Why Lucerne is the Best Place To Start Your Switzerland Experience

map of Switzerland and tours by Echo Trails

Many people ask me to plan a Swiss trip for them.
When I ask what they want to experience, I hear things like panoramic Swiss Alps, green pastures, cows, cheese, trains, chocolate etc. These are all things you can see and experience in and around Lucerne.  And if they are limited in time, I recommend visiting Lucerne because the Lake Lucerne region offers the best use of their time to maximize their Swiss trip experience. Here are some of the main reasons why visiting Lucerne as your  first Swissplaace  offers visitors a great Swiss experience.

.. Easy to get to – An hour by train from the Zurich airport.

…Small enough – enjoy walking around  in a medieval town on your own.

…Super scenic & easy access  – with the lake across the street from the train station and great visibility to two 6,ooo ft Mt. Rigi & 7,000 Mt. Pilatus peaks with amazing views of the hundreds of Central Swiss Alps peaks.

..Easy to get around – train, boat, tram and bus transportation all available from the central train station area.

Lucerne is where our  Swiss office is based and why we offer over 10-different Guided Lucerne Day walking & hiking tours. Echo Trails starts its 12-Day and 8 Day Swiss Alps Rail Tours in Lucerne. The area provides the best introduction to Switzerland’s ecology, culture and  heritage. This is also why we named our company Ecology, Culture, Heritage, Outdoors, ECHO.

Lucerne’s Mt. Rigi is preferred by Swiss-Germans as one of the most favorite places to hike

View from Mt Rigi in Lucerne

I’m often asked what’s the best hike to do from Lucerne.
I recommend Mt. Rigi is because there are so many ways depending on your fitness and activity level to experience this mountain.

Back in the 1880’s when Mark Twain visited the Lake Lucerne area and was carried to the top of Mt. Rigi in a wooden chair sedan he writes in his book “A Tramp Abroad”…
……“I believe that this place [Weggis-at the base of Mt. Rigi on Lake Lucerne0] is the loveliest in the world, and the most satisfactory. The scenery is beyond comparison beautiful…”
Now 140 years later, you still get this incredible 180 degree view of hundreds of peaking Central Swiss Alps.

Mt. Rigi is very accessible from Lucerne via train or boat and once you reach the base, you have lots of choices on trails and scenery. If you have the time and are adventurous, there is a two hour summit easy to hike trail that connects Rigi-Kaltbad with Rigi-Scheidegg where you constantly have the Swiss Alps visible all the while you are hiking.

Once you reach either side, you can choose to take public transportation via a cable car or cogwheel train back down to the base and connect easily with public transportation back to Lucerne.

Depending on your time, we offer some half-day Guided tours along Lake Lucerne…


While ascending Mt. Rigi is relatively easy, the advantage of having one of our local guides with you, you hear how the place started world-wide tourism with the legendary British tour operator, Thomas Cook, back in the 1860’s with the first group ever to travel out of the country.

In the distance, on a green meadow, you will learn how Switzerland got founded in 1291 and why Lucerne became the administrative center for the Habsburg’s who ruled Europe for centuries. And of course, if you want to know some of the names of the Central Swiss Alps peaks, you will learn them too.

For a first day in Lucerne “get orientated” tour, our Mt. Rigi guided day tour with multiple uses of public trains and boats provides not only a great introduction to Switzerland but that Swiss Alps experience you envision.

Lucerne’s Mt. Rigi’s, Cheese-Dairy “Chaserernholz” farm overnight offers “a-one-of a kind” Swiss Alps Hut experience

View from top of Switzerland's Mt Rigi

When you are on top of Mt. Rigi, there’s big visual sign where you can read about Mt. Rigi’s history that includes what Mark Twain did & said and a column about a 7th generation cheese-dairy farmer named Franz Tony Kennel.

What many people do not realize is the same family still works the farm (7th generation) on a 15 to 20 minute hike below the top of Mt. Rigi.

