It’s no secret that I love the Alpine countries; their picturesque beauty and the stunning Alps make them an ideal vacation destination. Although I haven’t visited every city in these countries, there are a few places that fondly bring me back. The charming village of Engelberg, Switzerland is one of those locations.
Engelberg, once a tranquil monastery village, is surrounded by the towering and resplendent Titlis mountain, a glacier, and the Hahnen mountain, making it a vacationer’s dream, especially if you do a lot of hiking as we do. Engelberg is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Central Switzerland, and it’s located 25 km south of Lake Lucerne in a wide mountain valley. The panoramic view is awe-inspiring and photographic perfect. It just makes you want to yodel!
Engleberg has a mere 4,300 inhabitants, yet they skillfully handle the onrush of tour buses, back-packers, and globetrotters year around. They get approximately 800,000 overnight stays each year, with many of them being returning travelers from years before, just like us.
We love to travel in the autumn when there are fewer holiday travelers, the weather is cooler and the fall colors are spectacular. There are oodles of hotels, bed & breakfasts, hostels, and campsites to choose from in Engelberg, or you may even choose to stay overnight at the Monastery. We stayed at the Hotel Europa and loved the old charm and enchanting little balconies. During our downtimes, we would take advantage of the magnificent scenic views of the glacier from our room while church bells chimed in the distance. It made the moment so entrancing.
This bustling Alpine village offers a wide range of activities reflective of the time of year. They’re ideal for families, novices, keen amateurs, and professionals alike, and they’ll make your trip a memorable experience. Excursions include visiting the Cheese Factory in the monastery, a guided tour of the monastery itself, taking a trip on the Funicular up to the Titlis Suspension Bridge, or the train into Lucerne. The views are stunning.
One of the first things we did was take a trip on the funicular. The original funicular was built in 1912/13, and its purpose was to bring skiers from Engelberg to Gerschnialp. It’s still operating and taking travelers to the Gerschnialp station where they can venture off on other excursions. This station is the starting point of the 3.5-kilometer-long tobogganing run and also home to one of three skiers beginner areas in Engelberg-Titlis. The funicular operates 365 days a year.
There are plenty of cable cars/funiculars that service several mountains surrounding the village. Mt. Titlis is the main mountain with a height of over 10’000 feet. The funicular to Gerschnialp is part of the cable car system at Mt. Titlis, where you’ll dangle high in the air, taking in all the vastness, beauty, and serenity of the area.
If you’re not afraid of heights and have nerves as strong as the steel, then take the funicular up to the Titlis Cliff Walk. The Titlis Cliff Walk is a pedestrian suspension bridge along the cliff of Mount Titlis about five kilometers from Engelberg. It’s believed to be the highest elevation suspension bridge in Europe. It’s just one meter wide, 100 meters long, and hovers 500 heart-thumping meters above the abyss below. It offers a breath-stopping, all-encompassing view.
Hop onto the Iceflyer chairlift and get a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the impressive glacier below. Get swept over a frosty field where some crevices are as deep as twenty meters – that’s 65 feet.
Our next stop was the Abbey (Kloster Engelberg). The Engelberg Abby is a Benedictine Monastery which was founded in 1120; it had a profound influence on the area’s eventful history. Today, it’s still inhabited by approximately thirty monks. The abbey has significantly contributed to the development of this vacation destination and is the focal point of the town. The monastery is home to Switzerland’s largest church organ, the impressive Collegiate Library, the Valley Museum, a show dairy, and a manor house.
The abbey is also famous for the large selection of regional cheese and milk products they make. You can watch a skilled cheese maker work his craft daily between 11 am and 4 pm.
You can enjoy one of many indigenous cheese menus or a dessert in the Bistro while taking in the whole experience. You can also purchase their cheese’s in the gift shop along with souvenirs and homemade treats made by farmers’ wives within the region. You’ll be mesmerized by the aroma and flavors and be tempted to buy lots.
After gorging on the variety of delicious cheese flavors, it was time to walk off those delicious calories. With more than 500 km of hiking trails in the Engelberg area, you’re sure to find one to fit everyone’s fitness level. You can pick up a Hiking Map at the tourist center and decide where and how long you want to walk.
You’ll want to dress in layers so bring some warm clothing and take a backpack with supplies for the day. You also wouldn’t want to forget your camera; the panoramic views are spectacular!
