With a total length of 288 kilometers, the Aare is the longest river that lies completely within the borders of Switzerland. It flows from the Bernese Alps west of the Grimsel Pass and merges alongside the Reuss and the Limmat into the Rhine River near Koblenz.
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.
The classic route
Familiar to just about every Aare rafter, it stands alone as the king of all routes. Read on for all our tips for the route from Thun Schwäbis to Bern, including how to get there and the best place to end your trip.
If you’re feeling jaunty, this classic route is for you! It’s the most well-known and popular Aare rafting route, leading from Thun Schwäbis to Bern through the legendary Uttigen rapids.
The route is around 25 kilometers long and takes three to five adventurous hours to complete. Here we’ll let you know the best grilling spots along the route, how to maneuver through the Uttigen rapids without incident, and much more. If you’ve never rafted before and want to stay on the safe side, we advise you to start your journey after the rapids in Uttigen. Read on for more information.
The starting point for the classic route is the Bellevue Restaurant in Thun Schwäbis. There you can find an automatic air pump station for CHF 2.00 per raft. During the high season, you can also make use of the converted wet vacuums.
The raft pumps are no ordinary machines. Retiree Peter Zehnder constructed them from converted wet vacs and has been running the station for over 25 years.
There is a restroom right by the launch point at Thun Schwäbis. We recommend bringing your own toilet paper.
The perfect spot for your first break is around two kilometers after Thun Schwäbis. After the first two bridges (AMP-Strasse and Aaresteg), the adjacent Zulg river empties into the right side of the Aare. This is a great place for swimming and hanging out. There’s also a small grilling area.
After five kilometers comes the adrenaline rush of this route: the legendary, infamous Uttigen rapids. More than a few rubber rafts have capsized here due to the vortex created by large rocks in the middle of the river. Here’s how to ride through the rapids without incident:
The spot will slowly start to come into view once you’ve passed the left-hand curve after the Uetendorf-Heimberg bridge. The rapids are not particularly loud, but the rafters trying to get through sure are!
Make sure the weight in the rubber raft is distributed evenly, and try to navigate through the middle of the vortex using your paddles. It is easier if you hold the boat more to the right, not lateral to the river. The less water there is, the wilder the waves are. Good luck!
By the way, at this spot you may see some people-watchers on shore who are observing the fun.
Once you have successfully navigated your way through the rapids, the next Aare rafters can be seen getting into the left side of the river at Uttigen. From here on, the route is quite peaceful, with nothing more to stress out brave rafters. This spot is a good alternative starting point on the weekends for those who would like to avoid waiting times.
Right next to the Aareschlauchboot raft rental in Uttigen there is a pump station (CHF 5 per boat).
Warning: Bridges ⚠️
The rest of the route is relatively easy to navigate. After the nerve-wracking rapids at Uttigen, the current of the Aare is rather peaceful. But there are still places where you should exercise special caution.
Around bridges, for example. There are seven bridges that you will encounter after Uttigen. Be on high alert for dangers from above and below.
⬆️ Dangers from above: Watch out for falling objects – and jumping people. Plunging into the Aare is a popular pastime in summer, so make sure you signal your approach before reaching the bridge.
⬇️ Dangers from below: Watch out for countercurrent created by the bridge pillars. It is best to go under the bridge straight in the middle, where vortices are rarely created. Never join rafts together! This makes them harder to maneuver and could lead to the ropes getting caught in the pillars.
On an average sunny summer day, up to 3,000 people jump from Schönau bridge into the Aare.
What’s there to see?
Already at Uttigen, you might start feeling like you’re in a scene from The Jungle Book. The ivy climbing up the left bank of the Aare is reminiscent of the rain forest. On the other side of the river, there’s a breathtaking view of the Bernese Alps.
A few hundred meters after the Thalgut country guest house (left side) you’ll start to see the concrete river dams. Here you can soak up the sun and do a bit of grilling.
The real paradise for BBQ fans begins after the bridge between Rubigen and Belp. Small islands provide an inviting atmosphere for lounging and grilling.
Please think of the environment: keep an eye out for nature conservation areas (marked by signs along the route), take your trash with you (a trash bag is on the Aare rafting tour packing list!) and leave picnic spots as you would wish to find them. Mother Nature and your fellow Aare-goers will thank you!
