Gelmersee Lake Switzerland: Full Guide for A Great Experience

The Gelmersee hike stands as a beloved trail in the Handegg region of Switzerland. This adventure leads you through breathtaking landscapes featuring Gelmersee Lake Switzerland, grand mountains, and flourishing green forests.

Gelmersee sits at an elevation of 6,066 feet (1,849 m) above sea level. This mountain lake came into existence during a hydroelectric power project in the early 20th century, harnessing the power of the Rhone and Grimsel rivers. It’s embraced by towering mountains, some soaring beyond 9,800 feet (3,000 m), making it an ideal spot for hiking and taking in the views.

This glacial lake, with its mesmerizing turquoise waters, is cradled within the embrace of awe-inspiring high-alpine vistas. To reach this enchanting location, embark on a journey aboard the Gelmerbahn funicular. Along the way, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the encircling mountains, including the iconic snow-capped Swiss Alps. You’ll also discover numerous idyllic spots to pause and immerse yourself in the surroundings, with designated picnic areas and scenic lookout points that offer panoramic vistas.

The hike spans approximately 7 kilometers and typically requires about 3 hours to complete. It’s an absolute must for anyone exploring the beauty of Switzerland, delivering a hiking experience that is truly one-of-a-kind, showcasing the extraordinary natural allure of this remarkable country.

The Gelmerbahn Funicular

The Gelmerbahn funicular, also known as the Gelmer Funicular, stands as a distinctive and historic cable car system transporting travelers from Handegg to the pristine Gelmersee Lake.

This unique funicular proudly claims the title of Europe’s steepest, boasting a dramatic slope of up to 106%. To put it in simple terms, for every 100 meters you move horizontally, the funicular gracefully ascends 106 meters vertically. It’s not just the steepest in Europe; it’s also one of the world’s most daring funicular rides, promising an adrenaline rush.

The Gelmerbahn Funicular

In the 1920s, this engineering marvel first came into being as part of a hydroelectric power plant project. Its initial purpose was to ferry materials and workers to the construction site. Over time, it transformed into a captivating tourist attraction, currently operated by the Grimselwelt company.

Measuring 1,028 meters (3,373 feet) in length, the funicular cars can accommodate up to 24 passengers each. Two cars move in tandem along parallel tracks, connected by a sturdy cable, completing the journey in about 8 minutes each way.

Safety remains paramount on the Gelmerbahn funicular. The cars feature automatic braking systems, emergency brakes, and a backup generator to address any power hiccups. Regular maintenance and safety inspections ensure passenger security.

The Gelmerbahn Funicular

As you ascend, you’re treated to enchanting vistas of the neighboring mountains and valleys, with highlights including the Handegg waterfall and the mesmerizing Gelmersee Lake. Upon reaching the summit, visitors can savor hiking trails and soak in panoramic views of the Swiss Alps.

The Gelmerbahn funicular offers a unique and thrilling passage to relish the splendor of the Handegg region and the Swiss Alps. The experience promises to surpass your expectations, unveiling a bird’s-eye view over the valley and an alpine panorama that will leave you in awe.

Booking the Gelmerbahn Funicular Tickets

To secure your tickets for the Gelmerbahn funicular adventure, just follow these straightforward steps:

  1. Start by heading to the Grimselwelt website, which is your go-to source for Gelmerbahn funicular tickets. It’s run by the Grimselwelt team.
  2. Next, take your pick from the various ticket options available on the website. You can opt for a round-trip or one-way ticket and also select your preferred date and time.
  3. Share some basic information about yourself. Enter details like your name, email address, and payment info to complete your reservation.
  4. Double-check everything before confirming your booking. Once you’ve done that, an email will land in your inbox with all the ticket info you need.
  5. When you reach the Gelmerbahn funicular, present your confirmation email or ticket at the ticket counter to pick up your physical tickets. Arriving early is smart, especially during busy times, as there might be lines.

You can also purchase tickets at the ticket counter on-site, but it’s a good idea to book ahead of time to make sure you get your spot and avoid waiting. The funicular accommodates up to 24 passengers and departs every 24 minutes.

As for the last ride down on the Gelmerbahn funicular, that varies depending on the season; in the summer months (typically from late May to mid-October), it usually runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the final descent at 5:30 p.m. Keep an eye on the current schedule, though, as it can change due to weather or other factors.

How to Get to the Gelmerbahn Funicular Station

You can reach the Gelmerbahn funicular station using these different paths:

By hiking

You also have the option to embark on a scenic hike to the Gelmerbahn funicular station from Handegg or nearby spots. Several hiking paths lead to this station. Let me share one potential route with you:

Kick off your hike at the Handegg parking lot, conveniently located near the Handegg bus stop. Embark on your adventure by following the clearly marked trail leading you to the Gelmerbahn funicular station. This well-maintained path treats you to breathtaking vistas of the encompassing mountains and valleys. After approximately 60 minutes of hiking, you’ll be greeted by the enchanting Gelmersee Lake. Take a moment to relish the view of its captivating turquoise waters and the encircling peaks. Continue your journey along the trail that runs alongside the western shore of the lake. This section of the trail remains relatively flat and continues to offer magnificent views of the surrounding scenery. After another half-hour of walking, you’ll arrive at the Gelmerbahn funicular station. From this point, you can board the funicular to reach the Gelmersee dam, opening up more opportunities to explore other nearby peaks and attractions.

