Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region
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It’s never too early to plan a summer break at the Top of Europe
Adrenalin isn’t only for the
young I told myself firmly, feeling like a pent-up Derby runner in the starting
stalls. In front of me, a high metal
gate was poised to spring open at a word from the First Flyer operator; above
me, nothing but the clear mountain air over Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region. And below ... well, I wasn’t sure what was
below apart from a zip wire and a great deal of empty space!
I glanced across at my young
companions and found all three looking slightly apprehensive. But we needn’t have worried. As the door sprung open and our harness seats
were propelled into thin air down parallel wires, we all screamed in delight
rather than terror. It was all huge fun.
So much fun in fact that I
had to try all the other thrills offered in the small hamlet of First, high in
the mountains above Grindelwald. In
little more than an hour, I travelled upright along the metal Cliff Walk that
clings to the rock face; horizontally beneath the First Glider which soars up
the mountain backwards then down again; and seated again for the downhill
journey by mountain cart.
But if all that sounds a tad
too energetic, there are plenty of less hair-raising options when you holiday
in the Jungfrau Region around Interlaken, deep in the heart of the Bernese Oberland. Travel to Europe’s highest station, the
Jungfraujoch – catchily dubbed as Top of Europe and hollowed out of a mountain
peak. Watch the sun set over the Alps from
Harder Klum, perched on a ridge above the twin lakes of Thun and Brienz. And hike
the circular trails of the Schynige Platte to enjoy panoramic views over lakes
and mountains, plus an Alpine Botanical Garden.
For someone like me who loves mountains and snow-covered scenery but doesn’t ski, this proved the perfect destination for a summer break. People do ski here, but summer is peak season and visitors come from all over the world between April and October to enjoy green and white slopes in the same holiday.
I flew from London-Heathrow to
Zurich with Swiss Air for my early October
break, but a flight to Basel is another option. Then simply hop on a train at the airport, sit back and enjoy the
unfolding panorama as the mountains loom ever closer. A Swiss Transfer Ticket takes foreign guests
by rail from their airport or border railway station directly to their holiday
destination and back within one month – second-class tickets cost 146 CHF
(£114) and can be bought on line at www.sbb.ch/en.
I soon discovered that Swiss
trains run as efficiently as the country’s legendary clocks and watches. Announcements are given in English too so
there’s very little potential for missing your connection. I really enjoyed the scenic journey from
Zurich, changing trains at Bern and then Interlaken with minimal waiting
around. From Interlaken, a Jungfrau
Travel Pass allows visitors unlimited travel on the local rail network, with
passes available from 3-8 days, from 180 CHF (£140) per person.
Independent travellers can
find full details of what to do in the area, how to get around, and how to book
on www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb. The area is also served by a number of UK
tour operators including Silver Travel Advisor partner Inghams.
Visit between May and
October and at lower levels, you can cruise glacial lakes, hike across grassy
slopes beneath glaciers, and test your nerve on those summer adrenalin activities. But at Jungfraujoch, 3454 metres above sea
level, the mountains are forever white. To one side, the Eiger towers over Grindelwald; to the other, the
Jungfrau looks down on Wengen and Lauterbrunnen.
And between them, the
Jungfraujoch offers a combination of attractions that include Lindt Swiss
Chocolate Heaven; the world’s highest watch shop, beloved by the many Asian
visitors; and an ice palace cut into the glacier. No journey here is wasted, even in adverse
weather when winds can swirl snow around the observatory. Huge viewing windows look out onto peaks and glaciers,
so nobody need miss the view, but if like me you are blessed with blue skies
and no wind, you can take the lift up to the al fresco Sphinx Terrace; step out
onto the glacier plateau below; and even follow the well-trodden glacier trail
to Switzerland’s highest mountain hut.
I stayed over in Grindelwald
at the Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof
where single rooms with a luxuriant queen-size bed start at £206 on a
half-board basis. The decor is Alpine,
the food delicious and the beautiful indoor pool offers Eiger views. If that’s not enough, the train terminates
quietly and unobtrusively just a couple of minutes’ walk from the front
I also enjoyed dinner one
night at the Hotel Belvedere on the other side of the tracks, reached on foot
by an underpass. In fact nothing is far
away in Grindelwald, including the gondola which quietly swooshes passengers up
over the Alpine chalets to those all-action activities at First. And if you’d rather watch others test their
nerve than test your own, just enjoy the ride up and watch the fun from the
stable environment of the restaurant terrace over a mug or glass of your
favourite liquid treat. Clear Alpine air
with minimal personal effort!
Book trusted Meet and Greet services
at all major UK airports through Silver Travel partner Holiday
Extras. As a guide, a week at Heathrow in November
cost £66.90 for eight days.
Silver Travel Advisor
recommends Inghams Lakes
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