*Trip sponsored by Switzerland Tourism
As the world’s steepest cogwheel train puffs up from Alpnachstad to the top of Mount Pilatus, I hang out the old red train window to capture every exquisite moment along the way. The steepest cogwheel railway was built back in 1889 and it still functions on its original rails. The train up to Pilatus functions between May and November each year. To reach Pilatus, you can also travel on a cable car or take a day to hike up the top.
In the Middle Ages people believed that dragons with healing powers lived in the rugged clefts and crevices of the Pilatus. Mount Pilatus is located near Lucerne. We traveled to Alpnachstad on a boat from Lucerne, which took about 45 minutes and we got to enjoy a perfect hot summer day with cocktails – just how I like to start a Monday. You can also get to Alpnachstad with a train or a bus, but I recommend taking this seaside scenic route.
We traveled up to Pilatus on the cogwheel train, which took about half an hour and returned back with the cable car, which I believe also took nearly 30 minutes to come down. For hiking all the way up the top of Pilatus, I’d say you need to be reasonably fit and not be carrying a massive backpack with you – I didn’t dare to try this time.
For a day-trip, you can do all of this with a quick stop up on Pilatus by doing the Golden Round tour. Find more information on the Golden Round tour here.
Start your trip from the charming town of Lucerne
Lucerne is only a 45-minute train ride from Zurich airport. Lucerne is a city in central Switzerland, in the German speaking part of the country with its little over 80,000 inhabitants. Lucerne is perhaps most known as a tourist destination, traffic intersection and a congress city.
I highly recommend stopping in Lucerne on your way to Pilatus, if not for a weekend then at least for lunch. The beautiful lakeside is only a short walk from he train station and you’ll find a lot of local restaurants to dine in – sure they might have a bit of a touristy pricing but for the view it’s definitely worth it.
In the last year and a half, I’ve come to think Switzerland might just be the most beautiful country I’ve come across on my travels and Lucerne is a town straight out of a fairytale. This time we only stayed for lunch though – because the mountains were calling.
Pilatus – wildlife and mountain explorations
Pilatus is a hikers dream, especially if you want to take it easy but still enjoy breathtaking mountain views. For the hard core hiker, I’d advice hiking all the way up the top, but there’s definitely something for everyone. See the official hiking trails here.
Aside the cows strolling along the mountain roads, Pilatus is also home to ibexes and some pretty birds. We did an ibex safari in the morning, but actually spotted the wild ibexes in the evening during dinner, so unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the them – but I can tell you the babies are super cute. Our guide was so passionate about ibexes and all the wildlife that he ensured us an incredible adventure hiking the mountains.
Ibexes have been living on Pilatus already for over 50 years and they can be spotted in the early mornings and late evenings when most tourists have gone home.
Hotel Pilatus Kulm and the perfect morning coffee on the mountains
We stayed overnight on Pilatus and checked into the massive hotel complex of Hotel Pilatus Kulm, which is where the cogwheel train arrives. The hotel itself is nice, but nothing so special by design, but the breathtaking views definitely make up for it more than in most hotels of the world.
Hotel Pilatus Kulm is located 2,132 meters above the sea level high up on the top of Pilatus. The hotel was built in 1890 and renovated again in 2010. The hotel has four types of rooms, which all enjoy a breathtaking view over the alps.
We enjoyed dinner in the hotel restaurant among an incredible sunset, so I had to run out between each course.
The photos below are not of me hiking in a dress btw, but having my morning coffee right outside my hotel room.
What else to experience in Switzerland?
Switzerland and its alps are surely an incredible winter destination, but I only know the country in summer time. On this same trip we spent a few days hiking in Engelberg and a weekend enjoying a city break in Geneva.
If you are considering traveling to Switzerland onboard SWISS, you can read my review on the airline and its new Bombardier CS300 here.
The year before, I spent a few days in the beautiful southern town of Zermatt. We were a bit unlucky with the weather, but the hiking views with mountains might take your breath away. Read my post on Zermatt here.
Have you ever been to Switzerland?
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