Right before the end of the route, you’ll find the well-known Schönau bridge. This is a popular place for diving into the river (so watch out, sailors!). Romantics also like to hang their padlocks here. ❤️
One last highlight awaits just a few meters after Schönau bridge and right before the end of the route: the Parliament Building. Viewing it from the river still manages to set locals’ hearts aflutter.
Last stop! Please exit to the left.
For Aare rafting beginners, we recommend getting out at the Eichholz river pool and campgrounds. Here the Aare is relatively shallow, and you can stand on the riverbed, making it easy to pull the boat on land.
There is one more place to get out on the left side before the Marzili pool. Watch out for the red stairs.
There is also a place to get out on the left side under Monbijou bridge. We do not recommend going past this point. On shore, there’s a taut rope that you can hold on to, making it easier to get back on land.
For those who want to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of their Aare trip, the absolute final stopping point can be found after the Marzili pool, on the left side before Dalmazi bridge. You can already see the wooden wall from afar. Sail up alongside the wall so that you don’t miss the spot to get out directly afterwards. This is the last stop for all Aare rafters. There is danger beyond this point, since shortly afterward come the rapids at the Schwellenmätteli weir.
If you want to keep going, bring your raft on land and carry it past the weir, and then enter the river again at Schwellenmätteli. Read on for more on the tours that you can do from this point. 👇
Getting to Thun Schwäbis by public transport
We recommend using public transportation to get to the starting point of your rafting journey. This will save you the hassle of looking for parking or being tied down to a particular time or place.
The fastest way to reach Thun Schwäbis is by train. The shortest connection is 25 minutes from Bern by Regio Express. You then change trains in Thun. After a one-minute journey, press the button to indicate you’d like to get out at Thun Schwäbis. If you’re feeling sporty, you can also choose to walk the 1.6 kilometers.
From this point you can hear the rushing waters of the Aare and should walk in the direction of the Bellevue restaurant. In summer, the parking lot is transformed into a giant pump station. Now it begins!
If you want to avoid the rapids at Uttigen, take the train from Bern to Uttigen (22-minute ride). There are two trains per hour. After a short five-minute walk along the Aare, you’ll reach the entry point.
From Thun, you need just one minute to reach Schwäbis by train (push button to request stop) or ten minutes with bus 3 to the stop “Steffisburg, Schwäbis” (from bus stop K on Bahnhofplatz (Station Square)). We recommend taking the bus, which runs every ten minutes and keeps the rafting crews moving. But bear in mind: On nice summer days, the Aare can get quite crowded. There will be some waiting time before you can get in the water.
Another possibility is getting in the water at Uttigen. The S1 train runs twice an hour. After a four-minute journey, follow the Aare path for around five minutes. You can then launch your raft on the left side of the bridge.
Getting to Thun Schwäbis by car
If you’re not a fan of public transport, you can also get there quickly and easily by car. There are a lot of parking spaces and places to start your journey along the river.
But don’t forget: You’ll need to return to your car after the rafting trip, and there will be parking fees to pay.
Still want to go by car? Then here are our parking tips.
Take the Thun-Nord exit from the highway. Then drive left and follow the signs to Thun/Gunten/Heimberg/Steffisburg. Drive for about two kilometers and then take the first exit in the roundabout. At the next roundabout, drive straight. Then drive left over Regie bridge and turn left into Uttigenstrasse. Here there are plenty of parking spaces (be sure to indicate your parking time!).
If you want to get there by car, take the A6 and leave the highway at Thun-Nord. Then follow the signs to Seftigen/Uetendorf. After around two kilometers, keep right toward Uetendorf/Uttigen. Follow the street until the Dorfstrasse/Stationstrasse intersection and then turn right. Drive straight toward the train station. To the left you will find several parking places. Use the parking meter or your SBB parking card.
If you want to begin your journey elsewhere, you can park in one of the following places:
- Parkbad Münsingen
All good things come to an end – including your Aare rafting trip. Read on for how to get back to the city from the Eichholz campgrounds or the Marzili pool.
