A beautiful day out in Switzerland’s Jungfrau region
WE’RE TAKING TRAINS, GONDOLAS AND WALKING SHOES
Switzerland is stunning. I’ve been here before. But it has taken me 25 years to get back. I can’t tell you why. It took so long. It was wonderful then. As a Teva wearing, backpack toting recent college graduate from the United States, together with my boyfriend – now husband – we adored our stops in Switzerland on a two-month European tour back in 1994. So when the opportunity arose to route our grand European road trip through the Swiss Alps this summer, I was seriously excited. The mountains were calling and I needed to go. And so do you. Come to the Bernese Oberland, she said.
LAUTERBRUNNEN IS A PERFECT BASE
Wend your way up into the mountains only twenty minutes from the brilliant aqua blue of Brienzersee lake near Interlaken and you’ll roll right into Lauterbrunnen. Seriously stay to the right. The route to the left takes you to the Grindlewald Valley. Equally lovely, but this post is about Lauterbrunnen. You are now smack in the middle of the Bernese Oberland (Highlands) in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. These mountains are large and in charge, dominating the landscape.
Lauterbrunnen, the town, is a charming mix of traditional Swiss chalets, hotels, sporting good stores and little cafes. In July flower boxes overflow from every window and Swiss flags are flying from every home. Around here you can hike, paraglide, mountain bike, explore or simply just soak in the scenery. With more than 72 waterfalls in this valley alone, you won’t be lacking for things to look at.
It was from Lauterbrunnen that we caught the little train, or Wengernalpbahn, to Wengen, a car-less mountain village and gateway to the top of these Swiss Alps. Once your tickets are in hand, don’t waste any time garnering a seat as soon as your train is at the station. Window seats fill up fast in peak months, in fact, our train was standing room only. On the way to Wengen, you’ll have perfect views from either side of the carriage, so don’t worry which side to claim.
COGWHEEL TRAIN TO WENGEN
It only takes about fifteen minutes to wow your socks off on the way to Wengen as this cute little cogwheel cutie chugs up the hill. Soon you’ll slide into the station above Lauterbrunnen. Trains depart every thirty minutes and you can purchase tickets right at the station or online. We didn’t stay long in Wengen as our sites were set for getting up top to take in the views from Männlichen.
From the platform in Wengen, it’s easy to spy the cable car station that will escort you up. A quick stop in the Tourist Information Center next door will outfit you with a map of the area as well as all the hiking trails available. I confirmed with the helpful staff that the route we were planning was appropriate for our troop, which included my teen daughter.
ROYAL RIDE UP TO MÄNNLICHEN
Before we set out on our road trip, I had already read about the Royal Ride between Wengen and Männlichen. For an extra 5 CHF, you could ride ATOP the cable car as it carried you up. You heard me. ON TOP. A balcony view for up to ten passengers each way. Having more than a wee bit of a fear of heights, I thought there was no way I would be able to be hoisted up a mountain riding outside the cable car.
My husband and daughter were definitely up for the royal treatment and we tried to purchase two for the top and one for inside. Turns out I’m not the only one a wee bit wary and there were lots of spots for the top of the carriage on the very next tour. And if I wanted to stay downstairs, I’d have to wait an hour until the next tickets available, we would be able to ride together. The ticket agent assured me that it was perfectly safe and even spectacular and I should definitely give it a try.
With more than a little trepidation, that’s what I did. And I survived. Surprise, surprise. In fact, I was mesmerized. The ride was so smooth with none of the swinging and lurching that I had expected. I was actually able to unclench my white-knuckled grasp of the railing and snap a few photos. For me, that was a huge win. It was really remarkable and I can highly recommend the mere 5 CHF extra to ride like a queen. You can see more of our ride in action in the video below.
MÄNNLICHEN ROYAL WALK
Arriving safely and without too much extra adrenaline in my system, we made it to Männlichen which sits at 2,230 meters (or 7,316 feet) above sea level. It will make you swoon from the landscape alone. Seriously, the views. Up here you can see mountains in every direction. And if that’s all you want, then you could end your day here. Take in a lunch, or stay for the night, at the nearby Berghaus Männlichen and then ride the cable car back down.
But you didn’t come all the way up here to end now your day now? There is definitely more scenery to be smitten with. Step up the steep path called the Männlichen Royal Walk for more wonder and awe. It doesn’t look very far from the cable car station, but the Royal Walk isn’t for the faint of heart. It is pretty steep. We did encounter a group of kindergartners from a local day camp up near the top. So if they can do it, so can you. Up here we sat amidst wildflowers and watched butterflies flit. Listen for the faint far-off tinkle of cowbells in the valley.
Many people with picnics chose spots on the rocks to partake up here. While we took it all in, two paragliders pulled out their shoots and straightened their strings. And sooner than you’d think, they ran straight off the peak. Gasps and oohs from the bystanders up top as they slowly circled the updrafts and floated off. (See more in video below.)
