The Alps… I’ve seen so many photos of those beautiful snow-capped mountains, I had to go! After much research, I decided the Jungfraujoch Top of Europe day trip was perfect. This day trip starts in Zurich, makes a stop in Interlaken and goes on to Lauterbrunnen before heading up the mountain. The train descends on the other side in Grindelwald. This was everything I hoped to see. It was expensive and a long day but otherwise, perfect. Of course, when I read ‘sells out fast’ I booked immediately. Supply-demand statements work on me. Don’t be me!
Here’s the thing. This itinerary was perfect but the time frame was not. I am all for squeezing everything possible into a day when my time is limited but driving past something is not ‘seeing’. And, this is the Swiss Alps. It snows in May in the Alps. It would be smart to DIY this one paying close attention to the weather. No point climbing a mountain to a white out.
Jungfraujoch Top of Europe: Interlaken
We left Zurich late due to waiting for several guests to arrive. Then we stopped in Lucerne to pick up several more guests. This gave us 20 minutes in Interlaken to use the restroom, drink a coffee and see this adorable little ski resort town. The bus parked as far away from the city square as possible and our guide gave us a stern ‘if you are not back we will leave you’ warning as we got off. No coffee break for me. I fast walked to the square and made it back in time. Remember the guest who was late in Zurich? He was late in Interlaken too. They didn’t leave him.
Jungfraujoch Top of Europe: Lauterbrunnen
I still had a great attitude. Next stop was through the Bernese Oberland to Lauterbrunnen, an area known for its waterfalls. I chose this tour specifically for this stop. I am a huge fan of waterfalls and this town has a beautiful one flowing behind the city. I was so excited. Then the guide stated we are running behind and would be going straight to the train station. I attempted to protest, he didn’t care. The cherry on top was looking up while at the train and seeing the water flowing over the mountain top. I almost cried. I pulled it together and got on the damn train.
Jungfraujoch Top of Europe: Kleine Scheidegg
Next stop was Kleine Scheidegg. It was snowing. And cold. In May. I bet it is beautiful in the summer. I’m not sure when summer is in Switzerland and highly recommend googling that before you purchase plane tickets. We changed trains at this stop. A couple of smart guests decided not to continue up the mountain and went on to spend the day at Grindelwald. The rest of us took a cog wheel train for a 45-minute ride through a mountain to the Top of Europe. This is a very steep climb, a 25-degree angle at times! The train stops at two viewing windows. Eigerwand is a mountain view at 9,396 feet and Eismeer is a glacier view at 10,361 feet. We had a white out view.
Jungfraujoch Top of Europe: Jungfrau
And then I was there. Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe; an impressive 11,333 feet. I immediately jumped in an elevator that shot me 364 feet in 25 seconds and went straight out to the Sphinx Observatory viewing platform. Complete. White. Out. If I had planned better I would have been looking at the Aletsch Glacier’s 31.5 miles of ice. This is the largest glacier in the Alps and a UNESCO World Heritage site. I would have also seen snow-capped mountains all the way to France and Italy. C’est la vie and I was off to the ice palace.
The ice palace is actually carved into the glacier and has several sculptures to view. The snow fun park was closed due to danger of icicles melting and falling. This confused me since it was way below zero out there and nothing was melting. At this point I was too hungry to care and headed for food. This brings me to my next huge piece of advice: BRING FOOD. There are several expensive, not yummy restaurants so you won’t starve if you ignore this advice. Then, I sat, on the floor, for an hour, waiting for the guide to get off this mountain. There’s not much to see or do inside of a mountain during a white out. Except buying Lindt chocolate. And trying on Swiss watches.
Jungfraujoch Top of Europe: Grindelwald
The best part of my day was the return ride to the mountain village of Grindelwald. This was so beautiful and what I had imagined the entire day to be. On the drive back to Zurich we passed waterfall after waterfall after waterfall. We did not stop at any of the viewing areas to gaze at even one of them.
I would not do the day trip again. I would stay overnight in Interlaken and DIY the train ride to Jungfraujoch paying close attention to the weather. I would also rent a car for a day to explore as many of the 72 waterfalls around Lauterbrunnen as possible. If you decide to visit the Top of Europe, check the weather! Take food, water and dress warmly. Also, sit on the right side of the train for the best views.
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