Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Wherever you find yourself in Switzerland, you’re never more than 16 kilometres (10 miles) from the nearest lake.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Tiny Switzerland – also known as the water castle of Europe – counts an impressive total of over 1.500 lakes. That’s definitely one too many to visit while you’re here, which leaves you with no choice but to prioritise.

But which ones are the best? Are there any you absolutely can’t miss?

I’m sorry to disappoint you here, but claiming that I have the ultimate list with the most beautiful must-see lakes in Switzerland would just be plain arrogant. So I won’t go there.

However, in an attempt to do our lakes justice, I’m going to list some of my favourites that I believe will amaze you.

Are you ready for the plunge?

PS: A little heads up for those of you that don’t speak any German: the word See means lake.

1. Oeschinensee


The deep blue waters of Oeschinensee attract people from all over the world.


You can reach the lake either by foot or by cable car.

What’s the deal?

This turquoise beauty in the Kander Valley is one of Switzerland’s biggest mountain lakes. Oeschinensee, a UNESCO world heritage site, is
1.6 kilometres (1 mile) long and up to 56 metres (183 feet) deep.

The impressive mountain panorama in the background and the incredibly blue water attract people from all over the world. As a result, the shores can get fairly busy on a sunny day. But if you leave the main area around the restaurant and follow the lake a little further up, chances are you’ll find a quiet spot.

Oeschinensee gets its water from surrounding glaciers, which means it’s quite refreshing all year round. Even during summer, the water temperatures barely exceed 20°C (68°F).

What’s there to do?

Since Oeschinensee is surrounded by towering mountains, going for a hike is almost a must. But taking a swim, enjoying your picnic, renting a boat to show off your rowing skills or dashing downhill on the mountain coaster are also popular pastimes. The rowing and mountain coaster are only available during summer, though.

Find more information about this versatile area on the Oeschinensee website.

hiking at Oeschinensee

Going for a hike in the Oeschinensee area really pays off.

How do you get there?

To visit Oeschinensee, you first need to make your way to Kandersteg. Trains from Bern leave every hour and getting to Kandersteg from Interlaken is also possible with one extra transfer in Spiez.

From Kandersteg, you have the option to either hike up to the lake (this will take roughly 1.5 hours) or catch the gondola. To skip the line at the ticket counter, I recommend you buy your gondola ticket online.

Once you’re at the top, you’re only a short 20-minute walk away from the shores of Oeschinensee.

Enjoy the view.

2. Blausee


No wonder this lake is called “Blausee” (blue lake)


This lake is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom.

What’s the deal?

As the name suggests, this lake is blue. Ridiculously blue…

Located in the centre of an idyllic nature park in the Kander Valley, little Blausee is more easily accessible than Oeschinensee. No gondola ride or hiking required, only a short walk from the entrance to the lake. And while this may be convenient, it also results in thousands of people rolling in daily to take a glimpse of this pearl.

On a busy day, the park gets up to 4.500 visitors and since the area isn’t all that big, this unfortunately kills some of its charm. However, in my opinion, the beauty of the lake makes up for parts of that.

What’s there to do?

In case you’re keen on floating across Blausee on a glass-bottom boat, you’re in luck. The entrance fee to the park, which varies seasonally between 5 and 10 CHF, covers a short ride across the lake on a little rowing boat with a see-through floor. And since the water is so clean, you’ll be able to see all the way to the bottom of the lake.

Additionally, the area offers several picnic spots, fireplaces, walking trails, a couple of alpacas and even a trout farm. Hiking isn’t really a thing here because it’s a small, enclosed area. But if you’re after a leisurely Sunday stroll, and perhaps an instagrammable picture or two, this place is for you.

How do you get there?

Your starting point to visit Blausee is the bus stop Blausee BE, which is located between Kandersteg and Frutigen. Buses leave Kandersteg and Frutigen once per hour and take you straight to the entrance of the nature park.

3. Lauenensee


Little Lauenensee lies in the Bernese Alps.


The Swiss band “Span” even composed a song about this lake.

What’s the deal?

Whenever you mention Lauenensee in Switzerland, chances are people will start singing.

In 1983, a Swiss band called “Span” released a song about this beautiful mountain lake. Its catchy melody and the melancholic lyrics have been stuck in people’s heads ever since. You can even find the song’s notes and lyrics on a board by the shores of the lake.

What’s a little weird about Lauenensee, though, is the fact that it actually consists of two lakes. They’re both quite small and separated by a narrow strip of swamp. And due to its shallowness, Lauenensee gets a lot warmer than you’d expect from a mountain lake.

What’s there to do?

