Travel photography

Hiking in the Swiss Alps

Switzerland is stunning. A paradise on earth in every way to nature- and outdoorlovers. And I’m not talking about man-made semi-nature like we are very familar with in my home country, The Netherlands. No, Switzerland is a 3-D country in every sense of the word.

Video afspelen

DaY 1: Pilatus

To many of my fellow countrymen- and women, it’s a typical experience. The first view on the mighty mountainpeaks of the Alps that appear on the horizon while driving South. Us, flatland Dutchies, simply aren’t used to these kind of views and will get a bit excited every time we will see them. Because I was traveling by plane to Zurich instead of by car, that special feeling took me by surprise on the train journey to Lucerne; To be precise when looking through the train window at a still snow capped mountainface. The sunlight was beautifuly reflected by the snow.  

My destination was the mighty mount Pilatus. Overlooking Lake Lucerne, it’s summit at 2137 MAMSL is a breathtaking place in Central Switzerland. The gondola station is just a few busstops and a small walk from Lucerne’s city centre where I got off the train. To my surprise it was quite crowded with mostly Chinese tourists, despite it  wasn’t peak season yet.  When the gondola started to rise above the treepeaks, Lake Lucerne revealed itself in it’s full morning glory. At Fräckmuntegg station, the gondola stopped and all passengers that where planning their journey to the summit of Pilatus where asked to transfer to a different, bigger gondola, named “the Dragonride”. I continued my ride in a nearly vertical ascent.

I booked a room on the top of the mountain at the Pilatus Kulm hotel. I remembered from my last visit, in December 2017 that most of the crowds should be gone after the last descent of the gondola, later in the afternoon. Because it was still a bit early, I left my luggage at the hotel’s reception desk and changed to my hiking boots. I decided that exploring the summit for a good sunset location might be wise idea. There are several hiking trails across the summit of Pilatus, each with it’s level of difficulty. Arguably the  most special one would be the Dragonpath; a tunnel in the northface of the mountain that offers a number of see-throughs that offer impressive views over the city of Lucerne and the surrounding area. I was particularly curious to hike to the Tomlishorn. This was a fairly easy to reach mountain top, located at a 45 minute walk, roughly towards the West from Pilatus. Potentially a great location for sunset, I figured. On my way to the Tomlishorn, I was welcomed by a couple of curious Alpine choughs. These crow-like birds are known to be very approachble and generally fearless to humans. After reaching Tomlishorn’s summit, the sunset wasn’t exactly as good as I hoped it to be. The pale sun was swallowed by the grey sky. Nevertheless, with a great view like that, it still was a great place to be. Al of a sudden a silhouet of what seemed to be an animal appeared on a distant mountain ridge. I’m pretty sure it was an Ibex! 

After an expected short night, I was ready to capture the next day’s sunrise from the from the other side of the mountain. The rock whereon a panoramic terrace was located offered a magnificent view over the entire Lake Lucerne. Truly amazing. I decided this was exactly where I wanted to hang out for a while so I positioned my tripod in order to attempt a timelapse. As sunrays penetrated through the breaking clouds and  hit the surface of Lake Lucerne, the colour of the water suddenly turned bright golden. Bullseye!

Sunrise shots from Mt. Pilatus
The Klimsen chapel overlooking Lucerne
The King of Mt. Pilatus
View on the Matthorn (with cross) en Titlis (background) from the panorama terrace

Day 2 en 3: Davos Klosters

After having enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Pilatus Kulm Hotel, I thought it was a good idea  to head back down.  With mountain city Davos, located in the canton of Graubünden to be my next destination, travelling would take up most of today’s time. Meanwhile, Summer appeared to have arrived in downtown Lucerne. The sunlight was bouncing of the crystal clear water of Lake Lucerne and most people were wearing shorts. I almost felt a bit sad to be leaving this lovely place. 

It’s not exactly too bad to travel by train when you’re in Switzerland.   A comprohensive network of railways and stations offer a serious alternative next to traveling by car. Most trains are equiped with free WIFI connections and electric sockets, an attractive asset to commuters. The views though. Better then Netflix, Swiss trains offer the best window views. During my stay, I enjoyed the ease of using the Swiss Travel Pass. This is a multi-day trainticket, that applies to every ‘basic’ train connections as well as public buses. All timetables are easy to find in the SBB app. If you’re planning to travel through Switzerland, You’d want to consider the Swiss travel pass!

