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Obwalden canton is the designated geographical center of the country and is located within Obwalden's borders, in Älggialp.[5] Being one of Switzerland's 26 cantons, Obwalden considerably stands out not only geographically but also historically, as the canton was part of the Unterwalden, one of three regions forming the foundation of the Old Swiss Confederacy.[2] Within the country, Obwalden is surrounded by the canton of Lucerne to the north, the canton of Nidwalden and Uri to the east, and Bern to the south. Area-wise, Obwalden is one of Switzerland's smallest cantons. The capital city is Sarnen, located in the canton's central part.[1] Obwalden's mountainous landscape is presumably the reason for its considerable touristic popularity. The local mountains and several lakes offer a range of activities, including skiing and snowboarding in the winter or hiking in the summer.[2] The region receives the most amount of rainfall during August. However, it is still advised to visit during the summer months, namely June, July, and August, as the temperatures tend to fall between 20 and 26°C during that time.[4]

What Obwalden is known for

Tourism is one of Obwalden's major economic sectors. Due to its central position and mountainous landscape, the canton has been found to attract people seeking outdoor recreation, such as hiking during the summer and skiing or snowboarding during the winter. Some of the local ski resorts include Engelberg, Melchsee-Frutt, Lungern-Schönbüel, Mörlialp, and Langis.[1] To mention some of the summer trails and hikes, there is the Alpnach–Mount Pilatus Trail, starting at Lake Lucerne and climbing to the top of Mount Pilatus. Other reportedly popular trails include Fräkmüntegg–Mount Pilatus Loop Trail and Engelberg–Trübsee Trail.[2] Älggialp is another destination, in which tourists tend to take an interest, as it is the designated geographical center of Switzerland. At the exact spot, there is a wall in the shape of Switzerland, surrounded by a triangular pyramid. Älggialp offers views of Alpboden, the surrounding ring of mountains, and the Swiss Central Plateau.[5] Also in the Obwalden area are several lakes, which provide tourists with a range of water activities, such as canoeing on Lake Lucerne or Lake Sarnen. It's common for people to rent the desired equipment in the Alpnach village. Additionally, boat trips and cruises take place on the two lakes, usually passing between Alpnach and the city of Lucerne.[8]

Concerning historical landmarks of Obwalden, within the canton's boundaries can be found Flüeli, the birthplace of Saint Nicholas of Flüe, also known as Brother Klaus. Saint Nicholas was noted to be a hermit and popular saint, who helped prevent civil war over the conflict between the Old Swiss Confederacy and the cantons of Solothurn and Fribourg. Nowadays, Brother Klaus is considered a Swiss folk hero.[6] In his later years, St. Nicholas moved to Ranft, where his timber cell lies hidden between hills to this day. Beyond that, his birth house and burial chapel can be seen in the Obwalden territory. As well, there is a museum dedicated to Brother Klaus in the nearby village called Sachseln.[7]


Obwalden is located in the Sarneraa Valley, with one of its natural borders being Lake Lucerne to the north. To the south, the border is formed by the Brünig Pass, leading to the Bernese Oberland. Beyond Lake Lucerne and its tributary, Lake Alpnachersee, there are five larger lakes within Obwalden borders, namely the Sarnersee, Lungerersee, Melchsee, Tannensee, and Wichelsee. Concerning the mountains, the highest point in Obwalden is Titlis—which is a part of the Uri Alps mountain range—with an altitude of 3,238 meters above sea level. Nevertheless, most of the canton's mountains belong to the Unterwaldner Voralpen, part of the Central Swiss Prealps. The point of lowest altitude is the level of Lake Lucerne, at 434 m above sea level. Additionally, Obwalden is often regarded as the heart of Switzerland, as the geographic center of Switzerland was determined to be the point which is found in the Älggi-Alps above the Kleinen Melchtal in Sachsler municipality.[3]

Regarding Obwalden canton's nature, a considerably diverse array of plant and animal species can be observed in its territory. Some portion of Obwalden's lower elevations landscape is formed by fields, which are used for cattle raising and cheese production. Approximately half of the canton's surface is forested, with tree species primarily consisting of pine, alder, birch, and larch. Higher elevations of Obwalden are covered by wool grasses and frangula shrubs, with flowers such as lily, tulip, and primrose. Concerning local animal populations, there are red deer, chamois, weasels, snow hares, beavers, rock ptarmigans, and wolves.[2]

As a result of its central location, Obwalden's climate is primarily continental, influenced mainly by the altitude above sea level. Concerning the average temperatures in Sarnen, Obwalden's centrally located capital city, 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 during that time. February tends to be the driest month in Sarnen due to having 57 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during August, receiving about 158 mm on average. Thus, "the best time" to visit Obwalden, according to those who have previously visited the area, is during June, July, and August, when one is likely to experience average temperatures falling between 20 and 26°C.[4]


The earliest tracks of human presence in Obwalden date back to the 8th millennium BC, to which a stone knife found in the territory can be dated. Two Horgen culture sites from 4000 BC were also found, yet no signs of agriculture or permanent inhabitation have been found. However, later in time, from the Early Bronze Age, approximately between 2000 BC and 1700 BC, a grave was found in Foribach in Kerns, implying that there might have been several permanent settlements in that area. Among other inhabited territories was also the Rengg Pass, where several houses and high alpine herding camps from around the 1500 BC time period were found. Additionally, several places in the Obwalden canton bear names with Celtic and Gallo-Roman roots, which implies the permanent inhabitation of those territories.[1]

The germanic tribe of Alemanni came to the Obwalden area in the eighth century, settling primarily in lower elevations, in the proximity to Lake Lucerne, Sarnersee, and around Mount Pilatus. In the eleventh century, the power over the Obwalden was transferred to the Counts of Lenzburg. At that time, Obwalden and Nidwalden were one unified land called Unterwalden. Unterwalden was bought by Rudolph of Habsburg, which led to Unterwalden joining the alliance between Schwyz and Uri, called the Eternal Alliance. It is said the Eternal Alliance laid the foundations of the Swiss Confederacy. In following years, France forced Switzerland to form a united nation in 1798 (the Helvetic Republic), which wasn't favored by several cantons, Obwalden included. The inhabitants viewed the forced unification of the state as losing some of their freedoms. As retaliation for rebellions in Unterwalden took place, France attacked the region. Unterwalden was divided into Obwalden and Nidwalden in 1803. Subsequently, Obwalden gained its constitution in 1867.[2] Obwalden territory is discontinuous, as one exclave, the monastery, and valley community of Engelberg, lies outside central Obwalden's borders, and is administratively part of Obwalden. The exclave became part of the canton in 1815.[3]