Five Accessible Wild Swimming Locations (with maps) to Try in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland

The Bernese Alps in Switzerland, based two and a half hours drive from Zurich and nestled near the towns of Grindelwald, Interlaken, Bern and Thun are known for their towering mountains, crisp air and breathtaking views.

They’re also home to the famous Jungfraujoch Top of Europe, which boasts Europe’s highest train station at 3,463m above sea level. Whilst Switzerland is rightly well known for its mountains, it is also well known for its pristine glacial lakes offering shimmering blues and turquoises that often make you wonder if you’re seeing things! In this article, Fay outlines some of their favourite accessible to moderately accessible spots for wild swimming in the Bernese Alps.

Editors note: Updated April 26, 2023

Five Accessible Wild Swimming Locations (with maps) to Try in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland - Faygraphic

Image description: A landscape format image. Fay and Matt are wearing swimming gear, neoprene gloves and sunglasses as they stand almost waist-deep in the bright blue water of a glacial lake. In the background, enormous snow-covered mountains tower above the far lake shore. The lakes beheld in the Bernese Alps are some of the most incredible I think I’ve ever set my eyes on – and I don’t say that lightly.

There’s a certain type of blueish turquoise that sets the tone of the glacial lakes in this part of the alps that you’d be forgiven for questioning if it’s real or not. Whilst generally on the side of ‘cold’ and ‘very cold’ (but that is of course a relative term in wild swimming) the Bernese Alps plays host to some of my most memorable swims and is one of the main reasons I decided to give wild swimming a go in the first place.

The Bernese Alps are also a great place to visit to wild swim if you want to try out a few more accessible locations with a number of these being accessible via public transport or car. The others, accessible via cable car and minimal/reasonable hikes in and out.

We get a lot of enjoyment from wild swimming and you might quickly find yourself surprised by how cold water can feel incredible. We generally wear regular swimwear all through the year, but as the temperature drops, you may want to consider a wetsuit for cold water swimming.

Why not take at look at our guide to the best gear for cold water swimming? It also contains lots of practical tips on how to make your wild swims safe and enjoyable.

Here are my five favourite accessible/moderately accessible wild swimming spots in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland:

1. Därligen on Lake Thun

Access: By car – there is a pay and display car park a very short walk from this spot, which you can access via an underpass. You are also very close to a small, local train station and local buses in the area with interconnections.Please note, it may say ‘temporarily closed’ on the map, but this is an open space.

Price: Free to access, but involves car parking fee (which can be paid via an online app upon arrival)

Season: All year round, and due to its lower altitude, there is a good chance this lake won’t be frozen over. In winter though, this lake will be extremely cold, so it is advised to limit your exposure and only enter if you feel like you have the right level of experience. In the spring, summer and autumn, this would be a busier spot – but certainly would not be classed as warm!

Changing area/facilities: No

You’ll have been ever aware of Lake Thun on your drive to this location. As you walk through the underpass to this spot, you’ll be mesmerized by the clear, deep waters that this spot has to offer. There are steps into the water to the right and a bench for your clothes when you get there.

The steps make for an easy entrance as you allow yourself to acclimate to the cold water. The views are phenomenal from this spot – and is a great one to visit either first thing in the morning or later in the evening. Great for a taster of the area or to simply enjoy the freshness of the water and the mountains all around you.

Five Accessible Wild Swimming Locations (with maps) to Try in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland - Fm Dsc F

Image description: Fay wears a swimsuit and neoprene gloves and stands knee-deep in a huge lake. Mountains flank the lake in the far distance, and, on our right-hand side, the Sun sets behind a mountain shoulder.

2. Lake Oeschinensee

Access: By cable car or a hike. The lake is accessed via a quick but steep climb up on the cable car from Kandersteg. For up to date details on pricing and opening times, head to the website. From the cable car station Rodelbahn Oeschinensee, it is a short walk to the lake, though it is worth bearing in mind that this is downhill and then uphill at the end at altitude.

The lake can also be reached on foot via the trail from Kandersteg (next to the cable car station) and presents a steep, 5.1km to the lake. In the summer months, there is also a shuttle bus that you can take from the cable car station Rodelbahn Oeschinensee to the lake and back, leaving at cable car operational times. For more information, I recommend checking out the official website for prices and timings.

Price: For up to date prices for return tickets on the cable car and parking prices at the cable car station, check out the official website.

Season: The area has a summer and winter season, with the cable car having a number of months with no service, please check up to date timings on the website before planning to visit. Whilst the area is open in winter, it is a skiing location in the winter months and the lake completely frozen over. However, in summer, whilst this lake might be cold, it is also mesmerizingly beautiful.

Changing area/facilities: There are toilets and facilities at either the cable car station or the restaurant by the lake.

