Pure Switzerland—From Interlaken to Jungfraujoch

By Li Yen, Epoch Times
October 26, 2015 Updated: December 9, 2015

Nestled at the feet of the snow-clad Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains, Interlaken is a popular Swiss resort town and rail junction for excursions to the majestic Jungfrau Region mountain world—one of the most visited destinations of Switzerland.

This beautiful Swiss town derives its name from the Latin phrase “Inter Lacus”, which means “situated between two lakes”—namely, the scenic Lake Brienz and Lake Thun.

Take a cruise on Lake Brienz and Lake Thun and enjoy the cool breeze on your skin. Lake Brienz’s crystal-clear glacier waters and Lake Thun’s turquoise blue depths will take your worries away.

Along the banks of Lake Brienz (also known as the Brienzersee), explore picturesque and idyllic villages such as Bönigen and Iseltwald and soak up Switzerland’s romantic atmosphere.

Our unique selling points are Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, the mountain excursions and the adrenaline-loaded adventures.
— Remo Käser, Director Markets , Interlaken Tourism
Panorama photograph of Interlaken from Harder Kulm. (Hans Zurbuchen/swiss-image.ch)
Panorama photograph of Interlaken from Harder Kulm. (Hans Zurbuchen/swiss-image.ch)

 

View of the Lake of Brienz with paragliders flying. (Bruno Petroni/swiss-image.ch)
View of the Lake of Brienz with paragliders flying. (Bruno Petroni/swiss-image.ch)

Take an interesting tour of Oberland’s historic houses and customs in the charming chalet village of Bönigen. Or, visit the region’s hidden tourist gems—Isetlwald, a tiny fishing village on the south side of Lake Brienz, and Brienz, a woodcarving and violin making village.

Another highlight along Lake Brienz is the Giessbach Falls. Beside the mighty waterfall stands a fairytale castle—the Grand Hotel Giessbach.

At Lake Thun, stroll along the riverside and discover the twelve thousand-year old Romanesque churches along its coastline. For history buffs, the medieval town Thun located at the lower end of Lake Thun is a must-visit. Become a knight at the three Lake Thun castles of Oberhofen, Spiez, and Thun, or survey the Wocher Panorama in the Schadau Park—a 7.5m-high and 38m-long 360° circular painting, which depicts the town of Thun in 1810.

The historical town Thun, which is situated on the river Aare, is also an ideal destination for shopping and relaxation. Boutiques, retail chains, markets, cafés, and restaurants line the streets of Bälliz— Thun’s shopping island. Don’t forget to pick up some of Thun’s Läckerli biscuits, which are an ideal sweet souvenir to bring home.

When tired, unwind at the Alte Oele café bar by the Aare sluice which features a beautiful garden. High quality niche products and handicrafts are sold at the Obere Hauptgasse—a street with raised pavements and quaint old buildings.

Interlaken—The Adventure Mecca

For the Swiss, the Alps are marvellous playgrounds, and they make many exciting sports easily accessible. Ride a Post Bus from Interlaken to the Beatenberg and take a gondola lift up to the Niederhorn, where you can have fun sledging by starlight. Otherwise, join guided tours for some exciting skiing and snowboarding experiences.

For the more adventurous, Interlaken is the number-one paradise in Switzerland for adventure sports and outdoor activities. Go paragliding and admire the stunning view of mountains and lakes above Interlaken, or discover Interlaken on an E-bike. From canyoning, skydiving, bungee jumping, river-rafting, kayaking to hang-gliding, there are endless activities to satisfy the bold and daring.

Every day at 5pm, Interlaken’s Grand Café Restaurant Schuh hosts the “Chocolate Show”, which showcases the magic of creating the finest chocolate. In addition, you will be taught how to make your own chocolate as well! Savour their numerous chocolate delicacies while you are there too.

