The 2132-metre Mt Pilatus Kulm is in the northernmost Swiss Alps. It gives breathtaking views over central Switzerland and has been a popular tourist destination since the early 19th century, when British and German tour groups climbed its slopes on foot or with the help of mules.
The first written reference to Mount Pilatus dates to the 13th century, but even then it was inhabited by Celtic herdsmen.
Since time immemorial, the rugged cliffs above Lucerne have been enveloped in myth and legend. In the Middle Ages, it was believed a dragon with healing powers and spirits inhabited the rocky crevices. It was said that the restless ghost of a Roman governor once found lasting peace in Lake Pilatus. For a long time it was forbidden to climb the mountain should they disturb Pontius Pilate.
When composer Richard Wagner reached the Mt Pilatus summit in 1859, he was so overwhelmed by the vista he was inspired to write The Ring of the Nibelungs. Others who have been to the top are Queen Victoria, on horseback, King Don Carlos of Spain and Antarctic explorer Lincoln Ellsworth.
Extraordinary views of the Alps and Vierwaldstattersee Lake of the Four Forest Cantons, or Lake Lucerne attract lovers of beauty and nature. These days their journey is much easier and there are several ways of ascending the mountain.
The world's steepest cogwheel railway climbs to Pilatus Kulm from Alpnachstad, easily reached by boat, train or road from Lucerne. Its climb passes meadows carpeted with Alpine flowers, crystal-clear mountain streams and wonderfully sheer cliff formations. You may spot ibex, chamois, colourful Alpine roses, arnica or gentian on your journey. Over 900 species of plants are native to the Mt Pilatus area, many of them officially protected.
There is also a cable car. Four-seat gondolas from Kriens, a suburb of Lucerne, take 30 minutes to glide up the first section, Frakmuentegg, where you transfer to an aerial cableway to the top. That takes around five minutes.
On dry summer days, the exhilarating toboggan run takes adventurers down Switzerland's longest run. The 1350-metre chrome-steel channel has numerous twists, turns and tunnels. You get to regulate the speed you travel and at the end the lift pulls you gently back to the start.
If you fancy a rewarding walk, from Alpnachstad it's a hike of five-and-a-quarter hours to the summit. You may want to take the train back down!
The most popular option is the Golden Roundtrip, which combines a trip by lake steamer to Alpnachstad, a 30-minute cogwheel train climb, a five-minute descent by cable car to Frakmuentegg and a leisurely ride in a panoramic gondola. It goes through the treetops to Kriens. Then there is a 15-minute bus ride back to the Lucerne train station.
Mt Pilatus Kulm is about an hour from Zurich
Viator.com has a five-hour Mt Pilatus Golden Roundtrip tour leaving Zurich. It includes transport, summer toboggan run and cogwheel railway. The tour operates between May and October. It costs $137 for adults and $68 for children.
Swiss Pass offers unrestricted travel on the entire rail, bus and boat network of Swiss Travel System, city trams and buses included. There is a 50 percent discount on many mountain railways and cableways and free entry to around 450 museums. They are available for four, eight, 15 or 22 days or one month.
Swiss Flexi Pass offers the same network and reductions. They come in three, four, five or six days of your choice to be used within one month.
The Swiss Card includes one-day transfers from airport or border station to destinations in Switzerland and return plus unlimited tickets at half-fare. It is valid for one month.
Emirates has flights to Zurich.
- Perth $2271
- Melbourne $2293
- Brisbane $2303
- Sydney $2311
- Adelaide $2877
- Darwin $3563
Valid for travel until March 31, 2009. Conditions apply.
Prices correct at 10.04.2008.
For further information
Mount Pilatus Golden Roundtrip from Zurich
For information on Swiss Travel Cards:
Ph: 1300 303 777
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