While building our itinerary for the three week trip to Europe, never would we have guessed that Switzerland, a destination we almost didn’t squeeze in, would be the answer to everyone’s common question – “Out of the five countries you visited in. Europe, which was your favorite?” It didn’t seem to fit well into our plans, as it shortened our time in both Amsterdam and Venice, and we were kind of asking ourselves, “well what is there to really do there anyways?”. Thankfully after thorough research we locked Lucerne, Switzerland into the plan, with the Golden Round Trip up to the summit of Mount Pilatus as the main attraction.
Rather than purchase our trip tickets ahead of time, we waited until we got there to assess the weather conditions and possible price differences. It turned out the prices online were the same as that of the Mount Pilatus Gift Shop and the travel info booth, roughly ($110 per person), which covers the bus fare, gondola ascent, cogwheel descent, and ferry ride return.
For those who have eyes on Switzerland as a travel destination but don’t know how to approach it, we highly recommend visiting Lucerne for two or three days (which is really all the time you need as it is a small town but with lots of charm and spectacular scenery surrounding it) and doing the Golden Round Trip. The GRT gets its name from being exactly that, a round trip from Lucerne to the summit of Mount Pilatus and back. From cable cars to cogwheels, you’ll find ourself on a one of a kind, unforgettable excursion that’ll have you buzzing for days!
Time to Ascend!
When you purchase your ticket, the vendor should explain the instructions and provide a map highlighting the routes and times. One key point was to be aware of when the last ferry leaves, and use that to gauge how much time you’ll be able to spend at the summit.
Starting from the Lucerneto Kriens bus stop, hop on the local transit for a twenty minute ride outside of Lucerne. Once you exit at the appropriate bus stop, you’ll take a short ten minute walk to the cable car station. The first small cable car holds about four people and takes its riders on a scenic, thirty minute ride ascending over lush green Swiss countryside. At times, the cable car will swing around a bit with the wind but its all part of the adventure! Viewing Lucerne and its neighboring villages from this aerial view gives the audience a unique feel of the soothing calm that enriches the lives of Swiss residents daily.
Your first stop in between the base of the mountain and the summit is a recreational area where guests can participate in cool activities like zip lines, tight ropes and hiking. There’s also a chill cafe where you can grub, drink a pint, and gaze over the gorgeous scenery surrounding you. We spent about twenty minutes there until we hopped on the gondola cable car that would then take us to the summit of Mount Pilatus. The gondola fits about twenty people or so and takes you on a short five to ten minute trip to the top. This can be a tad daunting for those afraid of heights but the ride is pretty smooth and brief so I wouldn’t let it turn you away.
Once you’re at the top of Mount Pilatus, we suggest exploring the area outside and around the main lobby. Being up there makes you feel like you’re in a Lord of the Rings movie, especially if its cold and foggy you might just find an orb-guarding dragon if you venture deep enough along the cliffside path. Seriously, legend has it long ago there was a dragon protecting a magic stone at the peak of Mount Pilatus and after spending some time up there, I don’t doubt it!
After you’ve captured all the breathtaking Swiss scenery, hop on the cogwheel railway that awaits its riders for a gradual forty minute descent to the base of the mountain. This cogwheel, at a forty-eight degrees angle, is the steepest of its kind in the world and was built in 1889 in just four hundred days. We suggest watching the short ten minute video offered to viewers at the summit which presents how the cogwheel was constructed and how Mount Pilatus gained its popularity to visitors from all over the world.
The final phase of the Golden Round Trip is the ferry ride along Lake Lucerne that offers some of the most pure scenic views of Switzerland. It lasts about forty minutes but really leaves you wanting more. Jessie and I felt absolute happiness and gratitude while on the ferry ride, and in that moment we fell in love with Switzerland.
Experiencing one of the world’s most beautiful countries in its natural state inspired a deeper appreciation for life and for the planet we live in. We will never forget that feeling and we hope to share these sentiments as to encourage and inspire the hearts and minds of all our friends .