When you hear the word “Switzerland,” what do you envision?
Perhaps you see deep, clear lakes flanked by steep rock faces and towering, eternally snow-capped peaks. Maybe you imagine an impossibly green alpine meadow dotted with delicate, colorful wildflowers. You might see postcard villages perched in deep, narrow valleys or pasted on dangerously steep mountainsides. Or perhaps you find yourself transported to a heavenly world of powdery ski runs and warm, inviting chalets.
Cliché as they are, none of these scenes are wrong – all of them can be found in the Jungfrau region, one of Switzerland’s most popular and quintessentially “Swiss” tourist destinations.
What Is the Jungfrau Region?
Part of the Bernese Oberland, the Jungfrau area encompasses the eastern extent of the Bernese Alps, a high mountain range in south-central Switzerland. It’s anchored by the Jungfrau (Maiden), a 13,642-foot peak flanked by several other high peaks – the Monch (Monk), the Eiger (Ogre), and the Fiescherwand – all surrounded by deep glacial valleys.
Humans have lived here for thousands of years, and though the region’s population is sparse by European standards, more than a dozen picturesque towns, villages, and hamlets dot the area’s mountainsides, valleys, and lake shores. Many of these places are worthy of a few hours of exploration, while most have ample accommodations for travelers looking to recharge.
The Jungfrau region’s topography is spectacular. The Jungfrau massif towers over the region’s populated areas which lie to its north. Together with the surrounding peaks, it forms an unbroken wall that reaches more than two miles from top to bottom, stretching for over a dozen miles.
Atop the wall is an entirely different world – the magical Jungfrau-Aletsch protected area, a permanently ice-capped expanse that includes a stunning glacial saddle (the Jungfraujoch, popularly known as the Top of Europe) and the Aletsch Glacier (a 15-mile river of ice). The Jungfrau-Aletsch protected area, along with surrounding glacial valleys, is the largest glaciated zone anywhere on the European continent.
Let’s be real – words alone can’t do the Jungfrau region justice. This is one of those places that you just have to visit. And despite Switzerland’s famously expensive reputation, it’s possible to do so on a modest travel budget if you plan properly.
Here are the top things to do in Switzerland’s Jungfrau region, with logistical tips for practical, budget-conscious travelers.
Where to Go and What to See in the Jungfrau Region
The town of Interlaken is the “urban” hub of the Jungfrau region. It anchors a picturesque valley dominated by two lakes, Brienz and Thul, with a river connecting them. Together, the Interlaken area has about 23,000 inhabitants.
Since it’s well served by hostels and hotels at various price points, Interlaken serves as a home base for many Jungfrau visitors. The town itself is old, quaint, and fun to explore on foot.
Popular attractions include:
- JungfrauPark. This family-friendly theme park ran into financial difficulties in the mid-2000s, but opened with renewed vigor in 2009. Today, JungfrauPark is built around seven “Mysteries of the World” – unexplained, thought-provoking phenomena. It also offers scheduled shows and enhanced, 360-degree views of the surrounding Alps. Day passes – which entitle visitors to all the Mysteries, plus a free show and other activities – cost 40 Swiss francs (40 CHF) for adults and 22 CHF for children under age 15.
- Brienz and Thul Boat Tours. For a different perspective that includes unobstructed, panoramic views of the surrounding high peaks, consider a boat tour on Brienz or Thul (or both). They’re pricey, but no more expensive than daytime excursions into the mountains. Single-day adult tickets good for both lakes cost 34 CHF for half-day excursions and 68 CHF for full-day excursions.
- Hoheweg. The Hoheweg is the Interlaken area’s primary promenade – a picturesque, partially shaded boulevard connecting the communities of Interlaken West and Interlaken Ost. Restaurants, shops, and hotels line the way, though the centerpiece is arguably a sprawling meadow (the Hohematt) that offers some of the area’s best mountain views.
