Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Oeschinensee

A Swiss friend told me that he thought the Oeschinensee ("Oeschinen Lake" in German) was the most beautiful lake in Switzerland.  What do you think?

 That picture does not even show you the coolest feature of the lake, which I shall reveal in time.  After having the endorsement of a Swiss citizen, I decided to visit the Oeschinensee in the summer of 2008 (I would later return, under much cloudier conditions, during the Hohtürli hike).  As it turned out, the forecast for the day I picked was beautiful in the morning, with increasing clouds in the afternoon, so I hopped a very early train to Bern and switched to the BLS line to Kandersteg.  Kandersteg is situated in the beautiful Kandertal:

From Kandersteg I took a chairlift up about 400 m to a path leading to the Oeschinensee:

Instead of following everyone straight to the lake, however, I took a path that veered up towards the mountains surrounding the lake -- my goal was to walk above the lake to its far end, then descend quickly and walk at lake level when I finished my circuit.  Following this path (and hilariously giving directions in Germans to other hikers, even though I knew next-to-nothing about the trail), I would catch glimpses of the lake through the trees, but finally I reached a point far enough up to see it in its entirety:

The most dramatic feature of the Oeschinensee is not its turquoise color, or the surrounding snow-capped mountains, but the sheer cliff, which is probably 300 m tall, at one end of the lake.  I continued my way along, getting more beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

The farthest point of my hike was a mountain restaurant, where I had some sausage and leek soup, and from there I descended rapidly among cows happily lounging in the sun (a pretty common sight when hiking in Switzerland):

Finally I was back at lake level, and hiked the flat path along the Oeschinensee and back to the chairlift, just as the clouds started to roll in.  Perfect timing!

Overall, it is a relatively short hike, unless you link it up with something else, but the scenery is magnificent.  There are a number of hikes that start or finish in Kandersteg as well, several gems in Swiss hiking, including the famous Gemmipass.  I highly recommend visiting the lake, even if you do not hike around it. 

If you want to see more pictures of the Oeschinensee, check out my photo set.


  1. Gorgeous scenery. The only thing I have seen compare to this in the U.S. is in Glacier National Park.

  2. @Susan -- it is much smaller in scale than Glacier or Crater Lake NP, but still pretty spectacular. Actually, that is one of the best things about Switzerland -- you get amazing scenery in very condensed geography.

  3. wow, makes me want to travel there. Spectacular.