When visiting the amazingly beautiful city of Lucerne one of the absolute must do’s is the “Golden Round Trip”. This unforgettable experience involves a trip across the lake, the worlds steepest cogwheel railway and two amazing cable car rides. Despite the weather on the day of my trip I decided to take the plunge and go for it…I was rewarded with one of the most special experiences travel has ever given me!
So, what is the “Golden Round Trip”
The Golden Round Trip is an awesome way in which to travel up Mt. Pilatus, which sits only a few miles from the city of Lucerne, and experience all the varied and amazing methods of transport there is on offer.
The trip starts out in Lucerne where you take a steamer boat out across the lake towards Alpnachstad. Visiting Lucerne without taking a boat on the lake would be a crime so this is a great way to do that whilst going on a real journey!
Secondly you take the worlds steepest cogwheel train all the way up the side of the mountains, past meadows and sheer rock faces this is a 40+ minute ride you will remember for a long time!
After exploring the summit at your leisure its time to come back down. Firstly you take the huge panoramic gondolas down to Fräkmüntegg, the views from here are truly specular if not a little daunting too!
After that you hop into another smaller cable car which gives you a 45 minute ride through the picturesque valleys of the mountainsides and down towards the town of Kriens.
Here you take the 15 minute bus ride back to Lucerne!
My awesome trip
Ferry across Lake Lucerne
I literally ran from the train station and almost had to jump from the platform onto the boat! I was the last one on and there were not many seats left…but who wants to sit down when you can get up and out on the deck! In the journey across the lake we had all four seasons in one, from bright sunshine to overcast fog and then on to warm showers mixed with hail storms!
I spent most of my time ducking in and out between showers as the landscape changed and became mesmerisingly mountainous. As we rounded the corner down the meandering leg of the lake Mt. Pilatus came into view. The top so high it was covered it clouds, I couldn’t wait to start the upwards journey!
My 75 minute cruise across this spectacular lake had been a beautiful, wild adventure. I stepped off the ferry already looking weathered and damp, but I had so much more fun than sitting inside eating chips and mayo!
The worlds steepest cogwheel Train
From the station in Alpnachstad I headed over to the Pilatus Bahn which would take me to the top of the “Dragon Mountain”. The railway takes a slow and steady route up the side of the mountain at angles of up to 48 degrees! The mist made most of the meandering journey a mysterious adventure only as the clouds parted from time to time could you see the wonderful rock faces, wild flower filled meadows and crashing waterfalls.
The train system itself is quite old and as the angle began to become steeper and steeper my relaxed attitude became one which questioned the safety mechanism on a train of this age clinging to a mountain side! Why didn’t I bring my harness, rope and climbing shoes instead!!
One of the cool things about the trains are the fact that the windows open pretty much fully, this means that you can really get a good look at that amazing scenery and not let a pane of glass ruin your view.
Pilatus Kulm/ Summit
As we approached the summit of the mountain, 7000ft above sea level, the weather closed in and a harsh and stinging hail began. The temperature had plummeted from from a humid 25c to a chilly 2c! However I wanted to make the most of the time I had up here so headed on out into the tundra to explore!
Pilatus has several trails, tracks and also summits. Although the weather was pretty awful and the views clouded in mist I ventured on and if anything this made the experience feel much more wild and like a proper adventure. The mountain was quiet and I was alone walking the thin tracks, all I could hear was my feet crunching in the snow and the wind howling through the mountains.
Finally as I was traversing the dragon path the clouds parted, only for a couple of minutes but enough time to get a glimpse of that amazing view. It was really quite disorienting as I could see the blue sky through the valley below, almost as if the world had been flipped upside down. I summited at the main peaks of Esel and the highest of Tomlishorn after an hour long hike from the visitors centre.
Part of me was disappointed by my visit to the summit of Mt. Pilatus if I am honest, I came up here for breath taking views over the lake and beyond, but I mostly got mist and cloud! But, the views I did get when they finally came were still amazing and after hiking around the trails felt well deserved. But what I realised I had up here was a proper adventure in the mountains!
After warming back up and eating some over priced food in the self service restaurant I decided to head down. The cable cars stop at around 5:45 and given that I wanted to spend sometime at the first stop I set of at around 4.40 waiting to see if the clouds would clear any more.
The first “Gondola” was huge, there were probably 20 people in here and it could have easily fit more in. The whole capsule was pretty much glass floor to ceiling! Not long after we had set off going we dropped below the lingering cloud on the summit and were treated to the view we had all desperately been seeking out. The whole car went from casual chatter to complete silence as we took in the magical alpine view.
After the first and larger cable car I found myself at Fräkmüntegg, which is still a good 4,650ft above sea level (higher than the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain at 4,409 ft…we have walked up that too!)
I had originally intended to go on the summer toboggan run but due to the weather it was closed, no matter though because the valley that I found myself stood in was simply stunning! I spent way longer here than I had intended just wandering around for different angles on this magnificent landscape.
The next mode of transport was some tiny 4 seater cable cars. Initially I looked at them in comparison to the larger one I had just got off and thought there were a bit of a step down! Well, I was proven wrong! Firstly I got one all to myself which meant I could mess around with my cameras, open the windows, switch seats and basically bounce around inside it as much as I wanted to get the best view!
And what a view! From thick forests to rolling meadows, rock faces and streams to the typically swiss cow bells ringing below me. It was like my Swiss dream come true all in one! I was just in total awe of my surroundings, like a kid in a sweet shop, I really did love this little cable car that was my home for 40 wonderful minutes!
Once disembarking from the cable car I felt a little sad that this journey was over, if I had the money and it was earlier I would have been tempted to buy another cable car ticket and have another ride! But I found myself in the sleepy town of Kriens 2 miles from Lucerne. The bus stop is a little walk (but well sign posted) from the cable cars but was pleasant in the warm atmosphere I had forgotten about being up in the mountains!
Sure it was expensive but what an experience, I am so glad I just forgot the weather and went for it. It was what I came to Lucerne to do and I loved every second of it! It has gone straight up there into my top travel experiences, I just wish I could have shared it with Shorty (Paul)…but I did face time him from 4,650ft!
Prices/ Buying tickets
Now here’s the deal breaker, it not cheap. Apart from my accommodation this was the single biggest outlay on my trip, not even my flights were this expensive. But in my opinion it was well worth it. Most of the expense I found in Switzerland was with the food, many of the “attractions” were free or cheap and in Lucerne I spent hardly anything apart from this. I think making sacrifices in other areas, for example having a sandwich instead of a sit down meal, were worth it!
Here it is:
Golden Round Trip – Second Class: 106.00 Swiss Franc (£75.00)
Golden Round Trip – First Class: 120.00 Swiss Franc (£82.00)
I opted for second class as that only accounts for the boat and I wanted to spend as much time as I could out on deck instead of inside the lounges.
There is also a cheaper option:
The Silver Round trip: This version takes the train to Alpnachstad instead of the boat.
Silver Round Trip – Second Class: 83.20 Swiss Franc (£56.46)
Silver Round Trip – First Class: 88.80 Swiss Franc (£60.27)
Tickets can be pre-booked online but they can also be booked on the day from the train station or Ferry stations. I bought my ticket literally 5 minutes before the boat set off. But be aware that the cable cars stop around 5:30pm, you want to give yourselves time to stop off too at the cable stations.