As I arrived at Interlaken train station, I took a long deep breath with great excitement for finally setting foot at my dream holiday destination that had been on my wishlist for so long. I almost cried with joy when fresh autumn air filled up my lungs. The cool climate was about 11° Celsius, just the way I liked it. Though still predominantly green, the leaves had started turning brown, red and orange – it seemed like the trees were preparing to welcome autumn with open hearts. The surroundings were so gorgeous that I forgot my exhaustion from the 14-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur earlier. I knew instantly that I would have a great time in this special Swiss region.
Jungfrau is one of the regions in Switzerland. Its towns and villages are mainly located between the mountains across the Bernese Alps. The region is famous for its three iconic peaks: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, making it a great destination for high alpine experience.
Jungfrau Travel Pass
For convenient travel around Jungfrau Region, traveller should purchase the Jungfrau Travel Pass. Starting from CHF139, the travel pass offers three to eight days of unlimited travel using various modes of public transport and discounted price for the trip to Jungfraujoch. Details on the travel pass can be obtained at www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb/jungfrau-travel-pass/.
Interlaken is the main city in the heart of Jungfrau Region, located between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. The walk across Interlaken, which is literally getting from one lake to the other, takes about 30 minutes. Along the way, I passed by shops, houses and farms, while breathing in the crisp air that is sometimes mixed with cinnamon-laden bread, sometimes chocolate and hot milk, and at other times the fresh smell of cut pine wood, grass and cow manure.
From Schynige Platte to Jungfraujoch, and Harder Kulm to Grindelwald, the trip to Jungfrau Region – courtesy of Jungfrau Railway Group – is indeed unforgettable and exhilarating. I am so grateful to have participated in this trip.
Schynige Platte – Top of Swiss Heritage
1,967m above sea level
The same morning of my arrival at Jungfrau Region, Jungfrau Railway brought us to Schynige Platte by taking the Schynige Platte Railway that has been in operation for 125 years plying the tracks between Wilderswil and Schynige Platte using cogwheel trains. The tracks remain the same since inception, while the newest locomotives are over 100 years old, making the 50-minute ride romantic and full of nostalgia, offering spectacular vistas of the Alpine mountainscape, including Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, as it slowly ascends to the top. The glass windows on the trains can be opened by sliding them down and I took the opportunity to breathe in the fresh air of the Alpine forest filled with the smell of fresh grass and pine trees covered in ice, which I found invigoratingly woody, sometimes minty and even tangy.
As we reached Schynige Platte, the summits of Bernese Alps (Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau) majestically enter the frame. Once arrived, travellers should enjoy The Botanical Alpine Garden replete with edelweiss, gentian and 700 other alpine plants; Natural Cinema with two giant picture frame for photos; Schynige Platte Mountain Hotel that radiates romantic belle-epoque charm; and a restaurant that serves one of the best apple strudels in the world, including gratifying Swiss chocolate drinks. Schynige Platte is also the starting point for one of Switzerland’s most beautiful high-Alpine trails leading to Grindelwald-First, taking around six hours to complete.
Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
3,454m above sea level
The real Jungfrau experience began when I was taken on a trip to the Top of Europe, Jungfraujoch, one of the most popular destinations in Europe. It took about two hours to get to Jungfraujoch from Interlaken, through an interchange at Kleine Scheidegg station, either via Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen routes. There is a trail along a vast green field from Kleine Scheidegg to Eigergletscher station for hikers who like to walk casually to view the Eiger Glaciers that extend towards the foot of the mountain. For hardcore climbers, Kleine Scheidegg is the starting point to climb along the mountain walls to Jungfraujoch.
The train ride from Interlaken Ost to Jungfraujoch passes by surreally beautiful small towns and villages. Wooden houses – each positioned on a wide field of green grass and accompanied by black and white, and sometimes brown, herds of cattle – scattered along the hills and mountain terraces, quaint in its dramatic backdrop of ice-capped mountains and waterfalls. This picturesque landscape should have fired up anybody’s imagination; interestingly, I discovered that JRR Tolkien hiked through the valley when he was 19 years old, fell in love with it and became inspired by the location, especially Lauterbrunnen and Wengen, so much so that he created the Elven village Rivendell in his epic Lord of the Rings trilogy along the lines of Lauterbrunnen, dubbed as the Sister of Rivendell.
Jungfraujoch Station is the highest train station in Europe and among the top ten highest train stations in the world. It operates 365 days a year since 1912 and garners UNESCO recognition. Jungfraujoch offers unique and exhilarating ice and snow experiences such as walking on the longest and mightiest glacier in the Alps, the Great Aletsch Glacier; witnessing the magnificent panoramic view of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, including the Aletsch Glacier that stretches far into Italy, Germany and France, from the Sphinx and the Plateau viewing platform; trailing into the maze of the Ice Palace; following the Alpine Sensation audio-visual presentation; and high-altitude shopping at the Berghaus.
