• BLOG
  • Engstlenalp – One More Time By Bike

    Switzerland Engtslensee MTB

    I will always have a sweet spot for the old two seated chairlifts. The nostalgic, a bit scary and very rusty slow lifts, getting you up and sometimes down, summer and winter.

    And having crown up and learned to ski with a special one – vanha tuolihissi = “old chairlift” as it simply was called in Pyhä Ski Resort in Lapland –  quite naturally the two seated chairlift between Jochpass and Engstlenalp in Engelberg – with the cute wooden old station buildings – became fast my favourite in Switzerland.

    Though not really just for the nostalgic value, but also for connecting Engelberg with the very nice hiking, trailrunning, climbing, mountain biking and skiing in the Engstlensee direction, and further on the Berner Oberland.

    Unfortunately, as the trend goes, it will now be the last week for that cutie. This October, the old Engstlen sessellift will be retired, and replaced with a new modern big shiny fast six chairlift, on time for the winter season. Snif.

    But oh boy, did we get lucky to have this free Monday, on the last week the lift was up and running. A bluebird, semi-warm and full of autumn colors day for a proper goodbye to the old lift and for a tiny enduro ride by bikes.

    Except in downhills and flow trails I was so slow that only got to ride the lift once. Not enough for really say it was a proper goodbye. Though it wasn’t just me slow, it was also the good lunch in Rossbodenhütte (note: October is the hunting season in Switzerland and especially around Engelberg the restaurants of all kinds take the most of it, offering special wild menus and definitely fresh ingredients) which didn’t leave us much time for bike fun but which made it above ordinary occasion.

    And oh boy those autumn colors. And that boy. And the lucky strangers who have cabin like this.

    Haslital Engstlenalp MTB

    Hell's Bells Trail Engstlensee

    Engstlensee Engelberg MTB

    Engstlensee Autumn 2019


    Where: Engstlenalp (Engelberg / Haslital), Berner Oberland, Switzerland 

    How by bike: Down to Engstlenalp leads a Hell’s Bells -named bike trail from Jochpass (titlisbahn -ticket and bike pass needed for the lifts). Engstlensee also sits by the 4 lakes (enduro) biketour, and offers hotel and restaurants for breaks of any length. A very nice tour is also to bike to or from Frutt Lodge & Spa and pay a visit to the best Finnish Sauna in the region.  Because you’re worth it.

     

  • BLOG
  • What To Hike in Switzerland – Try Via Alpina

    Via Alpina Engelberg Switzerland

    A small faded pink mountain hotel dating back to 1892 sits at 1835m in Engstlenalp in Berner Oberland, Switzerland. Surrounded by alpine meadows, small farms and ice cold Engstlensee. In the distance, the iconic Berner Alps and Mount Titlis at the other side give an excellent background for all kinds of alpine endeavours.

    It’s almost like a set for a Wes Anderson movie. Or Sound of Music. Except real.

    Engstlenalp is an excellent place for alpine climbing, a resting point for a road bike tour on one of the most scenic routes in central Switzerland (from Innertkirchen through cute village of Gental), or for an enduro mountain bike tour on Engelberg – Melchsee-Frutt – Meiringen area (there goes a nice flowtrail from Juchpass down to Engstlensee too).

    Or for a night or two on a classic Via Alpina hike.

    The Swiss section of international Via Alpina – 5000km long hiking / walking trail network through five Alpine countries – draws a cross-cutting line of excellent hiking trail through Switzerland. From Monteux in west to Vaduz in east, Via Alpina offers clearly marked trail with rich variety of alpine traditions, (amazing) views, outdoor challenges and flora and fauna.

    And  when in July couple of my friends came to Switzerland to hike a few stages of the official Via Alpina from Engelberg to Interlaken, I decided to join them and see what the Via Alpina was all about.

    And now I may say that it’s definitely worth a try. For one or two stages or for the whole 390km trail across Switzerland. Topped with the cute little mountain huts and alpine hotels found on the way as the already mentioned Hotel Engstlenalp (in the last pic).

    The trail is well marked with the official Via Alpina signs, and the different stages can be reached with public transport which also easily gets you back from the end point of your chosen completed stage. There are also plenty of mountain huts, hotels, guesthouses and restaurants right by the trail or a bit further, easily combined with a multi day tour along Via Alpina.

