Photo: The start of the Panorama bridge Sigriswil.
An easy walk with fantastic views over Lake Thun and the Alps. I wouldn’t call this a must-do, but it is a great option on an Autumn or Spring day when the weather is a bit uncertain and conditions in the mountains might not be ideal. Especially it is very simple to make it as short or long as you like.
This also passes by or within sight of all of the 5 ‘castles’ of Lake Thun (2 of which are just posh houses, and Spiez is leaning that way too).
Route: Thun – Oberhofen – Aeschlen ob Gunten – Sigriswil – Merligen.
Length: 14.3km +/- 415m.
For more hikes in Switzerland see my list of hikes.
Season: Year round. The highest point is at 800m and the hillside is in the sun for much of the day so there will only be a few days in winter where snow and ice are a problem.
Arrival/Departure: Train to Thun / bus from ‘Merligen, Beatus’. This could also be started/ended by boat.
Supplies: There are a constant series of villages with shops and restaurants along the route. Fountains for drinking water too.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: There are buses that run along the lake between Thun and Interlaken, and up to Sigriswil, offering various options to start/end or shorten the walk. I would suggest taking the bus straight from Thun station to ‘Oberhofen a. T., Dorf’ near the castle, this skips 5km of mostly bland walking through suburbs.
Notes along the route
From the station the path leads along a quiet backstreet and then to the Aare. The route turns away from it but the old town of Thun won’t take long to see and is well worth a slight detour.
The footpath follows a lovely promenade along the Aare well away from the road. One thing you will notice is that Thun is not really on lake Thun, but actually it is a 1.4km walk along the Aare until the lake opens up.
The path joins the lake across the river from Schloss Schadau (the big posh house sort of castle) and the views over the lake and Alps open up. The next few minutes along the lake are perfection. Then the footpath veers inland and is rather dull for the next 3km. First following an unpleasant busy road, then through quiet but boring suburbia. I would skip straight to Oberhoffen by bus.
The most interesting part is passing through the grounds of Schloss Hünegg (another posh house). This is fine but nothing exceptional – especially coming from the UK which has endless things like this. Somehow the house made its way onto the list of photo ops for the Grand Tour of Switzerland so if you want to collect all of those then it is worth the visit.
The path rejoins the lake at Schloss Oberhofen. Unlike the previous Schlosses this is actually more of a proper castle. The watertower sticking out over the lake is the iconic social-media friendly sight, but I actually enjoyed the lakeside walk through the Schloss Park far more. Entry into the Schloss Park is free, you can enter the castle itself via the museum, but it didn’t open for another hour and I have seen the insides of plenty of castles already.
From Oberhofen I headed up towards Sigriswil. This meant a steep climb straight up the hillside on some very long sets of stairs out of the village (rewarded with a bench and a view), and then a much more gentle climb traversing through some forest to the little village of Aeschlen ob Gunten.
The Panorama bridge Sigriswil (Panoramabrücke Sigriswil) connects Aeschlen ob Gunten and Sigriswil.
It exists as a spectacle more than anything else (the fact it is called the panorama says that clearly enough). The view isn’t any different than what you get for free walking along the hillside anyway (other than the chance to look down). Taking the bridge across the valley is 600m and flat, compared to 900m with about 100m of descent into the valley and climb back up the otherside on the footpath. So the bridge is a bit more convenient (especially for the less-abled) but doesn’t make a massive difference.
I make this point because crossing the bridge is a surprisingly expensive 8 CHF (discounted if you are staying in the area and have a guest card). I can’t recall any other suspension bridge in Switzerland even having a donation box, let alone an entry fee. It has certainly become much more famous and popular thanks to the Korean drama Crash Landing on You, but it seems the price was always 8 CHF. The cash desk is only manned on the Sigriswil side, so you could go part way onto it from the western side then double back and take the footpath through the valley instead. If you want an impressive suspension bridge in Switzerland then my recommendation is the free Goms bridge by Fiesch, or there are endless others around.
For a suspension bridge it is very stable: there is a little sideways wobble, but hardly any up and down. The floor has holes for water run-off but is essentially opaque. It is however very high up. There were a few other people on it taking photos at midday, but it was quieter than I had expected (this was of course the end of October).
Sigriswil itself had a few handsome houses but didn’t hit me as anything special. As with the whole hillside the views are nice, and there are several farm shops to buy Justistal cheese from as the path leaves town.
The path down towards Merlingen had some fantastic views (and more chances to buy some Alp cheese). Merlingen itself isn’t very exciting, but it isn’t a bad spot to wait for the next bus (or boat) back to Thun.