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Lake Brienz: Blueprint for a Memorable Weekend (2024)

Lake Brienz Boat Ride

Today, I’m going to pitch you one of my favorite lakes in Switzerland: Lake Brienz.

First, I’ll let you know the best time to kayak on Lake Brienz.

Then, I’ll give you the low-down on boat rides. And I'll share two must-see spots - a hotel and a charming Swiss town.

By the time you finish reading, I can guarantee you’ll say: “Take my money, Rex!” 

Let’s dive right in.

Lake Brienz has the most beautiful color
of any lake in Switzerland

Nestled between the Brienzer Rothorn and the Bernese Alps, Lake Brienz is a vast expanse of turquoise water. Hands down, this is one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland.


Why Lake Brienz is turquoise

Lake Brienz reflects all the shades of turquoise. You might think that the photographer pushed up the saturation in Photoshop. But the color is entirely natural and sets Lake Brienz apart from other lakes in Switzerland.

The Aare River, the Lütschine River, and the Giessbach Waterfalls feed Lake Brienz. The lake’s unique color is due to the small sediments deposited in the lake by the glacier melt. Since these tiny particles take a long time to settle in the clear lake water, they create a distinct turquoise color.

Seeing its color is reason enough to visit Lake Brienz at least once. And when you do, pay attention to all the surroundings that suddenly look more magical than in real life: meadows, boat houses, chalets, and boats.


Kayaking on Lake Brienz is legit

Kayaking on pristine Lake Brienz is an otherworldly experience. My favorite times are those early morning hours when the lake is calmest.

The key is to hit the water before the crowds show up: other kayakers, private boats, and public ships. Lake Brienz shows itself and all its beauty in the early morning hours. The calmness of the lake best reflects the shades of turquoise.

Lake Brienz Kayaking - Blueprint for a perfect getaway

We set out on our kayak tour from the beach in Böningen. This is also the base of guided kayaking tours on Lake Brienz. Our goal this morning is to cross the lake and the Lütschine River. We paddle along spectacular cliffs and spot secret coves and beaches.

On this sublime lake, our colorful kayaks look especially nice: yellow, orange, purple, and blue. A half-day kayak tour is the best way to experience the sublime beauty of Lake Brienz.

When our tour guide asked whether to take a break on shore, our group replied: "Paddle on!"

Hit the play button to see what summer kayaking on Lake Brienz is like:


The Grandhotel Giessbach is a gem though

If there ever was a genius, it’s the person who built a grand hotel on top of a hill overlooking Lake Brienz. This scenic spot was initially discovered by painters who treasured the vistas by the Giessbach waterfalls.

Grandhotel Giessbach at Lake Brienz

In 1870, the well-known Hauser family purchased the lot and commissioned a renowned hotel architect. The goal was to open a grand hotel for the global elites that showcases the Giessbach falls and Lake Brienz.

After two years of construction, the hotel opened for business with its sweeping staircases and impressive views. Back in those Belle Époque times, it was still common for women to row patrons to the hotel in boats.

Today, arriving by boat via the docks on Lake Brienz is still the best way to reach the Grandhotel Giessbach. From lake level, we transfer onto the hotel’s Giessbach-Bahn funicular. The oldest funicular in Europe has been operating for more than 140 years.

Lake Brienz Boat Ride

You will see breathtaking scenery in whichever direction you look. This Lake Brienz hotel appears suited for kings, queens, celebrities, artists, musicians, fashion designers - and everyone in between.

Each of the 74 hotel rooms happens to be decorated uniquely. Each piece of furniture is acquired from locals and artists, approved, and placed in particular rooms to give them that extra touch. Each room will boomerang you to a different decade. Why haven’t more hotels implemented an ingenious concept such as this?

Giessbach Falls at Lake Brienz

The presence of the waterfall with its 14 falls overtakes this location. Like a moth to a flame, people settle around the tables nearest to the Giessbach. Enjoying their drinks and apéros, they are probably thinking: "Does life get better than this?" Then, when their hearts are filled with content, I spot them making their way to the viewpoint overlooking Lake Brienz.

The Grandhotel Giessbach is ideal for architecture lovers. It is labeled as a Swiss Historic Hotel, a well-deserved designation. Because nearly 150 years later, it is still a gem.

