For anyone who has ever planned on visiting Switzerland, Interlaken is undoubtedly high in the list. It is one of the oldest and best-known summer holiday resorts in the country. Royalty, artists, and tourists from as far back as the 17th century have always come to Interlaken for refuge. With its name literally meaning “between two lakes”, Interlaken is a beautiful destination made even more alluring as it sits between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
Interlaken is a popular destination for its location. It’s a favorite spot for active and adventurous travelers and a great base to explore the Bernese Oberland. There are endless options for walks, climbs, treks, and excursions, but none better than a trip to Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
In the beginning, Lakes Thun and Brienz were one giant mass of water. It wasn’t until the last ice age when the rivers Lütschine and Lombach brought over debris over the millennia that caused a partitioning between the lake. This then formed what is called Bödeli, the tongue of land between Lakes Thun and Brienz. Today, the water level of Lake Brienz is 2 meters higher than Thun and the River Aare flows between the two lakes through the Bödeli. On this land now stand the towns of Interlaken, Unterseen, and Matten.
Even though the two lakes were once one, each has transformed into its own world throughout the centuries.
Lake Brienz is known as the turquoise gem. While many other lakes in Switzerland share this quality, the color of Lake Brienz is particularly bright and intense. This color is coming from the glacial waters of the Lütschine and the Aare, which wash tiny particles of sediment into the lake. These particles are very fine, thus sink slowly in the water, creating the magical effect of turquoise waters, amplified only by the cleanliness of the lake.
Early in the morning, Lake Brienz is very calm and almost completely still. So still, that the lake usually reflects the skies and the surrounding mountains. Towering mountain slopes flank both sides of the lake completing the expansive scenery that covers 29.8 square kilometers of glistening waters. With a depth of 260 meters, Lake Brienz is also one of the deepest lakes in Switzerland.
Not to be outdone, Lake Thun is the largest lake in the Bernese Oberland at 47.69 square kilometers. In contrast to the calm, cozy, and serene environment of Brienz, Lake Thun is where all the action happens. In 1835, steamships started commercial transports across Lake Thun to Interlaken. These are commemorated till today with a cruise at the Blümlisalp. It’s also on Lake Thun where visitors can revel at the views of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau in the distance.
The deep blue color of Lake Thun is made more magical by the castles and vineyards that dot its shores. There are several bathing sites around the lake, tons of water activities, and even music festivals throughout the year that take advantage of the scenic views by the shore.
There’s no better place in Interlaken to be mesmerized by both lakes at the same time than Harder Kulm. Needless to say, the views high above the two lakes are spectacular.
Harder Kulm is the nearest mountain to Interlaken. The funicular climbs up to an altitude of 1,322 meters at a 64-degree gradient. It’s a great way to get panoramic views of the surrounding mountains of Interlaken. You can already peak at views of the lakes during the ride, as well as the famous Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau.
The most popular spot to view the lakes is at the overhanging Zwei-Seen-Steg or Two Lakes Bridge. It gives a full view of Lake Thun to the right, Brienz to the left, Interlaken at the center and the Alpine peaks straight ahead. At the same spot is the Harder Kulm Panoramic Restaurant with the same magnificent views to be enjoyed with a hearty Swiss meal.
There are many boat cruises that cross the waters of Lakes Thun and Brienz. There are different trips to take, like crossing over to the different towns or castles that surround the lakes. One of the most popular trips is towards Giessbach Falls on Brienz. You can also just take a pleasure cruise around the lake and admire the views afloat the clear waters.
There are several events that happen on the shores of both lakes to immerse oneself in cultural experiences. The Thunerseespiele is a musical experience with an amazing backdrop. Choirs, dancers, and musicals play onstage while audiences can enjoy wine and delicacies on the stand. The 10-day Am-Schluss is a summer music festival held on Mühleplatz in the center of Thun in July. Afterward, Interlaken celebrates the Thunfest with musicians from all over the world play in the open air. If you’re traveling with family, the Seaside Festival and Seenachtsfest in the bay of Spiez are amazing musical fairs to visit.
There is no lack of water sports on Lakes Thun and Brienz. There are many rental kiosks on the shore for kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards. It’s a cheaper way to see the lakes and the mountains up close, plus it’s a great exercise if you explore long enough!
For something more extreme, river surfing, wakeboarding, skilling, banana rides, and jet boats are also popular activities on the lakes.
You don’t have to pay for rent or tickets to enjoy the lake. In the summer, the waters are at a great temperature for a swim. There are several platforms around the shores to get into the water. Some platforms are moored in the middle of the water to sunbathe on.
Visitors can enjoy several paths around the lake for a walk or to go biking. Some trails also present a challenge with uphills and winding paths, all within full view of the lakes.
Interlaken is one of the most popular Swiss destinations for good reason. Between the numerous thrilling activities, many options for day trips, and the magnificent views of Lakes Thun and Brienz, you can never go wrong on this trip.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.