2. Lauterbrunnen & Lauterbrunnen Waterfalls
With a population of 2,500, the village of Lauterbrunnen occupies a deep, dramatic valley in the shadow of the Jungfrau region’s high peaks. Rumored to be the inspiration for the mythical realm of Rivendell in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” universe, the Lauterbrunnen valley contains more than 70 waterfalls. The most popular and impressive is Staubbach Falls, which drops nearly 1,000 feet in a deafening mist. Trümmelbach Falls, which gushes more than 600 feet behind a rock face curtain, is nearly as impressive, though it’s only accessible in summer.
The Schilthorn is a nearly 10,000-foot mountain that towers over the hamlets of Murren and Gimmelwald on the eastern edge of the Jungfrau region. It’s accessible via train and cable car from lower-elevation towns, with adult round-trip ticket prices ranging from 40 CHF to 130 CHF. Early-bird and late-arrival (sunrise and sunset) tickets are cheaper – typically less than 85 CHF.
The Schilthorn’s central attraction is Piz Gloria, whose viewing platform (at 9,744 feet above sea level) offers unobstructed views of the Jungfrau, Monch, Eiger, and other high peaks – the “Swiss Skyline.” Grab lunch at the revolving restaurant, then head to Bond World 007 (admission free with cable car ticket), a memorabilia-filled museum celebrating the local filming of the classic James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Further down the mountain is Birg, another viewing platform and popular starting point for alpine hikes.
On the lower slopes of the Schilthorn is the picturesque mountain hamlet of Allmendhubel. During the summer, the Flower Trail comes alive with more than 150 species of flowering alpine plants. Serious hikers will enjoy the Northface Trail, a two-and-a-half-hour journey connecting Allmendhubel with Murren.
For non-hiking families, the Panorama Restaurant offers a pretty good deal: full meals for up to two adults and four children, plus return cable car journeys to Stechelberg, a lower-elevation hamlet.
Wengen is a charming Alpine village located at 4,180 feet on a lower shoulder of the Jungfrau wall. It’s car-free, meaning the only way to reach it is by train, and the lack of encroaching valley walls make it one of the sunniest spots in the entire region.
During the winter, Wengen’s population swells thanks to the popularity of the surrounding snow slopes – more than 60 miles of skiable terrain in all. The area has hosted ski races since the early 20th century, including the famed Lauberhorn race and the Jungfrau Marathon.
For a culinary splurge, check out Restaurant Schonegg, one of the region’s finest dining experiences. Expect to pay at least 25 CHF per person for lunch and 40 CHF per person for dinner.
Not far from Wengen, the tiny village of Gimmelwald sits in a year-round Alpine wonderland. In winter, you can ski in and out of many of the houses here. In summer, the surrounding mountainsides offer hiking opportunities galore.
There’s no road access here – the only way in and out are via cable car and by foot. However, there are some public accommodations, including a hostel, bed and breakfast, and boutique hotel. Even if you don’t stay the night, the spectacular mountain and valley views alone are worth the trip.
Grindelwald is a popular mountain resort town known for its world-class skiing at the Grindelwald Ski Resort, which boasts more than 100 miles of skiable terrain. Many local accommodations are ski-in/ski-out – though such places tend to be pricier than accommodations farther from the slopes. In January, the ever-popular World Snow Festival draws snow-loving visitors from all over the world. Day ski passes start at 36 CHF.
In summer, the cable car accessible summit of First morphs into a gathering place for hikers of every skill level. Jungfrau Top of Europe lists nearly two dozen hikes ranging from one to five hours. Öpfelchüechliwäg, a moderately strenuous hike famous for wild fruit bushes and shrubs, is doable for many. If you’re hungry at the end, the Brandegg Mountain Restaurant has amazing apple fritters.
Meanwhile, the First Cliff Walk, which includes a knee-buckling suspension bridge and viewing platform, offers stunning views for visitors not afflicted with vertigo. The Bachalpsee Lake hike brings you to the shores of a frigid glacial lake nearly 7,500 feet above sea level.
