Mt. Rigi (www.rigi.ch)
From the pier next to Lucerne train station we took the boat to Vitznau and followed the signs to the Cog Rail in Vitznau to Rigi Kulm. The boat ride was around 1 hr. and the cog rail around 25-30 mins.
- The boat from Lucerne leaves every 1 hr., so make sure you check the schedule;
- Lines will start forming 10-15 mins before the scheduled time;
- It is my understanding that boat arrival time in Vitznau and cog departure from Vitznau are synched;
- When on the cog going up, sit on the left if possible since the views will be on that side;
- When you reach Rigi Kulm and get out of the train, there is a public toilet, small café, and few picnic tables;
- From Rigi Kulm you are few minutes up hike to the summit.
To return from Rigi to Lucerne, you can take cog train from Rigi Kulm back to Vitznau (boat to Lucerne) or Arth-Goldau (train to Lucerne) or you can do what we did – hike down for around 1 hr. (very easy and scenic hike) from Rigi Kulm to Rigi Kaltbad and take a gondola from Rigi Kaltbad to Weggis and from Weggis take the boat again to Lucerne.
- When taking the cog back from Rigi Kulm or Rigi Kaltbad, make sure you sit on the correct train. The ‘red’ train I think goes to Vitznau and blue to Arth-Goldau. I could be wrong, so make sure you check the color allocation.
- The entire cog experience – going up and down is good. Do not worry if you miss the views when on the cog because of the crowd. You will have better views, time, and space when on the top.
- You will have to walk a little from Weggis gondola station to the boat pier. It should be a nice walk around the town of Weggis but if you are already tired you are going to dread the walk!
Mountains on one side and Lake on another, the views from Rigi are great and give a different perspective to Swiss beauty. Despite of the crowd, the place is so peaceful that you could hear the cow bells from the distance. Although, there is one café and a souvenir shop in Rigi Kulm you may want to pack a picnic breakfast/lunch. Since the area on the summit is spread out a little, you should find ample to space to yourself despite of the crowd.
- Flies and the smell and sight of cow dung is to be found when on Rigi, which we think adds to the experience. Unfortunately, there are few tourist places in Switzerland where you could experience this.
Compared to Pilatus and Titlis, Rigi is not that high so expect pleasant weather and more greenish scenery. Compared to Pilatus, facilities (toilets, indoor viewing room, kids play area, excursions, etc.) however are none or not as modern which was one of many reasons we decided to visit Rigi – to get some rugged experience. Overall, we highly recommend Rigi. Also, compared to Pilatus we found Rigi less kid friendly especially if you have a toddler and stroller in tow.
Another reason we decided to visit Rigi the first day we found clear weather was that the entire trip is covered if you have a Swiss pass – so no extra cost. We strongly recommend the boat trip at least one way to or from Rigi. This experience will take care of ‘cruise Lake Lucerne’ from your bucket list!
Whether you opt for Rigi or Pilatus, mixing up your mode of transportation is highly recommended. For Rigi, map at http://www.rigi.ch/img/access_map_en.gif may be of help to you for planning your trip.
Mt. Pilatus (www.pilatus.ch)
For various reasons we gave priority to Rigi and Titlis during our stay in Lucerne, but since our trip to Titlis did not pan out the way we wanted to, we opted to visit Mt. Pilatus on our last day in Lucerne. We are now glad we made the trip.
Since we have already had our share of cruise on Lake Lucerne, we decided to take the bus from Lucerne to Kriens and then the Gondola ride up to Pilatus. Compared to the Gondola ride for Rigi (Rigi Kaltbad to Weggis) we found this Gondola ride better because the size and frequency of the Gondola allows you to have the Gondola to yourself for most of the time (till Frakmuntegg) and the ride is somewhat longer in comparison.
- You will need to change Gondola (to a bigger one) from Frakmuntegg to reach the summit at Pilatus;
- On your way to Pilatus you will stop at Krienseregg and change at Frakmuntegg;
- Frakmuntegg has a café and some activities for kids and adults;
- We did see a play area for kids not sure if it was Frakmuntegg or Krienseregg;
- We did not spend much time at Frakmuntegg or Krienseregg but looked interesting, surely next time.