The typical duration of this hike falls within the range of 90 minutes to 120 minutes, catering to hikers possessing a decent level of physical fitness. Don’t forget to don robust hiking footwear and pack an ample supply of water and nourishing snacks for your expedition. Furthermore, it’s prudent to verify the prevailing trail conditions and consult the weather forecast prior to embarking on your hiking adventure.

By public transportation

You have the option to hop on a train or a bus to get to Meiringen train station. Once you’re at Meiringen train station and heading to the Handegg bus stop for the Gelmerbahn funicular station, you can catch the PostBus line 182. The bus stop at Meiringen train station goes by the name “Meiringen Bahnhof,” while the one at Handegg is called “Handegg, Talstation Gelmerbahn.”

The bus journey typically lasts around 35 minutes, but keep in mind that the bus schedule can vary depending on the time of day and the day of the week. To plan your trip, it’s a good idea to check the most up-to-date schedule on the PostBus website or the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) website.

If you’re traveling from Interlaken to the Gelmerbahn Funicular station, the total travel time is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

By car

You can reach Handegg by car and find parking at the designated lot near the Gelmerbahn funicular station. There are various parking choices in the vicinity.

  1. Handegg Parking Lot: This is the closest spot to the Gelmerbahn funicular station, just 300 meters away. It’s free and can hold about 110 vehicles.
  2. Guttannen Parking Lot: Another option is the Guttannen lot, roughly 3.5 kilometers away, with space for approximately 60 cars. A shuttle bus connects it to the Gelmerbahn station.
  3. Handeck Parking Lot: Located about 7 kilometers from the Gelmerbahn station, it has room for around 130 cars. A shuttle bus links it to the station.

These parking areas are free, but they can get crowded during peak times. It’s wise to arrive early or consider eco-friendly public transport to the Gelmerbahn funicular station.

The Gelmersee Circular Alpine Hike

Gelmersee remains untouched by commercialization. It’s a place without restaurants or hordes of visitors, offering tranquility where the echoes of waterfalls accompany your leisurely stroll around the lake. The vivid landscape, the gentle breeze, and the enchanting ambiance make it seem like a slice of heaven on Earth. The untamed nature and astonishing plant life add to its allure.

As you follow the path, keep an eye out for the “red & white stripes” that mark the alpine trail. These markers indicate that the trail may be a narrow dirt path with rocks and obstacles, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a challenging path.

Gelmersee is generally considered a moderately challenging route, taking an average of 2 to 4 hours to complete, depending on your walking pace, photo breaks, and rest stops. Be sure to plan accordingly and don’t miss the funicular schedule.

While some hikers have labeled this circular hike as suitable for children, I would advise against it for younger kids and those without sturdy hiking shoes. The path often skirts the edge with a steep drop down to the lake, making it unsuitable for individuals with a fear of heights or vertigo.

We decided to kick off our hike by going counterclockwise, starting with a stroll across the dam wall. The Gelmersee Dam is positioned at the lake’s western edge, and just before the starting point, you’ll find a public restroom. Once you’ve crossed the dam wall, the path meanders with the lake on your left side.

Gelmersee Lake Switzerland

About halfway through the hike, you’ll discover a lovely spot by the water, offering a panoramic view of Gelmersee – a perfect spot for a leisurely lunch break. From here, you have two options:

  • you can retrace your steps back to the dam.
  • take on more challenging hikes to nearby peaks like Chli Bielenhorn or Gross Bielenhorn, which require a higher level of fitness and experience.

Wildlife and flora at Gelmersee Lake

Gelmersee Lake Switzerland

Gelmersee Lake is not only a haven for outdoor enthusiasts but also a paradise for wildlife and flora. The surrounding forests are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, creating a vibrant ecosystem that thrives in harmony with the natural environment. Keep an eye out for chamois, ibex, and marmots, which we commonly spotted in the area. Also, the dense vegetation provides shelter for numerous bird species, making Gelmersee Lake a birdwatcher’s paradise.

During the summer months, the meadows around the lake come alive with a colorful display of wildflowers. From delicate alpine roses to vibrant gentians, the flora at Gelmersee Lake is a spectacle in itself. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of these fragile blossoms, which add a touch of vibrancy to the already stunning landscape.

The history and culture of Gelmersee Lake

Gelmersee Lake has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by the Alemanni, a Germanic tribe, who cherished the natural beauty of the lake and its surroundings. In more recent times, Gelmersee Lake has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers from around the world.