Pfingstegg, another famous peak in the Grindelwald area, has a slew of nearby trails as well, plus a pulse-pounding alpine toboggan run that drops more than 2,000 feet. The return-trip cable car costs 24 CHF per adult.
8. Gletscherschlucht (Glacier Ravine)
Not far from Grindelwald lies Gletscherschlucht – known alternately as Glacier Gorge or Glacier Ravine. Carved by a receding glacier, this striking chasm features pink quartz cliffs, peculiar rock striations, and amazing mountain views. Thanks to the dizzyingly high bridges that cling to the gorge’s walls, you can walk about half a mile up the ravine without rock-climbing equipment. The nearby Hotel Gletscherschlucht has a full-service restaurant and clean, rustic rooms.
Accessible by scenic cable car from Grindelwald, Mannlichen is a high mountain vantage point with unobstructed views of the Jungfrau, the Monch, and the Eiger. There’s a welcoming hotel here, plus a long-distance hiking trail to Kleine Scheidegg, even farther up in the mountains. During the winter, the surrounding slopes fill with skiers.
One downside to visiting Mannlichen is the pricey cable car fare. Expect to pay upwards of 50 CHF for a round-trip adult ticket from Grindelwald to Mannlichen. View a complete list of prices and timetables here.
10. Schynige Platte
Schynige Platte is another magical mountain vantage point with great hiking connections and stunning mountain and valley views. The twist is how you get there – instead of a cable car or modern railway, you ride a 19th-century cog railway that, contrary to appearances, safely makes it up the mountain every time. It’s hard to get more charming.
Once you arrive, wander through the Alpine Garden (home to 650 species) or catch a show from the locally famous Schynige Platte alphorn players, who readily allow curious visitors to play their gigantic instruments. Expect to pay at least 40 CHF for your rail ticket.
11. Jungfrau Railway
Though its primary purpose is to ferry high-altitude travelers from the Kleine Scheidegg mountain station to the lofty heights of the Jungfraujoch, the Jungfrau Railway is worth calling out as an attraction all its own.
Completed in 1912, this engineering marvel conquers five horizontal miles of steep mountain terrain, mostly in tunnels blasted through the Eiger and Monch, and gains nearly 5,000 feet of elevation in the process. Twice during the 50-minute trip, the train stops for about five minutes – once at the Eigerwand, a towering rock wall, and again at Eismeer, whose English translation (“sea of ice”) tells you everything you need to know. Panoramic windows ensure you won’t miss the view.
12. Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
At an elevation of more than 11,000 feet, the Jungfraujoch is an otherworldly saddle in the high mountains above the Jungfrau region. The Jungfraujoch is the area’s signature attraction. There are few places like it – at least considering those accessible without expensive ice climbing equipment and years of mountaineering experience.
The Jungfraujoch is notable for several reasons:
- It contains Europe’s highest train station – a point of interest in and of itself
- It is permanently encased in ice and snow, never getting warm, even when weather is pleasant in the valleys below
- It offers breathtaking views of Aletsch Glacier, Europe’s largest ice field
- It has a climate-controlled vantage point (Sphinx Hall) with 360-degree views of the glacier, the high Bernese Alps, and (in clear weather) distant Germany and France
- Its Snow Park attraction (open in summer only) is a veritable paradise for snow-loving children – one of the only places in the Northern Hemisphere where you can safely sled in July
- Its high-tech, educational Alpine Sensation reveals just what was required to create this artificial world above the clouds
- It boasts multiple restaurants (though full meals can be expensive) and a Lindt chocolate shop (again, expensive – but perhaps worth it)
- It’s the starting point for the cross-glacier Monchsjoch hiking trail, letting you experience extreme, high-altitude mountaineering in relative safety – provided you’re properly attired and can budget around two hours for the out-and-back trip
It takes at least half a day to properly experience Jungfraujoch, including travel to and from Kleine Scheidegg. It’s not cheap either – a round-trip adult ticket from Kleine Scheidegg costs at least 95 CHF, while a round-trip adult ticket from Interlaken costs at least 145 CHF. Fortunately, the time and money are worth it – you’re sure to make lasting memories.