Although Lauenensee is a) very shallow and b) located in a natural reserve, you can still go for a swim. There’s a pier leading a few metres across the swamp and into the lake. Or, if you prefer staying on the water, you have the option to rent a boat from the restaurant during summer.

You’ll also find fireplaces in the area and since the lake is surrounded by the beautiful Bernese Alps, it’s the perfect place to go for a hike. Walking around the lake takes roughly 45 minutes.

How do you get there?

Like most mountain lakes, Lauenensee is a bit out of your way. Your best starting point is Gstaad, which you’ll pass if you travel on the Golden Pass Line from Lucerne or Interlaken to Montreux.

From Gstaad, the easiest way to reach the lake is by Postauto. Those iconic, yellow buses only operate during summer, though.

Hiking all the way to the lake – or a combination of hiking, cable car and Postauto rides – is possible as well. To plan your trip accordingly, please consult the Gstaad tourism website.

4. Seealpsee


Seealpsee in the Alpstein mountain range is one of my favourite mountain lakes in Switzerland.


Its refreshing water isn’t always as cold as it looks.

What’s the deal?

If I had to name a favourite among our I-don’t-know-how-many mountain lakes, Seealpsee wouldn’t compete with too many others.

Since I was born and raised in eastern Switzerland, I basically grew up around that thing. Not that I liked going up there, mind you. Hiking was nearly my most hated pastime. Second only to visiting museums…

But when you grow up in the Appenzell area, there’s no way past Seealpsee. Tough life…

Most people will know Seealpsee from the label of a popular beer brand called Quöllfrisch. Or, if you’ve ever googled the famous Äscher restaurant, you might have seen the lake subtly positioned in the background.

Either way. Seealpsee is a real eyecatcher.

What’s there to do?

The most obvious activities up here – as with pretty much every mountain
lake – are hiking, swimming or rowing around in a rental boat. And since walking uphill for an hour has a tendency to make people hungry, I highly recommend you visit one of the little Alp huts to buy some fresh milk or cheese for your picnic.

I never leave the Alpstein mountain range without grabbing a loaf of soft goats cheese. And neither should you 


You never know who you might bump into in the Alpstein mountain range.

How do you get there?

To visit Seealpsee, make your way to Wasserauen in the Appenzell area. Getting there takes a bit of time and wherever you find yourself in Switzerland, you’ll be travelling through St. Gallen or Gossau, a town just outside St. Gallen.

In case the Äscher restaurant is on your bucket list as well, you can combine those two destinations in one hike. Starting in Wasserauen, either catch the gondola to Ebenalp, hike past Äscher to Seealpsee and back down to Wasserauen. Or start with the hike and save the gondola ride for the end.

Hiking the whole way is a little more demanding but also doable. It should take around 4.5 hours to complete the loop. Give or take. Check the Appenzell tourism website for further information on hikes in the Alpstein mountain range.

5. Fälensee


Fälensee is one of the three lakes in the Alpstein.


Getting to Fälensee involves quite a bit of hiking.

What’s the deal?

Right after a thunderstorm, mystical Fälensee always reminds me of a Scottish loch. With its dark water reflecting the grey clouds creeping down the mountains, you’d almost expect Nessie to stick her head out and ask you about the weather forecast…

And when the sun is out, Fälensee is another pearl that makes every drop of sweat you’ve shed on your hike up worth it.

What’s there to do?

Out of the three lakes in the Alpstein mountain range, Fälensee is the least accessible one and there’s no way past a three-hour hike. Or 2.5 hours if you’re used to going uphill.

You can also go for a swim, but due to the rapidly rising mountains left and right, it’s not as easy to get down to the shore as it is with Seealpsee. However, it’s still achievable and if you follow the lake to Fälenalp on the other side, access gets a lot better.

By the way, Fälenalp is a fantastic place to treat yourself to one of those fresh-milk-cheese-and-bread picnics. Or even to spend the night in a stable above the cows. Depending on how immune you are to waking up to the smell of cowshit 

Pardon my French…


Fälenalp, at the end of Fälensee, is a beautiful spot to visit if you’re in the area.

How do you get there?

To visit Fälensee, you also need to make your way to eastern Switzerland. Or to Brülisau, to be more precise. This involves a couple of train and Postauto rides, depending on where in Switzerland you start. The SBB website will show you your best connection.

From Brülisau, either catch the gondola up to Hoher Kasten and start your hike from there. Reaching Bollenwees, the restaurant next to the lake, will take four hours. Or, if you skip the gondola and head straight from Brülisau to Bollenwees, it’ll be roughly 2.5 hours.

