Above Lucerne
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Mount Pilatus rises 2132m. above the lake. (©_Switzerland Tourism)
The giant mountain looming above Luzern to the southwest is Mount Pilatus (2132m), an odd name supposedly deriving from the myth that the corpse of Pontius Pilate was flung into a small lake on the mountain, his spirit for ever after haunting the summit and bound to bring tempest and damnation down onto Luzern if disturbed. More prosaically, the name is probably derived from the Latin word pileatus, meaning “capped” (ie with clouds). There are two means of transport to the top, making it easy to do a half- or full-day round trip from Luzern – simpler than in 1868, when Queen Victoria made the excursion on muleback.

Boats and local trains run from Luzern to Alpnachstad, from where the steepest rack railway in the world runs at a gradient touching 48 percent directly to the top of the mountain – the journey up is half-an-hour, while the journey down takes a careful forty minutes. The second route up the mountain starts at Kriens (connected to Luzern’s city centre by bus #1); from here a cable-car rises to Fräkmüntegg, itself connected to the summit by gondola. The Kriens–Fräkmüntegg–Pilatus route runs year-round, while the Alpnachstad–Pilatus railway is summer only (closed Dec to mid-May). Eurailers get a discount of 35 percent, Swiss Pass holders get a quarter off, while InterRailers pay full whack. Pilatus Railways have a weather line giving forecasts for the summit (041/329 11 29, www.pilatus.com).

On the top are a couple of hotels, but if you’re looking for a mountain-top night, you’d do better on the Rigi instead. The walk to the highest point of the mountain, the Tomlishorn, takes less than thirty minutes from the top station, with breathtakingly expansive views out over the lake the whole way along the clifftop path. It’s also easy to walk back to Luzern from Fräkmüntegg (2hr 30min), or to make your way down from the summit to Alpnachstad or Hergiswil (3hr) or Kriens (3hr 30min).

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