13. Kleine Scheidegg
Even if you’re just passing through on the way to the Jungfraujoch, Kleine Scheidegg is worth an hour or two of your time. This mountain station sits at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, amid hardy alpine meadows. At Bahnhof Kleine Scheidegg, there’s a full-service restaurant and a basic, year-round hotel with private rooms and dormitory-style accommodations – great for travelers looking to spend a few days at elevation.
In winter, this is a great home base for skiers as it’s surrounded (above, below, and on both sides) by skiable terrain. In summer, it’s an ideal jumping-off point for high-altitude hikers.
14. Eiger Trail
This world-class hiking trail is the closest you can get to the 1,600-foot vertical drop of the Eiger Wall without mountaineering equipment and nerves of steel. The roughly three-and-a-half-mile hike is still difficult though, so budget several hours.
You can access the Eiger Trail from the Jungfrau Railway’s Eigergletscher station. There you can purchase local hiking maps showing all the major route variants and climbing options in the area. There’s no need to double back – the trail terminates at Alpiglen station, farther down the mountain.
15. Harder Kulm
Harder Kulm is the closest mountain of note to Interlaken, and its popularity reflects that proximity. The summit, which boasts a well-reviewed eatery and beer hall (the imposing Panorama Restaurant), also has live Alpine folk music every Saturday from late May through late October. It’s arguably the most enjoyable point to view the Brienz and Thul, the massive lakes on either side of Interlaken. At sunset, the view of the high peaks aglow in the dying light of the sun is a sight to behold. Expect to pay 30 CHF for a round-trip ticket from Interlaken.
Car-free Murren is the highest resort town in the Jungfrau region. It’s a living, breathing stereotype of an Alpine village – endlessly photogenic and outrageously charming. It has picturesque views of the surrounding deep valleys and high peaks.
Murren is a great jumping-off point for hikes along the treeline – including the famous Blumenthal Panorama Trail, which mixes breathtaking mountain views with near-certain encounters with docile cows and sheep. If you’re up for a difficult but rewarding adventure, hike from Lauterbrunnen to Murren. You’ll gain nearly 3,000 feet in a little less than three hours, assuming you stop only for brief water and photo breaks.
If you have time, work in a stop at Winteregg, a scenic spot that’s home to the famous Winteregg Mountain Restaurant and an odd but intriguing “children’s playground” with hand-carved wooden farm animals and a replica chalet. Winteregg is also accessible by cable car from Lauterbrunnen and by train from Grutschalp and Murren.
Looking for something more extreme? Try the Klettersteig, a technical one-and-a-half-mile climbing route between Murren and Gimmelwald. Equipment rentals cost 20 CHF per day. Prior mountaineering experience is essential.
When to Visit
The Jungfrau region is beautiful in any season, but there are two indisputable high seasons. First, summer: June, July, and August, sometimes bleeding into September. Second, winter: late November through the end of March.
Summer and Early Fall
If you want to experience the Alpine landscape in all its green glory and avoid weather-related inconveniences, visit during the summer. In Interlaken and along the shores of the two nearby lakes, summer weather is similar to cities in the Pacific Northwest such as Seattle and Portland, with reliably sunny skies and mild temperatures.
However, summer rains are heavier and more frequent here, so it’s best to mentally (and physically) prepare for showers. Crowds are also massive in summer, with long lines and high lodging prices.
Summer ends fairly abruptly in mid- to late September. The upshot is that cooler weather means fewer tourists, so early fall is an ideal visiting time if you don’t want to wait in line or bump shoulders at the area’s top attractions.
By late October the weather can be downright raw, with many shops (especially in smaller villages) temporarily closing. If you’re in the area for a limited time, you need to account for the fall months’ noticeably shorter days – on October 15th, for instance, the sun rises around 8am and sets shortly after 6pm.
