We are travelling in three stages from the source of the Aare river to Lake Biel. With a length of 295 kilometres, this longest river in Switzerland flows through wild mountain landscapes, crosses mystical gorges and swings around the Swiss capital in an elegant arc before meandering through the Seeland and into Lake Biel.
You will enjoy the many scenic highlights along the Aare and see something of Switzerland’s most authentic side. We will add to the excitement of this adventure by using different modes of transport along each stage: From the source to Brienz we use public transport, from Brienz to Bern we sail in a rubber dinghy and then we cycle from Bern to Biel.
Following the Aare river – stage 1
From its source in the Aare Glaciers to Brienz
From its source in the heart of the glacier landscape at Finsteraarhorn to turquoise Lake Brienz – on the first stage of our journey along the Aare river you will see the mountains up close, cross a dramatic gorge and marvel at a spectacular waterfall. We also follow Sherlock's footsteps and look over the shoulders of some of the woodcarvers in Brienz.
For the first stage, the best way to go is by public transport. This will introduce you to some of Switzerland’s typical modes of transport – buses and post buses, funiculars, ships and trains.
Grimselwelt: Seeking the source
The most beautiful route to the source of the Aare river runs via the Grimsel Hospiz. It is best to set off in the early morning and catch the bus in Innertkirchen to this striking historic hotel with its red shutters, where we stop for coffee and cake before walking for two and a half hours along Lake Grimsel to the Upper Aare Glacier. This is the area where the Aare river starts its 295 km journey to Koblenz, where it flows into the Rhine. The actual source will not be visible as it is located right inside the glacier. But you are more than compensated for this by the dramatic glacier landscape with its steep cliffs, monochrome colours and the many rivulets, streams and waterfalls. grimselwelt.ch
Grimselwelt: A pure adventure
It is very worthwhile to spend a day in the fascinating Grimselwelt area. There is so much to discover here. Attractions include the mighty dam in the Aare valley built in the 1950’s, and the power station turbines that run at full capacity day and night inside the mountain. The most exciting experience is a ride on the Gelmerbahn funicular. On the short route up to the lake with the same name it climbs a gradient of up to 106 percent. The red little train slowly crawls up the slope – giving you goosepimples as you look down into the valley far below. Once at your destination, the landscape around the Gelmersee lake is perfect for a leisurely walk, and later, after just as steep a descent, you catch the post bus back to the valley. grimselwelt.ch
Innertkirchen: Experience the drama of the Aare Gorge
On its way from the Grimselwelt down to Lake Brienz, the Aare river flows through the Haslital. At the lower part of the valley it has eroded its way through the Kirchet, a rock formation which otherwise would block its path. Over the millennia, the water has eroded a 1.4 kilometre-long path up to 200 metres deep through the rock, known as the Aare Gorge. Today, well-constructed walkways have made this dramatic watercourse through the rock accessible in parts, even for strollers and wheelchairs. The walk through the gorge takes 40 minutes. The journey back to Meiringen on the Meiringen-Innertkirchen railway takes a mere quarter of an hour. aareschlucht.ch
Meiringen: Walking to the Reichenbach Falls in the footsteps of Sherlock
Strictly speaking, the Reichenbach Falls and the Aare river don’t have a lot in common – apart from both consisting of water. But if you are passing through Meiringen, on no account should you miss witnessing the spectacular roar of the seven waterfalls, which together form a three-hundred-metre-high cascade. Another must is a trip aboard the nostalgic Reichenbach Falls train, which has been transporting visitors to these parts since 1899. The view from the observation deck at the top of this raging water spectacle, where once the famous struggle between Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis, Moriarty, took place, is quite spectacular. This is followed by a ride on the Zentralbahn, which takes you back to Brienz in only 11 minutes. grimselwelt.ch
Brienz: Looking over the shoulders of the woodcarvers
In Brienz, the Aare river disgorges itself into the lake and then continues its way towards Lake Thun. Before boarding the ship and sailing through the picture-perfect scenery to Thun, you really should spend a few hours in Brienz watching the local woodcarvers at work. The woodcarving tradition has been a part of Brienz life for generations now. Woodcarvers were being trained in Brienz back in the 19th century, and their work is exhibited in the Swiss Woodcarving Museum. This tradition is still very much alive in Brienz today, as is evidenced by the various shops in the village, where you can look over the shoulders of these experts as they are working. interlaken.ch museum-holzbildhauerei.ch (German)