To complete your Swiss gastronomic experience, sample some Alpine cheese from Bättenalp, which is located between Faulhoren Mountain and Giessbach Valley where cows graze in summer.

Interlaken also offers unlimited choices of excursions into the lake and magical mountain world. Catch an 8-minute cable ride up to Harder Kulm, which is the starting point for many mountain hiking routes. It offers a spectacular sight of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains as well as a panoramic view of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Enjoy a meal of Swiss fondue and a folklore evening at the summit restaurant.

Witnessing the stunning panorama of the white summits Eiger, Monach and Jungfrau above Interlaken’s glittering Lakeland scenery is an ethereal, one-of-a-kind experience. Crystal clear lakes, charming chalet villages and eternally white mountains—this is where you experience pure Switzerland.

Jungfrau

There is an ancient Swiss fairy tale of an angel who came down to decorate the world. The angel picked one special mountain and adorned it with flowers, forests and silver chains. In the end, the angel made a wish: “From now on, people will come to you, praise you and fall in love with you.” It is said that Jungfrau is the mountain that was blessed and graced by the angel.

The Jungfrau (4,158 metres) is one of the main summits and the most outstanding of the Bernese Alps. Together with the Eiger and Mönch, the Jungfrau forms a majestic wall overlooking the Bernese Oberland and the Swiss Plateau. On fine days, one can see the mountain from Bern, the capital city of Switzerland.

The Jungfrau has been a high-end tourist destination since the 19th century. Its beauty has been adored by many great European artists, writers and royalty. It remains one of the most visited places in the Swiss Alps, and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2001.

The word “Jungfrau” means “virgin” in German. Every year, Jungfrau is the first place to be covered by snow. The first snow of winter falls quietly onto the top of Jungfrau, as pure as a virgin.

“It is a good name, Jungfrau—Virgin. Nothing could be whiter; nothing could be purer; nothing could be saintlier of aspect,” wrote Mark Twain on an 1891 visit.

The Rail Journey to Jungfraujoch

The construction of the Jungfrau Railway was initiated by Adolf Guyer-Zeller in the late 19th century, and the railway started operating in the year 1912. Thanks to Guyer-Zeller’s pioneering spirit, visitors can make their way up to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest-lying mountain station, without a sweat.

The best-known rail excursion to the Jungfrau Region runs every day, be it rain, fog or shine. Departing from Interlaken Ost, the rail journey to Jungfraujoch—the 3,454-metre high “Jungfraujoch—Top of Europe” is astonishing, spectacular.

Matthias Bütler, Head of Marketing Jungfrau Railways describes the journey “The rail journey first starts on flatland between the two lakes (Lake Thun and Lake Brienz), then it passes through the hills, trees and valleys, and further up the journey, your will see the colourful alpine scenery, and at the end, you will reach Jungfraujoch—Top of Europe—a view of snow-capped mountains.”

The Sphinx Observatory at Jungfraujoch. (Courtesy of Swiss Tourism)
The Sphinx Observatory at Jungfraujoch. (Courtesy of Swiss Tourism)

 

The cows return from their summer pastures. (Herbert Steiner/swiss-image.ch)
The cows return from their summer pastures. (Herbert Steiner/swiss-image.ch)

 

Jungfrau Railway. (Photo Courtesy of Swiss Tourism)
Jungfrau Railway. (Photo Courtesy of Swiss Tourism)

Alpine cottages, cows, goats, wild flowers, colourful meadows and mountains will captivate you throughout the 2-hour ride to Jungfraujoch. The cogwheel train also takes you to numerous scenic villages of the Jungfrau region.

To experience the unique idyllic life in the Swiss Alps, as detailed in the novel Heidi (written by Swiss author Johanna Spyri over 100 years ago), the place to go is Gimmelwald.

Gimmelwald is a quaint village set at the edge of a cliff, and with the breathtaking backdrop of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch mountains, it forms a gorgeous composition of Swiss alpine scenery.

