Trip to Switzerland: Part 6 – Trip to Mount Pilatus

The next morning in Luzern, our destination was Mount Pilatus (wikipedia, official site). Mount Pilatus is another famous tourist site in Switzerland, located near the top of a mountain peak. Pilatus has the longest summer toboggan track in Switzerland (0.88 miles or 1.350 m) and the biggest suspension rope park in Central Switzerland. My experience with Mount Pilatus has been that the journey is as good as the destination. There are 2 definite ways to get there, with the first being the cogwheel railway (supposed to be the world’s steepest) from the base station of Alpnachstad (operating from May to November), and the other is a combination of aerial panoramic gondolas, and cableways (starting from the base station of Kriens in Lucerne).
So, bright and early, we set out on our trip to Pilatus. Given that we were not completely sure of the journey particulars, we made our way to the railway station, and to the tourism department over there. The helpful lady over there gave us directions as to how do the journey. The first leg of the journey was to go to the bus stop just outside the train station, and take the route # 1 from there which goes all the way to Kriens. It was an uneventful journey, with the bus itself detailing which bus stop is coming next. When you do get down at the Kriens bus stop, there is a small slightly uphill journey right next to a church that takes you upto the base station of the aerial gondolas.

A beautiful church in Luzern, almost at the starting point for the Gondolas upto Mount Pilatus

A beautiful church in Luzern, almost at the starting point for the Gondolas upto Mount Pilatus

A beautiful church in Kriens, almost at the starting point for the Gondolas upto Mount Pilatus


A panoramic gondola, at the starting point of the journey to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne
A panoramic gondola, at the starting point of the journey to Mount Pilatus from Kriens

View of a beautiful countryside from the panoramic gondola on the way to Mount Pilatus
View of a beautiful countryside from the panoramic gondola on the way to Mount Pilatus

The base station is the starting point for small aerial gondolas that carry 4 people up the hill. These go just over the tree line, and make for a wonderful journey. The aerial gondolas go all the way to Fräkmüntegg, from where you need to get out of the gondolas and transfer to the aerial cable car (that can carry more people, and also have an operator; the gondolas did not have any operators). The cableway is supposed to give a great view, but in our case, even though we went in July, it was very overcast and there was fog and clould that totally obscured our view.

Panoramic Gondolas make the journey between Lucerne and Kriens, on the way to Mount Pilatus
Panoramic Gondolas make the journey between Lucerne and Kriens, on the way to Mount Pilatus

We soon reached Mout Pilatus, and boy, did the shivering start as soon as came into the open. The place was cold, with some bitter winds blowing that also obscured visibility. It was a bit difficult to wander around with all the cold, and we soon ducked inside to get some hot coffee and something to eat. There were a couple of eating places, with a hotel at one side, and 2 more hotels (one a fine eating place, and another that was more of a self-service). There were a number of tables and benches in the open as well, but it was hard to visualize anybody eating over there with that cold wind blowing.

The Hotel Pilatus-Kulm on a windy foggy day
The Hotel Pilatus-Kulm on a windy foggy day

Open air restaurant at Mount Pilatus - not possible because of wind, cold and fog
Open air restaurant at Mount Pilatus – not possible because of wind, cold and fog

The main building of Mount Pilatus - it was cold and windy
The main building of Mount Pilatus – it was cold and windy

There was also a small path that led up to the top of the peak where there was a small structure, with the way up through a combination of wooden and stone stairs (and in that cold, you can visualize how the wind would have made the climb so difficult). The only creatures who seemed to be easily visible were Black birds, around the size of a crow, that were eating of whatever had been left behind by tourists (and apparently, this was not done, since a local attendant came and removed these leftovers, clucking his head about tourists leaving food stuff behind).

Beautiful round ceiling lights with yellow light inside Mount Pilatus restaurant
Beautiful round ceiling lights with yellow light inside Mount Pilatus restaurant

Many black birds (Dohle) foraging for food on Mount Pilatus
Many black birds (Dohle) foraging for food on Mount Pilatus

Our journey to Mount Pilatus over (we did not try any of the supposed adventure sports over there), we decided to head back to Lucerne. This time we took the alternate route, on the cogwheel train that leaves for the station of Alpnachstad. These are small red trains heading through down the hillside, and was a great journey (especially since it was raining). As we reached the base station of Alpnachstad, we started getting a view of the Lake Lucerne from a height.

View of the tracks (including out of alignment) from within the furnicular train on Mount Pilatus
View of the tracks (including out of alignment) from within the train on Mount Pilatus

Photo shows the steep climb that the train takes to reach Mount Pilatus from Alpnachstad
Photo shows the steep climb that the train takes to reach Mount Pilatus from Alpnachstad

The last leg of the journey was from Alpnachstad to Luzern. This was on Lake Lucerne, on a 2 hour journey across the waters of the Lake. It was a fairly thrilling journey, and after such a long trip, just relaxing on the cruise ship was like a relaxing end.