The cultural heritage of the region is also evident in the traditional Swiss architecture that can be found in the nearby villages. Explore the charming streets of Handegg and Meiringen, and you’ll discover quaint chalets adorned with colorful flower boxes, a testament to the Swiss way of life.

Tips for visiting Gelmersee Lake

  • Dress in layers: The weather in the Swiss Alps can be unpredictable, so it’s best to prepare yourself for any conditions. Thus, dressing in layers will allow you to adjust your clothing according to the temperature.
  • Wear sturdy footwear: The hiking trails around Gelmersee Lake can be steep and uneven, so it’s important to wear comfortable and supportive footwear. Hiking boots with good traction are recommended.
  • Pack essentials: Make sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a refillable water bottle. It’s also a good idea to carry a map or use a GPS device to navigate the trails.
  • Respect nature: Gelmersee Lake is a protected area, so it’s important to follow Leave No Trace principles. Respect the flora and fauna, and dispose of any waste responsibly.

Accommodation options near Gelmersee Lake

If you wish to extend your stay and fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Gelmersee Lake, there are a few accommodation options available in the surrounding area. The Gelmerhütte mountain hut offers basic accommodation and meals, allowing you to experience the tranquility of the lake at different times of the day. Alternatively, you can choose to stay in one of the nearby villages, such as Handegg or Meiringen, where you’ll find a range of hotels, guesthouses, and holiday apartments.

Hotel Bären Guttannen

Hotel Bären Guttannen

Nestled in the quaint village of Guttannen in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland region, you’ll find the delightful Hotel Bären Guttannen. This charming mountain retreat exudes warmth and coziness with its rustic decor, making it a welcoming haven for visitors. With a range of room options, including singles, doubles, family accommodations, and kitchen-equipped apartments, all furnished with modern conveniences, guests can find the perfect fit for their needs.

While Hotel Bären Guttannen may not hold an eco-certification or highlight its sustainability efforts on its website, it boasts a convenient proximity to the Gelmerbahn funicular station. Thus, by choosing this hotel, you can contribute to reducing your carbon footprint during your travels.

Hotel Meiringen

Hotel Meiringen

Hotel Meiringen, nestled in the charming town of Meiringen within the Swiss canton of Bern, is a storied three-star lodging. With a rich history tracing back to the 19th century, it has captivated travelers for more than a century. Also, the hotel beckons with an array of room choices: standard, deluxe, and suites, each boasting a distinct allure in its decor and ambiance.

Though not eco-certified, Hotel Meiringen conscientiously incorporates eco-friendly measures. It harnesses renewable energy sources, conserves water resources, and curbs waste through recycling and composting. Eco-conscious cleaning products are employed, and sustainable transportation alternatives are encouraged for guests.

Meiringen cradled in a picturesque valley, is enveloped by the majestic Swiss Alps, offering an abundance of outdoor pursuits, from hiking to skiing and cycling. Additionally, the hotel’s strategic location places it near prominent attractions, including the mesmerizing Aare Gorge and the iconic Reichenbach Falls, famously entwined with the legacy of Sherlock Holmes.

The Grimsel Hospiz Hotel

The Grimsel Hospiz Hotel

Nestled within the heart of the majestic Swiss Alps, in close proximity to Grimsel Pass, you’ll uncover the enchanting Grimsel Hospiz Hotel. This splendid four-star refuge boasts a history that dates back to the 1800s, and it has long been a cherished haven for travelers seeking an authentic Swiss Alpine adventure.

Situated at an impressive altitude of over 2,100 meters, approximately 18 kilometers (around 11 miles) from the Gelmerbahn funicular station, this hotel immerses you in breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. It exerts a magnetic pull on outdoor enthusiasts, attracting hikers, skiers, and mountaineers alike.

The Grimsel Hospiz Hotel proudly bears the Swisstainable certification, which underscores its dedication to minimizing its ecological footprint. Nestled within this pristine natural backdrop, the hotel’s proprietors are unwavering in their commitment to preserving the scenic beauty that envelops it. They’ve implemented energy-efficient lighting, sustainable heating, water conservation practices, and a robust recycling program. Furthermore, the hotel’s restaurant prioritizes the use of locally sourced ingredients whenever feasible, reducing the carbon footprint associated with food transportation.

This historical treasure, the Grimsel Hospiz Hotel, seamlessly blends its rich heritage with contemporary comforts. Meticulous renovations have been undertaken to preserve its historical charm while ensuring that guests can revel in modern amenities. Anticipate well-appointed and comfortable rooms, many of which offer awe-inspiring views of the captivating landscape that cradles this unique Swiss Alpine sanctuary.

Final Thoughts

Gelmersee Lake is a destination that will captivate your senses and leave an indelible mark on your soul. Its crystal clear waters, majestic mountains, and serene atmosphere create a sensory experience that is hard to replicate. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a connection with nature, Gelmersee Lake offers it all. From hiking along picturesque trails to swimming in the turquoise waters, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Make sure you check our guide for the best lakes in Switzerland.

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