For a postcard-perfect winter experience and some of the world’s finest skiing, visit Jungfrau during the winter. Crowds are thinner in early winter when the skiing isn’t as good, but pick up noticeably in February and March.
The Jungfrau region’s winter weather varies dramatically over short distances, mainly as a function of altitude. In Interlaken, which is about 2,000 feet above sea level, winter temperatures are similar to Boston‘s, though with a bit less snowfall. In Grindelwald, which is about 3,500 feet above sea level, temperatures are reliably 5 to 10 degrees colder, and it’s noticeably snowier.
In Murren, about 5,500 feet above sea level (similar to Denver‘s altitude), temperatures can be bitter and snowfall excessive. Temperatures and snow conditions at ski summits are more challenging still, and the Jungfraujoch is downright extreme. If you don’t like cold weather, you’ll want to remain at lower elevations or schedule your trip for a warmer time of year.
The other shoulder season, spring, lasts roughly from April to late May or early June. The weather remains challenging during the early weeks but turns pleasant toward the end of May. Lodging and rental prices tend to be lower (relative to high summer) until mid-June. However, as in mid- to late fall, many shops and restaurants close temporarily.
What to Bring
While this is by no means a comprehensive packing list, it’s a good idea to bring these items along. That said, it’s best not to over-pack, as you’re likely to be traveling by train, meaning you’ll be responsible for lugging your bags along the platform and fitting them into cramped onboard storage spaces.
- Sturdy, Waterproof Shoes. No matter where your trip takes you, you’re likely to be on foot when you get there, and possibly on the way too. At a minimum, bring sturdy running shoes. If you plan to do any serious hiking, bring actual hiking boots – preferably water-resistant ones as you’ll likely encounter mud or runoff streams in the mountains.
- Smart Casual Dress. The Swiss are practical people, but that doesn’t mean they don’t dress well. If you plan to eat at any sit-down restaurants, especially in Interlaken or larger cities such as Bern, bring smart casual clothing.
- Weather-Appropriate Clothing. Though Jungfrau nights and mornings are chilly at any time of year, especially at high elevation, you can get away without full winter regalia during the summer and shoulder seasons. However, it’s cold all year round at Jungfraujoch and the lesser summits, so lightweight winter coats and gloves are advisable. During the colder months, winter hats, thick gloves, heavy coats, snow boots, and moisture-wicking under layers are strongly recommended, especially if you plan to ski or snowboard.
- All-Purpose Backpack. Bring a sturdy, ample sized backpack capable of holding water, snacks, clothing layers, wallets, and personal effects. Your backpack can double as a hiking pack on longer treks.
- Rain and Sun Protection. The Jungfrau region’s weather is volatile, even in summer, so it’s not a bad idea to bring rain gear – ponchos, waterproof boots, and perhaps an umbrella. Jungfrau (and Switzerland in general) is not known for retail bargains. Consider purchasing affordable rain gear before you arrive.
- Hydration Gear. Even if you’re not planning an all-day hike, hydration gear can be a lifesaver, especially at high altitudes where dry air draws precious moisture out of your body. At minimum, bring refillable water bottles. If your plans include strenuous hikes or other sporting activities, consider a larger container such as a Camelbak hydration pack.
Where to Stay
The Jungfrau region has no shortage of places to stay. As the area’s anchor city, Interlaken is a popular home base. Some of the alpine communities have ample accommodations too. For example, Murren has only a few hundred permanent inhabitants but houses roughly 2,000 hotel and hostel beds.
Accommodations in Interlaken
Interlaken has the widest variety of hotels and hostels at the many price points.
Hostels are plentiful and by far the cheapest options. Some are surprisingly clean and modern, so you don’t have to make dramatic compromises to save a bundle. For example, the Interlaken Youth Hostel resembles a modern hotel in many ways, though its accommodations are relatively spartan and it lacks many of the amenities you’d expect at a full-service hotel. Prices start under $50 per night for basic rooms but may be higher during periods of peak demand.