Swimming here, for me, was somewhat of a dream. It is just one of those places that you wonder if you’re awake or dreaming. It feels impossible to be swimming in something so blue. The views of the mountains are out of this world.

It is worth noting that there are boats that can be hired from the facilities at the lake shore, but these are restricted to a relatively small area and there are plenty of areas to swim from.

The best places to swim are either from the shore to the left of the visitor centre or to walk around one the base path to the left hand side picnic area. I find both of these areas provide really easy access to get into the water and acclimate.

Related content: Hiking in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland

Five Accessible Wild Swimming Locations (with maps) to Try in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland - Fm Dsc F Rgb

Image description: Fay wears a swimsuit and neoprene gloves and stands just over knee-deep in a huge lake. Mountains flank the lake in the far distance – the light is blue, crisp and cold. ⁣

3. Lake Brienz / Strandbad Brienz

Access: By car or public transport. There is a parking area just before the lake access that you’ll be able to see from the road. Can be accessed through the tunnel/underpass.

Price: Free, but parking must be paid for when restrictions are in place. Payable at machines/parking app.

Season: All year round, and due to its lower altitude, is a good chance this lake won’t be frozen over. In winter though, this lake will be extremely cold, so it is advised to limit your exposure and only enter if you feel like you have the right level of experience. In the spring, summer and autumn, this would be a busier spot – but certainly would not be classed as warm!

Changing area/facilities: There is a café on the shore, but when we visited, this was not open. I believe this may just be open in the summer months.

The perfect sunset swim could not get anymore perfect than an experience swimming at Lake Brienz. The waters feel calm, inviting and the views as you swim off with the warm sun on your face are incredibly memorable. An absolute favourite of mine.

Five Accessible Wild Swimming Locations (with maps) to Try in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland - Fm Dsc F

Image description: A landscape format image. A shallow, ice-covered mountain pool edge occupies the foreground. We can see orange stones beneath the surface. In the background there are large rocks covered in areas of snow and scrubby autumnal foliage and there are tall snow-capped mountains in the far background.

4. Brienzersee at Iseltwald

Access: By car, travel to the small village of Iseltwald and there is a parking lot in the town itself. There is also a bus from Interlaken Ost that will take you all the way to Iseltwald. At the time of publishing, the 103 bus runs every hour and takes roughly 20 minutes.

Season: If you’re up for it, and are well acclimated to cold water, Brienzersee from Iseltwald could in theory be swimmable all year round as Brienzersee is too deep to freeze. However, depending on the year, there could be surface ice on the water. The most popular time would be from late May – October, though.

Changing area/facilities: There are no changing areas nearby, you’ll have to change on the small beach area however there are a number of little cafes and restaurants for refreshments in the village itself.

A trip to Iseltwald is well recommended in it’s own right – it is one of the prettiest villages I have ever visited in the Swiss Alps. I would recommend visiting around early evening when the setting sun draws over the lake creating beautiful scenes over the bay. Be sure to walk around the village and onto the shore of the lake – you really will not be disappointed.

There are many entrances to the water around here, but most of them are private. Keep in mind that this is quite a popular place for tourists, and you won’t have it to yourself – there is a peer near the parking area where people will line up to take photographs of themselves against the beautiful lake backdrop.

However, the actual swim spot is far enough away that this never really bothers. The swim spot is just down from the car park, if you walk down to where the jetty is out onto the water, you’ll see a little path off to the left. From there, keep walking for about a minute until you reach a cement like slope down into the water – this is the access point. You’ll see there are boats in the area, but it’s also calm so it’s best to wear a float or a visibility device if possible. Be warned also, it gets deep quickly, but the water is incredibly clear and the views out as you swim are incredible.

5. Bachalpsee

Access: By cable car and then a hike from First cable car. The hiking route is well signed from the cable car station to head to Bachalpsee and is a well maintained path with just over 200m of elevation gain to get to the lake. Please check out the official website for up to date ticket prices and times.

Season: Summer – due to the lakes high altitude, it is frozen over in late Autumn and winter. Depending on conditions, this lake is likely accessible from June/July – September/October.

Changing area/facilities: None nearby

With a view of the Eiger and surrounding mountains, this lake is a great one to take in if you’re perhaps already enjoying a hike in the area.

It is a busy location with its relatively close distance to the cable car station and on route through a number of different hikes, but it is well worth a visit. On a sunny day, you’ll be treated to mirror like reflections in the lake. It is certainly a cold one, but an absolutely memorable one too!

Five Accessible Wild Swimming Locations (with maps) to Try in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland - Fm Dsc F

Image description: Fay wears a swimsuit and neoprene gloves and stands knee-deep in a huge lake. Mountains flank the lake in the far distance, and, on our right-hand side, the Sun sets behind a mountain shoulder.