If you’re interested in the flowers, there are two Alpine Flower Trails. The Gerschnialp Alpine Flower Trail and the Trübsee Alpine Flower Trail. Both are worth the trek, but the Trübsee Alpine flower trail takes you on a leisurely stroll along the lake from Trübsee middle station to Obertrübsee.
There are also lots of biking paths from easy touring to extremely challenging. The meter-wide Jochpass-Engstlen bike route is relatively easy to navigate. But if you want to get your muscles screaming, there are several technical and challenging biking trails. Or you can rent a Scooter Bike and take them out for a spin; they’re great touring bikes.
The best part of being on a hiking or bike trail is the scenery, the charming homes and guesthouses, and the people you meet along the way. We met people from all over the world and connected with a couple from Australia. It made the trip more enjoyable.
If you’re looking for something quiet and relaxing to do, then you can rent a boat and drift along the serene waters of Lake Lucerne. Each boat has space for four people, and life jackets are provided. I loved viewing the surrounding from the water; you get a different perspective and appreciate its beauty even more. The boats are readily available and a donation of CHF 10 per hour goes towards their upkeep. You simply place your donation in the box on the jetty, and you’re good to go.
There are direction signs along all the paths so you won’t get lost and you’ll know how long it will be before you reach your destination. We found these invaluable plus they pointed us in the right direction. But if you get lost, there is always another hiker willing to help. Along the paths, we found lots of charming guesthouses and rest stops that were sprinkled with friendly travelers wanting to share their stories and experiences.
The scenery is captivating. You’ll feel energized and invigorated from breathing in the fresh mountain air and the fragrant alpine flowers. What a view to wake up to every morning.
Once back in Engelberg, we toured the town and enjoyed the variety of shops, cafes, and the charming Swiss atmosphere. The Swiss are famous for their Swiss Army knives, decadent chocolate, tasty cheese, watches, and cuckoo clocks. We bought several of these items, but my favorite is the gorgeous cuckoo clock. I adore my cuckoo clock with the Edelweiss melody; it always spurs fond memories of this trip.
Dorfstrasse is the central hub of the town, and you can easily find everything you need here from lunch to souvenirs to impressive views. Our first stop was to check out the chocolate. No one can resist chocolate, especially Swiss chocolate.
Switzerland’s chocolates have a global reputation for delivering high-quality flavors. They have the highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption worldwide, and they produce over a staggering 150,000 tons of chocolate per year. About 54% of the chocolate is consumed by the Swiss themselves; I think I ate the other 46% while I was there. You can choose from over 300 different varieties or create your own personal chocolate package. It was tough to resist, so I didn’t. It’s no surprise that each year they sell well over a billion dollars in chocolate alone.
Located in the heart of the village, is another must-see, the Talmuseum or Folk Museum of Engelberg. This historic building is home to many exhibits including a farmhouse built in 1786/87. The front of the house bears several coats of arms representing the local families that have lived in the valley for centuries.
Inside the museum visitors can see several rooms furnished in the style and manner of the 18th century, so you can get a good idea of how the people lived in and around Engelberg back then. The prayer corners and devotional pictures are evidence of the Catholic faith’s influence on the local valley culture. They also house simple kitchen tools, leaf-filled mattresses, and wooden shoes that tell a story of work-filled days and modest times.
After exploring Engelberg for several days, we took the train, called the Zentralbahn, into Lucerne. It’s a scenic 45 minutes ride filled with breathtaking views. The seats are comfy and roomy, and it has the most adorable whistle. It stops at every little village along the way, so you get to meet and hang out with the locals.
My favorite part of this vacation was watching the cows come home. It’s around this time of year that the cows make their way down the mountains having spent the Summer months up in the Alpine pastures.
The villagers along with their whole family get ready to greet the cows by dressing in traditional costumes and preparing a celebration in the village. The cowbells can be heard from afar and what a sight it is to see as the cow’s descent down from the mountains all adorned with bright and colorful fresh flowers.
There are so many things to do and see in Engelberg and the surrounding area that I could go on and on. It’s one of my favorite places in Switzerland, and I always see and learn something new each time. Engelberg is a wonderful holiday destination. It offers all the attractions you’d want in a vacation.