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Bike – The Three Lakes Tour from Yverdorn to Solothurn

    Photo: The lakefront at Yverdorn.

    I have been up and down the north side of the lakes many times by train, but not so much in the south or middle region, I also wanted to go up Mont Vully which has a certain level of fame as an attractive location.

    This route cut right through the Seeland (lake region or Lake-land) from end to end. One of the lesser known areas in Switzerland it is most famous for vegetables and the fact it used to flood until they corrected the waterways. Not the most exciting prospect for many people, but there are the lakes and a number of beautiful little towns in the region. Still it isn’t likely to pull many visitors away from the Alps, especially when the Wikipedia page includes such inspiring images of the landscape as this..

    I had been waiting for a not-too-warm summer day with clear views and a tailwind to make this worth doing. On a grey day with a leafless landscape and headwind this would have been rather depressing.

    Key Information

    Route: Yverdon-les-bains (arrive by train) – Estavayer-le-Lac – Mont Vully – Nidau – Büren a.A. – Solothurn.

    Length: 116km, +893m, -895m.

    Date: 2020-September-05


    Practical Information

    Season: Year round, but nicer in the warmer months.

    Arrival/Departure: Train to Yverdorn / Train from Solothurn.

    Supplies: You are never far from the next village or restaurant along this route.

    Alternate routes/shortcuts: There are various options to hop on a train along the way, including Biel at the end of the third lake.

    Exposure/Hazards: Nothing beyond the odd bit of traffic.

    For the route planning I simply followed the Switzerland Mobility cycling network.


    Notes along the route

    Yverdon itself has a nice little old town, but otherwise isn’t very exciting.

    I missed it but shortly after the start the route passes by the Clendy Menhirs, a set of ancient standing stones. These are behind some trees just a few metres off the path.

    The initial route out of Yverdon takes you to the lake for a nice view point, but after that you are mostly back from the shoreline with the view blocked behind trees until you reach Estavayer-le-Lac. The main reason being that the shoreline is mostly left to nature. Highlights along the way were the lookout tower Observatoire des Iles de Cheseaux and the waterfront marina and beach at Yvonand.

    Observatoire des Iles de Cheseaux
    Observatoire des Iles de Cheseaux

    I had no idea there were so many caravan sites in this part of the country. I passed through more of them than actual villages at the start of the ride.

    Estavayer-le-Lac is a VERY beautiful village/town with some of the old fortifications and a castle still intact. I had been meaning to drop in for ages but it is bit of a pain for a day trip, and the area isn’t interesting enough for me to dedicate a weekend to it. A very good spot to stop at a bakery and grab some croissants to munch on whilst looking around. I was sad to discover that the museum dedicated to putting stuffed frogs into elaborate displays only opens in the afternoons though.

    Estavayer-le-Lac
    Estavayer-le-Lac
    Estavayer-le-Lac
    Estavayer-le-Lac

    After Estavayer-le-Lac the route changed to riding along a ridge with views to the Alps on the right and the Jura and lake to the left. The going was more interesting when I was higher up and could actually see the lake. The north side of the lakes is a bit more scenic to ride along as it is more open and the terraced vineyards offer better views out.

    An unexpected highlight was the Château d’Eau de Montmagny. A ugly concrete water tower that is now a free lookout platform offering the best prominent viewpoint on the route. I almost went by this and only stopped because a sign pointing to the water castle seemed out of place. The final part of the climb feels more like you are trespassing inside an abandoned building, especially if you are first up and need to raise the shutters.

    Château d'Eau de Montmagny
    View over Lake Murten and towards the Alps from the water tower
    Château d'Eau de Montmagny
    View towards Neuchateau and the Jura from the water tower

    Small drop towards Lake Murten and a nice ride through the vineyards. This was a good time of year with bunches of grapes hanging from the vines and swarms of swallows darting just above to eat the clouds of insects.

    I didn’t divert to see them, but Murten and Avenches are well worth a visit (I went through both going from Lausanne to Solothurn).

    Easy climb to highest point at Mont Vully which at 653m is rather adorable by Swiss standards. It does however sit in the middle of the three lakes and has good views to the Jura and Alps. Although being forested you can’t see everything at once like with the water tower. The road up and down the other side is open to cars, but the traffic was very light and there were so many bikes that the cars were very cautious. I missed it, but apparently the Guillaume bakery just off this route is well worth the detour.

    Vineyards on the descent from Mont Vully
    Vineyards on the descent from Mont Vully

    This part of the country is right on the French/German language border and many towns are marked on the map in two names (though normally with one dominate language).

    From Inns I had the choice of heading towards Erlach on the lake or staying inland until meeting the Aare. I had done the section along the lake from Erlach last year and knew it was a bit boring as the road is stuck behind trees and private properties so you don’t actually see much of the lake. Erlach itself is very beautiful and is well worth a visit. I went with the inland route past Finsterhennen to later join the lake at Hagneck: nice enough flat rural landscape, but nothing exciting (what I expected really).

    Joining the Aare and following it to Lake Biel. It was still mostly out of sight of the water here due to private properties, but there are a few points (and especially closer to Biel/Nidau) where you can access the shore. The north side of the lake is more attractive with very pretty villages and vineyards, but it also has more road and infrastructure.

    On lake Biel.
    On lake Biel.

    From Nidau I followed the Aare along to Solothurn (I could also have just taken the train back from here). It is a pleasant ride with plenty of spots to stop for a swim. The most notable spots along the route are Büren an der Aare which has a covered wooden bridge and a nice little old town, and Altreu which has Storks nesting all over the roofs.

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