The world on top of the Jungfraujoch — in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland — was a riot of blizzardy snow and biting, freezing wind, even in the middle of June. So different from the green lush temperate sunshine that glowed warmly in the town of Grindelwald, where I was staying on a hosted trip, the top of Eiger mountain and its famous glacier was in a madness of a storm.
Snow flurries swirled around my face and the glacier itself was hidden under the swirls, but I was literally on the “Top of Europe,” as Jungfraujoch claims to be. Considered the “roof of Europe,” the Jungfraujoch attraction sits upon the craggy, glacier-covered Eiger peak at 2.14 miles above sea level.
Getting to a destination that high requires some stellar engineering, and thankfully, the Swiss people are known for that. We rode the brand new Eiger Express from Grindelwald, Europe’s newest and most modern gondola system. Riding it all the way to the top, the views along the way were spectacular and even a bit overwhelming.
Located among the Swiss Alps, Switzerland is known for its record-breaking transportation systems that have you soaring over mountain passes from a glass box strung on a wire. From the large cable cars to the smaller gondolas and the sheer vertical funiculars, Switzerland can boast some of the most extreme and modern modes of mountain transportation.
For a bird’s-eye view of the best of Switzerland’s Alps and landscapes, here are five beautiful gondola rides to experience in the Swiss Alps.
1. Soar To Jungfraujoch In Switzerland’s Newest Gondola System
The brand-new Eiger Express cable car, which leaves from the also brand-new Grindelwald Terminal, takes a mere 15 minutes to reach Eigergletscher station. From there, you’ll board the famous cogwheel mountain railway train to the Jungfraujoch-Top of Europe station.
The Eiger Express, named “the most modern tricable gondola in the world,” can carry 26 passengers per cable car and up to 2,200 people per hour, with the journey to Jungfraujoch shortened by 47 minutes. Unveiled in 2020, the new cable car features heated windows, Wi-Fi, heated seats, and because the power is actually generated by the cables pulling the lifts, it’s also one of the most sustainable modes of transport to date.
“We invested $470 million US dollars to build the most modern cable car in the world, which is the Eiger Express,” said Matthias Bütler, head of Marketing and Sales for Jungfrau Railways. “We built the Grindelwald Terminal, and we call it a terminal because it’s more than a cable car station. It’s really like an airport.”
“Our goal is sustainability. That’s why we built the train station directly in the terminal. We want people to come with the train instead of taking the car,” continued Bütler.
The Aletsch Glacier is the first UNESCO World Heritage site in the Swiss Alps. It is the longest glacier in the Alps surrounded by 13,123-foot peaks.
“We have to take care of the glacier,” said Bütler. “That is why sustainability is so important.”
Jungfraujoch is also one of Switzerland’s most popular ski regions with two valleys, three mountain ranges, and 131 miles of groomed slopes. However, the summer region is also a beautiful time to view the UNESCO Heritage Site and take in the green, wildflower-dotted views of the valley.
After riding the Eiger Express to Europe’s highest railway station on the Jungfraujoch, visitors can spend the day exploring the glacier, viewing the eye-watering sites on top of the Eiger, walking inside a tunnel through the glacier, and learning about the history of the region. Explore all of this before returning down the mountain to Grindelwald Station.
The long-awaited Eiger Express is the second installment of the V-Cableway project that includes two gondola lifts from Grindelwald to the Männlichen and Eigergletscher mountains. The first stage to Männlichen opened in 2019.
Pro Tip: Budget at least 5–6 hours for a trip to the Jungfraujoch to factor in travel time and enjoyment of the experiences at this popular tourist attraction. Be aware, however, that Jungfraujoch isn’t cheap. The cost to visit with a Swiss pass is well over $150.
2. Explore Other Mountains With The V-Cableway
The Eiger Express was actually the second stage of the $90 million V-Cableway project, which was the biggest new-lift transportation development in the world.
Stage one was the new gondola that soars from Grindelwald to Männlichen, which opened December 2019. That new Grindelwald-Männlichen (GGM) gondola was a replacement for the older gondola lift. Fitting up to 10 passengers, it now features 111 gondolas and slashes the time to get to the top station from 30 minutes to 19.
Männlichen is one of the world’s most scenic mountain vistas that locals and visitors love for its numerous alpine walks and the 360-degree views of the Jungfrau Region.
