Many feel the call of the mountains when they move or travel to Switzerland. The majestic beauty and expansive size of the Alps are truly awe-inspiring. It was not until the 19th century, however, that courageous mountaineers started to explore the Swiss mountains. For centuries before, those peaks were thought to have a mind of their own, tumbling rocks onto villages or cursing residents with flooding.
With the onset of alpine tourism, Swiss towns and villages started constructing a plethora of gondola cable systems. The oldest cable line from Grindelwald to the Wetterhorn dates back to 1908. Until 1955, the Säntisbahn held the record as the highest cable run. Yet even at that point, the gondola to Piz Nair in the Engadine broke the 3000-meter altitude barrier.
While each of today’s 129 gondolas and 251 cable cars (gondola cars are larger and have seats, cable cars are for standing only) is unique in its own right, some of them stand out. Below are our suggestions of the top 7 gondola lines that are ideal for peak hunters and those on a family vacation in Switzerland:
Klein Matterhorn in Zermatt (3821 m)
The Matterhorn is one of the most recognized mountain peaks in Switzerland. Some even refer to it as Toblerone Mountain for its presence on the iconic Swiss chocolate bar. The Matterhorn glacier paradise gondola lines connect the village of Zermatt with the highest mountain station in Europe at a staggering 3821 meters above sea level.
Titlis in Engelberg (3238 m)
The Titlis rotair is the first revolving cable car in the world. For once you don’t have to rush in in order to admire the landscape while ascending to the summit. By slowly rotating 360 degrees, similar to a merry-go-round, the five-minute ride from the station at Stand to Mount Titlis will expose the entire Engelberg region.
While the journey to the top is a highlight already, Titlis happens to offer one of the most accessible glaciers in Switzerland. A walk through the 150-meter glacier cave is included in the ride’s ticket price. For a thrilling adventure, cross the Titlis Cliff Walk, an impressive suspended bridge. This mountain peak should definitely make the top of your list of things to do while traveling in Switzerland.
Schilthorn in the Bernese Alps (2970 m)
Ironically, one of the most famous Swiss mountain peaks is associated with a secret agent. In 1969, the Schilthorn – Piz Gloria in the Bernese Alps was a filming location for James Bond’s movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Fun fact: the revolving mountain station and the gondola car were partially financed by the film’s production.
After hovering from Mürren to the top of Schilthorn at 2970 meters, you can find several attractions inspired by Mr. Bond. There is a restaurant serving an aptly named 007 Burger, an interactive museum, and a Walk of Fame. This peak is a must for every fan of the Bond franchise – and for those who want to appreciate Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau in their full glory.
Glacier 3000 in Les Diablerets (2965 m)
The Swiss tend to be casual about some of the most noteworthy experiences. If not in Switzerland, where else can you reach the top of a glacier by simply using public transport? Here is a gondola ride that will lift you a staggering 1400 meters in altitude within just 15 minutes: The Glacier 3000. Once you leave the station at the top, you will immediately feel the crisp air coming up from the snowfield covering the glacier. (And you will thank yourself for wearing a warm jacket.)
Crossing the Tissot Cliff Walk is bucket list material. But another way of enjoying Glacier 3000 is by taking a stroll across the glacier – possible even during summer. The quickest way to get to the starting point of the hike is by way of the Alpine Coaster Ride, the highest toboggan run in the world. Given the ease of access and numerous activities, Glacier 3000 is the perfect destination for a family vacation – and for those who are still a kid at heart!
Pilatus gondola, Lucerne (2128 m)
In the Middle Ages, people thought that there were dragons with healing powers on top of Mount Pilatus. In fact, this is the only mountain in Switzerland associated with such a mythical creature. No wonder the gondola is called Dragon Ride!
Stanserhorn (1898 m)
Until recently, Mount Stanserhorn in central Switzerland was favored mostly by local Swiss tourists. But ever since the launch of the Cabrio gondola car, the Stanserhorn has garnered global fame.
Stanserhorn, the “sister” of neighboring Pilatus is reachable from Stans. After negotiating some altitude on a historic funicular, you will switch to the main attraction: the world’s first double-decker gondola car! The upper floor of the Cabrio is open-air and offers unobstructed views of Lake Lucerne and Central Switzerland. On some days, a guide will point out all the mountains by name as you smoothly glide to the top. This cable car combines innovative technology and an experience to write home about. In a way, this is what the Swiss way of living is all about.
Engelberg Farmer Cable Cars
For a lot of Swiss farmers, using a cable car is the easiest way to reach civilization from their alpine residents. The region of Engelberg is well known for its makeshift cable cars. Some of these are used by residents to commute, including children who descend to the valley every morning in order to attend school. Some cable cars have the purpose of transportation, be it for food or construction material. Most of these cable cars are automated, and their cabins may seem a bit more rustic. The best way of experiencing this Swiss way of living is by embarking on the Cable Car Safari hike by Engelberg Tourism.
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As you can tell, cable cars are an integral part of Swiss life, and a great way to visit Switzerland for tourists. Thanks to the stringent Swiss transport system, even the highest alpine peaks are not off-limits. By way of a cable car, they are accessible by each and every one.