Hello everyone! This Sunday I checked the weather report and decided to go to this mountain – Säntis 2502m). To be honest, I’ve never heard of this mountain before seeing it in the UBS mountain offer, which is a really good advertisement for the mountains in Switzerland. I would really call this day, as my friend commented, an adventure. So many things happened, good or bad. Anyway, the mountain and the view on it are just amazing! Because of its height and special location, the swiss built a weather station and a transmission tower on the summit.
Säntis is the highest mountain in the Alpstein massif of northeastern Switzerland. It is also the culminating point of the whole Appenzell Alps, between Lake Walen and Lake Constance. – Wikipedia
This mountain was shared by three cantons and on it, there are a few observation decks, from which you can see 6 countries, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany (even the Black Forest), France and Italy! These viewing platforms give you a wonderful panoramic view of the 6 countries as well as the surrounding peaks, where you will see mountain climbers and hikers trying their best and challenging themselves. If you are fit and wearing proper clothes on the day of your visit, you can also experience it but do be careful! Now I’ll start telling you my adventurous Sunday.
1. How to get there
If you wanna take public transport, you should take a train to either Urnäsch or Nesslau-Neu St. Johann and then from these two stations you should take a bus to Schwägalp. If you arrive in early morning you might catch the moment when all the trees are in the fog but the sky is already clear. It feels like you are in a fairy tale.
The beginning of the trip is kind of troublesome and not really successful.
(First of all, a little accident happened in the train because the crew checked our tickets and said we were in the wrong train according to our tickets and because we bought the super saver tickets we can’t board any other train except the one we bought for. Of course we know that we should only take the trains we bought the super tickets for. HOWEVER! The thing is we were exactly in the same train I bought the super saver ticket for otherwise how could we make it to Urnäsch exactly at 11:46 (the train was 3 mins late) and caught the bus leaving for Schwägalp at 11:47? I don’t think there are two trains arriving at Urnäsch one after the other from Gossau in 3 mins and we took the wrong one. I checked the train carefully before boarding and the train left at 11:21. Are there two different trains leaving from Gossau for Urnäsch at exactly the same time at 11:21? I don’t think so. Otherwise it’s the problem of SBB I guess. When we saw the ticket control woman we even went to her to check our tickets because there were only a few mins before we got off at Urnäsch. We didn’t want to miss the bus. Anyway, my guess is that she probably set the train number in the ticket machine wrong or she forgot to scan the half-price card. I didn’t see what’s the message on the machine so I couldn’t really figure out why. However, she seems like a reasonable person. After I showed her our tickets which clearly states that “Zürich HB dep 10:09, Gossau SG arr 11:10. Gossau SG dep 11:21, Urnäsch arr 11:43”, she said “ok ok, no problem, I don’t know why the machine says the ticket is invalid.” She realized that we are in the right train and let us go. What could we be doing in Gossau so that we missed the train? Sightseeing? I wish there were something to see. Food and coffee? There were not even shops! We walked so slow that we couldn’t catch it? Even grandpas and grandmas can make it in 11 mins (I remembered we made it to the train in 1 min and waited in the train for quite some time)…..There was also an inspector in the first train from Zürich HB to Gossau checking our tickets but everything was fine so our tickets should be of no problem. I’ve been taking SBB trains for more than a year now and this is the first time I had a problem, which is rather disappointing.)
Sorry I know it’s too much troubletalk, Let’s move on.
2. At the Säntisbahn station
The bus from Urnäsch to Schwägalp usually takes 24 mins and then you’re right in front of the door to the Säntisbahn station. I had no idea that it’s gonna be so so so crowded. Some more trash talk, if you don’t like pls just ignore this paragraph……
Maybe because it’s a sunny day and it Sunday, there are so many people waiting to board the gondola Bahn. We waited for around 15 mins to buy the tickets and then we waited for 3 gondola cars to pass because there were around 250 people ahead of us and we finally made it to board the gondolabahn when the cabin moved people up the forth time……also, the line behind us never got shorter even when we boarded the gondola car. I could already imagine how difficult it would be to take the gondola car to go back, and it really was…… I’m not sure whether it’s always the case or not but even those super famous mountains like jungfraujoch, Piz Gloria, Gornergrat were not like this. I mean it’s still quick as the car comes and go and there are two in operation. Still, waiting for 4 cars going up and then it’s my turn is a really new experience. And of course you can expect how many people there were on the top of the mountain.