After taking the Männlichen cable car from Grindelwald, which runs every minute, we spent most of the morning strolling the high-altitude paths that roam to Alpiglin and Kleine Scheidegg. The first hike was the Royal Walk.
The Royal Walk, while steep, is a moderate, well-groomed path. It is a walk that any king or queen worth their crown would embark on to claim their reward of royal views of the trio peaks of Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau.
The hike on the Panorama Trail to Kleine Scheidegg is a 1-hour-and-10-minute walk along an easy path that also rewards trekkers with expansive views of the Jungfrau Alps region. At the end of the hike, you’ll have your choice of restaurants to refuel at and the choice to either take the gondola back down to Grindelwald, or the famed train.
Pro Tip: For a truly “royal” experience, take the Royal Ride from Wengen to Männlichen. This gondola features a rooftop balcony on the new cableway cabins. This 1954-established gondola route takes just under 5 minutes to climb to Männlichen.
3. Find Views And Adventure At Grindelwald First
Grindelwald First sounds like an odd name to non-Swiss visitors, but it’s bascially an adventure destination on top of a mountain that looms over the picturesque town of Grindelwald. Popular for skiing, hiking, and some mountain-centric rides, Grindelwald First is a family-friendly adventure park set among the views of the Swiss Alps.
Located in the heart of Grindelwald, the gondola system to Grindelwald First floats airily over meadows, fields, craggy peaks, and more. During the summer months, visitors can veer down at the riot of wildflowers that turn the fields into paintings while hearing the gentle sounds of cow bells on the frankly-gorgeous cows that roam the hillside.
Grindelwald First is perfect for multigenerational family trips. The young and young-at-heart can get their thrills by flying through the air on the First Flieger, or “First Flier.” It is a type of zipline that uses a stable harness to speed down an 800-meter-long steel cable from First to Schreckfeld at top speeds of 52 miles per hour.
Other adrenaline activities that are suitable for kids and able adults include the Mountain Carts, the Trottibikes, and the First Glider, in which guests float face-down on a large “eagle” through the mountain air.
Grindelwald First also has a beautiful, moderate 2-hour round-trip hike from First to Lake Bachalpsee and the dizzyingly thrilling First Cliff Walk. The First Cliff Walk is a metal walkway that hugs the west side of the First summit at dizzying heights before ending on a platform that extends 49 yards into nowhere to view the 360-degree views.
The Lake Bachalpsee hike starts with a rather steep ascent, but levels off after the first half-mile or so. The bucolic scene of a high alpine lake and the delicate chirping of mountain marmots more than make up for the breath-stealing initial climb.
Pro Tips: Get to Grindelwald First as early as possible in the morning, especially during the summer months. The adventure park fills up quickly, and you’ll face up to 2-hour lines to ride the more popular rides. The two flying rides are appropriate for all ages and levels, but the mountain cart and trottibike are pretty physical, speed-filled excursions that take a bit of courage and a bit of balance.
4. Rotate Through The Sky On The Titlis Rotair
Located from the Engleberg Resort in Engleberg to the summit of Mount Titlis, the TITLIS Rotair is the world’s first fully-rotating gondola. Spinning slowly around 360 degrees, this gondola soars 1.8 miles above sea level to the summit and its various restaurants and snack bars.
This mountain destination also boasts the TITLIS Cliff Walk, the highest suspension bridge in Europe, which is also free of charge. Visitors can also explore a safe and accessible glacier cave for free, or take in the jaw-dropping views of the surrounding peaks on the Ice Flyer — a chair lift that brings you safely over the snow fields and icy crevices.
5. Master The Matterhorn
The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, on the Klein Matterhorn above Zermatt, is the highest cable car station in Europe. The network has numerous lifts that connect its resort areas to this cable car station, located at 2.41 miles above sea level.
A 45-minute journey by both gondola and cable car, this ride includes Instagrammable views of the famous Matterhorn and Weisshorn summits — a recorded program on the engineering that went into the system, and a comfortable and safe experience.
Pro Tips: If you are prone to altitude sickness, ask your doctor about medication that can help offset the effects of altitude. There’s no point in suffering if you don’t have to. Also, it’s good to bring warm layers to the high mountains of Switzerland, even in the summer months.
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