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Lying just north of the Alps in Switzerland's Bern Region, Lake Thun is a favorite destination among holiday-makers. Reflecting the majestic Alpine peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, the lake is locally known as Thunersee. The area offers the best of varied Swiss terrain and provides an infinite variety of activities for the holiday-minded visitor. The well-known international flavor of Interlaken extends to the many historic and sports-themed activities and destinations around the lakefront. Four languages are spoken here: German, French, Romansh and Italian, making this a desirable destination for visitors from all over Europe. Interlaken, meaning 'between the lakes', sits on the narrow strip of land separating Lake Thun from Lake Brienz. The lakes were originally one huge glacial lake known historically as the Wendelsee. The Aare River brings water from melting glaciers in the Alps to Lake Brienz, out through a short channel and into Lake Thun. The Aare River then flows out of Lake Thun northwest through Bern and on to Lake Biel.
Lake Thun is very deep, with little shallow area. Averaging over 440 ft in depth, the cold glacial lake offers swimming along several warmer shallow public beach areas and is extremely popular for water sports such as water skiing, sailing, windsurfing, wake-boarding, diving and fishing. Wind conditions are excellent for sailing, drawing sailors from all over the world to enjoy the lake's ten-mile length. Beginners can learn to sail at a water ski and wakeboard school in the village of Gunten. Boats can be rented at several places along the shore. The lake still supports a few commercial fishermen, but mostly sport fishermen enjoy angling for grayling, burbot, pike, European perch, lake trout, brook trout and brown trout. Stocking takes place regularly. Restaurants along the shore often feature fresh-caught fish from Lake Thun.
One of the favorite ways to see the expansive lake is via commercial lake steamer. These cruise ships not only provide transportation between major towns on the lake, but offer themed concert cruises, dinner cruises and excursions of several days with accommodations. Many resorts, hotels and hostels along the shore provide lodgings as do private vacation rentals such as guest houses, chalets and holiday apartments in and around Spiez, Faulensee, Thun, Hilterfingen, Merlingen and many smaller communities. Several camp grounds along the shoreline offer more rustic vacation options. The spectacular scenery across the water makes Lake Thun a favorite for photographers and artists. Outfitters provide gear and planned excursions for bicycling, mountain biking, mountaineering, rock climbing, paragliding, bungee jumping, kayaking, canyoning, glacier hiking, heli-skiing, sledding, ice climbing and snowshoe trekking. Lake Thun is a favorite home-base for Alpine skiing, and ski chalets are usually available here year round. The new sport of aqua-biking is very popular as are horseback riding and hiking the many trails. For those looking for indoor activities, there are many all-night clubs, a casino and a variety of arts and music-related venues to keep everyone happy. The Weissenau Nature Reserve provides feeding and breeding places for numerous bird species along the lakeshore. Weissenau is also an important transit area and hibernation and molting site for native species.
Favorite sightseeing venues around Lake Thun include the medieval Thun Castle, built in the late 12th century. Its tower now houses Thun's History Museum with an excellent exhibit of life in the area over the centuries. Schloss Schadau, in Schadau Park, is home to the Swiss Gastronomy Museum and a restaurant with lake views. Several other castles and ancient fortifications exist along the shore. Other favorite sightseeing stops are the Tin Figure Museum and the Open Air Museum near Ballenberg. Mystery Park, designed by Erich von Daniken, was closed for some time but is now open again. Here the explorer can investigate such mysteries as outer space, the Nazca Lines, the Maya, megalithic stonework, the Orient and the ancient Indian Epics. Other museums include the Heritage and Wine-making Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Swiss Army Museum in Thun.
Mountain railway excursions take visitors to dizzying heights to panoramic views of the Alps and Lake Thun below. And one must not miss St. Beatus Caves that lie high above Lake Thun (open from April-October). Switzerland's only cave museum, the cavern is a spectacular maze of stalactites, stalagmites, lakes and waterfalls over 9800 feet deep. Saint Beatus, an English monk, lived here until his death in the 2nd century. The area of what is now the city of Thun has been inhabited since the Neolithic age. The name of the city derives from the Celtic term Dunum, meaning "fortified city". The lake thus derives its name from the town.
Travel around the Lake Thun area is easy due to Switzerland's excellent passenger rail system. Bern is only a half hour away by train. The 400,000 inhabitants of Bern count on the Aare River for their drinking water, so Swiss authorities are understandably concerned with water quality on the entire Aare River system. Because the area around Lake Thun has had severe flooding problems in the past, a diversion tunnel was recently completed to divert excess water from the Aare near Interlaken where small water control dams could not handle excess spring run-off. The Aare River is dammed for hydroelectric power generation in several places both above and below Lake Thun, so water levels are controlled by a variety of locations not on the lake itself. It appears that a legal water level has not yet been set but is still under discussion.
The visitor to Lake Thun will easily find holiday rentals to their liking. Due to the spectacular scenery, it would be difficult to find vacation rentals without a view of either the Alps or Lake Thun; many have both. Available real estate can be found locally for the visitor who decides they must stay. They'll be in good company as many a famed 19th century author and artist came here to write or paint. One could easily spend several weeks at Lake Thun and find new adventures every day. So, plan a visit to beautiful Lake Thun. It will become your favorite holiday destination!
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