Giessbach Waterfall at Lake Brienz

Boat cruises on Lake Brienz

A relaxing way to see all the picturesque lakeside villages and the Grandhotel Giessbach is by taking a boat cruise on Lake Brienz. Departing from Interlaken Ost or Brienz, with numerous stops, a boat cruise provides an entirely new perspective on the area. Boat cruises on Lake Brienz are available during spring, summer, and fall.

Going with the Belle Époque theme, look out for the Lötschberg paddle steamer built in 1914. When you glide across Lake Brienz on this nostalgic boat, it is easy to imagine what leisure traveling used to be like more than a century ago.

Onboard, first-class passengers are usually privy to the upper deck. But the boat's front and back seating is just as attractive. Regardless of the ticket category, you can head to the boat restaurant to purchase food and beverages.

The lakeshore has rugged cliffs and hidden coves that are only visible from the vantage point of a boat. Other highlights include the Giessbach falls seen from lake level and the final destination: Brienz. Given that the Brienz boat landing is right by the train station and the Brienz Rothorn Bahn terminal, the onward journey is as smooth as can be.

My advice: combine a boat ride on Lake Brienz with a visit to the Giessbach falls. Get off the boat at the Giessbach See station and hike the remaining steps to the waterfall.


Iseltwald: my not-so-secret love affair

Iseltwald, I wish I didn't have to write about you. I love you!

With its small-town feeling, beautiful old homes, lavish gardens, and a little island in the middle of the lake, it's hard not to love this place. Located on the southern shores of Lake Brienz, Iseltwald is easily reachable by boat.

I dragged my in-laws and all my newly acquired friends to Iseltwald for my 40th birthday party. At first, many were hesitant because of the distance and time to get there. But once they stepped foot into this beautiful village, everyone returned for more.

I have now turned a celebration into a yearly Hawaiian potluck. If you ever hear Hawaiian music drifting through the air in Iseltwald, you might have stumbled across our little get-together…


Travel tips for Lake Brienz by season

Lake Brienz and the surrounding towns are worth visiting any time of the year. Here are some of the top things to do at Lake Brienz during summer and winter:

Summer

  • Spending a day at the Ballenberg open-air museum
  • Kayaking on Lake Brienz
  • Panoramic hiking at Brienz Rothorn or Schynige Platte
  • Schwander Life Path roundtrip hike
  • Hiking the Three Waterfalls Trail from Bönigen to Brienz
  • Hiking to the Giessbach waterfalls
  • Boat rides on Lake Brienz

Winter

  • Winter kayaking
  • Snowshoe hiking
  • Boat rides on Lake Thun
  • Sledding from the Niederhorn - day or night

Where is Lake Brienz located?

Lake Brienz is located in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, in the German-speaking part of the country.

There are two major towns along the 30-kilometer shoreline of Lake Brienz: Brienz on the northern end and Interlaken on the southern end.


What are some tips for Lake Brienz transportation?

Lake Brienz is located in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, in the German-speaking part of the country.


Is swimming in Lake Brienz possible?

Yes, it is possible to swim in Lake Brienz. With a few beaches, Lake Brienz is even ready to welcome courageous swimmers. But beware: this is a glacier lake - and it's freezing even in the summer, with temperatures barely rising above 20°C even in the warmest summer months. Unless you are into cold-water swimming, this will not be the first choice for swimming. Alternatively, try the public outdoor swimming pool in Interlaken.


Which is the better lake to visit, between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun?

It depends on personal preferences. Lake Brienz is known for its beauty but is smaller and less crowded, while Lake Thun is bigger, with more towns and villages around it, but not as picturesque as Lake Brienz. Both lakes are worth visiting, but I personally prefer Lake Brienz for its turquoise color. Both lakes are close to each other, so go there and make up your own opinion!

Rex Moribe

Rex traded his surf shorts for scarves, poke for prosciutto, year long summers for four seasons, the ocean for lakes, and poi for cheese. If you haven't guessed, he is from Hawaii.

Rex is an IT administrator by trade but is finding himself behind a camera more and more and immersing himself in social media and marketing.

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Rex Moribe

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