If you’re seeking higher-end accommodations, expect to pay at least $100 per night at budget-friendly two-star hotels such as Hotel Rossli. Prices for three- and four-star hotels are higher, ranging from $120 to more than $200. Five-star hotels cost at least $200 – often much more. These prices can be significantly higher during high season, especially summer.
Many Interlaken hotels are located within walking distance of the Hoheweg. Cheaper accommodations, including budget hostels, tend to be farther from the Hoheweg – though not impossible to reach on foot. If you plan to do lots of traveling in and around the Jungfrau region, look for hotels near one of Interlaken’s train stations – Interlaken-West or Interlaken-Ost.
Hotels abound in the Jungfrau region’s smaller towns, most of which are closer than Interlaken to the high peaks. Prices are higher in these locales, though you can expect significant variation between the high and low seasons. As a rule, hostel prices range from $50 to $100 per night, depending on the season, while two-star and three-star hotels typically start at $150 per night.
However, the rates change near ski areas, where winter accommodations can be pricey – $250 and up per night for basic rooms at two- and three-star properties. It’s wise to do extensive research before you buy.
It’s worth noting that the larger city of Bern, approximately an hour northwest of Interlaken by train, has an even bigger selection of hotels and hostels. However, it’s somewhat inconvenient to use Bern as a home base for day trips to the Jungfrau region – it’s a better first or last night option for travelers looking to explore the area for several days.
Getting There and Getting Around
Despite its imposing terrain and otherworldly qualities, the Jungfrau region is surprisingly accessible. Most international air travelers arrive via Zurich Airport, which provides nonstop service to major U.S. cities such as New York City (JFK), Washington, D.C., Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Bern Airport is closer to Interlaken, but its international service is spotty – flights to and from the U.S. typically cost at least twice as much as comparable flights to Zurich, often requiring two connections.
From Zurich, it’s a two- to three-hour train ride to Interlaken. At minimum, you’ll need to connect in Lucerne or Bern. Round-trip fares from the Zurich area to Interlaken range from $140 to more than $200, though cheaper online deals may be available.
Mountain Railways and Cable Cars
Once you arrive in the Jungfrau region, you’ll most likely travel by train and cable car or aerial tramway. That’s especially true in the higher Alpine reaches, where car and bus traffic is impractical or impossible. However, train travel in the Jungfrau area is extremely expensive. That’s because local mountain railways and cable cars are privately operated, not part of the Swiss national rail network, and essentially have a monopoly on high-elevation travel.
From Interlaken-Ost, expect to pay anywhere from 15 CHF to 40 CHF for a second-class adult return-trip ticket to popular mountain towns such as Murren, Lauterbrunnen, and Grindelwald. From Interlaken-Ost to high points such as Schynige Platte and Kleine Scheidegg, expect to pay between 50 CHF and 90 CHF. And a return-trip ticket from Interlaken-Ost to Jungfraujoch will set you back more than 200 CHF, unless you select the early-bird Good Morning Ticket option, which costs 135 CHF to 145 CHF.
The best place to find detailed fare and timetable information is Jungfrau Top of Europe, the local tourism authority. Jungfrau Top of Europe also offers deals that can significantly reduce travel costs, such as hotel, ski, and transport packages (viewable here).
If you plan to travel extensively by train, consider buying a multi-day rail pass. Given the cost of purchasing train tickets individually, these passes quickly pay for themselves.
Popular pass options include:
- Swiss Travel Pass. Swiss Travel Pass (offered through RailEurope and Swiss Travel Passes website) offers unlimited travel on rail, bus, and boat transport operated by the national Swiss Travel System, plus 50% discounts on privately operated mountain railways. Pass options include travel on three, four, eight, or fifteen consecutive days, or three, four, eight, or fifteen days within a one-month period. Consecutive-day passes are cheaper than the one-month passes, with second-class adult prices for the former ranging from 210 CHF for the three-day option to 440 CHF for the fifteen-day choice. Another huge benefit is that you receive free admission to hundreds of museums around Switzerland, listed here.
