Last update: summer 2021
After a few weeks hiking in Switzerland we feel like lingering there for a little longer – even if it’s only on the blog. So we are doing another UNESCO post about the Jungfrau-Aletsch glacier we visited a few years ago.
The Aletsch Glacier was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage in 2001, and the protected area was extended considerably in 2007. The whole Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region is part of the inscription. Another glacier region that is incribed as a UNESCO site is the Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland.
As the longish title of the World Heritage site suggests, this is the backyard of the Jungfrau region: You get a look at the famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau rock massif from the Southern side instead of from the North as usual.
Conveniently, this also means that you stay in sun-bathed Swiss canton of Valais with over 2000 hours of sunshine per year.
With a length of 23 km the Aletsch Glacier is the largest and longest glacier in Europe. It is not merely notable for its size, but also for the wealth of information scientists can gather here about the formation of mountains and glaciers as well as the ongoing climate change.
How to explore the Aletsch Glacier
We went on a day trip from Brig to see the Glacier. First we took the Matterhorn-Gotthard train to Betten and then the cable car up to Bettmeralp, a car-free village at 1948m altitude.
„Skiers should stick to the valley side and slide at moderate speed,“ we read on a traffic sign displayed prominently in the village. It seems that during the winter season, several ski pistes pass directly through the village. We then follow the „marmot path“ – no marmots to be seen at all – towards the peak of Bettmerhorn and from there continue along the so-called „ UNESCO heritage high trail “, an Alpine route / Via Ferrata with blue-white-blue pointers. The high trail runs above the glacier, which looks a little bit like a highway with its two middle moraines. Shortly before we reach the peak of Eggishorn we take another path that leads us back to the cable car station at Bettmeralp.
Is it worth visiting the Aletsch Glacier?
Well, of course it is. We would say that the Swiss Alps in general are always worth going. The Aletsch Glacier is indeed quite impressive for its size, but it is not the most beautiful glacier you can see in the Alps. On the other hand the mountains surrounding the glacier will leave you speechless.
If you want to walk the UNESCO heritage high trail you will need some experience in Alpine environments as well as a head for heights. Rope and helmet are not necessary.
How to get to the Aletsch Glacier
Instead of hiking from Bettmeralp, as we did, you could take the Bettmerhorn cable car all the way up to Bettmerhorn (2874 m) from where you already have a good view on the Aletsch-Glacier.
4 Aletsch Glacier viewpoints from the Southern side
We revisited the Aletsch Arena just south of the Aletsch Glacier for a guidebook research in early summer 2021 and checked out all top viewpoints over the glacier. All four of them – Mt. Eggishorn, Mt Bettmerhorn, Mt. Moosfluh and Hohfluh – are accessible by ropeway.
At at 2926 m, Mt Eggishorn is the highest viewpoint mountain on this southern rim of the Aletsch glacier. The view is great and leads straight over Konkordiaplatz (a crossing of several glaciers) towards the famous mountains of Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger. Two ropeways lead up from Fiesch via Fiescheralp to Mount Eggishorn.
From Mt. Bettmerhorn (2872 m) you also have a very nice view. The Aletsch glacier makes an elegant photogenic curve from this viewpoint. The face of Mt Bettmerhorn is very steep from the Southern side, and the ropeway ride up from Bettmeralp may not be for the faint-hearted.
The ropeway up to Mt. Moosfluh (2333 m) starts at Riederalp. From the viewing platform you also get a nice view of the Aletsch glacier curve. From the upper station a not too difficult hiking path leads along the ridge to Mt. Hohfluh, really just a higher point in the ridge. At 2227 m it still has a nice glacier view. There is also a direct ropeway from Riederalp to Mt. Hohfluh. From Hohfluh you can continue along the ridge to a historical hotel and nature centre, the Villa Cassel, and back to Riederalp.
What is the best viewing point for the Aletsch glacier?
Mt. Eggishorn: Good view on the famous distant mountains Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger, but no curve view on the Aletsch glacier. In summer you can do a hike to the peak of Mt. Eggishorn from the upper station.
Mt. Bettmerhorn: Spectacular ride up, nice view on the glacier curve, high alpine hiking in summer.
Mt. Moosfluh/ Mt. Hohfluh: Nice views on the glacier, not as high as the other two viewpoints, but easier hiking possibilities back to Riederalp.
Ropeway costs for visiting the Aletsch Glacier
There are several villages on the alpine meadows where the hiking area starts, such as Riederalp or Bettmeralp. Ropeway tickets to that level (about 1400 m) are around 10 CHF per ride, a rather normal public transport fare. From there up to the peaks, tourist ropeway prices apply (about twice as much).
Find the fares for each ride on the Aletsch Arena Homepage (Online-Shop).
We revisited the Aletsch Glacier viewpoint for a guidebook research in summer 2021. Although it did not make it on our list of highlights in the Valais region we enjoyed our time there very much.
The costs for our first visit were all paid by ourselves. For our second visit at the Alesch Arena and the Aletsch Glacier we were supported by Aletsch Arena Tourism.