We made a split decision one day to visit the beautiful Mount Pilatus in Summer last year. I only just realised i never blogged about my experience. I have many friends visiting beautiful Switzerland and I always recommend a trip to Mount Pilatus as we just had an incredible experience here. So here’s my run-down of our overnight stay.
As with all the mountain tops in Switzerland, i recommend going on a clear day, which usually means a last minute booking. However i would much rather this, than spending a whole night looking out on to complete white nothingness of clouds! We actually booked to go up there at christmas time last year, we were packed, bought our train ticket and was just sipping on our Starbucks at the train station when we received a call from the hotel telling us they had to cancel the reservation as the winds were too stong and access to the peak had been closed. At the time I was pretty sad we had to cancel our trip, but in the long run it was better as we visited in the Summer when we had beautiful views out.
Mount Pilatus is very close to Lucerne so we first took an hours train ride there from Basel. From Lucerne, there are two ways to access Pilatus-Kulm - Cogwheel train or Cablecar/Gondola. We decided to go up via the cogwheeel and down via the Gondola the next day. To get on the cog-wheel you have to first make your way to Alpnachstad - which you can do via train (about 20 minutes) or by boat. We went by train, but I think the boat could have been a really great experience.
Once at Alpnachstad, we purchased our tickets - the price is CHF72 for a return ticket (36 with the half fare card). You can take a cheesy tourist photo pretending to be on the little red train here too. See right for my cringeworthy moment! There is also a cafe at the base to enjoy some food and a cup of coffee too.
I recommend trying to get in the lowest level of the cogwheel, from here you have a very nice view out of the bottom of the train as you go up. You do have to change trains half way up so it’s a good opportunity to switch position on the train if you want. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the top on a gradient of 48% which makes it the steepest cog-wheel in the world! The views are really beautiful so its a pleasurable 30 minutes.
At the top
When we first arrived, we actually checked in to the hotel straight away so we could put our bags down and have a look around. We chose to stay at Hotel Pilatus Kulm in their standard double room. There is a cheaper hotel on site also called Hotel Bellevue. We were really pleased with the room, it was nice and large, clean, and had beautiful views out onto the mountains. The cost of the hotel also includes dinner and breakfast in the price, which i’ll touch on more later.
We set back outside to have a look around. At this stage it was about 5 or 6pm and still bright outside. One side had clear views, while the other side was covered in white clouds making the view a complete mystery to us until morning. Apart from a large viewing platform, there are about 3 different paths/hikes you can do. It was much bigger than I anticipated. We set off on a hike on the side we had the clear views. The pathway was all level making it a pretty easy walk. Heights make me a bit nervous and there were definitely parts that made me a little anxious - mainly because all that was between you and a steep decline was a flimsy little wire fence! The hiking trail was virtually empty as most people had to catch the last gondola and train down the mountain. We maybe came across 2 other parties walking back. Aside from the breathtaking views, there were many alpine flowers in bloom and we saw a few Ibex drinking water very close to us.
We actually didn’t reach the end of this hike as we decided to head back after about 40 minutes so we could get some dinner before watching the sunset. Our walk was definitely at a leisurely pace - we probably stopped for about 15 minutes just to watch the Ibex alone!
Dinner at Hotel-Kulm
There is a set 4 course menu at dinner - you have a choice of two main dishes. I’m not sure how they handle allergy requests but i’m sure they would have a process if you mentioned it at the time of booking.
I could not fault the dinner. It was of really high quality, especially as this was included in the price. We ordered a glass of wine each that we had to pay on check out. Totally worth it though - it was a really relaxing dining experience in a beautiful room and it wasn’t too busy either. I just wish the windows were lower to you could take in the view from your seat. All i could see was a tip of a mountain and blue sky which i guess isn’t so bad.
The best thing about staying at one of the hotels is that the whole place empties out quite a bit - so you feel like you get the place to yourselves! We decided to hike up one of the lookouts to watch sunset. It is a steep short ascent but you are rewarded with absolutely beautiful 360 degree views including of Lake Lucerne.
We got up very early in the morning the next day to catch the sunrise - totally did not feel like rolling out of bed before 5am, but I also didn’t want to miss an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often. I am so glad i did get up because we had such a magical morning. The clouds that were covering the other side of the mountain had cleared too. We hiked up to the other lookout this time and we were the only ones there. It was so quiet, with only the sound of these big bees and cowbells ringing in the distance.
There is a place around the back of the hotel that you can exit on to the mountain and climb to a photo spot. It is very dangerous as the pathway is very narrow. I know i couldn’t have done it myself, however Patrick had more courage than I and did it for the picture… all while i was begging “please do not fall and die!” bUt with that beautiful morning light, it created a pretty epic picture in the end!
After our leisurely walk basking in the golden morning light, we packed up our things and got some breakfast. The breakfast wasn’t incredible - stock standard croissant, eggs, and meusli. We have had better at cheaper hotels to be honest and I was expecting a little more considering our wonderful dinner the night before.
We had one last leisurely stroll to take in the views before getting one of the early gondola’s down the other side of the the mountain. The gondola down is a new panoramic one that fits quite a lot of people but we were so lucky to have the gondola to ourselves. The trip down was honestly so amazing! The views were incredible - i wish it went a little slower! You can see some of these views in my video below. On the way down in our spacious huge gondola, we saw one going up the other way which was packed out with tourists. I felt so grateful to not be in there!
After the panoramic gondola, we had to take two other smaller gondola’s down toward Lucerne. We didn’t stop at the changeovers but they had playgrounds for kids to play on there.
I felt like we did Pilatus right - going in the afternoon and spending the night. I really don’t like crowds and being squashed in gondolas and I feel like we escaped all of that doing it the way we did. I would recommend anyone visiting Pilatus to consider staying overnight. I’m glad we did it before kids as there really wasn’t any playgrounds or entertainment for kids that i could see. But for us, It was peaceful and relaxing. I got that feeling I always sought when travelling - that awe of how big and majestic our landscapes can be. It humbles you.
I put together a little video that strings together all my little iphone clips. It’s not artfully or professionally done but thought it gives a good idea of what its like for those thinking about going.
**Just in case you were wondering - this post isn’t sponsored, we paid full price for everything so this is my honest review.