In 2015, National Geographic released a book titled “Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places“. Over the years, it has consistently been a bestseller in the Travel Pictorial Reference books category. This bestselling book takes readers to some of the world’s most breathtaking sights whether they are natural or man-made – islands, cities, forests, and mountains. There is a picture of a cliff-side restaurant on its cover. This restaurant is Berggasthaus Äscher in Ebenalp, Appenzell.
The world was introduced to a hidden gem from Appenzell. Berggasthaus Äscher, that notable restaurant beneath the rock, became a go-to destination. You will never forget this unforgettable experience when you dine on the cliff edge. The Alpstein massif – one of Switzerland’s most beautiful mountains – was also suddenly thrust into the spotlight.
History of Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchi in Ebenalp
It is one of the oldest mountain inns in Switzerland.
The restaurant Berggasthaus Äscher-Wildkirchli is a restaurant located in Canton Appenzell Innerrhoden. Located under the Ebenalp at 1,640, within the Wildkirchli caves, it lies on the path to Äscher.
Berggasthaus Äscher-Wildkirchi can trace its history back to 1846. And the present building was constructed for monks back in 1860. Visitors coming up to the Aescher meadow were initially hosted by hermits and herdsmen. As a result of its historic importance, Berggasthaus Äscher is a protected site.
After it was selected as the cover of National Geographic’s bestselling book, in the years following National Geographic’s cover selection, the restaurant consistently saw around 200,000 visitors per year. Known for its atmosphere, hospitality, and most importantly, its charm, Berggasthaus Äscher-Wildkirchi is known around the world. There aren’t many places where you can find centuries-old restaurants right on the cliff edge overlooking a wonderful scene consisting of rocky mountains and a pristine lake.
How To Get To Aescher-Wildkirchi
Wasserrauen is the starting point for most hiking trails and excursions in Ebenalp. As soon as you arrive in Wasserausen and purchase your tickets, you are taken by gondola lift to the top of Ebenalp (1,644 meters above sea level).
Traveling by Car
If you are traveling by car, simply go to the following address: Schwendetalstrasse 82, 9057 Wasserauen.
It is possible to park by the valley station or on the street nearby.
Traveling by Train
If you are coming from Zurich, you can take the train to Gossau SG. In Gossau SG, you will need to change to the train going to Wasserauen. The valley station is close to the train station.
Before you descend, you can first head up the vantage point. It is a quick 10-minute walk or five-minute hike from the mountain station cable car. A fabulous view of the Appenzell, the Alpstein massif, and the Seealpsee awaits you. In the vicinity is another rustic mountain inn (Berggasthaus Ebenalp).
When you are ready, you can begin heading down. The Berggasthaus Äscher-Wildkirchi restaurant lies beneath the Ebenalp plateau and mountain station.
The Prehistoric Wildkirchli Caves
After 15 minutes of descent from Ebenalp, you will encounter the Prehistoric Wildkirchli Caves. Before our time, Neanderthals used these caves as hunting quarters. The Wildkirchli caves are three interlinked caves in the Alpstein massif located between 1,477 to 1,500 meters above sea level.
Where they have discovered remains from 100,000 years ago…
They discovered animal remains here back in the 19th century – cave bears, chamois, and Capricorns. Emil Bächler conducted the first excavations. The remains of 600 to 800 cave bears from 100,000 years ago were found.
Cave bears are related to brown bears, but they were larger. The animals were vegetarians, had high foreheads, and generally lacked natural enemies. Cave bears lived for up to 35 years. Cave bears spent their winter hibernating in the caves, which is likely why so many bones were found there. The species has already gone extinct. Their sudden extinction more than 25,000 years ago remains a mystery. Climate change is one possibility cited by experts.
They also found remains of cave lions, leopards, and hyenas. The cave lion is similar to the African lion we know today, but it is bigger. There was a belief that the lions that lived in the caves of Wildkirchli were old and sick lions that needed to rest.