At Gimmelwald, the farmers scythe hay by hand and hang large bells under their eaves. In autumn, these large ceremonial bells are strapped to their cows, and the farmers lead them in a cow parade from the Alps into the valleys. The cows are beautifully decorated in this festive procession. In the valleys, a joyous celebration then takes place, where the cheese made from the cows’ milk is shared amongst the farmers.

Other postcard-perfect mountain villages in the Jungfrau region are Wengen—one of the most attractive and popular winter sport resorts; and Lauterbrunnen, which lies in the Lauterbrunnen Valley—one of the most impressive trough valleys in the Alps. With its beautiful valleys, picturesque alpine meadows and 72 thundering waterfalls, one is surrounded by stunning natural beauty.

In the Alps, the ringing of cow and goat bells resonate throughout the mountains, as they graze quietly in the meadows. Be delighted by the wild flowers, including the Swiss national symbol—the Edelweiss. One can also take a peek into the cheesemaking process at the alpine farms.

At 12pm daily, near the Schynige Platte Mountain Hotel, be enchanted by the sonorous sound of the alphorn—a long, wooden horn used by mountain dwellers in Switzerland.

At Jungfraujoch—Top of Europe

Welcome to the snow and ice country— Jungfraujoch! The eternal ice and snow world at the “Jungfraujoch—Top of Europe” attracts over 800,000 tourists each year and is the most famous Swiss mountain journey.

The Sphinx Observatory at Jungfraujoch sits like a fairytale castle at an altitude of 3,571 meters. Being one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world, it offers a 360° panoramic view of the world-famous Jungfrau landscape.

The bird’s-eye view of the magnificent Bernese Alps and the mighty Aletsch Glacier (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) from the Sphinx vantage terrace is one of the most breathtaking in Europe. On clear days, one can even see beyond Switzerland’s border to the Black Forest in Germany, Vosges in France and the Italian Alps. This unique structure is accessible via a tunnel and then an elevator.

Also at Sphinx Hall is a 250m-long experience tunnel that showcases the history of the Jungfrau Railway. Called “Alpine Sensation”, the exhibition was opened in 2012 to celebrate the railway’s 100th anniversary.

The journey starts with a 360° cinema which carries visitors into the high-Alpine world surrounding the Jungfraujoch. In the exhibition halls, giant snow globes decorated with colourful lights depict the Jungfrau Region and Switzerland.

The other end of the Alpine Sensation tunnel connects to the Ice Palace, which houses many new ice sculptures including eagles, penguins, polar bears, automobiles, furniture, and even a bar.

Plenty of dining choices can be found at Jungfraujoch, including cafeteria style restaurants such as Restaurant Eiger, Bollywood Cuisine, Restaurant Crystal and a cafe bar.

For chocolate lovers, shop for your favourite Lindt Chocolate products at the Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven located 3,454 metres above sea level. Learn all about Lindt chocolate, from the extraction of cocoa to the production of the Lindor truffle.

Alternatively, venture out in the snow for the stunning panorama of the Aletsch glacier and the surrounding mountains. There are local guides who will bring you safely across the Aletsch Glacier.

In summer, enjoy sledging, skiing or snowboarding in the Snow Fun Park, or take an hour-long hike across the glacier to the Mönchsjoch hut.

Once you’ve reached the “Top of Europe”, you will receive a Jungfrau railway passport. Remember to have it stamped with a unique “Top of Europe” postmark. You can also have the postmark stamped on your real passport.

This once-in-a-life trip to one of the most beautiful places on the planet is simply unforgettable and worth every cent.

The Jungfrau VIP Pass offers unlimited travel on the Jungfrau Railways network, which includes travel between Interlaken Ost and Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald and Kleine Scheidegg or Lauterbrunnen, and excursions to the Jungfraujoch—Top of Europe. The pass is limited for 3 days of travel, and is priced from CHF$245 (US$250).

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