Since we first arrived in Switzerland (almost two years ago now!), I have been dying to see one of the traditional Alpine Cattle Descent Festivals. After doing some research I learnt that one of the biggest and most famous descents happens in a region called Entlebuch in late September/early October every year.
So when I learnt that the region (aka the Wild West of Lucerne) is also home to Switzerland’s UNESCO listed biosphere reserve I knew we had to take a trip to Entlebuch. Something else very interesting I learnt on our trip is that while most people think Mount Pilatus is the highest peak in Lucerne, the truth is it’s Brienzer Rothorn in Entlebuch. And even better? It’s much quieter and less touristy than Pilatus.
A WEEKEND TRIP TO ENTLEBUCH: THE HIDDEN SWISS UNESCO GEM
WHEN TO GO
Whether you want to visit to see the Alpine Cattle Descent in Autumn or not a trip to Entlebuch is worthy in any season. I already have plans to go back and see it in summer when it’s full of wild flowers and you can catch an early gondola up to Brienzer Rothorn to see the sunrise over Lake Brienz and the Ibex wander the mountains.
HOW LONG TO VISIT
We did our trip to Entlebuch over a weekend, spending Saturday at the Alpine Cattle Descent and Sunday exploring the biosphere reserve. Depending on what you’d like to see and how adventurous you are you could spend one day or two-three. You could easily make this a day trip from Zurich, Zug or Lucerne.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Because Entlebuch is a regional area the public transport system is not as extensive as other places. We traveled there via train and used buses to get around. The only problem is the buses only leave once per hour, so it’s hard to be flexible. I’d suggest taking a car if you can, but we also had no problems with the train and bus.
WHERE TO STAY
If you plan to stay overnight I can highly recommend the family owned and run Hotel Rischli in Sorenberg. As well as being in a great location to see the best nature spots they also have some of the most incredible food. The menu is full of local produce and I even said to Jase that the fish I had for dinner was the best fish I’ve had in my life! It’s also right next to a bus stop if you are getting around with public transport.
THINGS TO DO
ENJOY THE ALPINE CATTLE DESCENT + FOLKLORE FESTIVAL
If you want to plan your trip to Entlebuch to coincide with the Alpine Cattle Descent it’s in Autumn each year around the end of September. You can find more detailed information and future dates here.
It’s a such a unique festival that I would highly recommend seeing if you can. To mark the end of summer seven farming families in the area dress up their cows with flowers and bells and walk them down from the mountains, to the barns and fields lower down for winter. Each family dresses their cows up a little differently and you can watch them walk through the town of Schuepfheim, where a folklore festival is held. There are stands selling local cheeses and produce, food stands with raclette (a traditional Swiss cheese dish) and sausages for lunch, yodellers and alp horn players. It doesn’t get much more Swiss than that!
The centre of town can get quite crowded so if you want to see the cows more clearly set up on the main road coming into town. Where you also get beautiful views of the rolling hills surrounding the town. Then once you’ve seen a few families go past you will have time to move to the town to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere there as well.
I was lucky enough to get a special invitation to go and see one of the families get their cattle ready before they started their descent and I’m really excited I get to share these photos with you. It gives you a little behind the scenes insight into the festival.
TAKE IN THE STUNNING VIEWS FROM BRIENZER ROTHORN
You have probably heard of Mount Pilatus, a famous peak in Lucerne that tourists flock to. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret… Brienzer Rothorn is actually the highest mountain of Lucerne and much more peaceful. You catch a cable car to the top where you get to enjoy views over the milky turquoise waters of Lake Brienz and the 693 peaks visible from the top.
If you time your visit well you might also spot the Alpine Ibex, a species of wild goat, that are famous in this area. The best time to see them is early in the morning or at sunset. In summer, on Sundays, a special sunrise cable car runs so you can witness the sun rising over Lake Brienz as well as the Ibex. And yes it’s on my list for next summer now!
We were lucky enough to find some of the famous Swiss Edelweiss flower for the first time – a white, snowflake like flower, which apparently the Ibex love to eat!
VISIT THE FAIRYTALE MOORLANDS ON THE ROSSWEID
One of the most important moorlands in Switzerland, the Rossweid lies amongst the protected moor landscape of the UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch. You will need to catch a different cable car up to this area than for Brienzer Rothorn, but they are so close together you can easily do both in one day.
Rossweid is the perfect place to start hikes through the moor landscape and is also home to the Mooraculum – the largest adventure park in the alps where you can learn all about the moorlands. As well as being perfect for families with children this area is lots of fun for adults too! I couldn’t get over all the beautiful fairytale scenes we saw on a short 30 minute walk through meadows, fenlands and a moor forest. We even got to pick wild blueberries – yum!
HIKE WITH IBEX
If all of this sounds amazing to you and you love hiking then the perfect way to see it all would be to do the Ibex Hike, which starts from the Rossweid and ends up at Brienzer Rothorn, taking around 3 hours. You also get a chance to see the Ibex up close and personal. I even heard that sometimes they will lie on the hiking path and you have to walk around them! But of course these are wild animals and you shouldn’t touch or feed them – just enjoy their company as you take in the enchanting landscapes and stunning views.
A trip to Entlebuch Biosphere is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and it definitely lived up to what I’d heard about it. The perfect fairytale day trip or weekend getaway for anyone!