Most people know the Swiss canton Valais for the Matterhorn, but believe me, there is so much more out there. One of my favourite highlights is the Aletsch Glacier. It’s the largest glacier in the Alps which of course promises some spectacular views! It’s 23 km long, situated partially in the canton of Bern, the other side being in Valais. In Bern you can see the glacier from the Jungfraujoch. I’ve seen the glacier from both sides, but to be honest with you, I much preferred the Valais view.
Getting there is a lot more fun as well. Instead of taking a boring and overpriced train ride and arriving immediately, this involves some cheap cable cars and a relaxed hike, including some superb views on the way.
Even though the Aletsch glacier is a retreating Glacier, I still consider it to be beautiful and would definitely recommend going if you are near (especially since it’s retreating, who knows how long we’ll be able to enjoy it…). There are different ways of getting there. I’ve been there twice (last year in October and this year July) and both times our journey started and ended in Mörel, a small village not far from Brig. From Mörel we took the cable car to Riederalp (1905 m/CHF 9.80 without reduction). From here we first walked to Villa Cassel, a beautiful villa built in Victorian style. Unfortunately, the villa is being renovated this year, so I hope it’s done by the time you get there.
From here we continued our hike to Moosfluh (2333 m) from where you have an amazing view over the glacier. There are two options: either the Moränenweg, which leads along the moraine or the Höhenweg which leads along the ridge of the mountain, giving a nice view over the entire area.
We decided to take the Höhenweg. The hike is pretty easy, no serious ascents or descents. Instead you get seriously beautiful views! The nearer you get to Moosfluh, the more glimpses of the Aletsch glacier you get. But don’t forget to also turn around once in a while. Behind you there is a wonderful view over the surrounding mountains, including the Matterhorn.
From Moosfluh you could continue to the Bettmerhorn (2872 m) which we decided not to do. Instead, we hiked to Bettmeralp (1970 m). Here there is a wonderful big lake where you can either just sit and relax or take a (very) refreshing dip into the water. Since the hike from Riederalp to Bettmeralp via Moosfluh is no more than 2.5 hours, you could easily plan some time at the lake. From Bettmeralp we took the cable car to Betten Dorf (1203 m/ 6.80 CHF) from where we hiked back to Mörel (746 m).
I very much enjoyed this hike for several reasons. First of all, it’s pretty easy (especially with the help of not too expensive cable cars). Secondly, the view is obviously one of a kind. Glaciers are amazing natural formations by themselves, but seeing one of this size is truly impressive. Thirdly, the hike is not overrun by tourists, especially not the time we went in October. The viewpoint is a bit touristy, but apart from that it’s rather quiet which gives you ample time to soak in the surrounding beauty.
Having visited the glacier in two different seasons, I do have to say that I preferred the hike in October. There are many blueberries around whose leaves change into a fire red in autumn which leads to a stunning visual effect. But obviously, when it comes to swimming at the lake, I’d recommend going in summer time. At this elevation, the lake is always going to be on the cold side, so autumn is not really an option for swimming.
Either way, whatever the season you’re choosing to visit, you’re going to enjoy wonderful views and an easy hike. I was even told that this hike is opened in winter, when the entire surroundings are covered in snow. In a nutshell: It’s always a good season to visit the Aletsch glacier!