For those who have the time, just think what a wonderful experience Mt Rigi would be if you could actually overnight at 5,000 ft and see the sunset & sunrise and do it authentically on a working “Cheese-Dairy Farm.” After a day hiking with your guide on Mt. Rigi, you’ll enjoy the beautiful sunsets and see the amazing stars in the clear skies above. The sounds of the dairy cows are comforting – their voices & bells pasturing nearby and, in the barn, providing soothing sounds as you “soak in” the incredible Central Swiss Alps ambiance.

When you visit this place, you will just see local Swiss who visit since it’s a bit of a local secret this place exists. To make such a “Cheese-Dairy farm” experience possible for our English speaking visitors, we’ve designed a guided Day hike with an overnight stay.

Also here you can meet & hear the “Cheese-Dairy” farmer, Franz Toni Kennel in person.

This summer we met and transferred hundreds of our clients at the Zurich airport. This feature provides great stress relief, makes the “getting through the airport and onto the train” easy and provides helpful backup should the bags not arrive with your flight.


With our Rail tours, we meet and transfer our clients to their first hotel. https://echo-trails.com/12-day-swiss-alps-grand-rail-tour/ and Adventure Hike Though the Swiss Alps, https://echo-trails.com/adventure-hike-of-the-jungfrau-region/ tours, . As people walk through the custom areas, they scan the waiting large crowd to look for their ECHO Rails & Trails Guide wearing the red polo shirt and red ball cap. How happy everyone is to meet another and we experience their smiling faces when they connect with us. Bags are put on the handy airport pushcarts and questions are asked as; “What else do you need at the airport before we board our train” and away we go.

Every once in a while, I come across people who just walked through the customs area and they are looking for someone to meet them. When they don’t see the person they are looking for, there is this sad look of angst on their face. I sense their anxiety and have approached them with the comment; “ Your person will find you”. Once I’ve said this, their anxiety level decreased enough to get a smile on their face.
With us this stress never happens as we always have Happy Faces like this Florida couple.




Zurich airport public transportation is the most efficient way to transfer to your first hotel.
All the trains are located underneath the Zurich airport complex and once you have your ticket, know what train to take and on what platform to stand, you are are all set to go. . With our Rail https://echo-trails.com/12-day-swiss-alps-grand-rail-tour/ & Adventure Hikes Through the Swiss Alps,https://echo-trails.com/adventure-hike-of-the-jungfrau-region/
our Guide has your Swiss Travel Pass or your Half-Fare card & ticket and whisks you through the Zurich airport and onto the right platform to catch the right train to your first hotel.


With many transatlantic flights & european flights arriving at the same time, tere’s the normal heavy traffic and rush to get to the respective train platform. For the Swiss residents, this is a relatively smooth process but for someone arriving at the Zurich airport for the first time, it can be a highly stressful & frustrating experience,especially if you have to purchase your train ticket and then locate your train and train platform. By signing up for the pre-Trip Rail package https://echo-trails.com/rail-tour-extras/and or Adventure Hike through the Swiss Alps, https://echo-trails.com/adventure-hike-of-the-jungfrau-region/all this stress is eliminated and the Zurich airport experience a very easy & simple process.

With this summer’s airport staff shortages, we had a number of clients whose bags did not arrive with their flight.
We’ve probably all experienced bags not arriving and know the kind of frustration it brings. Of course our Guides waiting outside customs are wondering what’s going on. Finally when our clients come through costumes they show us their lost baggage claim receipt. Oftentimes, airport counter staff don’t always tell people what they need to do or how to follow up. So our Guide can make the various follow up calls, provide the correct hotel name and address to send the bags and assist our clients when following up. Within a few days the lost bags arrive at the right places and everyone is happy.

Rail Tour Review – Echo Rails & Trails 12 Day Rail Tour

This is a fabulous tour! We got to see all of the major sights in Switzerland. We traveled via public transportation which was a delight. The train and bus schedules sync together like clockwork. Our luggage was transferred from hotel to hotel so we did not have to deal with getting it on and off of the trains. The hotels and food were exceptional. They choose hotels that are centrally located making it easy to walk around the towns and get to the train station. They also work very hard to ensure that we eat in authentic Swiss restaurants and get to experience the region’s food. They also go out of their way to see that we are where we need to be to get the best views and/or experiences. For example, when in Zermatt they work with the hotel owner to ensure that we get rooms that will allow us to see the Matterhorn from our room (weather permitting).

