Yesterday morning, along with a hoard of tourists and skiers/snowboarders, I ascended to the “Top of Europe” after a 4.5 hour train ride (this includes my 2 hour trip from Zurich to Interlaken). The efficiency of Swiss trains is amazing, with each connecting train leaving just 5-10 minutes after. From Wengen, make sure you sit on the right side of the train when going up because the view is of endless snow-capped mountains (Figure 1). If you make the mistake of sitting on the left side (which I did on the way up), you can enjoy the view of dirt and grass covered “hills” (Figure 2).
After Klein Scheidegg, the cute little choo-choo train (Figure 3) takes tourists through a series of tunnels dug back in the early 1900’s (your Jungfraujoch passport that comes with the ticket explains the building process) with stops along the way to take a look at the valley floor at Eiswand (Figure 4) or a glacier at Eismeer (Figure 5).
Finally at Jungfraujoch, you enter into the tourist station, where there are mostly tour groups wandering through the souvenir shop and café. Turn to the left, past the souvenir shop, where you can go check out the Ice Palace and then go outside.
The Ice Palace’s long tunnel entrance consisted of a deer checking out his watch (Figure 6) and the highest cave in Europe (Figure 7).
The Ice Palace itself is totally worth going to (and included in your ticket). After a long ice tunnel, you come to a giant cavern with some ice sculptures of bears, crystals, penguins, etc. (Figure 8). Even Scrat is frozen in there waiting for the next Ice Age (Figure 9).
Take a picture with the frozen “Top of Europe Sign” (Figure 10), although you may be waiting a while depending on how many tourists there are.
By the exit, there is a tiny tunnel where you have to duck to walk through if you are over ~5’1” (Figure 11).
Just make sure you don’t slip on the icy floors! Oh, and the Swiss stop at nothing to advertise their watches (Figure 12).
Walk up some stairs to the very top of Jungfraujoch, where you can actually walk outside (Figure 13). Be careful when you first go out the doors – it’s a pretty steep hill of ice and snow you have to walk up.
When I got there, I could see absolutely nothing because the clouds were covering up everything (Figure 14). Great. I had just spent 118 CHF for a cloudy view.
But after some waiting, the whizzing winds blew some of the clouds away, providing windows of time to see views that would take one’s breath away. It really is something to see the mountains (mostly Monch and Jungfrau peaks) and valleys (Figure 15) from the highest railway station in Europe. Take these clear opportunities to quickly snap photos of yourself.
And there were Chinese people doing some tai chi (Figure 17).
At the top, I also met some wonderful friends whom the Asian tourists were very fond of (Figure 18).
I headed down with Amy, Karin and their dad, Dave, to Klein Scheidegg, where we stopped for some amazing views of the Bernese Alps (Figure 19 & 20).
We also stopped in Wengen for a quick lunch (Figure 21). Be aware that many restaurants actually stop taking lunch orders after 2pm…!!!
Although we parted ways in Lauterbrunnen, I truly hope we stay in touch!
- Go in the morning—there are actually fewer tourists. Also, if you are staying in the area the night before, catch the 7am train from Lauterbrunnen to Junfraujoch because it is 130 CHF instead of the usual 166 CHF (for roundtrip). This is only useful if you do not have a Swiss Pass or Eurail Pass (which both give you 25% off) since you can’t double up on discounts.
- Up from Wengen, sit on the right side of the train (and on the left for the descent). Also, you can open the windows to get rid of the reflection of yourself in photos.
- If you have breathing or heart problems, make sure you take it easy or do not go up. Some healthy people I spoke to said they had trouble breathing while walking up the stairs due the thin air (although I could not tell the difference…).
- Be patient—there may be clouds, but wait a bit. The winds move the clouds pretty quickly so it may clear up a bit!
- DRESS WARM!!! And wear shoes with a good grip (sandals really are a no-no for a number of reasons)