Houses from the lake shore up the hill right next to Lake Lucerne.jpg

And of course, our journey over, we headed back to Zurich on the next day morning, catching a train. We had around 5 hours between our train having reached Zurich, and the departure time for the flight, and we decided to take small view of Zurich in the meantime. We headed out from the station carrying all our luggage, and decided to take a small walk – all around the river, admiring the view, the beautiful buildings. There was almost no crowd around at that time, and we were able to make our small walk around casually. The only problem was carrying luggage on the cobble-stone path. Soon, it was time to head off to catch a train to the airport for the journey back home.

Zurich train station
Zurich train station

View of the Limmat river along with surrounding architecture
View of the Limmat river along with surrounding architecture

Elegant bridge and surrounding beautiful architecture
Elegant bridge and surrounding beautiful architecture

Other articles:
1. Lots of photos on a journey to Mount Pilatus (link)
2. Photos of the return journey from Pilatus to Luzern via the lake (link)
3. Article with lots of photos (link)

15 Comments

  • nandanjha says:

    Lovely pics and a great plan to finish the vacation. Swiss is definitely nearer than before. Thanks for sharing Ashish.

  • Ashish says:

    Hi Nandan, that was a great comment. I can write even more if you send me on such trips in the future.

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  • Cuckoo says:

    The train doing steep climb is very popular everywhere. I have experienced it in New Zealand as well.

    Could you also visit the junk market under Zurich station ?

  • manish khamesra says:

    Beautiful pictures and you very well summarized your journey Ashish.

  • Ashish says:

    Hi Cuckoo, not enough time in Zurich; we just did one round of around 2 KM (laden down with all our luggage)

    Manish, thanks for the compliment.

  • Biswajit says:

    Hi Ashish,

    It was one of the best travelogues I have read mate. Absolutely magical a word by word description. I bumpled into this website from google as I was planning for our Swiss trip in July this yr (2009). Your experience and detailing to this level has really helped me chalk out my itenary. This type of article is priceless for everyone. Congrats and cheers.
    N.B. Just a small question though, didnt you visit Mt. Titlis from Luzern? I thought that was one of the attractions from Luzern?

  • Ashish says:

    Thanks Biswajit.

    We did not visit Mt. Titlis; our schedule was a bit tight, and given the need to do both Jungfrau and see Mt. Pilatus, we were not able to fit in Titlis (although once in Lucern, I learned that maybe a trip to Mt. Titlis would also have been good). From Lucern, you can see both Mt. Titlis and Mt. Pilatus, and we did Pilatus :-)

    • Biswajit says:

      Great, we are however planning to visit Mt. Titlis. Below is the itenary I have planned so far after much thought. Have a read and let me know ur thoughts on the same –

      11th July Sat Zurich+Rhine Falls – stay in Zurich 1 night in Zurich
      12th July Sun Interlaken – reach Interlaken in the afternoon and stay in Interlaken 1 night in Interlaken
      13th Jul Mon Visit Mt Jungfrau early morning and leave for Luzern in the evening 1 night in Luzern
      14th Jul Tue Luzern+Mt. Titlis – stay in Luzern 1 night in Luzern
      15th Jul Wed Luzern – Chapel bridge, Lion Monument, Picasa museum – return to London in the evening

  • Ashish says:

    Hi Biswajit,

    I don’t know about Rhine Falls, but you should spend some time in Zurich. It is a beautiful city (my regret is that we could not spend more time over there) and requires a few hours at the minimum.
    Also, you should see whether you want to do a cruise on the lake in either Interlaken or Lucerne.

  • Biswajit says:

    Oh yes, I have not put the complete itenary in there but yes I intend to take the cruise in lake Thun during my stay in Interlaken (didnt knopw about it until I read your experience :) ). I also have planned for 2 nights and 3 days in Luzern so would try to catch the cruise there too. Hopefully 4 nights should be enough, you cannot cover everything you want anyway bcoz of time constraint. But all in all I think the itenary is decent enough, what do you say?

    • Biswajit says:

      Hi Ashish,

      Hope you are doing well? I wanted to know something. The swiss pass doesnot cover only till a certain point for Jungfrau right? How much does it cost from there till Jungfrau and where did you book it? Did you book that in advance?

  • The ticket I had booked covered everything. This was a Swiss Rail ticket that also covered Jungfrau, so the ticket covered all travel on a train, as well as the 3 trains that go to Jungfrau and back, so nothing extra.

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