At 22.6km long, the Aletsch glacier is the longest glacier in the Alps. Of course, if you have been to Chamonix and Mont Blanc, you might be wondering how that is possible. but the Aletsch is very very long. It winds its way from the back of the Jungfraujoch, all the way to towards the main Rhone valley running through Wallis.
There are quite a few different ways to approach and see this spectacular see of moving ice (yes, it’s moving very slowly), but if you love hiking like we do, then the Aletsch Panoramaweg is the absolute best.
The whole panoramaweg is actually a three stage hike, but for me, the best part is the middle part of this stunning hike. This second stage spends most of it’s time providing you with spectacular North-facing views of the Aletsch as the path winds its way along the mountain side. It starts in Riederalp, and finishes at the Märjelensee.
You actually have to connect it up with the third part to get back to civilisation at Bellwald from the Märjelensee or you can cut it short at Hohbalm and walk down to the Fiesheralp mid-station, which I recommend. This stage of the Panoramaweg is around 4 hours in total, ascending 800m and descending 500m to the Märjelensee. It is a further 130m descent if you take the route to the cablecar.
Of course, you can also do the whole route which starts in Belalp and winds it’s way to the Märjelensee before leaving via a fun tunnel through the mountain to the Rhone valley on the other side (don’t forget to bring a headlamp, last time I was there, it was a short, but very dark walk through).
The three stages of the whole hike can be combined in various pieces and done in either direction.
Descent: 500 m
Distance: 11 km
Duration: 4 h (3.5 in the other direction)
Ascent: 720 m
Distance: 10 km
Duration: 4 h (either way)
Ascent: 360 m
Descent: 1120 m
Distance: 9 km
Duration: 3.5 hours (4.5 hours in the other direction)
Belalp, the start of Stage 1, is best reached by public transport. Take the post bus from Brig to Blatten bei Naters, and then the cablecar to Belalp from there.
Starting from Riederalp, you can catch a train to Mörel and then a cablecar up to the top of Riederalp. Likewise, if you end at Fiescheralp as I mentioned above (alternative end to Stage 2) then there is a cablecar down to Fiesch.
Stage 3 ends at Bellwald which also has a cablecar down to the main train line in the Rhone valley.
Connections to all the stops in the Rhone valley are very easily made to major destinations in Switzerland.
I would not recommend doing this hike by car, because this is a lone, one-way hike. If you want to leave your in a major destination like Brig or Fiesch, then you get public transport back to there once you are done. But like with all things in Switzerland, public transport is often infinitely easier than driving and finding parking.