FUN FOR THE LITTLES AT MÄNNLICHEN PLAYGROUND
Down the hill a bit from the Royal Walk and Wengen cable car house, you’ll find the Berghaus Männlichen where you can even stay for the night. Or take in some lunch while you take in the view. Those with wee ones will love the brilliant playground right next door. The giant wooden Swiss cow slide is super cute and even tempted my teen.
PANORAMA TRAIL FROM MÄNNLICHEN TO KLEINE SCHEIDEGG
Follow the signs from the playground towards the Panoramaweg, or panorama trail, that will wind you gently down sloping paths towards the little mountain town of Kleine Scheidegg. From this beautiful path, you’ll get vantage after vantage of this region’s reigning peaks. Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. From atop the Royal Walk, we hadn’t been able to see much of Mönch or Jungfrau, both shrouded in passing clouds. But as we moved closer to the massive mountains down the Panoramaweg, we were afforded, finally, fantastic views of all three.
Eiger elevation | 3970 meters = 13025 feet
Mönch (The Monk) elevation | 4099 meters = 13448 feet
Jungfrau (The Virgin) elevation | 4158 meters = 13642 feet
NOTE: We wore our regular trainers, sneakers, tennis shoes – this path in the summer doesn’t need extra gear.
MEET THE SWISS COWS WHO MAKE YOUR CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE
In the summer months, nearly 270,000 Swiss cows are marched up the hillsides to graze on the green meadows. And while you can hear the tinkling of the bells tied round their necks the minute you reach Männlichen, imagine our surprise when rounding a corner to find them right on the path. Clanging their bells and minding their business, they continue to chew their cud and couldn’t care less about you. Still, mind your distance and don’t disturb them, just to be safe. These animals are BIG.
BERGHAUS GRINDELWALDBLICK ABOVE KLEINE SCHEIDEGG
After a few hours of walking and soaking up the scenery, we were ready for a break at the adorable mountain house and restaurant Berghaus Grindlewaldblick. We snared a table with a view outside on the deck and enjoyed cold local beers and coffee ice cream. Walk up to the lookout for views down through the Grindelwald Valley below. Rooms and full meals available too. A perfect end to our perfect day.
TAKE THE TRAIN BACK FROM KLEINE SCHEIDEGG
If you still feel like walking, we were recommended a wonderful route back down to Wengen where you could pick up the train back to Lauterbrunnen. We were told it would take two to three hours. With more stops on our road trip to be had, we opted to pop on the Alpbahn right here and see the vistas from onboard.
Check out the video of our day below with cows and mountains and paragliders galore. If you enjoyed it, considered subscribing to my YouTube channel and giving it a like.
GOOD TO KNOW:
We purchased all of our train tickets and cable car ride tickets on the spot, with no pre-booking and had no issues with availability on a beautiful day mid-July. You can purchase them online beforehand if that is more your style. (Click on the links below to do so.) There are tons of options for train travel and exploring in Switzerland which can be quite spendy. If you are going to be spending several days in the area, consider getting multi-day Jungfrau region passes that help with costs. This website has a good overview of the different passes. Since we were only using the trains one day, we opted for individual tickets. Here’s what we paid for our day out.
One-way train ticket Lauterbrunnen to Wengen:
Adult | 6,80 CHF
Child (6 – 16) | 3,40 CHF
One-way cable car ride Wengen to Männlichen:
Adult | 23,00 CHF
Child (6 – 16) | 11,50 CHF
Royal Ride Balcony View ticket:
+ 5,00 CHF
One-way train ticket Kleine Scheidegg to Lauterbrunnen:
Adult | 30,80 CHF
Child (6 – 16) | 15,40 CHF
Adult 65,60 CHF
Child (6-16) 35,80 CHF
If you hike back from Kleine Scheidegg to Wengen you can knock off 24,00 CHF for adults and 12,00 CHF for kids.
WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at the Base Cafe Hostel right on the main street in Lauterbrunnen. Clean, simple private rooms with shared bathrooms, views of Lauterbrunnen’s waterfalls, a café downstairs, free parking and wifi were just what we needed.
I didn’t see the rooms, but you can’t beat the view staying up top at Männlichen. The Berghaus Männlichen would be an amazing place to stay with your littles who would love that kinder spielplatz, playground next door. (You can get there by bus as well from Grindelwald.)
Or maybe you want to walk your way to your stay. Make it all the way to Kleine Scheidegg and stay at the Berghaus Grindelwaldblick before your hike back down to Wengen and even on to Lauterbrunnen. A small playground next to the deck makes it a fun choice for families as well.
Note: These are affiliate marketing links and if you click through and book your room at Booking.com, I receive a small kickback at no extra cost to you.
Oh Switzerland, I’m smitten once again. It wasn’t you. It was me. And now I see. Lots more from our grand European summer road trip to share. Stay tuned.
Cheers from here.
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