Family, friends, lovebirds – in Bern, everyone grabs their oars and air pumps in the summer and heads out to float down the Aare in a rubber raft! A raft full of young people with pink flamingos and party music sails past a little island where a grandfather is grilling sausages with his two grandchildren.
A bearded, tattooed city slicker has his arm around his girlfriend, while tourists in life jackets are busy capturing their unforgettable day on camera.
If you take a moment to watch the colorful flurry of activity on the Aare, one thing quickly becomes clear: there’s not just one type of person rafting down the river. Rafting on the Aare is something for (almost) everyone who loves nature and being out on the water. And hardly any other activity in Bern draws such a wide range of people.
Is rafting the Aare something for you?
If you recognize yourself in one of the following descriptions, then the answer is yes!
“So, who’s coming rafting this weekend?” This question is sure to pop up whenever the Bernese meet for a beer on warm summer evenings. Rather than spending Sunday afternoons in a café catching up on the latest gossip (or soccer scores), locals in Bern meet together to raft down the Aare.
Aare rafting is perfect for those who have recently moved to Bern and are looking to make connections. Groups that get together for rafting are generally open and often take people along, even if they’re not very well acquainted.
Rafting along the Aare is the perfect opportunity to admire some of Bern’s most beautiful corners from an unusual perspective. You’ll glide past gentle hills, castles, forests, islands and enchanting spots along the riverbanks – while enjoying majestic views of Bern’s famous mountain chain, composed of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
A brisk ride on a raft is fun for the whole family. And unlike on hiking trips, you don’t have to worry about your teenagers grumbling all the way.
Wait until all of your kids are six or older, and don’t forget your life jackets.
Quality time, baby! How about spending a few hours floating along together in a small, cozy boat, with birds singing all around you? It’s wonderfully romantic – and the perfect idea for a third or fourth date.
🌿 Nature lovers
The pleasant ripple of the water, the sunlight glimmering on the waves, the rich green of the surrounding landscape, birdsong, fresh air, and a view of the often snowcapped Bernese Alps with the prominent peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Those who enjoy being out in nature will absolutely love the scenery while rafting along the Aare!
There’s good reason why we have the expression “all in the same boat.” After all, paddling down the river as a team helps bind people together. So it’s no wonder that you often see sport clubs and office groups engaged in team-building activities on the Aare.
🎉 Party lovers
The sound of thumping boom boxes and the laughter of bathing beauties on inflatable pink flamingos, happily posting selfies on Instagram – the younger Aare rafters radiate a playful vibe that is positively contagious. For those who love to party and are feeling a bit flirtatious, the Aare is the ideal spot to have fun and meet people.
Did you know that the legal blood alcohol limit of 0.05% also officially applies to rafting on the Aare? One celebratory beer won’t take you over the limit, but you’re better off steering clear of heavier drinks.
🍗 Grill masters
The many “smoke signals” along the Aare leave no doubt: for many Bernese, a true Aare rafting experience isn’t complete without grilling. Grill masters and former scouts are entirely in their element here.
🗽 City slickers needing to unwind
It’s perfect for anyone wanting to slow down the pace. The clocks tick slower in Bern than elsewhere. Rushing around in a hectic frenzy is a foreign concept here in the “capital of leisure.” Rafting on the Aare reflects this mentality. “Floating along” is more than a metaphor here, and one day on a raft is guaranteed to feel like three days of vacation.
Leave your mobile phone at home, and enjoy a break from WhatsApp and your to-do lists. Digital detox ahoy!
⚓️ Water lovers
How about doing a backflip into the water from your raft? Or diving along the riverbed, listening to the water push its way through the pebbles? Anyone who’s not content simply floating along can add their own level of action to the mix. If you like things on the adventurous side, we recommend starting your rafting tour in Thun Schwäbis. The Uttigen rapids (about 20 minutes downriver from Thun Schwäbis) is sure to generate plenty of adrenaline.If you prefer to play it safe and enjoy a more relaxing rafting trip, enter the Aare in Uttigen (after the action-packed turbulence).
Still not convinced? Captain Nicole tells her very personal Aare story. If you happen to float by Nicole’s raft on the river, you might be surprised at what you see... ▶️
Who shouldn’t raft on the Aare?
The Aare river is very hospitable and extends a warm welcome to practically everyone to come and raft – except (and this is very important) individuals in the following categories:
Inexperienced swimmers and non-swimmers
Only experienced swimmers should venture into the Aare. Aare rafting tours usually go smoothly and without incident, but there is the possibility of the boat overturning – causing everyone and everything to land in the water. In such emergencies, it’s important for everyone to know how to swim, and to know the tricks for navigating rapids and freeing themselves from whirlpools in the river (see chapter 5, Aare you safe?).
Sufficient experience in swimming is essential on the river, also for children. We recommend that anyone under the age of 14 wear a life jacket and be accompanied by an adult. Recommended minimum age: 6 years old.
It’s best to leave dogs, cats and other four-legged friends at home. If the family dog is along for the vacation and you’re planning a rafting day, you’ll find a local dog-sitting service here.
Baby on board? Due to the bumpy movement of the waves, Aare rafting is not recommended for anyone who is pregnant.
Visiting Bern as a group? If anyone in your group isn’t able to join you on the raft, or prefers not to, they can wait for you at the end of the route by the river pool at Eichholz, where they can reserve a grill spot and surprise you with a tasty BBQ and refreshing beer. Karma points ahoy!
It is important to treat the Aare with respect and find out more about the dangers before you swim. Swimming in the Aare is only recommended for experienced swimmers and is at your own risk.
The floodplains along the Aare river are particularly sensitive ecosystems. As a result, almost the entire river landscape between Thun and Bern is protected. We ask all those who stay around or on the Aare river to respect nature, not to leave any rubbish or disturb the animals unnecessarily.