The Ultimate Aare Rafting Guide

Planning and preparation

Good weather, good rafting? Not always! We’ll tell you the ideal conditions for your Aare rafting tour, and when it’s better to stay home.

The perfect conditions for rafting the Aare

Red sky at night, sailors’ delight?

The perfect months

June, July and August. But depending on the temperature, it’s even possible to raft as late as September or as early as May.

  • Fun Fact

    “Have you been in yet?” As soon as the temperatures begin to rise, you’ll hear people asking this question all over Bern – just as commonly as “How are you?” or “What did you do over the weekend?” What makes it so funny is that there is often no direct mention of the Aare – everyone in Bern just knows what is meant.

The perfect air temperature

Once the temperature in Bern hits around 20°C, it’s time to bring out the rafts! This is usually around the end of May or early June.

The perfect water temperature

We recommend waiting until the water temperature has reached around 16°C (around the end of May) before rafting on the Aare. It’s even more comfortable once the water reaches 20°C, since there’s always a chance of falling into the water. So it’s better to be safe than sorry! If the water temperature is still a bit too cold but you simply can’t resist getting out for a rafting tour, you’re better off wearing a wetsuit for protection.

The perfect weather

Bright sunshine or partly cloudy skies. But keep in mind that appearances can be deceiving! Even on the sunniest days in Switzerland, summer storms can frequently materialize in the afternoon or evening. Our tip: Be sure to check the weather on bern.com/en/weather before heading out to raft.

It’s also not wise to raft on a day following a storm. The river – whose waters are usually crystal-clear turquoise and clean – is muddy brown after a storm and carries a lot of driftwood in the current. This makes it dangerous to swim in the Aare or to go on a rafting tour.

The perfect water level

Before heading out for a rafting tour, it’s important to check not only the weather but also the river’s water level. In the early summer in particular, glacial ice from the Bernese Alps melts and flows directly into the Aare. This raises the water mark, causing the current to become very swift and making it much more difficult to maneuver a raft. And when the water level is too low, like after a longer period without rain, rafts are at risk of running aground along the riverbanks.

The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment regularly measures the water level. We recommend using the Aare Guru app or going to www.aare.guru (German only) to check the water level before any Aare rafting tour, and cancelling the planned tour if the water levels are higher than 230–250m3/s or lower than 100m3/s.

The perfect day of the week

If you want to enjoy a more peaceful day on the Aare, it’s better to go rafting during the week. But the typical Bernese river-rafting atmosphere is best experienced on the weekend. At Bern main station and on the train to Thun, you’ll run across countless Aare rafters who are happy to introduce newbies to the Aare and offer useful tips for their tour.

And the atmosphere at the launch points and out on the river itself can be quite festive. It’s a great meeting place, and it’s not at all unusual to find yourself chatting with complete strangers on other rafts along the tour. Tip: On holidays, such as the Swiss national holiday on August 1, spirits are especially high out on the river.

The perfect time of day

It’s ideal to avoid the strong midday sun by starting your rafting tour in the morning or early afternoon. Most Bernese head to Thun by train between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon – and their flip-flops, swimsuits, brightly colored boats and relaxed mood leave no doubt about where they’re headed. If you’re a first-time rafter, the train ride is the perfect opportunity to chat with experienced rafters and to meet someone who is kind enough to direct you to the launch point and show you the pump stations.

Of course, it’s also possible to wait and start your tour in the afternoon. But keep in mind that a tour takes two to three hours (without breaks). If you add in stops for resting, sunbathing and grilling, it can easily become a trip of four to five hours. For newbies, we recommend starting down the river by 2:00 p.m. at the latest.

This gives you sufficient time for some relaxing breaks along the still unfamiliar route, ensuring that you can make it to the end safely before the sun disappears behind the mountains.

  • Tipp

    If you have trouble understanding the Bernese-German dialect used in the Aare Guru app and are a bit uncertain in your planning, please contact Bern’s Tourist Information. They will be happy to assist with questions about rafting the Aare.

