Dossier: Hiking

Top 10 mountain lakes in Switzerland

When the sun’s beating down, there’s nothing better than a trip to a glacier-blue mountain lake. And, with around 1,500 lakes to choose from in Switzerland, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to refreshing summer excursions. Here we describe our ten favourite mountain lakes.

Text: Julie Freudiger, Photo: Palpuognasee © Switzerland Tourism / Jan Geerk

Mystic picture-perfect idyll: Lai Nair (GR)

You can certainly see where Lai Nair (Black Lake) got its name from. Dark and mysterious, it is located in the picturesque upland moors above Silvaplana. Thanks to its dark colour, it is warmed by the sun to a pleasant 20 degrees. Unlike the popular mountain lakes in the surrounding area, you’ll only see a handful of hikers on its shores.

Where: Silvaplana, Unterengadin/Graubünden
Altitude: 1,864 metres above sea level
How to get there: Walk from Surlej (approx. 30 minutes) or from Silvaplana (approx. 45 minutes)

Lai Nair © Switzerland Tourism / Per Kasch
Lai da Palpuogna © Switzerland Tourism / Jan Geerk

Most beautiful spot in Switzerland: Lai da Palpuogna, (GR)

Although Lai da Palpuogna isn’t a lake for swimming, it’s one of the undisputed top 10 mountain lakes. Idyllic and picture postcard perfect, the lake is located in the larch forest of Parc Ela, Switzerland’s largest nature reserve. Cooling your tired feet in aqua-green water before enjoying a tasty picnic: perfect relaxation.

Where: Preda, Bergün/Graubünden
Altitude: 1,918 metres above sea level
How to get there: Walk from Preda (approx. 1 hour) or take the Post bus towards Albula directly to the lake

Shootingstar: Seealpsee (AI)

The Seealpsee lake in the Alpstein region may no longer be an insider tip, but it’s a trip you shouldn’t miss.The steep mountain slopes are reflected in the crystal clear water, alpine meadows line the shore and two mountain inns offer refreshments. Once you’ve cooled off it’s really worth taking the steep path to the – now world famous – Aescher mountain inn which nestles into the rocks.

Where: Wasserauen, Alpstein/Appenzell Innerrhoden
Altitude: 1,143 metres above sea level
How to get there: Walk from Wasserauen (approx. 1 hour) or via Hüttentobel (approx. 1.5 hours)

Seealpsee © Switzerland Tourism / Martin Mägli
Lago Ritom © Switzerland Tourism

Sandy beach with mountain air: Lago di Tom (TI)

The trip from Piotta to Ritom, the starting point of the hike, is spectacular in itself. Built in 1920, the funicular is one of the steepest in the world. Once you’re at the top, a hiking route leads you past Ritomsee to the white, flat sandy beach and crystal clear waters of Lago di Tom.

Where: Val Piora, Quinto/Ticino
Altitude: 2,022 metres above sea level
How to get there: Walk from the Piora mountain station of the Ritom funicular railway (approx. 1 to 1.5 hours)

Take it easy: Lac des Chavonnes (VD)

Located in the heart of the Vaud Alps, the deep blue water of Lac des Chavonnes is very inviting with its warm water and a beach for bathing. Relax in the sun and enjoy a delicious ice cream at the homely restaurant on the lakeside. Summertime in the mountains at its best.

Where: Villars-sur-Ollon, Ormont-Dessous/Waadt
Altitude: 1,690 metres above sea level
How to get there: Walk from the terminal stop of the Bex–Villars–Bretaye mountain railway (approx. 30 minutes)

Lac des Chavonnes © Olivier Fatzer
Lac de Tanay © Valais/Wallis Promotion / David Carlier

Jewel in protected landscape: Lac de Tanay (VS)

What a view! When you reach the Lac de Tanay pass on the way to the lake, you’re rewarded with a stunning view, with alpine pastures, flower meadows and statuesque mountains setting the scene for the deep blue mountain lake nestled in the middle. If you need to recharge your batteries after your strenuous hike and swimming, the hamlet of Tanay offers food and overnight accommodation.

Where: Tanay, Vouvry/Valais
Altitude: 1,408 metres above sea level
How to get there: Walk from the Post bus stop “Miex, Le Flon” (approx. 1 hour)

Shrouded in legend: Schwarzsee (VS)

The icy cold water of the Schwarzsee lake above Blatten will help you cool down even on hot summer days. Shrouded in legend and peppered with myths and fairy tales, the lake lies on the hiking route of the Lötschental Legends Path, which leads from the Lauchernalp to the Fafleralp without a great difference in altitude.

Where: Blatten, Lötschental/Valais
Altitude: 1,861 metres above sea level
How to get there: Walk from Fafleralp (approx. 30 minutes) or from Lauchernalp (approx. 2 hours)

Schwarzsee (VS) © Switzerland Tourism / Jan Geerk
Klöntalersee © Switzerland Tourism / Renato Bagattini

Romantic fjord landscape: Klöntalersee (GL)

The biggest lake in Canton Glarus offers secluded bathing spots around the shore and wonderful hikes through one of the most beautiful valleys in the foothills of the Alps. For example, you can walk along the shore of the lake past spraying waterfalls and rocky ledges to the romantic path along the stream to Netstal.

Where: Glarus south/Glarus
Altitude: 848 metres above sea level
How to get there: With the Post bus or car from Glarus, or walk from Netstal (approx. 4 hours)

Saanenland icon: Lauenensee (BE)

Featuring in a song by the Swiss German rock band “Span”, this lake in the Bernese Oberland is a really popular destination. And it’s easy to see why! With protected moorland all around, a boardwalk for swimming, traditional restaurants and hiking routes through the scenic Oberland, you couldn’t wish for a better spot for a summer excursion into the mountains.

Where: Launen, Gstaad/Bern
Altitude: 1,381 metres above sea level
How to get there: Take the Post bus or car from Gstaad directly to the lake, or walk from Launen (approx. 1 hour)

Lauenensee © Switzerland Tourism / Roland Gehrt
Golzerensee © Switzerland Tourism / Christian Perret

Enchanting lake, rugged scenery: Golzerensee (UR)

The excursion is worth it for the journey alone. The Post bus winds up the narrow bends, with a view over the rugged valley. From the Golzernalp terrace, which hikers and swimmers can reach via a short cable car ride, it’s a stone’s throw to the unspoilt tranquil lake.

Where: Alp Golzeren, Maderanertal/Uri
Altitude: 1,411 metres above sea level
How to get there: walk from the cable car mountain station (approx. 30 minutes)