Europe Travel

The Golden Round Trip: Mount Pilatus Photo Guide

A long, fabulous boat ride, a blood curdling funicular, one thrilling gondola ride, one relaxing gondola ride and a bus through town…this is The Golden Round Trip from Luzern to Mt. Pilatus and back via Kierns. And it is a MUST DO. When we look back on our two-week trip to Switzerland, The Golden Round Trip stands out as our favorite journey to a mountaintop. This step-by-step photo guide will help explain why.

Step 1: Getting tickets in Luzern

While we were in Luzern, we knew we wanted to do the Golden Round Trip, but, to be honest, we didn’t exactly know how. We knew it started with a boat, so we headed to the piers. As it turned out, the first ride out wasn’t until after 8 and you get your tickets at Pier 1. We get up early, so we were kind of disappointed by this (and the fact that nothing for food is open before 8 either!). While we waited around, we saw some not so beautiful aspects of Luzern. Someone was smoking weed at the pier, not a big deal, but then two people came and were fighting over the meth they were smoking. A bit scarier….

Step 2: Ride the Boat Alpnachstad

In any case, we pushed those scenes out of our heads and got out tickets. With the Swiss Travel Pass, it cost 36CHF each. These tickets got us on all legs of the trip. First, was the boat ride. Pro tip: consider upgrading to first class for the boat ride. When we got on, there was a line of people and we all tried cramming into the front of the boat. There were two or three people in first class sitting comfortably above us. We actually ended up preferring the back of the boat, so it worked out. Here are a few scenes from the boat ride.

You get off the boat and use your ticket to head to the Pilatus Funicular.

Step 3: Ride the Funicular to the Top

You board the funicular across the street from where you disembarked. If you sit in the front, like we did, you get a clear shot of what’s coming. I sat so that I could see behind the funicular, but easily turn around to see where we were headed as well. This was a good strategy, as it turned out the view from the funicular looking down was spectacular.

Make sure you sit on the inside when you get in. That side has the best views whether you’re at the top, in the middle or at the end. The funicular inches its way up the mountainside. At some point, you go through a couple tunnels and are all of a sudden presented with the most beautiful mountainscapes. You can see so many peaks from Mt. Pilatus on a clear day. Here are a few photos from the journey up.

Step 4: Explore Mt. Pilatus

When you get off the funicular, you’re immediately surrounded by deep views of the mountainside, and, on a clear day, the valley to Luzern. We didn’t have a clear day, so where we would otherwise see Luzern, we saw incredible cloud cover. This was a-okay with us, as it meant a) fewer people were there on a cloudy day and b) we got to see the beautiful landscape shrouded in clouds. We spent a couple hours up here (and it’s cold!). There are two hotels and restaurants, but we did not try them.

I strongly suggest going through the cave system that’s on one side of Pilatus. That’s what we did and we were completely alone–my favorite way to see anything! Here are pictures showing the cave system:

And then pictures from that side of the mountain:

If you look closely, you can see we caught a mountain goat chillin’ on the side of the rock!

Once we were done exploring this part (which was mostly shots of clouds), we made our way to the other side. This side is what you come to Pilatus for. It.is.stunning.

If you walk to the other side of mountain top, you can see the Pilatus structure, which is very cool looking.

You can also climb the mountain behind the Pilatus structure, as you can see the way up here:

This view offers another spectacular vista, with a place to sit and eat lunch if you want. Here are a few shots from there:

Step 5: Take the gondolas to Kierns

Once we were done taking in all we could at Mt. Pilatus, we got aboard the gondola to Kierns. This is the scary one as you can guess from this picture:

Neal has a *slight* fear of heights, so he was freaking out. We ended up going into the clouds, which I thought made it much less scary, but was worse for him! Here’s the view as you go down…

When you get to the end of this gondola, you can stop and play all sorts of games — adventure walking and bikes and other activities that are great for kids. We wanted to keep moving, so we did. The next gondola is much less scary, and much more fun! We sat by ourselves in the small gondola listening to the birds chirp and the bells on the cows. It was beautiful and relaxing, with a great view!

Those silly cows we heard:

Step 6: Take the Bus from Kierns to Luzern

So finally, the trek on the mountain has come to an end. After you get off the gondola, it’s about a 10 minute walk to the bus you pick up to get back to Luzern. There’s a well-demarcated trail to the bus, that includes walking past a very pretty church. Most of the cemeteries we saw were similar to this one – gravestones with flowerbeds where the coffin goes. Absolutely beautiful way to bury your dead!

So that’s it! We absolutely loved Pilatus and think it is worth every cent.

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