Highlights of this spectacular trip
Based in the picturesque village of Wengen, in the heart of the Bernese Oberland, this trip goes in search of carpets of wild flowers in lush, botanically rich alpine meadows. You'll be surrounded at all times by the awesome backdrop of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, arguably the finest mountain scenery in all of Europe!
Our daily walks, exhilarating cable car ascents and mountain railway excursions will allow us to botanise a wide altitudinal range in search of such high-altitude gems as trumpet gentians and snowbells, plus an array of orchids (including Lady’s Slipper Orchid), saxifrages, primulas and violets among other specialist flora. We’ll also look for sought-after species among the slopes and screes of the Eiger Glacier and explore hay meadows and spruce forest at lower altitudes.
The village of Wengen is an idyllic alpine resort, set high on a sheltered alp above the dramatic Lauterbrunnen Valley, right in the heart of the Bernese Oberland. Few places command such a spectacular setting! Lying at an altitude of 1,163 metres, Wengen is backed by one of the finest mountain landscapes in Europe. Here stand the ice-clad peaks of the Wetterhorn and Schreckhorn, but even more majestic is the famous trio of peaks — the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. These dominate the view and form an awesome backcloth to the lush, botanically rich alpine meadows and spruce forests at their feet. In late June, all but the highest peaks are free from snow and the newly exposed pastures become awash with a carpet of flowers. Our tour is timed to coincide with the peak of this display.
We begin our holiday by flying to Zürich, then transfer to the train for a rail trip across the beautiful Swiss countryside to Lauterbrunnen. The final stage of our journey is by the exciting cogwheel railway which climbs steeply up the side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, past waterfalls and flower-filled hay meadows, to Wengen. There we transfer to our base for the holiday, a small, friendly, family-run hotel set on the edge of the village and commanding wonderful, unobstructed views of the snow-clad Jungfrau. From here we will explore the excellent network of footpaths that radiate out into the adjacent countryside. We will also make full use of the extensive cable car and mountain railway network to carry us quickly and comfortably high into the surrounding alpine meadows — a network run with the precision and timing of a Swiss clock!
At this time of year the high alpine pastures around the Männlichen hold a rich diversity of flora. An exhilarating cable-way ascent of nearly 1,000 metres takes us up to this small ski station, transporting us into a beautiful panorama of rugged mountains dominated by the vertical north wall of the Eiger. Species such as Alpenrose (Rhododendron ferrugineum), Globeflower (Trollius europaeus), Broad-leaved Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis), Small White Orchid (Pseudorchis albida), Moss Campion (Silene acaulis), Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) and Alpine Bartsia (Bartsia alpina) are common, and several species of saxifrage, Pedicularis, Campanula, gentian, Primula and violet are likely to be encountered. We will endeavour to locate some of the more sought after plants such as Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus), Creeping Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens), Alpine Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla alpina), Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella alpina), Alpine Stonecrop (Sedum alpestre), Reddish Stonecrop (S. rubens), Mountain Houseleek (Sempervivum montanum) and Alpine Butterwort (Pinguicula alpina). The area is also rich in ferns.
Excursions around Kleine Scheidegg and Mürren will add further to the variety of plants encountered, and a visit to the foot of the ‘Eigergletscher’ (Eiger Glacier) will allow us to search the screes and moraines for species such as Alpine Buttercup (Ranunculus alpestris), Yellow Milk Vetch (Oxytropis campestris), Round-leaved Pennycress (Thlaspi rotundifolia), Chamois Cress (Hutchinsia (Pritzelago) alpina), species of dwarf willow and Broadleaved Mouse-ear (Cerastium latifolium). Ibex are fairly common around the glacier, and can be remarkably confiding; we may even spot a group of Chamois high above on a grassy slope. Alpine Marmots peer inquisitively from their burrows and high altitude birds such as Snow Finch, Citril Finch, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit, Alpine Chough, and Ring Ouzel are all likely to be seen.
The natural limestone flora of the Schynige Platte is legendary amongst botanists, and for many will be the highlight of this tour. Our day here will start with a visit to the famous botanical gardens, before we explore the undulating pastures along the ridge in search of plants such as St. Bruno’s Lily (Paradisea liliastrum), Yellow Bellflower (Campanula thyrsoides), Black Vanilla Orchid (Nigritella nigra) and Alpine Sainfoin (Hedysarum hedysaroides). The views down over Interlaken are breathtaking, as are those back towards the high mountains and Wengen.
We will also explore at lower altitudes, searching the hay meadows and spruce forests around Wengen and Lauterbrunnen in search of plants such as Greater and Lesser Masterwort (Astrantia major and A. minor), Greater Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus alectorolophus), Bearded Bellflower (Campanula barbata) and many species of butterflies. Birds such as Nutcracker, Black Woodpecker, Wood Warbler, Fieldfare and Firecrest all breed in these woodlands, whilst Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike and Serin favour the more open areas. There may even be time to visit the dramatic Trümmelbach Falls where the melt water from the mountain glaciers corkscrews downwards inside the vertical valley walls.
The ‘Jungfrau Region’ undoubtedly contains one of the most spectacular landscapes in Europe. The mountain scenery, the outstanding botanical riches and other wildlife coupled with the area’s classical Swiss charm are sure to remain in the memory long after we return to London.
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