Legend has it that in the Middle Ages, dragons existed among men and lived in the crevices and cracks on Mt. Pilatus.
They were believed to have healing powers and one story goes that in the summer of 1421, a massive dragon flew to Pilatus, but he crashed and fell on to the ground near the farmer Stempflin. The dragon gave the farmer such a shock that he fainted. When he came to, he found a lump of clotted blood and the Dragon Stone. The Dragon Stone is said to have healing powers, and can still be found at the Natur-Museum in Lucerne.
Read the other legends here.
We had friends visiting us from Luxembourg on the weekend of November 18 and we decided to bring them to Pilatus.
Going up to Pilatus
You can choose between 2 ways to go up to Pilatus; you may take the steepest cogwheel railway in the world from the Alpnachstad station in Alpnach or the gondola and aerial cableway from the Kriens station in Lucerne. With the latter, you take the gondola up to Fräkmüntegg station. Each gondola fits 4 persons. Then from the Fräkmüntegg station, you take the aerial cableway, which fits around 50 persons.
We took the gondola and aerial cableway as the Kriens station is nearer us. We visited on November 18, which coincided with the yearly Christkindlimärt (Christmas Market). Touted as the highest Christmas Market in Europe, it has over 40 stands, a festive atmosphere with musicians playing Christmas songs and a wonderful view. The tickets, which are usually CHF 72 each, were discounted to CHF 54 each. And because of this, the lines were snaking as a lot of people planned to go up to Pilatus.
The gondola ride lasts around 18 minutes. Becca got a bit scared during the gondola ride. We asked her to look for deer and foxes among the trees to distract her.
The aerial cable car took less time. It took us only 3 minutes to get to Pilatus Kulm from Fräkmüntegg station. We hurried into the aerial cable car to get a front seat to enjoy the view. The ride felt like one of those theme park rides where you slowly chug up then you suddenly get dropped. But this one, thankfully, didn’t have that fast drop. The one where you feel your insides suddenly suspend in the air while the rest of your body goes down.
Thick clouds covered Lucerne, but once we got higher, the skies cleared up and revealed the stunning scenery. It had snowed the previous days and a blanket of white covered the land and trees. It took my breath away. Sadly the clouds covered the lake, obstructing it from view.
Once we arrived on Pilatus Kulm, Becca’s eyes shone with delight as she beheld the snow! She started running around and stomping on the snow. Such is a child! So much joy at the little things.
What to do on Pilatus
Esel and Tomlishorn are two lookout points which offer spectacular views. Tomlishorn is the highest point on Pilatus, at 2,129 meters above sea level. It is a 40-minute walk away from Pilatus Kulm. Esel is beside the Bellevue Hotel on Pilatus Kulm. Up there, you’re treated with a 360° panoramic view and on a clear day, you’ll be able to see Lake Lucerne.
We decided not to attempt the climb to Esel as the steps were icy and dangerous with Becca in tow. Of course, Tomlishorn was out of the question.
We were able to walk inside the Dragon Trail, which is believed to be home to the dragons of Pilatus. Inside, we had beautiful views of the mountains. The aerial cableway could also be seen.
Becca thoroughly enjoyed walking around Dragon Trail. She always had her arms up in the air, asking us to pick her up, so she could also take in the views.
Because of the Christmas market, Santa Claus (Samichlaus in Swiss) and Knecht Ruprecht, Samichlaus’ helper, were present. They offered Becca peanuts and chocolate. Of course, Becca immediately ate the chocolate!
We also wandered around the Christmas Market, looking at the wares. I was slightly disappointed to see only a few stalls selling Christmas-related items. I always enjoyed looking at Christmas decorations and would usually buy a couple. Most of the stalls were manned by artisans and had their handicrafts for sale. Still, we were able to buy some delicious Swiss cheese and sampled Swiss cookies.
For you thrill seekers, you may go paragliding on Pilatus, winter or summer time! If you’re not a trained paraglider, you may do tandem jumps! Search for a reputable company who offers this, or check this one out, as recommended on the Pilatus website.
Where to eat
We had lunch at the self-service restaurant inside Hotel Bellevue. As expected, it was expensive but delicious. They offered some traditional Swiss meals like raclette, but had other items on the menu too, like chicken curry and rice (I suppose to cater to the Asian tourists!)
Hotel Pilatus also has a restaurant, and from November to March offers fondue made from their own fondue mix of cheese from Chretzenalp. A café/bar right outside the station offers quick sandwiches, pastries, coffee and other drinks.
There were also some food stands because of the Christmas market. You can buy Flammkuchen, grilled cheese (not a sandwich, just cheese!) and of course sausages.
Where to stay
If you wish to stay overnight, there are two hotels available, Hotel Bellevue hotel and Hotel Pilatus. Be sure to check the prices beforehand as they are not cheap!
Pilu, the dragon
And we also met Pilu, the Pilatus mascot! Becca showed no fear! She allowed me to take her picture with the dragon and followed after him for a bit.
A wonderful experience with breathtaking views
We probably stayed around 5 hours on Pilatus, with a lot of time spent admiring the view. A lone paraglider flitted around, and we watched him take his dips and dives.
All in all, we had a wonderful experience, and I would love to go back in the summer as well. They have a playground on the Fräkmüntegg stop, which Becca will surely enjoy as well.
And, we still haven’t seen a dragon!
For more information on the activities on Pilatus, visit their website at https://www.pilatus.ch/en.