Which is a good cable car to ride during a summer break in Switzerland?
Summer panorama from the summit of the Schilthorn, at 2,970 metres. Photo Schilthorn Piz Gloria
Switzerland has many great cable cars that are knockout during the summertime too. The views are every bit as stunning/terrifying, the hiking superb, and there's better chances of enjoying clear skies outside of winter too. And the gondola operators have worked at making their rides year round attractions, with exhibitions, restaurants, lookouts, and hiking trails. So if you are heading to Switzerland this summer, here are six fabulous gondola rides to chose from.
Schilthorn is the most famous cable car in the country, thanks to Bond and Blofeld doing their thing in the 1969 film, On her Majesty’s Secret Service. The 360-degree views are outstanding (or terrifying, depending on your attitude to being suspended thousands of feet from the ground from a wire), and particularly so out across the wall of peaks to the south. You can see the Jungfrau, Eiger, and if you are lucky, even Mont Blanc.
The Piz Gloria is the summit's centrepiece revolving restaurant - it appeared as Bond villain Ernst Blofeld's mountain top H.Q.. Today it cash's in on its Bond connection with a small Bond exhibition that includes a helicopter simulator and a cinema showing clips from the film, and a menu that offers a James Bond Brunch, James Bond Spaghetti, and an 007 Burger.
The summit is 2,970m above sea level, and the lower gondola station is in the village of Stechelberg, about 18 kilometres south of Interlaken. See Schilthorn Piz Gloria
Titlis Rotair: is a large rotating gondola that climbs to its 3,020 metre summit. There are four eateries at the top - fine dining to snacks, as well as magnificent views and a year round Glacier Park, where you can ride a modern six-seater chair lift called the Ice Flyer, walk through the glacier itself inside the Glacier Cave, or whiz down the ice Snowtubing.
The Titlis Rotair rotating gondola. Photos EngelbergTitlis
Thrill seeking should also walk out over the Titlis Cliff Walk - a suspended narrow walkway at the summit that's 500m above the ground. There's tobogganing too (with a moving walkway to take you back to the top), plus hiking, mountain biking, a Via Ferrata, and boat hire on the Trübsee.
The via ferrata in summertime. Photo Engelberg Titlis
The cars start from Engelberg, which is 35 kilometres from the central Swiss city of Lucerne. See www.titlis.ch
Klein Matterhorn: Zermatt is the cute gateway town for viewing the country's most iconic peak, the Matterhorn. This uniquely craggy mountain has been drawing visitors and climbers since before the opening of its first hotel in 1838. The mountain itself was conquered in 1865 by an ill-fated expedition in which four of the seven man group fell to their deaths on their decent.
The gondola ride here will push your nerves to their limits, as it's the highest cable car ride in Europe. The upper station is just 60 metres below the mountain’s 3,883 metre summit and the area around is branded as the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
A gondola with the Matterhorn in the background. Photo Zermatt Matterhorn
A tunnel and escalator that's built into the rock leads from the top to the highest sightseeing platform in Europe, from where you can see 38 four-thousand-metre peaks. And if you fancy tackling your own 4,000 metre peak, then it's just a 2.5 hour hike to the top of the Breithorn (4,164m).
Gazing at the imposing south face of the Matterhorn in summer. Photo Zermatt Matterhorn
The cable car system starts in Zermatt, which is close to the Italian border in southern Switzerland, is about 230 kilometres east of Geneva. See www.zermatt.ch
Mt Säntis: is the the cable car to head for if you are in eastern Switzerland. There are fabulous views over Lake Constance from the summit station. It’s not as high as many of the other Alpine peaks, but what it lacks in height it more than makes up for in prominence, and on a clear day from its summit you can see six countries - Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France, and Italy.
Unimpeded views at the summit. Photo Santis der Berg
There is a restaurant that serves traditional Swiss cuisine, and on full moon nights, a special evening ascent with meal and music. There are sunrise ride deals too, every Sunday in July and August. And the normally restrained Swiss pin their largest national flag - which measures 120x120 metres - for their national day in 2009. Unfortunately it was torn and destroyed by the wind.
The usually unchauvanistic Swiss pinned the world's largest (Swiss) flag here in 2009. Photo Santis der Berg
The summit is 2,502 metres above sea level, and the car starts in Schwägalp, about 100 kilometres east of Zurich and 70 kilometres south of the German city of Friedrichshafen. See www.saentisbahn.ch
Pilatus Kulm: opened in 2015, the so called 'Red Dragon' aerial cableway runs to the top of Mt Pilatus and gives fabulous views of Lucerne and its eponymous lake. It's also the destination of the world's steepest mountain railway (proceeds at an angle of 48% in places), so it makes sense to travel up in the cable car and then down by train, or vs. vs.
The snazzy new gondolas of the 'Dragon Ride' from Fräkmüntegg to the Pilatus Kulm. Photo Pilatus Luzern
By the summit station is the venerable Hotel Pilatus-Kulm that was built in 1890 and recently restored. A young Queen Victoria rode up Pilatus on a horse in 1868, and the hotel's Queen Victoria Restaurant honours this. And staying in the hotel means you are in poll position to watch the dawn break over the Alps.
Richard Wagner was one of the famous guests of the summit hotel. Photo Pilatus Luzern
The car starts at Fräkmüntegg and ascends in one sweep to the 2,132 metre summit at Pilatus Kulm. See http://www.pilatus.ch
Stanserhorn: it had to happen I guess, but some bright spark has invented an open top gondola, and the one at Mt Stanserhorn is the world's first. Tagged the CabriO, its gondolas are double decked, allowing you to stand inside as normal, or to stand on the roof.
A bit too 'Where Eagles Dare' for my taste, but terrifically innovative. Photo Stanserhorn CabriO
There is a star shaped revolving restaurant at the top that takes 43 minutes to swivel you around a 360 degree panorama of central Switzerland.
View from the top. Photo Stanserhorn CabriO
The summit is 1,850 metres above sea level, and the cable car is easily reached from Lucern, about 27 kilometres away. See Stanserhorn