A successful rafting tour on the Aare, step-by-step

“Did we remember everything?” This is a typical question asked before starting any rafting tour on the Aare. To ensure that the whole crew can confidently answer “YES!”, we have put together a checklist for your Aare rafting tour. This way you’re sure to remember everything!

One month in advance (for those who don’t live in Bern)

Grab your calendar and set a date 📝

Organize your crew

Rafting on the Aare is more fun with a group! Typical raft sizes vary from two- to six-person boats, and some of Bern’s raft rental companies even have boats that can accommodate up to ten people.

So whether you’re planning a romantic rafting tour just for two or an excursion with a large group in multiple rafts, anything is possible. Just make sure not to go alone; rafts should always have at least two people.

  • Tipp

    Your friends are afraid of the water but you’d still like to experience the adventure of rafting down the Aare? You’re surely not the only one. Our tip: Post your interest on the “Waswiewo in Bern” Facebook page.

Set the date

You have already read the tips in the previous chapter for the perfect rafting conditions. How about a WhatsApp or Doodle group for your whole Aare rafting crew?

Arrange for a raft

Should you rent, buy or borrow? See our recommendations here.

Book accommodations

From the campsite right next to the river pool at Eichholz to the Zollhaus pop-up hotel in an old customs house – Bern offers various accommodations right by the river, inviting visitors to spend some wonderful days experiencing the Aare. An overview of accommodations is available here.

Book a guide and/or package

Would you rather not explore the Aare on your own but have an experienced guide along? Or are you interested in a comprehensive package including a guide, BBQ, equipment and all the essentials? Such tours are often available to book at relatively short notice. However, we recommend booking around two weeks in advance just to be safe. An overview of Bern’s four rafting tour companies is available here.

One week in advance

Just one week to go!

Check the weather forecast

Is sunshine in the forecast? No bad weather or storm clouds on the horizon? You’ll find reliable forecasts on bern.com/en/weather.

Decide on a route

Besides the route from Thun (or Uttigen) to Bern – which Switzerland Tourism refers to as the “king of Swiss rafting routes” – there are other wonderful routes to discover around Bern. From slower-paced to more adventurous routes, you’ll find our favorite picks here (including specific times needed, maps, etc.).

Make restaurant reservations

Would you like to end your rafting tour with a relaxed dinner and a view of the turquoise waters of the Aare?

There are a number of different restaurants where you can dine right along the river, including Casa Novo (tasteful atmosphere and a wonderful terrace), the Schwellenmätteli’s restaurants (a special experience, right over the Aare weir!), the Altes Tramdepot (a brewery and restaurant combined) and the Dampfzentrale (industrial chic with an Aare vibe). We recommend reserving a table one week in advance. A detailed description of the restaurants is available here.

One day in advance

Just one day to go, and remember to set your alarm clock!

The morning of the tour

It’s almost time! 😍

If you read this guide carefully and pay special attention to the various checklists, you’ll be perfectly prepared and more than ready for your big rafting adventure on the Aare. On the morning of the tour, be sure to briefly check the following points one last time. 

It would be better to stay home or plan a different activity for the day if any of the following apply:

👎 If there was a storm the day before or if one is forecast for sometime in the evening

👎 If the water level is higher than 230–250m3/s or lower than 100m3/s (check www.aare.guru)

👎 If you’re not feeling well or physically fit

👎 If your blood alcohol level is still above 0.05% from last night’s party

👎 If your raft has a hole and you don’t have a repair kit along

But if none of these applies to you, then just put on your flip-flops and sunscreen (yes, that’s important) – and let the fun begin!

Three ways to get a raft

Buy, rent or borrow: what’s right for you?

Is your rafting crew complete? Then all you still need is a raft. Here are some tips on buying, renting or borrowing a raft.

Renting a raft

If this rafting trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime event, we recommend simply renting a raft. There are various companies in Bern that rent out rafts in different sizes (for two to ten people). Rental prices per raft (including the equipment) range from CHF 60 to CHF 700. The rental procedure and options are similar from company to company.

