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The Aare Gorge canyon walk is another one of Switzerland’s fabulous nature excursions. It’s an easy, family-friendly experience that takes at most, a half day. Access is straight-forward from the town of Meiringen in the Bernese Oberland. (To get your bearings, Interlaken is just 25 minutes west by car.)
The glacier fed Aare River – Switzerland’s longest river – cuts through a narrow limestone gorge thousands of years in the making called the Aare Gorge. It can be viewed via a 1.4 kilometre long walkway. While you can access the walkway at either end of the gorge, the western access is wheelchair and stroller friendly. The eastern access point is not.
Opened in the 1800’s
The Aare Gorge has been open to visitors since 1888. Since that time there have been ongoing construction projects and improvements with night lighting set up as early as 1912. Restaurants have been in place since 1928 though as recently as 2008 the Aare Restaurant was added.
By 1947, the Aare Gorge recorded attendance numbers of 180,000.
A walk through the fascinating Aare Gorge in Switzerland
The walk is one of those take your breath away experiences, especially if you start at the western end of the gorge. Immediately you’ll see and feel the power of the river. Peer over the railings to watch the glacially cold water move at speeds ranging from 4 km/h to 13 km/h. In just 12 minutes the water can shoot through the entire length of the gorge.
As you meander down the gorge you’ll go through tunnels but mostly you walk along a catwalk that is either beside the river or cantilevered over it. Photo opportunities – especially with “mood” lighting abound.
At the eastern end of the gorge the walk narrows and in places only one person can pass at a time. But the gorge flattens out here and the drama disappears. Note that you can cross the river at the eastern end via a rope suspension bridge.
During the gorge walk there is one place – the Kleine Enge – where the canyon walls narrow to more than a metre apart. The water pounds through here. At Kleine Enge also check out the impressive glacier mills.
Other points of interest along the walk include a waterfall spilling out of the gorge wall near the eastern end and caves that were used during World War II. Be sure to look up too. In places the gorge walls are up to 200 metres high!
Useful information for visiting the Aare Gorge
The Aare Gorge is located between Meiringen and Innertkirchen. The western entrance with more extensive facilities (playground, gift shop and restaurant) is the easiest access point from Meiringen. If you’re coming from Innertkirchen, use the eastern entrance unless you’ve got a stroller or wheelchair. The walkway is only accessible for approximately half its length with strollers/wheelchairs.
Interestingly the gorge is also dog friendly.
The western entrance opens in early April, the eastern entrance in mid-May. Both close in early November. Hours are 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM in summer though it’s open till 10 PM for part of the week. Check the website for exact times.
The admission charge is CHF9.00 for adults and CHF 5.00 for kids 6-16 – as of 2019.
John admiring the view down the gorge
From the train station in Meiringen
It’s easy to get to Meiringen by train from Interlaken – or indeed anywhere in Switzerland. It only took us three hours with a couple of stops from the Zurich Airport. If you get a Swiss Travel Pass you can hop on and off with ease. From the train station in Meiringen allow about 30 minutes to get to the gorge on foot.
Where to stay in Meiringen
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My favourite hotel over our 10 day trip in Switzerland was the fabulous Hotel Victoria Meiringen – situated across from the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Rooms are clean, modern and very comfortable. Both breakfasts and dinners here are outstanding.
Further reading about Switzerland
- The Brienzer Rothorn via a Scenic Trip by Steam Train
- What it’s Like to Hike the Full Tour du Mont Blanc
- Hiking the Stunning Via Alpina in Switzerland
A big thank you to Switzerland Tourism for hosting my stay.
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