2.1 Ticket prices:
- Round-way adult: 45 CHf. Round-way with GA/Half-price card adult: 22.5 CHF.
- For more info about other discounts, group tickets, special ticket prices pls click here (info only in German).
2.2 Gondola car timetable
- At different periods of the year, the time for the first and last car going up or down is different. Please click here for detailed travel time of the gondola car. You can also check here special travel plans.
- Normally the car goes every half an hour but in special circumstances, the cars go up and down without stop except for letting people board and get off (Like the day I went there).
- The last car going up is scheduled half an hour before the closing time of the Säntisbahn.
3. What to do in Schwägalp and on Säntis
Here I’ll briefly introduce what to do on Säntis. Later I’ll introduce it to you in a more detailed way and attach the photos I took. The highlights are: The viewing platforms on both western and eastern sides of Säntis, the weather station and the hiking trail over the Lisengrat ridge (be prepared, this trail is more for people with proper hiking shoes and clothes).
Nature Discovery Park
It is a themed wildlife park composed of different parts featuring the Moor, Mountain Economy, Men and the Environment, the Forest and the Geology Stone Park. This is a quite big park and the entrance is across the road next to the Gondola car station. I didn’t actually go there because I was really tired after the mountain, which I didn’t expect there would be so many things to visit. You can hike, walk or nordic walk here and this is also a popular place for children.
Alp Cheese Showing Factory
Probably because I was too late, when I was there I didn’t see them actually making cheese but I saw the machines and other staff. You can buy cheese there, and some handmade kitchenware such as cups, spoons, tools for grinding cheese and pepper etc., but they are really overpriced I think……I didn’t check the prices of cheese but I saw people lining up buying them, so I guess they should be good.
There is a hotel – Berggasthaus Alter Säntis, and more than one restaurants on the mountains so don’t worry that you’ll starve. I’d like to divide the mountain into two parts so it’s easier for me to explain to you. The summit is where the weather station is located and to the west is the Säntisbahn building with the transmission tower, the mineral exhibition, restaurants, souvenir shops and observation decks. To the east is the Berggasthaus Alter Säntis hotel, the church and viewing platforms. You can go hiking, mountain climbing (there’s a tunnel going through the mountain so you can go hiking or mountains climbing starting from both sides) or just simply relax on the platforms with 6 countries below your eyes.
- For more info about the event please click here to check the event calendar. For example, “full moon travel”.
- For more info about special travel plan please click here. For example “Sunrise travel” or “Sunset travel”.
- For more info about activities in Summer in Schwägalp and on Säntis please click here.
- For more info about activities in Winter in Schwägalp and on Säntis please click here.
Finally, now let’s get started with our adventure to the mountain!
4. On the way up and down by cable car
Considering it was so so so crowded, I did’t really get a good place in the cable car so I didn’t see much on the way. To be honest, it’s already lucky to get on lol.
5. In the Säntisbahn/Transmission Tower Building
As I said before, the summit is where the weather station is located and to the west is the Säntisbahn building with the transmission tower. In or on this building there is panorama hall, the mineral exhibition, panorama restaurants, souvenir shops and observation decks. Read the board at the entrance so you won’t get lost and won’t miss any interesting points. There are both lifts and stairs so you can choose whichever you want. Remember, to reach the top go from the exit on the third floor. Also, the mineral exhibition is on the first floor.
5.1 Mineral Exhibition
This is not a big exhibition hall so I think 10-15 mins would be more than enough here. This exhibition is open when the cable car is in operation. I don’t know much about minerals but some of them are like sculptures and one looks like a broccoli lol. Would be interesting to spend 10 mins here.
6. On the mountain
6.1 Western terraces
If you exit from this building, you would be on the terraces on the western side of the weather station (the summit). These platforms provide a wonderful panoramic view of the mountains on the western side of Säntis, you can see the Black Forest from one of these platforms and 6 countries, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and Italy from the other observation deck. You can also go down from here and start your mountain hiking or climbing over the Lisengrat ridge I’ll explain this a bit more later).
