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What’s the longest river entirely in Switzerland?

Key Takeaways:

💦 The Aare is the longest river exclusively in Switzerland, flowing for approximately 295 kilometers.

💦 The Rhine River, while not exclusively Swiss, is the longest river flowing through the country at approximately 375 kilometers.

💦 The many rivers of Switzerland also play a significant role in the country's transportation network, supporting cargo transportation and passenger cruises.

The Aare is the longest river entirely in Switzerland that flows within the country's geographical borders.

The source of the Aare is the Aare Glaciers in the Bernese Alps, from where it flows across the Swiss Plateau and ends in the Rhine River. By the time the Aare joins the Rhine River, it will have traveled approximately 288 kilometers.

Along the way, the Aare passes through several Swiss towns, including Interlaken and Belp. It also straddles Switzerland's de facto capital, Bern, providing a stunning backdrop peppered with historical bridges.

The longest river entirely in Switzerland is the Aare River, pictured in Bern - Drone Perspective, Switzerland

Used for hydroelectric power, drinking water, and irrigation, the Aare is an important water source for Switzerland.

But apart from the economic impact for many regions, the Aare is also a popular destination for recreation, such as swimming, rafting, and fishing.

Tourists and locals like this emerald stream made of glacial waters. Despite the extremely cold water temperatures, even in the summer, locals in Bern love swimming in the Aare, and tourists often take river rafting trips.

The impressive Aare Gorge in Meiringen

The best way to appreciate and experience the Aare River is by following it to its source. Near Meiringen, you can see the impressively deep and narrow ridge the virgin river has relentlessly sliced into the local limestone. As such, the Aare Gorge is the remnant of a process that started at the end of the last Ice Age some 10’000 years ago. At the time, torrential runoff water from the melting glaciers eroded the rock underneath.

Although barely two kilometers long, the Aare Gorge passage is bordered by sheer cliffs up to 50 meters high on either side.

So, there you have it: the Aare is the longest river entirely in Switzerland.

Aare Gorge in Meiringen, Switzerland
Copyright Jérémy Toma/Wikimedia

What is the longest Swiss river?

The Rhine is recognized as the longest Swiss river, beginning its course in the Swiss canton of Graubünden. From the source, the Vorderrhein River starts as a paradoxically tiny stream.

One of our favorite spots to appreciate the still-young river is the Rhine Gorge. This region is a natural wonder in its own right. It is often called the Swiss Grand Canyon. The towering limestone cliffs and pine forests along the river symbolize untouched nature that’s hard to come by nowadays:

Ruinaulta River Rhine

Be it during a hike along the riverside in Valendas or from the Islabord lookout point in Versam; this is where the Vorderrhein is most stunning before its long journey to the sea.

Valendas Rhine River Hike (Vorderrhein)

As the Vorderrhein flows through the Surselva and the Ruinaulta and joins the Hinterrhein at Reichenau, it grows into the majestic Alpine Rhine.

In Schaffhausen, the Rhine cascades down Europe's largest waterfall, the Rhine Falls. The Rhine River eventually flows into the North Sea near Rotterdam, Netherlands, after traveling 1230 kilometers from its source in Switzerland. The Rhine is a significant European watercourse that accounts for a large percentage of Switzerland’s water “export” to the continent.

Curiously, the longest river situated entirely in Switzerland is the Aare. It winds its way over a considerable 295 kilometers in Swiss territory, distinguishing it as the longest river exclusive to the country. Despite being shorter than the Rhine, the Aare showcases the rich environmental biodiversity of Switzerland, murmuring tales of the nation's vibrant landscapes in its continuous flow.

What are the biggest rivers in Switzerland?

Switzerland is home to many rivers that contribute significantly to its natural beauty. It's exciting to note that these waterways are an aesthetic spectacle and are a lifeline for the diversity thriving within the Swiss territories.

The Rhine is commonly recognized as the longest Swiss river, stretching approximately 375 kilometers before it crosses into Germany in Basel.

In other words, the Rhine River is entirely in Switzerland for 375 kilometers before it crosses the border.

Again, the Aare is another eminent river holding the title of the longest river entirely within Switzerland. It meanders mainly through the central and northern parts of the country and culminates into the Rhine near the German border.

FAQs about rivers in Switzerland

Dimitri Burkhard

As the founder, editor, and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of Swiss Travel Communicators. Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.

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Dimitri Burkhard

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