The Jungfrau Region in the Swiss Alps is definitely the ultimate playland for hikers and anyone that loves dramatic mountain scenery. Plus, it’s definitely the favorite place for my husband and me to visit. We’ve been twice, and love to explore.
Here are photos and tips from our 2018 trip. The amazing Swiss transportation system reaches every village – no matter how remote. So exploring is super easy after you figure out the basics. While Switzerland can be an expensive trip, it’s not for us! So we included some tips for that.
Airfare is definitely the biggest expense. We found the best rates flying United into Geneva. Flying into or out of Zurich is another option, especially if you want to include popular Lucerne during your visit.
While our last trip included two gorgeous cities (Bern & Geneva), most of our time was spent in the villages and trails in the Swiss Alps. We visited in September after peak tourist season. It’s also a great month for weather – between showery summer and snowy winter. Find a big variety of hiking trails – well marked like a highway system. Many are gentle and not difficult. Views on all are spectacular. We focused on shorter hikes each day so we have time to enjoy the villages as well. There are MANY options for hikes of all lengths, using the many cable car and train stations to create many one-way hikes.
As soon as our morning flight arrived in Geneva, we got on the train to Bern (pic above). The medieval city founded in 1191 is the capital of Switzerland. The train station delivers you to the edge of the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Find a variety of hotels within a few blocks. We stayed at the Hotel Savoy Bern. The old town streets are mostly pedestrian, so a joy to explore. This photo is from the Rose Garden above the Bear Park.
A must tour is The Zytglogge (Clock Tower) at Bern’s first western city gate built around 1200. The ornate astronomical clock with moving figures was added in 1530. A guided tour takes you inside to see the fascinating clock workings and up to the top for spectacular views. Book this tour in advance with the city. You meet the tour guide by a side door (no place to buy tickets at tower), and the small groups fill up quickly. Be sure to request English. We also climbed the Cathedral tower for more panoramic views.
From Bern, we took the train to Interlaken, then transferred to the steamer boat trip across Lake Brienz to the small village of Brienz. We stayed in the Hotel Baren in a room overlooking the lake. Their Ayurveda spa offers a variety of treats and they have fabulous Indian food.
Important tip: Buying the Bernese Oberland Regional Pass is the way to go! It’s available late April through October. We got the 8-day option for about $350/person. That gave us unlimited rides on trains, boats, buses and more than a dozen cable cars – including super scenic trips to some of the highest peaks (amazing Swiss engineering!). This regional pass is a better option than the Swiss pass since it covers much more in this particular area. Bern is included in this region, so buy your pass at the train station as you are leaving Bern. After that, no reservations are needed for any ride. Just show your pass on the train or before you board a cable car, bus or boat. We planned our tips in the Alps according to what’s covered in the pass. So study up in advance! All below is covered on the pass.
The Brienz Rothorn Railway is a great example of the value of the pass since this trip is $90/person (but free with pass). Start your steam train trip from Brienz. This line was built in 1892, climbing 5,500 feet in elevation in five miles. Views are spectacular on a clear day, so check the weather forecast first. Generally, mornings have few clouds on the peaks.
Dining out is one of the biggest expenses in Switzerland – usually double in price compared to the USA. However, hotels included breakfast in their rates. Plus, we often picnicked for lunch. On the lakefront in Brienz, they have loaner chairs so you can pick the perfect view to enjoy snacks that we picked up at a deli bakery. For dinner, find plenty of local casual spots – including plenty of great pizza!
Next stop is our favorite town in the Swiss Alps, Murren – shown in the photo above. What you don’t see is the 2,000 foot cliff below the village. From Brienz, we took the train to Lauterbrunnen. Then transferred to the cable car that takes up to the top of the ridge to a cliff side train ride to the car-free village. The cable car in the photo takes you to the Schilthorn, the high peak with a restaurant that was featured in the 1969 James Bond movie (half price ride with your pass). This view is from the Northface Trail (read below).
Murren’s adorable Main Street is fun to stroll – with a variety of shops and good variety of restaurants.
For the second time, we stayed cliffside at Hotel Alpina – in our favorite corner suite #32. Since we stayed there 5 nights, we asked for a discount and received. It’s a fantastic value since you get a suite with plenty of room and a wrap around balcony – plus breakfast – for $200/night. I don’t know of another hotel that can top this view (see below).
Here’s the panoramic view from our hotel balcony. It’s so grand, it’s difficult to capture in a photo. You are literally on the edge of a 2,000 foot cliff with waterfalls cascading into the valley below.
From Murren, hiking possibilities are endless. Our favorite hike is the Northface Trail – a loop above the village. Start by walking across the village to the funicular to Allmendhubel (ride included in pass) with a hilltop above town with a restaurant. Follow signs for the Northface Trail to meander across ridges and through pastures with views toward the Jungfrau peaks covered in snow. It’s about 4 miles, but allow plenty of time to soak in the views. Along the way, find several stops for snacks. Bring some swiss francs to pay via honor boxes.