They know from experience when we should travel to the viewing platforms to have the best views of the alps. For example, also when we were in Zermatt it was rainy and cloudy. They encouraged us to go to Gornergrat early in the morning so that we would have the best chance of seeing the Mattherhorn and the other surrounding mountains. We did, and even though we only saw the base of the Mattherhorn, we would not have seen anything if we had waited until later in the day. By the time we left the mountain, the clouds were rising and obscuring our “window view.” Because it is a small group tour and the guides are the owners of the company, there is quite a bit of flexibility. If the schedule needs to be modified to enhance the guests experience, they can do it. This rail tour requires a lot of walking and sometimes in order to make the train or bus connections you have to walk very fast. No one should do this tour if you cannot walk quickly and you need to be able to walk several miles a day. Some days we were mostly on trains, but when walking is required there is quite a bit of it! Switzerland cannot be beat for spectacular natural beauty, and Echo Rails and Trails is definitely the tour company to use! George M. from Trip Advisor 2021



Retired Railroad Conductor Review of Echo Rails & Trails Grand Rail Tour

After working on a mountain railroad for some 21 years, I thought I knew about trains. The trains on this trip were such an unexpected treat. In over 15 days we rode 54 trains! Electric, luxury, steam, cable cars, funiculars, cog wheels both vertical and horizontal, almost every train on time! All of this with the grandeur and beauty of the Swiss country side all around us. Rene and Suzanne have crafted an exceptional tour through the Swiss Alps. With our “Swiss Pass” we rode trains, buses, and boats, First Class all the way. Our accommodations were exceptional also as we stayed in beautiful hotels often with exceptional views of mountains and the surrounding country side – our meals were delicious and carefully prepared and selected. We (Rebecca and Richard) highly recommend this trip!

Date of experience: September 2021
Mt Washington Cogwheel Train

What do Mount Washington in New Hamphsire and Mount Rigi in Switzerland have in common?

Both were the first mountain cogwheel railways in their respective continents.

Mount Washington Cog Railway in 1868, first in the USA.
Mount Rigi Cogwheel Railway in Switzerland, in 1871 the first in continental Europe.
Both lines are still running today.
Mt Washington Cogwheel Train

The first mountain cog railway was the Mount Washington Cog Railway in the U.S. state of New Hampshire, which carried its first fare-paying passengers in 1868. The track was completed to reach the summit of Mount Washington in 1869.

The first mountain rack railway in continental Europe was the Vitznau-Rigi-Bahn on Mount Rigi in Switzerland, which opened in 1871.

The definition of a rack railway (also rack-and-pinion railway, cog railway, or cogwheel railway) is a steep grade railway with a toothed rack rail, usually between the running rails.

Trains are fitted with one or more cog wheels or pinions that mesh with this rack rail. This allows the trains to operate on steep grades above around 7 to 10%, which is the maximum for friction-based rail.

If you looked underneath the train, this is what a rack and pinion looks like.

The rack lies between the rails. The pinion gear is connected to actual train car.

As of 2009, the Mt. Rigi locomotive is still used in historic rides. Built in 1858 (the plate on the loco and other sources show the later date, 1873), it is the oldest Swiss loco surviving and also the only remaining standard gauge rack fitted vertical boilered loco in the world.

The two cylinder steam engine provides 196 PS power under 7.5 km/h speed. The loco was removed from service in 1937, when the railway was electrified, but has been returned in 2009.

The Mount Rigi cogwheel is used during many of the ECHO Rails & Trails tours. There is a Day Mount Rigi tour that includes some hiking and Swiss sausage grilled lunch outside and also a Day tour that includes both Mt. Rigi & Mt. Pilatus. Both mountains are included in our 12 Day Grand Swiss Rail tour.