Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch is a protected area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site between the Valais and the Bernese Highlands in the Swiss Alps. It was known as Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn until its name was changed in 2007.
This site is mostly known for its unspoilt mountain landscape. It is a rather diverse landscape, ranging from the arid dry landscape of the Rhone valley over mountain forests and glaciated areas to peaks of more than 4000 metres.
Flora and fauna
This is a quite a huge area and getting there will mainly depend on which part you want to visit. The site is dominated by high peaks and glaciers in the centre and traversing it from north to south or vice-versa is all but impossible without appropriate gear and a mountain guide in most areas. Access is possible from several location in the north (Bernese Highlands) and in the south (Valais).
From the south, access is possible at the following places (from west to east):
- Through the Lötschental, which is itself partially inside the site. A postal bus [dead link] runs along the valley and access is possible either from the railway station of Goppenstein (with trains from Berne or Brig) or Gampel-Steg (with trains from Visp, Brig and Sion). The bus terminates (in Summer) in Fafleralp which is at the perimeter of the site.
- From the Rhone valley: The old train route from Berne to Brig goes along the site of the Rhone valley. There are stops at Hohtenn, Ausserberg, Eggerberg and Lalden. Additionally buses go from Visp to St. German, Ausserberg and Eggerberg and from Brig to Mund.
- From the Aletsch Arena region hiking and cable cars from either Bettmeralp, Riederalp or Fiescheralp give access to the site, notably the Aletsch Forest and viewpoints onto the Aletsch Glacier.
Those are the access points from the north (from west to east):
- Kandersteg has hourly regional trains from Brig as well as Berne via Thun and Spiez.
- The Jungfrau area can be reached by train from Interlaken to either Grindelwald or Wengen. To reach Gimmelwald take the bus from Lauterbrunnen then a bus and cable car from there.
- The Grimsel area is hard to reach by public transport. There is one of two postal bus lines (depending on season either one limited to Grimsel or as part of a longer route traversing several passes) which connects the Grimsel Pass to the railway stations in Meiringen in the Bernese Highlands and Oberwald in Valais. This is a mountain route and if you are prone on getting sick on buses this will be tough on you. Also make sure to check whether the pass is open beforehand.
Fees and permits
The site is completely open and there is no restriction or fee on access.
The site mostly lies in high altitude terrain and getting around is only possible by foot or on skies. Trails are marked at regular intervals with yellow signposts and with red/white markings on stones in places without a proper path.
- 1 Aletsch Glacier (The lower part of the glacier can be accessed by taking a cable car and hiking from either Riederalp, Bettmeralp or Fiescheralp in Valais. The upper part is visible from the Jungfraujoch in the Bernese Highlands.). The largest glacier of the Alps, it is more than 22 kilometres long and up to more than 900 metres thick, but is receding by as much as 100 metres every year.
- 2 Jungfraujoch (A train goes all the way up to the Jungfraujoch from Kleine Scheidegg. To get there, take the train from Interlaken Ost to either Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen and change train there). The train leads you up to a col at 3450 metres altitude, the highest for any railway in Europe. The train ride itself is quite impressive, as it stops at the Eismmeer station halfway up the mountain, from where there is an impressive view of the glacier below. From there you can access a viewing point at a meteorological observation station at 3571 metres altitude. The views are really stunning, and it's also possible to walk outside in the snow. To both sides are steep cliffs: to the north lies the infamous Eiger North Face whereas to the south the view gives on the Aletsch Glacier. It can get very cold and windy and you are strongly advised to bring along warm clothes. Full Price Fr. 176 from Wengen, 25% off with Swiss Travel Pass.
- 3 [formerly dead link] Oeschinen Lake (Cable car from Kandersteg or walk up in about an hour). Above the village of Kandersteg lies this mountain lake. You can do some boating on the lake or have a picnic on the shore. There is also a mechanical toboggan coaster and two restaurants.
There is an abundance of hiking trails in this area. Due to the mountainous terrain, most of the trails are actually on or around the perimeter of the site.
- 1 Southern Lötschberg ramp (26 km, 8hr 20min, easy) (Get out at Hohtenn station and follow the signs). Before the new base tunnel was opened in 2007, the main train line slowly descended the site of the Rhone valley until it reached the floor at Brig. While it's still possible to take the train along this scenic route, it's nicer to get out at one of the stations and walk along the trail which follows the train route. While the whole trail is very long, it's possible (and recommended) to only walk a part of it. Between Hohtenn and Brig, there are several train stations (Ausserberg, Eggerberg und Lalden) at which it is possible to catch a train in either direction (hourly). This trail offers nice panoramic views on the Rhone valley through the arid and scarcely vegetated sunny side of the valley. Due to its exposed nature it can get scorching hot in the summer months and while it's still possible to do the hike, autumn usually offers milder temperatures and views in autumn colours. It is also an ideal place to explore some of the impressive watering channels (locally called Suonen).
- 2 Hohtürli Pass (14.5 km, 7hr 10min, medium difficulty) (Take the bus from Reichenbach to Griesalp). This trail leads from the Griesalp via the Hohtürli Pass to Oeschinen Lake and Kandersteg. On the highest point after Hohtürli Pass you can stop buy the Blüemlisalp hut. To shorten the trip the last part from Oeschinen Lake to Kandersteg can be done by cable car.
- 1 Anenhütte (Take the bus or car to Fafleralp, walk from there (2-3 hr)), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. This mountain hut is only accessible by foot (or helicopter) and is a good destination for a day hike. It is located at 2350 metres altitude and overlooks the lower part of the Lang Glacier. It is also possible to book a room for the night.
- 1 Hotel Grimsel Hospiz, ☏ . This hotel is on an exposed rock next to the dam of the Grimsel hydraulic plant. Single Fr. 45-165.
- 2 Hotel Fafleralp, Im Paradies, Fafleralp, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A hotel at the far end of the Lötschental and right at the edge of the UNESCO site. It is on its own in a small forest close to the parking lot and bus terminal at Fafleralp. From Fr. 75.
- 3 Konkordia Hut. This mountain hut is in the middle of the site. It is very isolated, and can be reached from either Jungfraujoch, Fiescheralp or Fafleralp, the shortest being from Jungfraujoch in 4 hours. All access is over Glacier and shouldn't be attempted without proper knowledge or a mountain guide. The Konkordia Hut overlooks the Concordia Place which is where four glaciers converge together before forming the Aletsch Glacier. Fr. 38/77 without/with food.
- 4 Hollandia Hut, ☏ . Mountain hut at the Lötschenlücke pass. Fr. 40/78 room/half-board.
Do not walk on the glacier if you don't know what you are doing. Crevasses can be covered by snow and are often invisible. If you are interested in a glacier tour, you can book a tour with a local guide.