Again, the Appenzell tourism website will help you plan your trip.

6. Caumasee


Caumasee is an absolute pearl in the Grisons Alps.


It’s a popular spot for locals and visitors to hang out on a sunny day.

What’s the deal?

Caumasee is a breathtaking mountain lake in the Grisons Alps, not too far from Chur. It comes with a little island in the centre and is surrounded by a pine forest.

Its original name in the local language, Lag la Cauma, literally translates to lake of siesta. So the relaxed atmosphere in the Cauma area probably won’t take you by surprise.

In comparison to other mountain lakes, Caumasee is relatively warm. During summer, the water temperatures range somewhere between 19°C and 24°C (66°F – 75°F), which is more than any of the glacier-fed mountain lakes.

What’s there to do?

Your activity options at Caumasee are seemingly endless.

Apart from the usual suspects like hiking and swimming, you can launch yourself off the diving platform, play beach volleyball, go stand-up paddling, rent a paddleboat or hang out on the Botanic Lounge at the Caumasee restaurant.

The bathing beach is open May through October and costs 15 CHF to access. For more information about Caumasee, visit the Flims Laax Tourism website.

To visit the lake without paying admission, you’ll need to stay behind the fence. Back there, you’ll be able to walk around half the lake and enjoy the views without any access to infrastructure.

How do you get there?

Travelling by public transport, make your way to Chur and catch the Postauto to Flims Waldhaus. From there, it’s another 30 minutes to Caumasee or 15 minutes to the elevator that takes you down to the lake between June and August.

One hike in the area that I highly recommend is the Senda Ruinaulta. An easy three-hour hike not only takes you down to Caumasee but also past Ruinaulta, the impressive Rhine Gorge. This UNESCO world heritage site is also known as the Swiss Grand Canyon and never fails to impress.

Find more information about this hike on the Schweizmobil website. And in case you’re keen on biking, rent a bike in Flims and explore the area on two wheels.

7. Crestasee


Crestasee lies very close to Caumasee.


Ruinaulta, also called the Swiss Grand Canyon, can be seen on the hike between Caumasee and Crestasee.

What’s the deal?

Not too far from Caumasee, you’ll find another picturesque mountain lake called Lag la Cresta, which translates to lake by the forest ridge.

Crestasee is smaller than Caumasee but spreads just as much charm as its bigger neighbour. Its crystal clear water allows you to see all the way to the bottom of the lake and beautifully reflects the surrounding panorama. Like with any other mountain lake, you probably won’t be able to stop staring or taking pictures.

Knock yourself out 

What’s the deal?

Activities at Crestasee don’t deviate much from the ones at Caumasee. Rent a stand-up paddleboard or a rowing boat, go for a swim or just hang out by the lake. The choice is yours. Access to the bathing beach is possible during summer and costs 7 CHF.

By the way, while you’re in the area, missing out on a hike would be a shame. The one I recommend combines Caumasee, Ruinaulta and Crestasee all in one. This easy 2.5-hour walk (without taking into account the time you hang out by the lakes) starts at the Postauto stop Flims Waldhaus.

First, you’ll head down to Caumasee, continue on to the viewing platform above Ruinaulta and finally stop by at Crestasee before terminating your hike in Trin Mulin.

For more information about this three-stop hike, head over here. Unfortunately, the website is all in German but even if you don’t understand everything it says, I’m confident it’ll still give you a good impression of the route.

How do you get there?

The only way to reach Crestasee is by foot or bike.

In case the hike described above is too much for you and you’d prefer heading straight to the lake, catch the Postauto bus in Chur. Get off at Felsbach Crestasee and walk another ten minutes to your destination.

8. Silsersee


Silsersee in the Engadin is the lake with Europe’s highest scheduled boat service.

Silsersee in autumn

In autumn, the “golden forests” make this area even more photogenic.

What’s the deal?

With an area of four square kilometres, Silsersee is the largest lake in the Canton of Grisons. It’s also where you’ll find Europe’s highest scheduled boat service.

While Silsersee is a fantastic place to visit all year round, it’s especially impressive during autumn. Every year, when the golden forests make their appearance in the Engadin region, the larches change their colours and make the whole setting even more photogenic.

What’s there to do?

At this point, I’m sure I don’t have to mention the swimming and picnic part anymore.  So I’ll get straight to the point.

To enjoy Silsersee in all its glory, you have two options. Go round it or cross it.

The hiking trail around the lake takes approximately 4.5 hours to complete and lets you see the lake at every angle imaginable. It’s a fairly easy walk and doesn’t require an exceptional level of fitness.

