|The Jungfrau region|
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The JUNGFRAU REGION south of Interlaken is the rather uninspiring title foisted on what is perhaps the most dramatic, certainly the most memorable, mountain scenery in the whole of Switzerland. The Matterhorn may be more recognizable, Davos and St Moritz may be flashier, but the quantity and sheer scale of the awesome giants on offer here at close quarters takes your breath away.
The area is dominated by the mighty triple crest of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau (Ogre, Monk and Virgin) – three giant peaks rising side-by-side to 4000m and seemingly always mentioned in the same breath. The Jungfrau is the focus, partly because it’s the highest (at 4158m), and partly because the network of mountain trains from Interlaken Ost culminates at the Jungfraujoch, a saddle below the Jungfrau peak that claims the honour of being the site of the highest train station in Europe. The ride up to the summit – dubbed the “Top of Europe” – is touted endlessly in Interlaken and beyond as being the highlight of a Swiss visit and, despite the hype, it’s not far wrong. However, plenty of equally stunning scenery is also to be had at lower altitudes. The region is focused on two valleys, which divide a few kilometres south of Interlaken. To the west is the famous Lauterbrunnen valley, celebrated with justification as the loveliest mountain valley in Europe, with its alluring resorts of Wengen and Mürren. To the east, the narrow Lütschen valley widens out on its way to the bustling town of Grindelwald, perfectly placed for its many visitors to take advantage of the hiking and skiing possibilities all around. Excellent transport around all these places – mostly trains, but also taking in cable-cars, funiculars and the odd bus – means that you can roam to your heart’s content, which, with the quality of natural scenery on offer, may take a while.
Mountain trains throughout the Jungfrau region are operated by the Jungfraubahnen (033/828 71 11, www.jungfraubahn.ch). They have a Jungfraubahnen Pass, valid for free travel on their entire network apart from the Kleine Scheidegg–Jungfraujoch section (on which passholders travel for half the full fare). The pass, valid for five consecutive days, costs Fr.133, or Fr.85 to holders of the Swiss Half-Fare Card.
Eurailers get a 25 percent discount on all Jungfraubahnen trains, except where mentioned in the guide text. Swiss Pass holders get free travel on trains to Mürren, Wengen and Grindelwald, and a 25 percent discount on journeys higher up. InterRail brings no discount at all, apart from on the few occasions mentioned in the guide text.
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