Jungfraujoch also has held various world-class events and became the location to break the Guinness World Records including highest mass yoga session, football match, cricket match, pop concert and the recently Hole-in-One by OMEGA tournament with Mr Rory McIlroy, joined by young golfers from all of Switzerland.
Grindelwald-First – Top of Adventure
2,168m above sea level
For travellers and adventurers, Grindelwald-First offers a range of world-class activities and adventures on top of its summit suitable for families and individuals such as aerial cableway, First Cliff Walk by Tissot, First Glider, First Flier, Mountain Cart, Trottibike Scooter and the Snowpark Grindelwald-First during winter.
There are also several Swiss high alpine trails for those who love hiking such as the six-hour trail to Schynige Platte and the interactive Marmot Educational Trail, suitable for families with children. No time for hiking? Fret not, for you can choose the one-hour hike to the Bachalpsee Lake. All trails are rich with stunning views of Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau and Grindelwald Valley. Hikers can even take a peek at the shimmering turquoise waters of Lake Brienz at some points along the trails.
Harder Kulm – Top of Interlaken
1,322m above sea level
An evening at Harder Kulm, located on top of Interlaken, is fascinating. To get there, take a five-minute walk from Interlaken Ost train station by crossing the river that connects Lake Brienz and Lake Thun to get to the funicular train station to climb up Harder Kulm. Using this historical funicular train is nothing short of exhilarating – the carriage is compact yet the view from it is outstanding, especially in early evening as the town of Interlaken starts to light up. Seeing this aerial view is part of a memorable Jungfrau experience.
Harder Kulm is a small area on the peak. There’s a new theme trail opened by Friends of Harder to celebrate Harder Railway’s 100th birthday two years ago. The trail is circular and takes around two hours to complete, which can be divided into several stages. Information panels about Harder Kulm’s history, geology, flora and fauna are installed along the trail.
The main anchor on Harder Kulm is the Panorama Restaurant that overlooks the Bernese Alps (Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau) and the valley of Interlaken. The restaurant is open from morning and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner until the last train departs at 9:40 p.m. Other than that, the Two-Lakes Bridge and daily Folklore Show are attractions not to be missed on Harder Kulm.
OMEGA Museum and Omega Factory
Two hours from Interlaken, in Biel, we were welcomed by OMEGA President & CEO Mr Raynald Aeschlimann at OMEGA’s new eco-friendly state-of-the-art factory, which will be launched in 2019, in conjunction with OMEGA’s 125-anniversary celebration in the business of delivering perfection to the watchmaking industry.
The factory is the place to witness how OMEGA watches are made by more than 200 employees, each of them working delicately to produce each watch with their own hands. OMEGA stands by the principle of ensuring that each watch produced is crafted by humans to maintain its artisanship, timelessness and value. Each glass-walled workplace within the factory is kept clinical, sterile and clear from dust. The factory is also well equipped with a cutting-edge facility for watch assembly, quality control and training.
Across the street from the factory is the two-floor OMEGA Museum that showcases OMEGA’s history since its inception in 1848 by a young watchmaker, a 23-year old Louis Brandt. The museum also showcases vintage and old watches including the iconic Speedmaster (the first watch that was worn on the moon), the Seamaster collection, a watch worn by President John F. Kennedy during his inauguration as America’s 35th president and more.
Shopping at Jungfrau Region
Switzerland is undoubtedly one of the most expensive destinations in the world, thus it is a haven for haute couture, designer watches and accessories, including high quality local dairy products like chocolate and cheese. For great value buys and centralised haute couture shopping place, I recommend the duty-free Kirchhofer-Watch & Trend Shop and the high-altitude shopping experience at Jungfraujoch called Berghaus.
Other things to check out and experience
There are virtually endless activities to do and see in the Jungfrau Region, but travellers should not miss cruising along Lake Brienz/Lake Thun with BLS Interlaken Lake Cruises. Jungfrau is also famous with skydiving and BASE jumping – imagine witnessing the landscape that inspired JRR Tolkien to pen lurid details about Middle Earth namely Rivendell, Mordor, Peaks of Moria and the Fangorn Forest in Lord of the Rings Trilogy from the bird’s eye view. During winter, Jungfrau is one of the most popular destinations for skiing, snowboarding, sledging and more. Do not miss every opportunity to savour the taste of one of the best chocolates in the world, too.
The media trip to Jungfrau Region was organised by Jungfrau Railway Group, along with Kirschoffer and Omega with the support of Interlaken Tourism, Jungfrau Region, and Grindelwald Tourism.