After a few weeks hiking in Switzerland we feel like lingering there for a little longer – even if it's only on the blog - and 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. 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.
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.
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 there
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. The return ticket from Betten to Bettmeralp is 19.20 CHF, the return ticket from Betten up to Bettmerhorn 39 CHF.