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Trip Report Magical day seeing Berner Oberland area from Lucerne base

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I'm posting this because we had one -- ONE -- day to experience the Berner Oberland area and hit the highlights (including going to the Jungfraujoch) and we had to do it while based in Luzern, and it all worked beautifully for us so I'm sharing what we did in case it's helpful to anyone else.

I knew I wanted to do the hike PalenQ and others raved about -- the 90-minute walk from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg and I knew we wanted to try to go to the Jungfraujoch; we had to figure out a route and fit it all in while going out of and back into Luzern on the same day. It worked. Here's what we did:

We (two families of three each, with our 17- and 18-year old daughters) took the 6:05 a.m. train from Luzern to Interlaken Ost, arriving around 8 a.m. Then we took a series of trains up the mountains, going via the Lauterbrunnen route, to Kleine Scheidegg where we got on the Jungfraubahn to the Top of Europe, arriving there around 10:30 a.m. (We stopped in the mountain tunnel one time, not two). We had plenty of time up top, went outside to see the lovely views and take photos, sampled champagne and hot chocolate at the Top of Europe, and then took either the 12:30 or 1 p.m. train out (I think they left every half-hour). We then made our way by train to Wengen. While our train was stopped for a few minutes in Kleine Scheidegg on the way to Wengen, we dashed to the outdoor bar and quickly ordered sandwiches, chips and drinks to go so we could have a picnic on our hike. We got back on the train with the bags of food and continued to Wengen, where we got off and took a gondola up to Mannlichen. I think the gondola ride took about 10 minutes and it was fun. At Mannlichen we began the 90-minute glorious walk to Kleine Scheidegg and enjoyed the spectacular scenery and easy downhill (mostly) stroll amid the spectacular scenery, wildflowers, snow-capped mountains and beautiful skies. We were lucky in that the trail, which had been closed just the week before, was open. That day was Friday, June 24 and we were some of the only people on the trail going our way. We passed maybe 10 other people going the opposite way, which was uphill most of the way and I was glad we were going downhill. I turned around a few times to see the view from the other direction, and I preferred the view going in our direction -- it was simply magnificent. We stopped partway down and enjoyed our picnic and the incomparable views.

When we arrived at Kleine Scheidegg again (our third time there that day, but necessary to do the hike in the direction we wanted), we boarded the train back down to Interlaken Ost but took the OTHER route, on the Grindelwald side, so we could see the other side. At one small train stop we got off of the train to hike down to the next station and see cows along the way -- that downhill hike was much, much steeper than we realized it would be, and the footing was more dangerous. It was also tough on aging backs. I probably would not do that again, but it was an interesting experience. At the next station we enjoyed a glass of wine at the local establishment while we waited for the next train down the mountain, and then arrived at Interlaken Ost in time to have a quick dinner in Interlaken before boarding the last train out to Luzern at 8 p.m., finally arriving back at our hotel in Luzern at 10:30 p.m.

It wasn't easy to figure out in advance what the best train pass/ticket situation would be, so I'll give the information we learned, again in case it helps anyone.

The night before we went to the Berner Oberland area, we went to the train station in Luzern to buy the train tickets. Because of brilliant help poster mokka4 had provided, I was able to suggest to the train ticket seller to look at the option of our buying half-fare cards, and that proved to be the key. We also did all travel by second class, and did not buy any seat reservations. The cost for my family of 3, including the half-fare card, for the entire day of travel (including the train to the Jungfraujoch), was somewhere around $850; just under $300 each. And because we bought the half-fare card, any other train travel was half-price (such as our trip to Zurich). The gondola in Wengen was something like $12 per person.

Note: you need passports for each half-fare card you buy. The people don't all have to be present in the train station ticket office when buying the half-fare cards, but the passports do. And you need to have the half-fare card on you when you are traveling on the train. You can buy a half-price ticket at the vending machines in the station without showing the half-fare card, so when you're on the train and the ticket collector comes along asking for your ticket, he (and they were always "he") will usually want to see your half-fare card as well.

If you're headed to that area and want to see the Berner Oberland but don't have multiple days, know you can see quite a lot in just one!