The circular hike at the “Giessbach Falls” will enchant young and old. A refreshment option awaits the hungry and thirsty at the Hotel Giessbach.
Text and pictures by Marc Gottwald
The Giessbach Falls above Lake Brienz – a place for dreamers and romantics. This 14-stage waterfall is one of the most beautiful and impressive in Switzerland. In this article, I present the hike along some of the steps of the Giessbach Falls with impressive views over the waterfall as well as the Hotel Giessbach and Lake Brienz.
The easy tourist tour
But first I would like to introduce the easy tourist tour. From the car park, which costs CHF 10 per day, you can reach the most impressive part of the Giessbach Falls in just 5 minutes. Because here you can walk under the waterfall while enjoying a spectacular view over the Hotel Giessbach and Lake Brienz. Especially, after the snow has melted or after heavy rain, the waterfall often has a lot of water. The force of the water and the roar can hardly be imagined and offers a unique flair between reverie and romance. It is important to be sure-footed, because the stones on the path are sometimes slippery and not entirely safe.
The 15-minute tour continues to a second bridge. Here you can marvel at the waterfall from below and count the different steps. I wonder how many you can see? An even better view can be encountered at the Grandhotel Giessbach. In the 4-star hotel, by the way, you can not only spend the night but also fortify yourself with a drink or a meal.
Start of the Giessbach Falls Circular Hike
From the car park of the Giessbach Waterfalls, start in the direction of the red sign. The blue sign leads to the waterfall and the Hotel Giessbach. You now have to hike up around 350 metres in altitude in the direction of Schweibenalp. Due to the short distance, this section is quite strenuous, but the great views over the Giessbach Falls make up for all the exertion. In the lowest part, the water flows over several limestone banks into Lake Brienz. A little tip: Around noon, when the sun shines into the waterfall, you can see colourful rainbows.
After about 45 minutes, you arrive at Schweibenalp, where a wonderful aroma wafts in at lunchtime and in the evening. It is a permaculture centre where various gardens (vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, flowers, etc.) as well as hedges and forests are cultivated.
Permaculture courses are also held at Schweibenalp. I can only recommend to have a look at the impressive and lovingly designed medicinal herb & flower garden. These gardens provide a perfect habitat for a high number of insects and therefore promote biodiversity.
History & Geology of the Giessbach Falls
The Giessbach Falls were opened up as early as 1820 and became a tourist magnet in the Brienz region. 50 years later, the waterfalls were made even more attractive for tourists with the Hotel Giessbach. It’s no wonder that various painters and poets, such as Zehender and Rieter, have visited the place here. Even a funicular railway was opened in 1879. Did you know that it was the first single-track funicular in the world? Now around 140 years old, the funicular still takes guests from Lake Brienz to the Grandhotel Giessbach.
As beautiful as the Giessbach Falls are, they were unfortunately threatened by various projects. On the one hand, during the Second World War, Switzerland wanted to produce more electricity through hydroelectric power. Among other things, the Giessbach Falls were intended for this purpose. The power station is now located down by Lake Brienz. But the motorway from Brienz to Interlaken was also to be built through here before it was decided to make a tunnel for it.
From Schweibenalp, the trail now heads towards “Bramsiegg” through a beautiful bright green forest back to the Giessbach Falls car park. There, the hike can then be concluded with the most spectacular part, the 15-minute walk near the Grandhotel Giessbach.
The most beautiful pictures
For me, there are three particularly great places to take pictures for any Swiss album. Two of them can be found on the 15-minute walk (blue sign). The first spot is where you march behind the waterfall. Your picture will be a magnificent shot with the waterfall from behind, the Hotel Giessbach and Lake Brienz. If it rains a lot, you can even get the magical waterfall above Brienz on the photo.
A second great spot is at the Hotel Giessbach, where the “Grand Tour Switzerland” sign is. You can photograph 5 of the total of 14 waterfall steps.
If you like to go high up, then you should definitely do the bigger hike (red sign). Here you will have various great photo opportunities over the hotel, the waterfalls and the light blue Lake Brienz.
Arrival Giessbach Falls
There are various ways to get to the Giessbach Waterfalls. On the one hand by public transport. Several times a day, a boat departs from Interlaken or Brienz to the “Giessbach, See” station. From there you can either walk up about 60 metres in altitude or take the 140-year-old funicular railway.
By car, you come directly to the car park of the waterfall. Unfortunately, you can only buy a day ticket for 10CHF.
Another option is a 1.5-hour hike from Iseltwald. I recommend the last option, as this is the perfect excursion for an unforgettable experience.