Here’s how it works

Rafts can be reserved in advance, either online (at any time) or by phone (during the company’s business hours during the week). Reservations can usually be made up to one day before the trip. But to be sure of securing a rental raft during the peak summer season, we recommend making your reservations one week in advance.

On the day of the tour, you can pick up your raft at the launch point (Thun Schwäbis or Uttigen) and – if you’d like – receive comprehensive information on raft handling, safety aspects and the route itself.

The package usually includes equipment such as paddles, an air pump, life jackets, a dry bag and the route map.

After that, you can paddle away and enjoy your tour! You can then return the raft when you exit the river at Eichholz or Marzili (depending on the rental company you use). Just be sure to return the raft on time (usually by around 6:00 p.m.).

Exiting the river at Eichholz

If you’d like, the raft rental company can transport your dry clothes and valuables directly to the destination point by car. But most rental companies provide dry bags, allowing you to take your personal items along on the raft and keep them safe and dry.

Besides just renting the raft, would you like to raft down the river with an experienced guide? Or are you interested in a comprehensive package including a guide, BBQ, equipment and all the essentials? Most raft rental companies offer these kinds of packages.

  • Tipp

    Enjoy a special discount if renting a raft on a Monday. For just CHF 99 per raft (for up to six people), it’s well worth extending your weekend in Bern. Book today with the rental company Aareschlauchboot – and paddle away!

Comparison of raft rental companies

The following chart compares three raft rental companies and provides an overview of the most important points (swipe left if viewing on a mobile phone).

Aareschlauchboot Outdoor Interlaken Kanu Shop Siesta Oppi
Number of people
per raft
6 people (max.) 16 people (max.) 10 people (max.)
Available rafts 1-person tube
6-person raft
8-person raft
16-person raft
2­person raft
4­person raft
5­person raft
6­person raft
7­person raft
10-person raft
Prices starting at CHF 170.00/raft CHF 99.00/person CHF 80.00/raft
Route Uttigen–Bern Eichholz Schwäbis–Bern Eichholz Schwäbis–Bern Eichholz
Included 6-person raft,
paddle for each person,
life jackets, large dry
bag, Aare map, luggage
transfer to Bern Eichholz
Complete rafting equipment,
professional guide,
free drink after the trip,
free pick-up service,
changing rooms
Raft, paddles, life jackets,
dry bag, route map,
transport of valuables
and clothing
Deposit CHF 30.00/raft - CHF 50.00/raft
Cancellation Free cancellation up to
48 hours before tour
Free cancellation up to
48 hours before tour
Free cancellation up to
72 hours before tour
Particulars Monday is Aare rafting day!
Those looking for a special
deal can enjoy a beautiful
rafting trip on Mondays,
starting at CHF 99.00 per
raft.
Optional BBQ on board
for CHF 100.00 (not
including food) or for an
additional CHF 19.00/person
including food
Payment must be made
in cash on-site, reservations
must be made by 4:00 p.m.
the previous day, at the
latest.
  • Fact

    Check the weather early enough beforehand. In the case of last-minute cancellations, payment will not be reimbursed or credited. Most rental companies allow for free cancellations up to two days before the tour. After that, the amount will be credited and the rafting tour can be rescheduled for another day.

Buying a raft

Browse through the shops or order from the comfort of your home.

Have you finally been bitten by the Aare rafting bug? Rental prices per raft (including the equipment) range from CHF 60 to CHF 110. If you plan to raft the Aare several times each summer, it’s worth buying your own rubber raft (prices range from CHF 20 to CHF 700). It allows you to be more flexible and to save money – plus you get to be the proud owner of a raft.

How about blue and yellow, red, or perhaps olive green? Of course, bright colors are the most fun on the turquoise waters of the Aare. But there are more important things to consider when buying a raft than just the appearance. After all, not all rafts are the same. In order for your raft to smoothly navigate around some of the riskier patches of water, and to make sure your trip isn’t ruined by an unexpected puncture or a broken paddle, it’s important to invest in professional gear. Here are some tips to consider.

