is completely safe if you stay on the designated tracks. We never dared to wander off track and in actuality there was never a need to.
At the end of the trail, there is a hut used for a resting station where you can use the washroom and grab a quick bite before heading back to the station. There’s nothing too special about this but it was a symbolic destination to signal that you’ve finally made it. It felt like a scene straight out of a movie as you slowly approach the final destination after a long treacherous journey.
We got a quick bite which included a hearty goulash soup before heading back to catch our train down.
The entire hike to the resting hut should take approximately 1-1.5 hours and about 1 hour back to the station since it was mostly downhill terrain on the way back.
The Ice Palace
In addition to the viewing platform, there is also an ice palace located at the station. In here, everything, literally anything you can imagine is created from ice. From the floor to the ceiling, it is fully carved from ice.
Unfortunately, we did not have much time to explore this area as we quickly passed through before catching our track back.
How much are the tickets?
As with anything in Switzerland, tickets to the Top of Europe don’t come cheap. To add insult to injury, the Swiss Travel Pass only covers 25% of the ticket. We were traveling on a Swiss Half Price Card which meant that 50% of the ticket was covered. Otherwise, you’ll be paying 200 Swiss Francs for a roundtrip ticket. A price breakdown of the cost of the journey can be found here.
Tips & Recommendations
It is extremely important to go when the weather looks promising. There’s nothing worse than reaching the top and realizing that all you see is a cloud of haze. After all, the tickets up the mountain don’t come cheap. So I’d suggest you spend a couple of days in the region and select the day with the best weather. The weather is also known to change drastically in the Swiss Alps. So be sure to check the live cameras that can be viewed here.
So now that you’ve chosen your day, make sure to dress appropriately! It will get quite chilly at 4000 feet. So don’t be reckless and show up in shorts and a t-shirt, or else you will end up hiding indoors the entire time just wishing to go back down.
Also, as mentioned earlier, make sure to bring a pair of polarized sunglasses! They will definitely come in handy in protecting your else from the strong UV lights reflecting off the snow. In general, it’ll help you open your eyes. Don’t be foolish like us.
Finally, if you’re prepared to do the hike. Dress appropriately for that or not. Whatever suits your fancy.
So… after a long tiring yet adventurous day, we said goodbye to the mountain glacier and headed back down. Unfortunately, we were so tired that we did not even get a chance to enjoy the beautiful view down.
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