    And don’t forget to keep your eyes and ears open for all the magnificent views, alpine traditions and wildlife.

    Internet is full of stories and practical information for the whole Via Alpina and it’s stages, so I will not repeat it all here. But, I could advice you to check the freshly printed My Switzerland guide for Via Alpina, for which my friend who’s hiked all the stages made a great contribution to, for the most comprehensive starting point for your research.

    And if you happen to stop for a night in Engstlenalp, leave proper time for a traditional alpine breakfast in their breakfast room which sends you directly to the old times when gore-tex and gps watches where nowhere to be seen.

    You will also not find WiFi in here.

    Via Alpina Engstlenalp

    Engstlenalp Engelberg Via Alpina

    Engstlenalp Tiina Kivelä

    Where: Engstlenalp, Berner Oberland, Switzerland

  • BLOG
  • Comfortable Getaway In Zermatt

    Goats Zermatt

    No matter how much I like active holidays, sometimes it is more than nice to just be as comfortable as possible. And indeed that was the case last week in Zermatt, in the home of the fluffy black nosed sheep and long haired blackneck goats (in the pics).

    The previous time I went to Zermatt though, I said the next time I come with my bike. Yet again, no bike with me. For the pure joy (and need) to take it as comfortable as possible. A pure wellness holiday by the famous chocolate Matterhorn.

    Surprisingly for late August (the second best time of the year) I managed to secure exceptionally good deal for – in almost exactly the kind of small hotel I would run if I would run a hotel – Matthiol Boutique Hotel. Which sits a bit further away from the bit too crowded cute streets of Zermatt town centre (no worries, transfers are on the house). And has the official swiss bike hotel label.

    The deal came with excellent breakfast (though the coffee wasn’t so great but there were many cheese, pancakes and dry prosecco to compensate), good service and the smallest of details gotten right (pure new luxury!).

    For me though the best there was their gem of an wellness area and especially the Finnish sauna there. Which I got all to myself on both evenings there (Finns seem to like it hotter than most people, which goes more than fine with me), to take care of the mediation and ultimate self care needed.

    Zermatt Matterhorn Village

    Matthiol Boutique Hotel Breakfast Zermatt

    Matthiol Wellness Zermatt

    Matthiol Boutique Hotel Restaurant

     

    And yes, I spent hours in there just eating and sweating in sauna. But, I also did some light hikes and pure tourist activities. (Just so I could eat more and because the weather was already that great early autumn sunny and fresh).

    First, I added a hike on the 5 Lakes Hike trail (5 Seenweg Hike) with a little detour to the Gourmetweg (Gourmet Path) for  lunch in Chez Vrony by the path. (Got the restaurant tip from passing bikers who asked the right trail to there, which was later proved to serve one of the best (vegan) mountain lunches I have enjoyed. With views to Matterhorn.)

    Chez Vrony Zermatt 2019

    Chez Vrony

    Gourmetweg

     Then the next day, for the real tourist experience (which I rarely do) and for the lack of time, I took the train up to Gornergrat to check out some never before seen with my own eyes glaciers and mountain tops. And after just 20minutes up there– taking pictures and admiring the amazing views to the glaciers, Matterhorn and the majestic mountain tops of the Monte Rosa massif – I simply took the train down and headed home.

    It was a brief visit again – too brief considering all the amazing outdoor adventures Zermatt can provide on foot, bike and skis – yet very lovely and enchanting.

    Next time though, I really bring my bike.

    MTB Zermatt

     

    Zermatt Trails

    Gornergratbahn Zermatt

    Five Lakes Hike Zermatt Matterhorn

    Zermatt Matterhorn Switzerland


    Where: Zermatt | Matthiol Boutique Hotel | 5 Lakes Hike | Gornergrat

    How: Being totally car free village, Zermatt is easiest to reach by train (station Zermatt). Further on, to the Gornergrat top station in 3135m, you may take the Gornergratbahn next to main train station (about 30minutes ride). & the 5 Lakes Hike starting point you reach by taking the funicular to Sunnegga and from there gondola to Blauherd (if you prefer uphills like me, I can also recommend starting the hike from Sunnegga and then taking the gondola down from Blauherd). From Sunnegga, you can also easily reach the Gourmetweg and the restaurants by that trail.

    For train and lift tickets, check the day passes (especially if moving on skis or bike), single rides and occasional combine offers, and compare them to eventually find the best deal.