What do I need to consider when buying a raft?

Think big

It’s better to have a raft that is too big than too small. Rafts that are made for two people often don’t have room for backpacks or picnic bags, and they tend to be a rather snug fit even for couples. So, you’re better off choosing a raft that is slightly larger – for instance, a three-person raft for two people, or a four-person raft for three people. Also, pay attention to the raft’s maximum weight allowance (safety first!).

Air chambers

A good rubber raft should have at least three air chambers so the whole raft doesn’t deflate if one of the chambers is damaged. The more air chambers, the better.

Good paddles

Make sure the paddles are made of sturdy material; you’re looking for a solid stick, not a matchstick. This makes it much easier to navigate the river current. Tip: Take along an extra paddle, just in case. This will help you keep a cool head if one of your paddles breaks or permanently goes for a swim.

Package contents

Paddles and an air pump are often included in the raft package. But make sure this is the case when you buy your raft, and check that the materials are free of defects. Better to check before your purchase than to be sorry later!

Repair kit

Most rafts are made of PVC, which is easiest to repair. Clever rafters go ahead and buy a repair kit when buying their raft. Many rafts already have a repair kit included; but if not, you can ask about one in the shop.

Repairing a raft is not too difficult. The repair kit will include instructions on what to do.

Comparison of popular rafts

Rafts are available to buy at Coop Bau + Hobby, Intersport, Athleticum, Manor, Galaxus, Siroop and many other sporting goods stores. The following four rafts are ideal for the Aare (swipe left if viewing on a mobile phone):

Intex Challenger 2
boat set
Sevylor Caravelle
K105
Intex Seahawk
inflatable raft
Jilong FISHMAN
II 400
Number of people 2 people 3 people 4 people 4 people
Maximum weight 170 kg 310 kg 400 kg 380 kg
Number of air chambers 3 4 3 3
Dimensions 236x114 cm 298x135 cm 351x145 cm 295x128 cm
Package contents Paddles, foot pump,
grab line, grab handle
and repair/patch kit
Two paddles, grab line,
mount kit for attaching
a Sevylor motor or
transom, grab handle
for easy transport,
repair kit and carry bag
Two paddles, hand
pump, seat cushions
Two paddles, pump
Color yellow and blue blue and white green and yellow green
Where to buy Sportxx Galaxus Interdiscount Gobatrek, Genfergasse
11, CH-3011 Bern
(a three-minute walk
from Bern main station)
Price CHF 74.90 CHF 76.90 CHF 149.00 CHF 177.00
Particulars Strong vinyl construction
and TÜV-certified
Functional,
can be motorized,
suitable for other
bodies of water,
weighs just 4.2 kg
Winner of the
Kassensturz test 2012
Also perfect for fishing

Challenger, Hydroforce Raft or Splash&Play? The Swiss radio and TV program Kassensturz tested various different rafts. See how they performed here (in German only).

  • Tipp

    Don’t forget to put your name, address and ideally your phone number somewhere on your new raft straight away. This is a mandatory requirement of the Swiss Inland Navigation Ordinance and allows rescue teams to return unmanned rafts to their owners and avoid time-consuming and costly search and rescue operations.

Borrowing a raft

Rafters are a helpful bunch, so just call around and ask about borrowing a raft.

Looking for an inexpensive option for your rafting tour? Sharing is caring! Many Bernese have a raft in their basement and are happy to loan it out on occasion. So if you have connections in Bern, try asking your friends or workmates.

Are you just visiting Bern? If you’re spending several days in the capital, use the first days to chat with the locals – like at the Turnhalle Café and Bar – and ask them about tips for rafting the Aare. With a little luck and charm, you might be offered a raft to borrow or get invited to join a rafting tour.

  • Fun Fact

    If you’re looking for a more unusual raft, there are some interesting alternatives out there. Aare rafting has become such a popular sport that you’ll now find rafts resembling unicorns, floating islands and more; there’s even a kind that doubles as a trampoline on the water!

Chapter Overview