A few hours from the city of Zurich and at an altitude of 3454 meters lies Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. It is also a popular Alpine viewing point, located in between the mountains Mönch and Jungfrau, in the heart of the UNESCO protected Jungfrau-Aletsch area of the Swiss Alps.
A cogwheel train is the only way to reach Jungfraujoch and today Viator was going to take me there on their Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe day tour. This was a trip that would bring us on a scenic drive through Bernese Oberland, stopping at the quaint town of Interlaken and catching a cogwheel train from Laterbrunnen to our final destination of Jungfraujoch.
The meeting spot was at a Zurich bus stop, next to the main train station and across the street from Starbucks.
One tall decaf cappuccino togo please.
We boarded a large bus that was only a quarter full, mostly with couples and families. We began our journey towards our first stop, the charming Swiss town of Interlaken which was approximately 2 hours away. Located in between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, this city is a vacation destination and the perfect gateway to the mountains.
Though we only had a short amount of time for exploring, it was enough to window shop — ogling through the decorated glass that was filled with rich Swiss chocolate, high-end clothing and unique home decor.
All that plus this quaint town has a Hooters.
Yes, the servers wear the same skimpy orange shorts in Switzerland. But, their claim to fame, if you ask many men, are still their chicken wings. Wink. Wink.
In Lauterbrunnen we boarded a cogwheel train, a very steep railway with a toothed rack rail, that took us two hours to what is known as the top of Europe. At some points we rode at a 25 degree angle, which was undeniably evident when our guide asked us to stand out of our seats and we were all leaning like Pisa.
That’s pretty darn steep.
This trip wasn’t just about the destination, but also about the journey along the way – and it was a doozy. The train passed through small villages, forests and seemingly endless miles of green.
Plus, there were random pit stops.
When we reached the top, a couple hours later. We were officially at Jungfraujoch, where amidst an eternal winter wonderland you should be able to see panoramic views of the Swiss Alps. The operative word being should.
We got to the Top of Europe and headed to the Sphinx Observation Terrace for the once-in-lifetime view. We looked out towards the hills into a blur of snow.
It was a total whiteout.
We couldn’t even make out one mountain peak. So, we stood at the Top of Europe, not seeing the Top of Europe. Bummer.
What it should look like:
That’s okay though, because there were ice tunnels, that are part of a glacier, to walk through. How many opportunities do you get to walk through a glacier? And there’s an Ice Palace that houses a collection of ice sculptures: penguins, bears and coyotes. Oh my.
For the record, they were clearly visible.
After a cafeteria style lunch of chicken nuggets and fries, we hopped back on the cogwheel, heading towards Zurich.
I know what your thinking, ‘if you saw nothing than why would Jungfraujoch on your bucket list?’ The answer is that many times it is not as much about the destination as it is about the journey. And the journey was AMAZING.
You should go because any train ride through Switzerland is stunning, traveling by cogwheel is unique and when else would you have a chance to walk through a glacier?
Just check the weather report beforehand.
. . . . . . . . . . . Tips . . . . . . . . . . .
- Bring some snacks and water for the trip. Also, pack a lunch if you don’t want to have an expensive mediocre meal.
- Ask the guide which side of the train to sit on, the one with the best view.
- Check the weather report before booking!
- The windows of the trains do open, so have your cameras always ready for action.
- Dress in multiple layers as the temperature will fluctuate throughout the travel day.
- Though it did not affect me, it is possible to get altitude sickness. Make sure to take things slow and drink plenty of water.