The best summer activity in Switzerland: going down the Aar

Picture this: it is a warm summer day in Switzerland, you travel by train up to the feet of the alps with an inflatable boat and some beers in your backpack.

You take out your boat, pump it up, and let yourself go with the flow of a fresh turquoise river for a few hours until reaching the pittoresque capital of the country, Bern.

That’s exactly what you will experience going down with the stream of the Aar river from Thun to Bern.

An easy trip on an intense turquoise stream

The Aar first flows through the lake of Brienz and Thun. These two beautiful lakes located at the feet of the Swiss alps are renowned for taking a distinctive turquoise color when the sun is shining. The river has the same characteristic and it is probably why going down the Aar is one of the most appreciated summer activity in the region.

This beautiful trip will last for an average of 4 hours, depending where you decide to go in or out of the river and if you are taking a break or not. You can do this alone or as a couple but the “traditional” way is with a group of friends. However, as the stream is quite strong which means that you should be a good swimmer but this activity is otherwise very chilled.

What do I need to go down the Aar?

If you want a challenge, you could simply swim the entire way. Some people will build huge floatable islands, other will take rubber rings but the most common and practical way to go down is with inflatable boats. However, we would recommend to consider taking the following gears:

Bathing clothes

Let’s start with the most obvious: you will need a bathing suit and a towel. However, you need to consider that the water is not warm (between 17°C and 21°C in summer) and if you are sensitive to cold we would recommend to wear a lycra or something similar. If you want to get in the water from time to time, it is very comfortable to take a slim life vest to help you float without effort.

If your final destination is not Bern, you should also take a set of dry clothes that you can wear on the way back to your place.

Boat

You can take about any floatable equipment. As you will be on the water for several hours and have a lot of equipment with, we would recommend a raft that can contain twice the amount of people that will board in.

If you are taking the trip with a group of friends, pack some rope to attach your rafts together.

Sun protection

Sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, t-shirt. The cold water will keep you from realizing how strong the sun is and it can be very dangerous if you are not well protected. Be safe and do not spare on protection!

Waterproof bag and pouches

Do you think that you will simply keep your stuff dry in the boat? Wrong. We tried, it does not work, ever! Invest in a water proof bag and good waterproof pouches for your phone and wallet.

Food and beverages

Our favorite schedule is to leave Thun between 10 and 11am and stop for lunch on the side of the river after two hours. You also want to keep hydrated and should pack a big bottle of water and whatever else you want to drink.

Pro-tip: the water will keep your beverage cool. Pack them all together in a closed bag that you will suspend to your boat.

Where should I go in and out of the Aar?

The earliest point to get into the Aar is from the bridge “Regiebrücke” in Thun. It is easily accessible from the train station in about 15 minutes walking:

 

To go out of the river, it will be well indicated as soon as you arrive in Bern. You need to leave as soon as you arrive at the city’s public beach as the river is blocked after the next turn:

 

If you want more information about the entrance, exit and danger zones along the river, you can take a look at the official map of the Aar (in German).



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