While on the summit of Pilatus, the views are really awesome. Slightly different from what you see from Rigi. There is a big guest reception area (not sure what else to call this area) with big glasses so if you find it cold outside you can enjoy the view from the inside. There is a small café, a souvenir shop, and toilets inside as well. The area outside is like a big terrace with various levels and enough sitting area even for a crowded day. It is a good place to spread your picnic or sun bath. When you are outside you will not miss Hotel Pilatus-Kulm and their restaurant with outdoor seating. We did not eat there so cannot comment on the food.
While on the summit, you will find enough trails for all levels (e.g. very easy, easy, moderate). Compared to Titlis and Rigi I found Pilatus a better place if you have kids in tow with you. The entire area (indoor and outdoor) on the summit in my opinion was made with the typical tourist in mind. All these could be the reason Pilatus is rated the # 1 thing to do in the Lucerne area on Trip Advisor.
On our way back we took the cog rail down from Pilatus to Alpnachstad and then the train back to Lucerne from Alpnachstad. The cog experience at Pilatus was similar to the cog experience at Rigi.
Unlike Rigi, the trip to Pilatus is not completely free if you have Swiss Pass. Although you do get a discount (half price I think) if you have a Swiss. I think it is around 38 CF per person if you have a Swiss Pass. With a roundtrip ticket, you can take the Gondola one way and the cog another way or use the same mode – it’s all covered in the price.
Like Rigi, you can opt for a boat ride as part of your Pilatus trip but you will end up spending double the time to reach Pilatus because the boat ride is longer – around 90 mins. To better understand what I am saying check this image out at …webtuning-cdn.ch/webautor-data/75/Gold_Rund… which will help you plan mode of transportations for your trip.
- You may want to research on this because I am not sure – hike down from Pilatus Kulm to Frakmungtegg and then catch the gondola to reach Kriens. This may be an easy hike and should be interesting. I cannot say for sure but worth checking.
Mt. Titlis (www.titlis.ch)
While planning activities around Lucerne, were convinced that our top priority should be Mt. Rigi. The confusion was around whether to do Titlis or Pilatus next? We opted for Titlis for only one reason – the food truck serving Indian food right outside the Gondola depot in Engelberg where your ascend to Titlis begins.
We departing Lucerne we checked the weather and were expecting cloud and some rain but we regardless went ahead with the trip. The train ride to Engelberg was good and the town of Engelberg was great. One has to walk few mins to get to the Titlis gondola depot. As soon as you reach the depot, you will find an Indian truck serving Indian tea and snacks. With nice views of Engelberg and the small river (or was it a just a creek?) around you, we munched on some Indian food and masala tea. I felt Engelberg looked more beautiful in the cloudy and wet weather. Coming from Texas, an opportunity like this was not worth missing!
Now that we had come this far, we thought of going ahead with our trip to Titlis. If you have Swiss pass it is around 40 CH per person for the round trip. You take multiple Gondolas some small (to yourself) and some large (revolving rotair) to reach the top.
By Swiss standard, we found Titlis to be crowded and slightly dirty compared to other places we have been. When on top, we did have a partial view at times through the clouds and I must say the views were good but not dramatically different from say – Jungfrau. Titlis may be higher than Pilatus and Rigi but not necessarily better from an overall experience point of view. In my opinion, if you will be doing or have already done Jungfrau you can skip Titlis and do Pilatus or Rigi.
A word of caution though, we have seen our share of snow and ski lifts living in the states so maybe we did not find Titlis as exciting but one thing I can say with some level of confidence that if you are on a time budget and have done either Titlis or Jungfrau on a clear day – you do not need to do the other. Of course Jungfrau has a better brand compared to Titlis but then so is the price. In our opinion instead of doing both Jungfrau and Titlis, make time for Rigi and/or Pilatus.
While getting back from the summit of Titlis, we thought of checking out the lake at Trubsee but the weather was now very cloudy so we returned back. You may want to check this place out on your trip if time permits. This map at titlis.ch/upload/…20Sommer.pdf should help you understand what I am saying.
- In August, you can expect to get your hands on snow when on Titlis and Jungfrau but not in Rigi and Pilatus.
- Check each mountain’s weather before you start your trip. A trip on a clear day will be priceless!