Would you hop on a railcar that’s going to send you down a 106% incline without a seatbelt or handbrake? Lots of people do every year when they board the Gelmerbahn: a funicular railway (a rail system that uses cable traction to navigate steep slopes) in Bern, Switzerland.
The Gelmerbahn was originally built in 1926 to assist the building of the Gelmersee — a dam and reservoir constructed to harness the hydroelectric resources of the area. It wasn’t open to the public until 2001. The passenger car takes 24 people on a 12-minute ride up the steep mountainside from Handegg, 6,000 feet above sea level with sweeping views over Hasli Valley, to Lake Gelmer where there are many hiking trails to explore.
Up until 2017, it was the steepest funicular railway in Europe until Stoos Funicular (also in Switzerland) opened.
You can either buy a one-way ticket — opting to hike one from the lake back down to Handegg — or roundtrip, riding in the cable car both ways. You’ll be strapped into the open air car by a single metal bar, and if you’ve got a fear of heights, it’s best to prepare yourself for the thrill of a lifetime. While it is extremely steep, this railway isn’t a rollercoaster, it only goes 4.5 miles per hour, which gives you plenty of time to take in the epic surroundings, and still have your stomach drop.
The Gelmerbahn is open from May 26th to October 21st. Its hours are from 9 AM-4 PM in June, September, and October, and from 9 AM-5 PM in July and August.
How to get there
The Gelmerbahn begins at Handegg in the Hasli Valley. You’ll want to make your way to the Handegg, Gelmerbahn bus stop, or get Google Maps directions here.
What to consider
- It’s a popular attraction. Tickets are limited and sell out quickly, so it’s suggested to reserve online.
- You’ll redeem your voucher at the ticket office no later than 15 minutes before departure.
- The time and date of tickets are not refundable or modifiable.
- Adult return tickets are US$33 and one-way tickets are US$12. Children 6-12 ride for US$12/$6 respectively.
- You’re high in the mountains so, even in the summer, it can get pretty chilly. Bring appropriate layers.
- At the top, you can opt for walking tours or just go and explore the hiking trails on your own.
- It takes about 2 hours to hike around the dam and lake at the top.
- If you choose to hike down, it takes about an hour to reach the bottom.