6.2 Summit and the Weather Station
If you keep walking up from the platform where the transmission tower is located you will reach the summit and you will see a weather station which was built in 1882. This is really interesting to me because you can not only have an amazing view over 6 countries, the lakes, mountains, clouds, but also learn how temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, rainfall, duration of sunshine, global radiation, wind speed and direction and radioactivity are measured. Those tools look so interesting and I’ve never seen them before.
6.3 Eastern Terraces and Berggasthaus Alter Säntis
If you walk down to the east side of the mountain you will see an observation deck on top of a church and then if you keep walking down you will see the Berggasthaus Alter Säntis (you can already see it on my pics above from the summit) and a platform which gives the best vantage point looking at the mountains to the east side of Säntis. There’s also a restaurant in the hotel so if you feel hungry at this point, it’s a good opportunity to take in some energy because otherwise the next stop – the Lisengrat ridge, would be mission impossible for you.
6.3.1 A tunnel leading back to the Säntisbahn building
If you keep going towards west you will pass a tunnel (where you can see the history and mountain life of people who lived here long time ago) and when you go through it you will find yourself almost at the Säntisbahn building. This is actually a round route for you to go though all the viewing platforms so whether you go up first from the Säntisbahn building to the summit from the western terraces and go down to the hotel and eastern terraces and then go back through the tunnel to the Säntisbahn building or the other way round, it doesn’t matter. However, do remember that if you wanna hike on the Lisengrat ridge, the starting point is close to the Säntisbahn building.
6.4 The Lisengrat ridge
You can go to the starting point either from inside the Säntisbahn building through a winding stairway or exit the building through the ground floor and walk towards east a bit and you will see a small gate leading to the path. Actually you can go mountain hiking or climbing on both sides of the mountains and the two side are connected by a tunnel (not the tunnel I mentioned above).
I read from the UBS mountain offer brochure that,
The Lisengrat ridge trail was constructed in 1905 by local Swiss Alpine Club members and is known as the most scenic route for every adventure walker visiting the Säntis. The balancing act between the Alpstein and the Toggenburg is breathtaking in every respect!
So I decided to take this route. You will reach safety on the Rotstein Pass after 50 mins, but during these 50mins, please be cautious and hold the iron cable tight, otherwise if you slip down, there’s no chance you’ll be back safe and sound.
What do I think of this hiking route? Thrilling, challenging, scaring, dangerous, and exhausting! Probably it’s because I don’t usually do much sports, after 10-15 mins going down I felt so nervous and scared. In one period of the path, the cable was broken. that’s the point I decided to go back and not any further. One important thing that I think I ignored is that I should have at least worn hiking shoes on a hiking path like this. To be honest, I was totally unprepared for a path like this. Before you take the path, there’s sign saying you should wear proper hiking clothes and shoes and the road can be dangerous. Some parts of the path were really slippery because there are so many people hiking here that even the stones are “shining bright like a diamond”. I saw quite some tourists who were just wearing normal sports shoes but wanted to try this famous hiking route, and as expected, most of them turned back after realizing this is not a path for unprepared amateurs. Of course the view is amazing, but don’t risk your life for it. I strongly suggest that you get prepared before coming if you are a hiking or climbing fan. I believe it will be much more fun and much safer.
6.5 Going home
On our way back home we bought the ticket to take a train from Nesslau- Neu St. Johann to Zürich HB. However, we arrived at the train station too early so we had a little walk in this small but peaceful town.
Except the small accident happened in the train and there were too many people, I have to say Säntis, the mountain is highly recommended. I though at the beginning it’s just a high mountain with a platform at it’s peak but I never expected I would spend almost 5 hours there. Now I realize why on the website, it says “Säntis, der Berg” which means, Säntis, the mountain. Because what they wanna advertise is that your journey to or from the mountain might be disappointing but that’s not our problem. Our mountain is absolutely great. Haha just joking.
As the website of the mountain says,
Don’t just flee from everyday life.
Float above it.
I hope when you come here there would be no trouble and much less people. What I can guarantee is that your experience on the mountain would be unforgettable. 🙂