The Alpine resort of Engelberg is just 43 minutes from Lucerne by Express train. That’s less than an hour to swap the city for a mountain idyll. Engelberg (‘Angel Mountain’) is renowned for its superb slopes (heaven for skiers in winter) and its beautiful Benedictine monastery and cheese factory, where you can watch the dairy production within the ancient holy walls. New for 2019 is Engelberg’s Alpine Cheese Trail – a 45km hiking and biking route that will delve deeper into the heritage of this fromage-famed valley; you can meet the makers at their farms, stay in cosy Alpine inns and sample a lot of amazing cheese.
Perhaps the ultimate Engelberg experience, though, is following the Four Lakes Walk, a classic high-peaks hike that starts from the train station and takes in a handful of many-hued lakes, wild moorland, cheeseries and superb views of Mount Titlis and the Bernese Alps beyond.
Lake Lucerne is big, beautiful and bustling. So for a quieter waterside excursion, take a short bus journey to little Rotsee instead. Just north of the city, the ‘Red Lake’ is part of a nature reserve; many species of bird breed or overwinter here, and rare plants grow near the shores. Protected from the wind by the surrounding hills, and with very little current, it is ideal for rowing – Rotsee has hosted many international regattas. There’s also a lido for refreshing lake swims and a hiking trail around the edge for easy, peaceful strolls.
An extensive fleet – five paddle steamers, 13 motor vessels, a panoramic yacht, the Bürgenstock shuttle – ply the waters of Lake Lucerne, linking ports at all points on the shore and opening up many, varied and wonderful walking possibilities. They make it easy, for instance, to complete linear walks along the lakeshore without having to retrace your steps. The classic is the Waldstätterweg hiking trail, which starts in Brunnen, ends in Rütli and wraps right around Lake Lucerne. It’s 115km long but can be broken into stages: you could take a boat from Lucerne to Brunnen and walk via Mediterranean-like forest to Vitznau (15km), from where boats run back to the city. Or start with a train or boat trip to Alpnachstad and walk on to beautiful Bürgenstock (16km) before returning to Lucerne.