The Wildkirchli Chapel is located in the lower cave, while the hermitage is located in the upper cave. It is also known as the altar cave. It was founded by a priest from Appenzell named Paulus Ulmann in 1658. Hermits used this area from 1658 to 1853. It is located 1,477 meters above sea level.
Pilgrims who visited the chapel were provided food and lodging by the hermits. The hermitage was converted into an inn after the last hermit died in 1851.
Guests are welcome to view and visit the chapel beneath the cave for free.
From the chapel, you can make your way down the path. And then you will see the famous restaurant of Berggasthaus Äscher-Wildkirchi.
Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchi Restaurant, Ebenalp
You simply walk down from the caves to the famous restaurant Berggasthaus Äscher-Wildkirchi after visiting the Wildkirchli caves.
Restaurant and inn management changed in 2019. As of now, it is operated by a local firm called Pfefferbeere. Both the restaurant and inn are open to overnight guests. Pfefferbeere AG combines food with events, stories, and design.
The restaurant serves Appenzell cheese, soup, salad, meat, sausages, small desserts, drinks, coffee, tea, and more. They have also opened a store called Aescher-Lädeli, selling shirts, bags, cups, gift certificates, and more. They have also installed new toilets.
From the Berghaus restaurant, you can simply head back up to Ebenalp and take the gondola from the mountain station back to Wasserauen. But you can also partake in one of the hikes going down to Wasserauen.
Hikes in Ebenalp and Aescher-Wildkirchi
The hiking routes are all described on the Ebenalp website here: https://www.ebenalp.ch/.
Please take note that there are steep drops in this region and it is absolutely important to be armed with proper hiking gear.
The following routes are the most popular ones, aside from the Ebenalp – Wildkirchli – Äscher – Ebenalp route described above:
- Ebenalp – Wildkirchli – Bommenalp – Blättliweg – Wasserauen (3.7 km, 90 minutes) – A moderately difficult hike that goes over the Alp Bommen meadows and the forests before reaching the valley.
- Ebenalp – Wildkirchli – Bommenalp – Schwende – Wasserauen (6 km, 2 hours) – A moderately difficult hike that goes over the Alp Bommen meadows before heading to the Schwende stream and reaching the valley.
- Ebenalp – Wildkirchli – Seealpsee – Wasserauen (5.4 km, 2 hours 15 minutes) – A difficult trail going down to Seealpsee. There is a steep grade from Äscher to Seealpsee, and it is extremely risky. Ropes are needed to secure young children when they cross this path. Many deaths occur each year along this path, and it should be treated very carefully.
- Ebenalp – Schlus – Schäfler – Öhrligrueb – Santis (13.2 km, 4.5 hours) – Beautiful but difficult hike with fantastic views in the middle of Alpstein. The trail can be narrow. Exercise caution while hiking here. If you are lucky, you might run into capricorns.
Appenzellerland – The Appenzell Tourist Region
Upon leaving Ebenalp, you may also head to Appenzell village. Appenzell village is an incredibly cute little town with pretty and colorful buildings, interesting boutiques, and sweet shops.
If you would like to learn more about Appenzell, check out our article: Is Appenzell Worth Visiting?
Other popular destinations in the Appenzell region include Säntis, Hoher Kasten, Kronberg, Frümsen-Staubern, Alp Sigel, Herisau, and Trogen.
Summary: Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchi, Ebenalp
At the cliff edge Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchi restaurant in Ebenalp, you’ll find an absolutely unique and charming experience. Its charming landscapes and rich history make it a pleasant place just to be and to enjoy the views. In addition, its management team has poured a lot of investment into it in the past few years, which has fostered improvements.
Is it worthwhile to visit Äscher on Ebenalp? Absolutely. The food here is delicious and the views are spectacular. In addition, it is easily accessible from the mountain station on Ebenalp. In less than half an hour, you will be able to see it after arriving the mountain station.
As Wasserauen is just 2 hours from Zurich, you can also make a day trip out of it if you live in or are visiting Zurich. After you visit Ebenalp, Äscher, and the Wildkirchi caves, you can also stop in Appenzell village for a stroll, a meal, or a cake.