To cut your hike in half, simply walk around half the lake and do the other half by boat. This 40-minute boat ride starts in either Sils Maria or Maloja and leaves three to four times a day between June and October. For more information about Europe’s highest scheduled boat service, visit their website.

How do you get there?

Unless you’re in St. Moritz, Silsersee is really out of your way. But this shouldn’t keep you from visiting.

The Engadin is a stunning region to visit all year and it’s easily accessible by train. The ride from Zurich to St. Moritz takes three hours and even covers part of the scenic Bernina Express Line.

From St. Moritz, frequently leaving Postautos take you to Sils Maria, your starting point to explore the Silsersee area.

9. Riffelsee


Riffelsee is the beauty in front of the Matterhorn in Zermatt.

Matterhorn in the Canton of Vaalais

If you’re lucky and the mountain isn’t veiled in clouds, you can see its reflection in the lake.

What’s the deal?

What makes Riffelsee so typically Swiss has nothing to do with the lake itself and everything with the fact that it reflects Switzerland’s most iconic mountain.

The Matterhorn.

Provided it’s not veiled in clouds or the lake frozen over, little Riffelsee perfectly reflects the impressive eastern face of Mount Toblerone. And even though Riffelsee is tiny, even more so than Blausee, it’s still absolutely worth stopping by.

What’s there to do?

If you’re crazy enough and prepared for some freezing cold water, you could technically go for a swim here. Otherwise, I suggest you stick to walking around the glacier-fed lake and taking a gazillion pictures.

To increase your chances of getting a perfect reflection of the Matterhorn, it pays off to head out early. The mountain is often veiled in clouds in the afternoon and your odds of a clear view are better in the morning. But as with every weather-related matter, there’s no guarantee.

How do you get there?

Riffelsee sits above Zermatt and is accessible by train and foot. Catch the train up to Gornergrat and get off at Rotenboden. From there, a ten-minute walk will take you down to the lake.

Alternatively, stay on the train until you reach Gornergrat and soak up the views of the Gorner glacier and the Matterhorn before walking down to Riffelsee. After this easy walk, hop back on the train heading down to Zermatt.

10. Étang de la Gruère

Etang de la Gruère

Étang de la Gruère lies in the Canton of Jura, the western part of Switzerland.

Etang de la Gruère

Walking around the lake takes roughly one hour.

What’s the deal?

Étang de la Gruère is Switzerland’s largest moor lake and lies in the Canton of Jura, the French-speaking part of the country.

Since the Jura is a high plateau and not a mountain range like the rest of the Swiss Alps, this lake is different from the ones we’ve discussed so far. However, despite the missing mountains in the background, Étang de la Gruère is still a stunning place to visit.

This artificial lake was originally created to ensure the operation of a nearby mill during periods of little rainfall. Today, it marks the centre of a nature reserve and is a popular spot for locals to catch some fresh air.

Or a pair of muddy rubber boots.

What’s there to do?

Lakes aren’t too abundant in this area, which makes Étang de la Gruère a perfect habitat for animals relying on open waters. Like for instance dragonflies, butterflies and certain bugs. Walking around the lake takes one hour and should give you plenty of opportunities to spot some wildlife. Or get stung by a mosquito or two…

This circular path can get very busy, though. Especially on a sunny weekend. If you can, I recommend visiting the lake on a weekday.

Technically, you can go for a swim here. But be warned. Since we’re talking about a moor lake, its water is very brown and the ground soggy. While it does feel interesting to sink your feet into the soft ground of a dark lake, it might not be for everyone. My imagination tends to run wild in situations like these and has me see fish the size of blue whales. All out to get me, of course.

Also, people sometimes get injured up here. My dad, for example, got himself a pretty nasty scratch from an unexpected wooden pole sticking out of the ground. Those are hard to spot with the water being so dark so please be cautious when you go in and don’t jump into the lake.

How do you get there?

Étang de la Gruère lies halfway between Saignelégier and Tramelan in the Canton of Jura.

To get there, make your way to Tramelan and hop on the bus to Moulin de Gruère. Walking to the lake from Tramelan is also an option and takes roughly one hour.

10 down, 1.490 to go

There you have it. My favourite mountain lakes in Switzerland.

Even though we barely scratched the surface here, you should now have an idea of the beauty that awaits you here. As I said, we have over 1.500 lakes scattered across the country and chances are you’ll be going home with your own list of favourites.

I’d love to hear about that list and which lakes from this post you visited.

Hey, and if you do happen so meet Nessie at Fälensee or my blue whale monster at Étang de la Gruère, please tell them I said hi. 


By Lala