Here you can see the gentle nature of the North Face Trail as it snacks down the mountain side with views all along. There are many other connecting trails, so you have options for sidetrips. We took a side trail to walk behind the xxx waterfall as we descended to the village of Gimmelwald.
Gimmelwald is a tiny village that is the favorite place for Rick Steves.
One of David’s favorite things about hiking in the Swiss Alps is the fresh mountain water available at the many fountains.
Stechelberg: One day, we made a big loop from Murren by taking the aerial tramway down to Stechelberg, a tiny village at the end of Lauterbrunnen Valley of 72 waterfalls. From the tramway station, we walked through the sleepy village to the main trail that leads to a network of UNESCO World Heritage trails. We took the main trail up into the mountains for about two miles to a small inn and restaurant at Trachsellauenen. After a snack of cured meats, we headed back down the mountain and caught a bus in Stechelberg for Lauterbrunnen. On the way, stop for a fantastic tour of Trümmelbach Falls inside the mountain. From Trummelback, walk across the valley floor to Lauterbrunnen. After some shop browsing and snacks, head back up to Murren.
The 1000-foot tall Staubbach Falls and cliffs tower above the village of Lauterbrunnen. You can hike to the falls from town – and even walk behind the cascade. This is our second favorite town with a bustling main street and train station that serves as the hub for many adventures. What a setting!
We were excited to be in Lauterbrunnen for the annual “cow parade” as the farmers bring their herds down from the alps to the valley for winter grazing. They even dress up some of the cows to celebrate – and all have bells clanging.
Love the flowers that are carefully cared for on each trail in the town cemetery on the trail from Lauterbrunnen to Staubbach Falls.
Isenfluh: From Lauterbrunnen, ride the public bus up a very curvy mountain road to the tiny village of Isenfluh. From there, buy a cheap ticket to ride the historic Isenfluh-Sulwald Cablecar. Each cabin carries eight people or one cow.
Once in Sulwald, enjoy the spectacular views of the valley with several options for highland hikes through farmland and forests.
From Sulwald, We hiked down the narrow road toward Isenfluh, stopping to see Sulsbach waterfall and taking the trail across to the Grütschalp cable car / train station atop the ridge near Murren (about 5 miles).
Mannlichen: We rode the Wengen–Männlichen Aerial Cableway twice to the top of Mannlichen – a prominent peak across the valley from Murren. Our first journey was to hike the Panorama Trail and take the short but steep Royal Walk the top of 7,700-feet Mannlichen peak for the 360-degree view from the “crown”.
Panoramaweg (Panorama Walk): This very popular, high-Alpine trail is an easy gradual downhill hike from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg (allow about an hour).
The totally exposed trail (don’t forget sunscreen) goes through pastures facing the majestic Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau mountains. You’ll end the hike at the Kleine Scheidegg restaurant and train station. We grabbed some sandwiches from a food vendor and picnicked by the train lines, watching the mobs of folks heading to Jungfraujoch.
From Kleine Scheidegg , look up to see the famous Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in all of Europe at 11,371 feet elevation. We took the journey during our previous trip to the area. It’s a must do. Tip: Take one of the first trains up to avoid the massive crowds and for a better chance of clear skies. It’s often in the clouds. Your Bernese Oberland Pass includes the train to Mannlichen, but you must buy a separate ticket to get to Jungfraujoch (half price with your pass). Dress warmly! During our June visit on our previous trip, the high temp at top was in the 20s with many feet of snow.
On the train ride down from Kleine Scheidegg back to Lauterbrunnen, ride on the left side for spectacular views of Wengen and Lauterbrunnen Valley.
On our other trip to Mannlichen, we had a fun marathon day of rides on all sorts of Swiss transportation. We journeyed from Murren to the very touristy town of Grindelwald and First mountaintop attraction. From Murren, take a train and cable car down to Lauterbrunnen. Transfer to another train to Wengen. A few blocks from the Wengen train station is the aerial cableway up to Mannlichen, a peak of 7,687 feet. Walk a short distance to transfer to the tiny gondolas to travel down the other side of the mountain to Grindelwald. This is the third longest passenger gondola in the world, covering 4 miles in 30 minutes.
First is a mountaintop attraction above the town of Grindelwald. After arriving on the cable car from Mannlichen, walk into town and follow signs for the First cable cars for a 30-minute scenic ride to the top of the 7,100 foot summit. First is most famous for their cliff walk and suspension bridge. We hiked to Lake Bachalp with most amazing views along the way. Also find zip lines and trottibikes for more fun. To complete the marathon day of cable cars and trains, take the train from Grindelwald back to Lauterbrunnen.
The international hub of Geneva is very cosmopolitan for a small city. The most famous landmark is the Jet d’Eau, the world’s tallest water fountain. A walk by the lake is a must, as well as through the Old Town to St. Peter’s Cathedral (construction began in 1160). It has twin towers to climb with fantastic views of the city.
Atop Männlichen! We’ll happy to share many other tips and advice.