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. Engelberg is one of those locations. It’s a charming resort village and municipality in the canton of Obwalden in beautiful Switzerland.
This once sleepy little monastery village has become a vacationers dream spot. Engelberg is surrounded by the towering and resplendent Titlis mountain with its glacier and the Hahnen mountain. Engelberg is the largest holiday and leisure destination in Central Switzerland and is located 25 km south of Lake Lucerne in a wide mountain valley. The panoramic view is awe inspiring and photo perfect. It just makes you want to yodel!
Engleberg has a mere 4,300 inhabitants, yet they skillfully handle the onrush of tour buses, backpackers, 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, and the fall colors are spectacular. There are oodles of hotels, bed & breakfasts, hostels, and campsites to choose from, or you can even stay overnight at the Monastery. We stayed at the Hotel Europe and loved the old charm and cute little balconies with magnificent views of the glacier.
Engelberg is a bustling Alpine village that offers a wide range of vacation activities, reflective of the season, which are ideal for families, novices, keen amateurs and professionals alike. They’ll make your trip an unforgettable experience. There are lots of excursions from visiting the Cheese Factory in the monastery, a guided tour of the monastery itself, take the Funicular up to the Titlis Suspension Bridge, or the train into Lucerne.
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. Today the old funicular is still operating taking travelers to the Gerschnialp station where they have several more options. This is the starting point of the 3.5 kilometer long tobogganing run and also home to one of three skiers beginners areas in Engelberg-Titlis. The funicular operates 365 days a year.
In Engelberg itself, there are plenty of cable cars/funiculars that serve several mountains surrounding the village. The main mountain being Mt. Titlis with a height of over 10’000 feet. The funicular to Gerschnialp is part of the cable car system at Mt. Titlis. High in the air, you’re in awe at 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.
Our next stop was the Abbey (Kloster Engelberg). Engelberg has a long, eventful history influenced by the Benedictine Monastery, Engelberg Abbey. The Engelberg monastery was founded in 1120 and is 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 the calories. The Engelberg area has over 500 km of hiking trails 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 runs from Gerschnialp station to Untertrübsee, while the Trübsee Alpine flower trail takes you on a leisurely stroll along the lake from Trübsee middle station to Obertrübsee. Both are worth the trek.
There’s 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 we’re sprinkled with friendly travelers wanting to share their story 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.
Back in Engelberg, we got to tour around the town and enjoy the shops, cafes, and Swiss atmosphere. The Swiss are famous for their Swiss Army knives, decadent chocolate, tasty cheese, watches, and cuckoo clocks.
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 earned an international reputation for high quality with many famous international brands. 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.
Another place to see is the Talmuseum or Folk Museum of Engelberg which is located in the heart of the village. 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 evident of the Catholic faith 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 a day or two of exploring Engelberg, we took the Zentralbahn into Lucerne. It takes about 45 minutes but the time flew quickly because the scenery enraptured us. 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. You can hear the cows bells ringing from afar as the herd makes the descent adorned with beautiful 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. If you’re looking for a great European holiday destination, then I recommended Engelberg. It offers all the attractions you’d want in a vacation.