After a short walk up the hill, take tram 9 in the direction of the train station. After around ten minutes, you’ll be at Bern main station, where you can change trains in all possible directions.
It is easy to reach the city center from the Marzili pool. If you still have energy after the rafting tour, you can walk the ten-minute path. But for those who find themselves exhausted, there is the Marzili funicular. From here, it’s just a few steps to Bern main station.
Marzili funicular tickets
One way: CHF 1.40 | 20% off for groups of ten or more | Valid with the following public transport plans: General Abonnement travel card, Libero Zone 100/101, Bern Ticket, junior travel card
The tranquil route
Some may like it hot, but others are in search of tranquility and relaxation. If you’re one of the latter, you will enjoy the rafting route from Schwellenmätteli to Felsenau. Put on your sailor hat and enjoy Bern’s natural wonders, which get increasingly beautiful after passing through the Lorraine district. Read on for our tips on how to best enjoy this dreamy rafting route.
How about getting started right in the heart of Bern? This tranquil tour kicks off right next to the Schwellenmätteli restaurants. We recommend taking the steps to the left after Kirchenfeldbrücke (Kirchenfeld bridge). Pump up your rubber boat right on the banks of the Aare. The fun can begin here!
The starting point of this journey begins right after the weir at Schwellenmätteli, just next to the Schwellenmätteli restaurants. A smooth start will let you and your crew fully enjoy the view of the unique Old Town of Bern with the Minster.
After passing by the English Garden, you can wave at the three bears – Ursina, Finn and Björk – in the BearPark before redirecting your attention to maneuvering your raft. You will need to safely navigate under the first two bridges (Nydegg and Untertor).
Friendly reminder: Be on your guard around bridges. Summer bathers may be diving in, and there may be countercurrent around the bridge pillars. So it’s best to float directly in the middle of the pillars, and do not tie rafts together!
At Untertorbrücke (Untertor bridge), you also need to be on the lookout for oncoming traffic. Yes, you read right: You may encounter oncoming traffic in the form of Aare surfers. They attach bungee cords to the bridge and surf against the current of the river.
Did you know? The Untertor bridge is 529 years old, making it the oldest bridge on the Aare. Be sure to impress locals with this bit of trivia!
The same applies to Altenbergsteg (Altenberg pedestrian bridge). It’s the next one on your journey, just a few meters further down. Also be careful when navigating under the Kornhausbrücke (Kornhaus bridge) and Lorrainebrücke (Lorraine bridge). Once you’ve passed those, you can mostly relax for the rest of this tranquil tour.
The flow of the Aare is gentler here than in other areas. Here you can sail in slow motion through the hip Lorraine district and really take in the sights and sounds. You will also float by the Lorraine pool and groups of joyful Aare swimmers.
On the left side of the river, there is less traffic from swimmers. Float here to avoid collisions.
After 20–30 minutes you and your crew will have to briefly return to land. At Felsenau/Wyler, you will encounter a weir, so get out of the water on the right side and safely continue your journey once you’ve passed the weir.
You’ll have to bust out your best paddling and maneuvering skills here. The tumultuous waters of the weir can create countercurrent that pushes back against your boat.
Once you’ve made it through, you’ll quickly leave the tumult behind and be greeted by a tranquil natural landscape. It is smooth sailing on the Aare after Tiefenaubrücke (Tiefenau bridge), where you’ll be floating past forests and pebble beaches.
In Reichenbach, there is a ferry that connects the Schloss Reichenbach restaurant (complete with beer garden!) with the other side. Tip your hat to greet the ferry captain and make sure to avoid collisions with their vessel.
From here, you can grill to your heart’s content on an inviting river peninsula. Go ahead and anchor here for an enjoyable lunch break.
The Aare makes a loop here. You’ll pass by the Zehndermätteli restaurant on the right and Bremgarten Castle on the left. Once again, be careful around the ferry. If you and your crew are feeling exhausted, take a break here. The restaurant and beer garden provide an enchanting vacation atmosphere.
Insider’s tip: After the river loops, there is a tunnel connecting both sides of the Aare. Get out, walk through the tunnel and enjoy another 20 minutes of swimming and rafting.
The river loops again, bringing you under Felsenaubrücke (Felsenau bridge) and past the Felsenau Brewery, where the tasty local Bärner Müntschi beer is produced.
