The Jungfraujoch railway
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The Jungfraujoch railway with the Jungfrau peak in the background. (©_Switzerland Tourism)
Switzerland’s most popular (and expensive) mountain railway excursion is unmissable. Trains trundle through lush countryside south from Interlaken before coiling spectacularly up across either Wengen or Grindlewald’s mountain pastures, breaking the treeline at Kleine Scheidegg and tunnelling clean through the Eiger to emerge at the JUNGFRAUJOCH, an icy, windswept col at 3454m, just beneath the Jungfrau summit. It’s the site of the highest train station in Europe, and offers an unforgettable experience of the mountains. You’d be missing out if you decided against shelling out the exorbitant sums necessary to reach the place.

However, good weather is essential – if there’s a hint of cloud you’d be wasting your time heading up. Check the pictures from the summit, broadcast live on cable TV throughout the region, for an idea of the weather conditions, call the Jungfraujoch weather line (033/828 79 31) or ask your hotel or nearest tourist office for the latest forecasts. Remember, too, that it takes two and a half hours to reach the summit from Interlaken, and weather conditions can change rapidly. Coy though it sounds, even if you plan nothing more adventurous than looking out of the summit station window you should still bring sunglasses with you: the snows never melt up here, and if the sky is blue, the sun’s glare and glitter can be painful.

There are two routes to the top. Trains head southwest from Interlaken Ost along the valley floor to Lauterbrunnen, from where you pick up the mountain line which climbs through Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg; different trains head southeast from Interlaken Ost to Grindelwald, where you change for the climb, arriving at Kleine Scheidegg from the other direction. All trains terminate at Kleine Scheidegg, where you must change for the final pull to Jungfraujoch – the popular practice is to go up one way and down the other.

Currently, the adult round-trip fare to Jungfraujoch from Interlaken is a budget-crunching Fr.159 – the Jungfraubahnen Pass, and the broader Bernese Oberland Regional Pass, both pointlessly stop short at Kleine Scheidegg, requiring passholders to shell out an extra Fr.50 to reach the summit. One way to cut costs is to take advantage of the discounted Good Morning ticket (Fr.120; Eurail Fr.105; Swiss Pass Fr.94), valid if you travel up on the first train of the day (6.35am from Interlaken), and leave the summit by noon (or Nov–April: first or second train plus later departure permitted).

Walking some sections of the journey, up or down, is perfectly feasible in summer, and can also save plenty, with fares from intermediate points along the route considerably lower. The undiscounted Good Morning ticket from Grindelwald is Fr.103, from Lauterbrunnen Fr.102, from Wengen Fr.91, and from Kleine Scheidegg Fr.58. Excellent transport networks and vista-rich footpaths linking all stations mean that with judicious use of a hiking map and timetable you can see and do a great deal in a day and still get back to Interlaken, or even Bern or Zürich, by bedtime.

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