The Hike To This Alpine Lake In Switzerland Is Just As Dazzling As Its Bright Blue Water

A trip to the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland feels like you're stepping straight into a fairytale. In the colder months, the area looks like a winter wonderland with some of the best skiing in Switzerland and resorts and spas offering a luxurious playground that attracts jet-setters from around the world. In the spring and summer, the snow melts to reveal a breathtaking landscape of green meadows scattered with wildflowers, rugged mountains, and alpine lakes. The lakes nestled within the Swiss Alps are known for their stunning color — an almost shocking shade of turquoise caused by tiny bits of sediment that are washed into the lake as nearby glaciers melt.

Switzerland has around 1,500 incredibly picturesque lakes, but Oeschinen Lake is one of the most beautiful. The lake and surrounding scenery are so epic that Oeschinensee is included in the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn UNESCO World Heritage Site. Oeschinen Lake is a popular destination for outdoor recreation within the Bernese Oberland area. During the warmest months, you can even take a swim in the sparkling blue-green water. Surrounding the lake, you'll find an incredible hiking trail with some of the best views in Switzerland.

Hiking Oeschinen Lake

The easiest way to reach Oeschinen Lake is to take the cable car from the quaint little town of Kandersteg. Kandersteg is located a little over two hours from Zurich and about an hour from Bern by train. Tickets up to the lake on the cable car cost just under $30, and if you have the Swiss Travel Pass, you can get a 50% discount. Return tickets cost about $36. It's also possible to hike from Kandersteg to the lake, but you'll save a lot of time and energy by taking the cable car. 

The Oeschinensee Panorama Hike is considered challenging. There are steep climbs, uneven footing, and loose rocks, according to AllTrails reviews. That said, you'll be rewarded with some of the best views in Switzerland. Remember that there isn't much shade on the hike, so it's a good idea to pack sun protection. The hike is 4.5 miles long and has an elevation gain of over 1,500 feet. Most hikers complete it in about three hours.

In an AllTrails review posted in September 2023, one hiker highly recommended the loop trail and mentioned there are a few places to stop for food and drinks along the way: "Definitely do this clockwise, you have amazing views and it is much, much easier this way. I would rate this moderate clockwise but hard counter-clockwise. Also, if you go clockwise, you can go for a swim almost at the end and then head up," he said.

Where to stay

The closest town to Oeschinen Lake is Kandersteg. This charming European destination is the perfect picture of old-world charm. Surrounded by the majestic Swiss Alps, the little village is home to about 1,300 people. Wooden Swiss chalets line the streets, and cozy local restaurants serve traditional Swiss cuisine.

Visitors who hope to enjoy the natural beauty of Oeschinen Lake and hike the trails will find a variety of accommodations in town. Options range from laid-back bed and breakfasts to luxurious private chalets. Basic rooms start at about $120, and a 3-star hotel and spa is about $230. Airbnb is another option for finding accommodations, with prices starting around $130 per night.

The closest accommodation to Oeschinen Lake and the Panoramic Hiking Trail is Berghotel Oeschinenesee, right on the bank of the sparkling water. Originally constructed in 1892, the hotel has remained family-owned for five generations. There is a tasty restaurant with a large outdoor seating area overlooking the lake that serves up dishes like organic lamb raised on the family's farm. The hotel is open during the winter from December to March and during the summer from May until October. It can only be reached by foot or by taking the cable car. You will need to visit the hotel's website and call or email for rates and availability — and definitely look into the Fondue2Go boxes to eat outside.