The first place to get out appears directly after the Felsenau bridge. If you want more, you can keep going until the Seftausteg (Seftau pedestrian bridge). Come ashore on the right side and cross the bridge. Then follow the hiking path and take the elevator up from the Felsenau viaduct. From here, the RBS train will take you back to Bern.
This tour can be extended as much as you want. You can, for example, keep going until Lake Wohlen. Just keep floating down the Aare for another five kilometers and get out at Wohleibrücke (Wohlei bridge). Here you can rent stand-up paddles and kayaks from faltboot.ch.
Getting to Schwellenmätteli
Schwellenmätteli is just a few minutes’ walk from Bern main station. But considering your rafting equipment, you may want to take public transport. Trams 6, 7 and 8 all stop at Helvetiaplatz (Helvetia Square). From here, take the stairs down from Kornhausbrücke (Kornhaus bridge) and start your sailing journey!
If you would like to come by car, you can park in one of the many parking garages around Bern. Here’s an overview.
The RBS train runs every 15 minutes back to Bern. The journey time is just four minutes. Or you can take bus 21, which runs every few minutes.
The sporty alternative
Are you a dyed-in-the-wool sailor who doesn’t mind a physically demanding journey? Then the route from Lake Wohlen to Aarberg is perfect for you. This is a fun, challenging tour for even the most robust athletes. Read on to find out where to start your journey, how to get there and more.
Lake Wohlen to Aarberg
This is one of the lesser-known Aare rafting routes. Rafters will cross Lake Wohlen, sail on into the Aare, pass by the Niederried power plant and float on to Aarberg. The Lake Wohlen–Aarberg route is not for the lazy. You and your crew will need to paddle at full speed, as the Aare flows rather slowly here. Swift paddling will be necessary to propel yourself forward. Using a lake kayak would give you an advantage. 😉
It’s not just for athletes, though. Those who appreciate tranquility will also enjoy this route. This leg of the river journey lets rafters get close to nature, enjoying the chirping of birds in concert with the rushing water, and recharging and relaxing on the banks of the reservoir (which is in a protected natural area).
If you’re seeking shade, this will already be a highlight of the tour. There is a great place for swimming on the right side just before the Mühleberg power plant. Dock your boat, roll out your picnic blanket and take a lunch break here.
After crossing the lake, you will need to go back on land just before the dam wall. Walk along the Aare for a few minutes before finding a spot to get back in the water.
Now get ready to paddle. The current of the Aare is weak here, so you’ll have to show your sporty side. If you’re lucky, there will be a bit of tailwind. After around seven kilometers, you will reach Niederried, where you will once again need to briefly bring your boat on land.
From here, a strenuous journey through marshland awaits you. Kayakers can look forward to burning a lot of calories here. Be sure you have enough snacks! The tour then takes you past the Radelfingen sports center. After some more intense paddling, Aarberg will finally come into view.
Insider’s tip for nature lovers: Just ahead of the last curve before Aarberg there is a wonderful swimming area. For just a few francs, you can pitch a tent here and relax after a tiring journey. Kick your feet up, listen to the sounds of nature, dive in and leave your troubles behind.
You and your crew will surely be tired now, so we recommend getting out around 150 meters before the weir bridge on the left side of the river. From there, you can reach Aarberg train station within ten minutes.
Did you know? Trango offers three-day canoeing tours from Thun to Aarberg. Just the right thing for river and adventure lovers!
In principle, you can enter Lake Wohlen from just about any point. We recommend taking the bus to Hinterkappeln and getting out at the Kappelenring stop. Walk along the lake, and after about half a kilometer, you will reach Wohleibrücke (Wohlei bridge), which is a great place to kick off your journey.
There are trains going back to Bern every hour from Aarberg. There is also a bus that runs every half hour. You will have to change from the bus to the train in Lyss. The journey lasts between 30 and 50 minutes.
By the way: Rafting route map
The Swiss Lifesaving Society (SLRG) has created Aare rafting maps with two of the three popular routes (Thun–Bern and Bern–Lake Wohlen). The maps provide an overview of where to enter the water, where to park, dangers to be aware of, where to eat and where to grill.