Nidwalden, located in the central part of the country, is one of Switzerland's 26 cantons. The borders of the region are shared with the canton of Obwalden to the west, the cantons of Lucerne and Schwyz to the north, the canton of Uri to the east, and the canton of Bern to the south. Nidwalden lies in the alpine region, surrounded by mountain chains of the Urner Alps. Lake Lucerne, located primarily in the south, forms the canton's natural border. The highest elevation point is the peak of mountain Rotstöckli, with an altitude of 2,901 meters above sea level. Due to its mountainous location, Nidwalden is often visited by tourists seeking outdoor attractions, either hiking and walking or skiing in winter. One of the predominant destinations is the mountain Stanserhorn, which can be reached either by hiking trail or by taking a cable car ride to the top. Another draw Nidwalden can offer is Europe's highest outdoor lift called the Hammetschwand Elevator, an attraction that showcases views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding nature. In terms of population and cities, Nidwalden is one of Switzerland's smallest cantons, with an estimated total of approximately 40,287 residents. The largest town is Stans, which also bears a function of Nidwalden's capital city. The canton is of historical significance, as its alliance with the cantons of Uri and Schwyz in 1291 is considered the foundation of the Swiss Confederation.
Nidwalden is one of Switzerland's popular touristic destinations due to its nature—namely Lake Lucerne—and its abundance of mountains. Some of the mountain resorts in the area include Klewenalp, Stanserhorn (mountain), the region around Bannalp, and Bürgenstock. The mountain peaks are often sought out by tourists who enjoy outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, or mountain cycling. To name some of the hiking trails, there is a Felsenweg Bürgenstock loop and the Ennetbürgen–Stansstad hike, both offering panoramic views of Lake Lucerne. Another trail is the Kälti–Stanserhorn hike, with a 1,241 m elevation gain, reaching the summit of Stanserhorn. However, there is also an alternative way to reach one of the most popular peaks in the canton, the Stanserhorn, as there is a historic railway from Stans to Kälti, where tourists can be transferred by cableway. At the mountain top, it is possible to experience local traditional cuisine. There are also several hiking trails from Stanserhorn. Beyond the aforementioned lookout points, there's also a Hammetschwand on the Bürgenstock plateau overlooking Lake Lucerne. The lookout is accessible by Europe's highest outdoor elevator, built by the hotel businessman Franz Josef Bucher in 1905. The Hammetschwand Elevator lifts the passengers to a height of 153 meters.
Concerning the local history, the Nidwaldner Museum, comprised of three buildings, can be found in Nidwalden. The Winkelriedhaus serves as an art museum. The second is the Salzmagazin, showcasing the culture and history of Nidwalden. Fort Fürigen is the latest addition to the museum. It contains a 200-meter-long tunnel system leading to Bürgenberg, where canons, machine guns, sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and an infirmary with an operating theatre can be seen. Additionally, at the bottom of Lake Lucerne, remnants of a Neolithic pile-dwelling settlement from the 4th century BC were revealed. UNESCO nowadays protects the settlement as a World Heritage Site.
Nidwalden is found in the central part of Switzerland. Its natural borders are formed by Lake Lucerne to the north while on the three other sides the border is formed by the mountain chains of the Urner Alps. Nidwalden covers 276.1 square kilometers of land, with approximately 40% of it being used for farming. Moreover, forests cover nearly one-third of the entire territory. One-quarter of Nidwalden's landscape is considered unproductive land, meaning, it is either formed by mountains or covered by glaciers. Concerning Nidwalden's mountains, the point of highest elevation within the canton's territory is Rotstöckli (belonging to the mountain formation of Uri Alps), with an altitude of roughly 2,901 m above sea level. Most of Nidwalden's mountain chains are a constituent of Unterwaldner Voralpen, a part of the Central Swiss Prealps. The lowest elevation point is Lake Lucerne's level, at an altitude of 434 m above sea level.
As a result of the local towns and settlements being smaller in size, Nidwalden's flora and fauna are considerably diverse. The forested regions of the canton are inhabited mainly by species such as birch, pine, alder, and larch trees. Additionally, some of the plants found in the local forests are lily, primrose, astragalus, and tulip, while higher elevation areas are typical of homing frangula shrubs and wool grasses. In terms of animal species living in Nidwalden's forests, chamois and red deer are most commonly found. With increasing elevations, animals such as snow hares, weasels, and beavers might also be observed in the canton. There are also green lizards, rock ptarmigans, and wolves.
Located in the central part of Europe, the canton of Nidwalden's climate is generally classified as continental, influenced primarily by the altitude above sea level. Concerning the average temperatures in Stans, Nidwalden's capital, the warmest month is July, with an average daily temperature of 22°C. January is the coldest month, with 3°C being the average temperature. February tends to be the driest month in Stans due to having 57 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during August, receiving an average of about 158 mm. Thus, it is reported that the "best time to visit" Nidwalden for moderate weather conditions is during June, July, and August, when one is likely to experience average temperatures that fall between 20 and 26°C.
Nidwalden territory has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, which can be proven by the pile-dwellings settlements found in Kehrsiten in Stansstad on Lake Lucerne, dating back between 4000 and 3100 BC. Another Neolithic settlement was located in Loppburg near Stansstad, also serving as a settlement in the Late Bronze Age. From that time period were also other sites, namely on the Renggpass in Hergiswil and near Rotzburgknown in Ennetmoos. Consequently, Nidwalden territory was inhabited by Celtic tribes, followed by Romans. However, there is no written evidence dating to the Roman inhabitation of Nidwalden. Nevertheless, it is believed the area between Oberdorf, Buochs, and Hergiswil has been permanently inhabited since Roman times, as the names of the villages are of Celtic and Latin roots. Additionally, several Roman-Celtic graves dating back sometime between the 1st and the 3rd centuries AD were also found in the area.
Alemanni came to the Nidwalden territory by the 8th century. Some of their presumably noble families facilitated the founding of the Roman Catholic church built in Stans. Later, another catholic church in Buochs was constructed in the 10th century. In the 13th century, three significant entities held power over Nidwalden, the Habsburgs, Murbach Abbey, and Engelberg Abbey. Rudolph of Habsburg bought Obwalden (the neighboring land) in 1291. In response, Nidwalden inhabitants allied with the territories of Uri and Schwyz in 1291, forming the Everlasting League, which is considered to be the foundation of the Old Swiss Confederacy. By the end of the 14th century, early forms of government were established. In 1798, Switzerland became forcibly united under the name of the Helvetic Republic by France. Numerous cantons, including Nidwalden, didn't agree with the unification, as they were used to self-government and freedom of worship. On September 9th, 1798, Nidwalden territory was attacked by French troops, who destroyed the local infrastructure and took a considerable toll on human lives. However, after the Napoleonic rule ended in 1814, the changes in government were reverted. The new constitution was accepted in 1877, yet the open assembly (Landsgemeinde) lasted until 1997.
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