They invite you to sit down and rest a while. Their guests often include walkers and hikers, who sometimes stop for no more than a few minutes and sometimes an hour. Their burden is great, yet they bear it gladly. Welcome to the circular bench trail in the heart of the Bernese Oberland. From selected beauty spots, you can sit back and enjoy the panoramic view over Lake Thun, the Swiss Plateau, Interlaken and far into the Kandertal valley. Sit down and leave the daily grind behind.
The circular bench trail
This 8-kilometre themed path currently features 14 benches, carved in a variety of different designs. The project was launched in 2011 by Aeschi Tourismus and features artworks sponsored by numerous sponsors and patrons. The circular trail is fully signposted/marked and runs along side roads, dirt trails through fields and hiking trails. Most of the route is also part of the winter trail network, meaning it can also be hiked at that time of year.
Aeschi, a quaint village with a population of 2,000, lies on a picturesque, sunny terrace above Lake Thun. The village is popular because of its central location in the Bernese Oberland and its good accessibility, both by car and by public transport.
The hike starts at the square in the centre of the village. The first 200 metres or so follow the street towards Mülenen/Frutigen. A few metres from the start of the walk, you will discover your first bench at the entrance to the indoor swimming pool. This bench is called the “Lesebänkli” because, if you fancy a spot of reading, the day’s newspapers are always to be found in a box beside the bench. You now follow the signs with the green bench symbol, which are mounted on white posts. A few moments later, you will have left the village and can make your first stop at the bench once visited by William Tell (or the actors from the William Tell Open-Air Theatre, at least!) Here you can enjoy a stunning view of the Niesen, the region’s nearest mountain. You’ll get your next chance for a breather at the playful “Örgeli-Bank” (organ bench). If it suddenly started playing music, it wouldn't surprise you one bit! After the climb to Sewenegg, the view down into the Kandertal valley is also revealed. The only thing to compete with the view are the llamas and alpacas that sometimes graze here. Following the edge of the woodland, you come to the car park in Aeschiried where you can sate your hunger and thirst at the Restaurant Panorama. Reinvigorated, you pick up the route again, which runs at a steep incline through Allmigässli. After marvelling at the artistic backs of the Haflinger benches, above you will discover the next bench, which symbolises the eternal love of a couple after marriage. Now you head towards the alpine cabin clearly visible on the horizon. Here you will find local alpine cheese, available to purchase from the fridge. Below the ski cabin, you leave the narrow road and follow the traces of the trail over the open field to a straight row of four larches. You've now reached the highest point in the trail. Here you can take a seat on the Niesen bench and savour the sweeping panorama that lies at your feet. In good weather, you can even see the Jura mountains in the distant horizon. It's no wonder this place is considered a place of strength! Once you’ve refuelled, walk across the meadow and down to the narrow road. Then follow this until you reach the old holiday resort on the right. In front of the houses, the path turns left down over the meadow. Conveniently, you’ll find two twin benches on the Windegg. In winter, many parents like to sit here and watch their kids curve down the easy piste to the start of the button lift. The rest of the route continues down a gentle descent, past the Chemihütte bench and below the well-known restaurant of the same name. Soon you’ll come to the Tannenmattli district, where you’ll wind between the houses, before once more leaving the settlement. The panorama and openness of the landscape may also have been influenced by the farming families who live here. The region is home to Switzerland’s only earthworm farm; day after day, thousands of these little creatures work hard producing the finest compost. The back of the bench you’ll encounter on the right a few moments later is an exact replica of Lake Thun. After around ten minutes, you’ll reach the main street leading from Krattigen, which you follow for just under a kilometre into the centre of the village. The kids can enjoy themselves in the playground next to the square with the school. Conveniently, there’s a generously sized “Family Bench” here, which seats an entire family comfortably. You’re now back at the start and this thrilling hike has come to an end.