The breathtaking landscape of Switzerland doesn’t only bring you vast meadows and snow-capped peaks. This geographic wonder is also home to around 1500 lakes, some seemingly massive and endless while others small pools. All, however, are exceptionally clean with turquoise blue waters and sparkling surfaces that reflect the sun’s rays. Whether to swim in, to sail on, or just to look at, here are 10 of the most beautiful and famous lakes in Switzerland.
One of the most famous lakes in Switzerland is also its biggest. Lake Geneva covers 580 square kilometers and spans several cities and towns in Switzerland and France. Most of the populated cities and towns are on the northern lake shore such as Geneva and Lausanne, while the French southern side is sparse and mostly unpopulated. The lake contains the famous Jet D’Eau, one of the most popular landmarks in the city of Geneva. The lake is particularly alluring during the summer. Around this time, people can go swimming, sailing, fishing. It’s also easy to hang out in the many parks or just relax on the benches along the shores at the cities and towns that surround it.
Oeschinensee is found in the Bernese Oberland, several kilometers hike uphill from Kandersteg. This UNESCO world heritage site covers an area of just over a square kilometer with a maximum depth of 184 feet. This calm, isolated lake is accessible via cable car from Kandersteg to Oeschinen, then via toboggan. There are also several hiking and walking trails of differing levels of difficulty, as well as rowing and boating activities. The summer season treats travelers to warm days and cool nights, while winter freezes the entire lake over. During this time, ice fishing the depths of the lake is very popular. Hotel Oeschinensee also offers rustic and charming accommodations for those who wish to spend a night right by the shores of the lake. Or, for the more energetic, you can pass the lake by and continue on the Alpine Pass Route all the way to Lauterbrunnen!
Like many mountain lakes in Switzerland, the Gelmersee is a hydroelectric reservoir that supplies much of Switzerland’s abundant “green” energy. It is deep in the Bernese Oberland, not too far from the Grimselpass, and sits 1,860 meters above sea level.
The easiest way to get here is by car to the Gelmerbahn, which is just south of Meiringen (around the corner from Interlaken). It’s possible to get here by public transport, but it can be a bit more challenging. A bus comes from Innertkirchen to Guttannen, then you do an uphill walk for around half an hour to Gelmerbahn. A hike around the lake is relaxing, can be done with older kids, and will take around two hours. What most travelers visit the lake for, however, is the
A hike around the lake is relaxing, can be done with older kids, and will take around two hours. What most travelers visit the lake for, however, is the Gelmer funicular, the steepest funicular in Europe. Originally built to transport heavy construction material over the dam, it is now a thrill ride in open carriages with a monstrous climb of 106% that brings you either up to the lake or back down to the gorge. It’s a jaw-dropping ride!
Before going up to the lake, you can also take a walk on the Handeck bridge, 70 meters above the Handeck Gorge with stunning views of the Handeck waterfall.
Caumasee is one of the lakes on the Flims Rockslide deposits, and easily found just outside of Flims in Graubunden. This stunning lake has a shore length of just 2 kilometers, but its different shades of blue water are so serene and peaceful. Add to that the surrounding forests and alpine views, and you have the best spot for meditation and some peace and quiet. A distinct feature is a small wooded island in the middle of the lake, reachable via boat or some strong swimmers. Also known as “Lake Siesta”, Caumasee is ideal for relaxing, sunbathing, and a nice dip in the water.
A mere 10 minutes’ drive from Caumasee is Crestasee and its signature green waters. The small lake is just a hop skip and jump away from the popular ski resprt of Flims Laax in Graubunden. Its naturally clean waters flow into the Crestasee underground but leave the lake above ground. This strong inflow ensures that the lake is “refreshed” every few days, and its wide shallow areas are perfect for families to bathe and relax in. It has a dock on the shore and a raft at the center, making it ideal for a swim or just a place to relax in summer (it’s popular with the locals and tourists alike). It’s flanked by a lot of forest greenery while a restaurant sits nearby in a clearing in the forest so you can easily get some refreshments while you are here.
Another one of the big lakes in Switzerland is also one of the most photographed. Lake Lucerne is surrounded by the original cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, and the canton of Lucerne. Aside from the sea of lights that is the city of Lucerne, much of its shore rises up to the peaks of some stunning local mountains, the most popular of which are Pilatus and Rigi. Steamer cruises and trips on elegant saloon motor vessels are (obviously) popular on the lake, especially during the summer time. In autumn, a mystical mist is suspended above the lake, making the trip across the waters unforgettable and magical at the very least.
Check out what other spectacular day trips you can do around Lucerne.
Stunning Lake Constance is Switzerland’s third biggest lake and also spans parts of Germany, and Austria. This lake fed by the Rhine River and contains some very picturesque local islands, including Lindau in Germany, most noted for its landmark lighthouse. It’s surrounded by many resort towns, making it a popular summer destination for swimming, cycling, and sailing. Or you can just pop into Konstanz for some shopping.For more active travelers, the popular cycling path is called
For more active travelers, the popular cycling path is called Bodensee-Radweg, which runs 260 kilometers around the perimeter of the lake.
While most of Switzerland’s lakes are perfect summer destinations, Sihlsee is at its most stunning in the winter. While the lake is still beautiful during hot and sunny days, it becomes a surreal sight when snow covers its surrounding shores and mountains. At the peak of winter, it’s even possible to do some cross-country skiing all around the area, as well as a lot of winter hiking and snowshoeing (I come here a lot :>). Sihlsee is a reservoir in the Einsielden high valley and fed by the River Sihl. It is dammed by a 33-meter high and 124-meter long wall. Fishing is extremely popular at the lake wherein fishing season starts on the 16th of March and ends on the 31st of December.
The Sihlsee is actually a reservoir in the Einsielden high valley and fed by the River Sihl. It is dammed by a 33-meter high and 124-meter long wall. Fishing is extremely popular at the lake, with the fishing season starting on the 16th of March and ending on the 31st of December.
Sitting at the border of Switzerland and Italy are two of the most stunning lakes in southern Switerland – the grand glacial Lake Lugano, and the huge Lake Maggiorre. The mild Mediterranean climate allows citrus trees to grow along the shores of these lakes. Sunbathing is also very popular under palm trees. The shores surrounding the lakes offers many places to hang out and take excursions. Magnolias and Camellias bloom in the parks in spring, while there are many places to wander around all year round. The diversity of this region includes Monte Generoso, the highest mountain by the lake at 1,700 meters, Morcote with its grand mansions and the church of Santa Maria del Sasso, and the fishing village of Gandria.
Another lake, just outside Lucerne, is Bannalpsee. It’s ideal for climbers and those seeking some solitude, as it really is right up there deep in the alps. As with anywhere in Switzerland, there are dozens of hikes through the surrounding mountains, including an easier path around the serene waters. The best time for photos is very early morning when the waters are calm. The sun reflects perfectly against the water and creates a mirror image of the surrounding meadows and forests.
The lake is located on Bannalp just above the Engelberg Valley. It is accessible via cable car from Overrickenbach, bringing travelers to an altitude of 1,586 meters. You can get here via train from Lucerne, or drive.
There are definitely more waterscapes to admire in a country where nature comes first. With the diversity of Switzerland, it is highly likely that you will find picturesque lakes wherever you decide to travel. However, if you wish to be stunned beyond belief, take note of this list and mark them in your itinerary!
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!