By arrival in Davos, I was being welcomed by an employee of Switzerland Tourism . I was being invited by them to attend to an international bloggers summit at the local Hard Rock Hotel. After meeting thefellow bloggers and colleagues, we were devided into different groups, each group having their own speciality. As I already knew, my group would be the ‘hiking group’. It was our task to promote the beautiful Swiss landscapes. The day already was getting to an end and after a burger and a beer, I decided to hit the bunkers. The following day, I was woken early by my alarm clock. It was still dark outside which is a good sign if you’re planning to shoot the sunrise.  Together with the rest of the hiking group, we gathered outside a finally drove off in a taxi van to the Davoser See, a lake not to far from our hotel. Despite the fairly strong wind, I remember it still was surprisingly misty. The sight of the moving fog clouds consuming the pinetrees at the Davoser See was pretty interesting. Every groupmember started to swing out their cameras and started to do their thing. After returning to the hotel, we all agreed that it was a more than decent start of the day and thought the croissants and coffee were well deserved. That afternoon, we hiked around the Rinerhorn area. In one of the valleys, we discovered Sertig Dörfli, a cozy alpine village, just like you would expect an alpine village to look like. Next to Sertig Dörfli lays the Ducanfalle, an impressive waterfall, containing 3 individual drops. Splendid. Just before calling it a day, we headed to the Flüela pass, hopefully to witness a stunning sunset. We got what we were hoping for. The slast sunlight of the day completely set fire to the sky and made us stand in total awe. Hiking group!

Ducanfalle at Sertig Dörfli
Cloud action at Flüela Pass
Cloud action at Flüela Pass

Day 4 en 5: Engadin

Back at the hotel the group was introduced and briefed by the hosts of our next destination:The region of Engadin. De powerpoint presentation was promising and made sure that everybody was stoked to continue this already great trip. It didn’t take too long before we arrived at Scuol, the region of Engadin’s main village. From here it would only take a 10 minute busdrive to get to our next hotel in Tarasp. Hotel Chasté is located next to the famous castle of Tarasp, and a real if you like traditional Swiss architecture. I know I do! You can see Tarasp castle from miles away. Built on a rock, it overlooks the entire valley from a bird seye perspective.  must admit that I did some research on google about the castle, but I was still blown away by how beautiful it was and how wel located it was, fitting perfectly in the Alpine landscape. That evening, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the hotel and quickly went out shooting to capture the castle during sunset. As clouds turned pink, the sun set directly behind the castle. Perfection. 

The following morning, our guide Dominik suggested we should hike a littl bit further up the moutain to check out Lai Nair for sunrise. This is a small mountain lake and at some places resembles a swamp. The big difference with the swamps in The Netherlands, where I’m very familar with, is that it’s basically surrounded by big mountain tops. looking back at this specific morning, it probably turned out to be the best light we experienced during the entire trip. A modest blanket was floating just over the lake. In the background, you could see the mountain tops that turned into a bright orange colour. Alpine glow! As sunrays fought their way over the peaks, the fog intensified and a produced mystical golden cloud of fog. Everyone from the group got very excited and immediately started to look for different angles to photograph. It turned out to be memorable morning.  


View on Scuol fromTarasp
Morning fog at Lai Narai
Golden fog at Lai Narai (Tarasp)
Tarasp castle during sunrise
View on Ftan

Day 6: Once in a lifetime flight over the Swiss Alps

All good things must come to an end. This also applied to my visit to one of my favourite countries in the world. To end with a ‘bang’, one of the main sponsors of the trip,  Swissair, had something special for us in mind. On the way back to Zürich, the group was mainly busy sharing stories and showing eachother all the photos they took. Yu could say we got along pretty well. Before we even knew it, the intercom announced that we were arriving at the final train station at Zürich airport. Wewere welcomed by a female employee from Swiss Tourism who escorted us to the check-in desk. When everyone checked in and got past the customs area, we followed the lady to a different, normally off limit area of the airport. We arrived in a big hangar where we rejoined the bloggers from the other groups. After some non alcoholic champagne and vegan snacks the marketing director of Swissair invited us to board our very own private plane (!) that would take us for a spin over the Swiss Alps. Everybody got a window seat so nobody would miss out one the good stuff. At an altitude of 6 km you could clearly see the the Matterhorn peaing through the clouds. You could clearly hear a concert of camera clicks as we few over interesting places. Such excitement! On our way back we passed by Lake Lucerne that completely blew up in a golden  tone. I suppose it was Switzerland’s subtle way to say goodbye. 

Weisshorn (left) and Matterhorn (right) photographed from the plane window
Lake Lucerne from the plane window
Photo by Julia Kivelä