- Swiss Half Fare Card. If you’re planning a longer stay in Switzerland and expect to travel heavily, consider the Swiss Half Fare Card, which entitles you to 50% discounts on virtually every bus, train, boat, and cable car in Switzerland – including privately operated mountain railways and cable cars in the Jungfrau region. The price is 120 CHF for a one-month pass.
- Bernese Oberland Regional Pass. The Berner Oberland Regional Pass is ideal for travelers who expect to move primarily within the Jungfrau and Bernese Oberland regions. Crucially, it includes travel on all privately owned mountain railways. Time-frame options include four, six, eight, and ten consecutive days, with second-class adult prices starting at 240 CHF for the four-day and 380 CHF for the ten-day. Swiss Travel Pass and Swiss Half Fare Card holders get reduced rates, ranging from 180 CHF for the second-class adult four-day to 285 CHF for the second-class adult ten-day.
- Jungfrau Travel Pass. If you’re limiting your travels to the Jungfrau region, consider a three-, four-, five-, or six-day (all consecutive) Jungfrau Travel Pass, which entitles you to near-unlimited travel on private mountain railways and cable cars within the selected time-frame. The exception is the Eigergletscher-Jungfraujoch-Top of Europe route, on which pass holders receive 50% discounts. Prices range from 180 CHF for the three-day option to 255 CHF for the six-day option. Passes may not be available during the winter (late October through late April), so check before you buy.
One interesting thing to note about orientation in the Jungfrau region: With few exceptions, tourist maps of the area are inverted, meaning the bottom of the map is north and the top of the map is south. This makes it easier to depict the region’s topography, as the mountains lie to the south of Interlaken and the surrounding Alpine communities, and their height would interfere with maps drawn following the correct orientation.
However, it can still be confusing. If you’re referring to Google Maps on your phone, and then switching to paper or PDF maps provided by local tourism authorities, keep this in mind – lest you find yourself lost or disoriented.
Budgeting and Exchange Rates
Switzerland has a well-deserved reputation as an expensive destination. The Jungfrau region, one of the country’s most famous Alpine tourist areas, is certainly no exception. Its costliness is exacerbated by the strength of the Swiss franc (CHF), which is currently very strong relative to other world currencies – including the U.S. dollar. While most everyday expenses are denominated in CHF, transportation and lodging purchased online can often be denominated in euros or dollars.
In addition to transportation and lodging, you need to pay for food, incidental items (such as toiletries), and possibly souvenirs. As a rule of thumb, you can expect these items to cost anywhere from one to two times what you’d pay in a major U.S. metropolitan area. If you’re used to large, coastal U.S. cities, such as San Francisco or New York, the sticker shock probably won’t be as extreme.
Still, take some time before your trip to develop a cost-control plan – seeking out online deals on lodging and transportation wherever possible, obtaining multi-day rail passes, compromising on lodging quality and comfort, and controlling your dining sustenance costs by packing snacks and trying street food.
Also, if you don’t mind locking yourself into hotel and transportation reservations, keep an eye on prevailing exchange rates and wait to purchase big-ticket items until they become more favorable. When you do find a good deal, lock in your rate by prepaying. This is a risky strategy because exchange rates can move in both directions, but you can always cut your losses and prepay if you feel that things are moving in the wrong direction.
As popular as it is, the Jungfrau area isn’t the only part of Switzerland worth spending time in. Nor is the broader Bernese Oberland region. Switzerland certainly looks small on a map of the world, but it’s jam-packed with engaging, historical, scenic places.
If you’re interested in a longer visit to Switzerland, check out My Switzerland‘s guide to the country’s major tourist regions.
Are you planning a trip to Switzerland? What are you most excited about?