12 Most Impressive Swiss Islands: Nature’s Gems Waiting To Be Explored

swiss islands

Switzerland might be a landlocked country but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its fair share of islands. With some 1,500 lakes, Switzerland has many wonderful islands that range from small and unnamed to surprisingly big with roads. And then there are all the islands in the Swiss rivers.

This detailed guide will tell you about twelve islands in Switzerland that are worth visiting. Some feature interesting landmarks and abundant plant life, while others just offer serene surroundings and beautiful views. But each and every one of these islands is worth visiting if you’re ever nearby!

Brissago Islands

Aerial view of the Brissago Islands in Lake Maggiore
Aerial view of the Brissago Islands in Lake Maggiore

Brissago Islands are in Lake Maggiore and you can easily visit them on a day trip from Ascona, Locarno, or other nearby towns. They’re best known for their wonderful botanical gardens, which feature many plants and flowers that do not belong in Switzerland.

It takes about 20 minutes to travel to the Brissago Islands by boat, and it’s even possible to head there on your own if you have enough kayaking experience. However, it doesn’t really make sense to visit the islands in the winter season, since the botanical gardens are open only from March to November and there’s really nothing else to do in the middle of the lake.

St. Peter’s Island

St. Peter's Island
A view of St. Peter’s Island in Lake Biel

St. Peter’s Island is technically the largest island in Switzerland with an area of 150 hectares. But it’s only 30 meters from the shore and it is connected to the mainland with a bridge, so it’s considered a peninsula. This island is in Lake Biel, northwest of the city of Bern.

You can reach this island via a hiking trail, shuttle, and boat. The most important landmarks on St. Peter’s islands are ruins and a priory, but it’s important to note that there are also hotels, restaurants, and multiple walking trails. There’s also a statue of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who spent some time on the island back in the 18th century and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ufenau Island

Ufenau Island in Lake Zurich
Ufenau Island in Lake Zurich

Ufenau is an island in Lake Zurich and the largest island in Switzerland without a bridge connection to the mainland. The island has a port and is only accessible by ferries from Zurich. It takes a little under 2 hours to reach the island from Zurich, and it’s worth the time because the boat ride on the lake is wonderfully scenic.

The island features a chapel, a church, a restaurant, and several walking trails. It’s not a very big island and it is possible to walk from one end to the other during a single visit. The church and chapel are both medieval and very interesting to visit, but also rather small. The restaurant gets very busy and it’s practically impossible to find a free table on a sunny day without a reservation.

Schwanau Island

Schwanau Island
Schwanau Island – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Schwanau is a small island in Lauerz Lake, easily accessible by boat rides from the port in Lauerz. The main landmark on the island is Burgruine Schwanau, a ruined castle turned into a museum. You’ll also find a chapel and a restaurant on Schwanau Island.

The castle ruins are believed to date from the 12th century. There is evidence that hermits previously occupied the island, most likely in the 17th and 18th centuries. The original chapel was built in the 17th century and destroyed in a tsunami in 1806. Schwanau Island was eventually sold, with the provision that the chapel would be reconstructed.

Lorelei Islands

A view of Lorelei bathing islands (on the right) in Lake Lucerne
A view of Lorelei bathing islands (on the right) in Lake Lucerne

Lorelei Islands are three tiny islands in Lake Uri, which is the southernmost area of Lake Lucerne. They’re also known as bathing islands, because of the long stretch of sand that’s perfect for sunbathing and water fun.

Because of that, Lorelei Islands are by far best experienced on hot summer days, when all you want to do is stay in the water to cool down. You should also know that there are no organized transfers or excursions to the islands – if you want to visit them, you will need a SUP, kayak, inflatable boat, or something similar.

Ogoz Island

Ogoz Island
Ogoz Island – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Ogoz is a tiny island in Lake Gruyère, situated southwest of Bern. It’s probably the best island to visit if you want to see something impressive that looks like it doesn’t belong in Switzerland. When the lake waters are low, there is a natural walking path to the island, which disappears when the water levels rise.

Ogoz Island is also accessible by boat year-round. The main landmarks on the island are church and castle ruins, which you can explore as much as you like. There’s also an observation deck among the ruins, which offers beautiful views of the lake and the landscapes beyond.

Island in Lake Cauma

Caumasee, Switzerland
Caumasee, Switzerland

Lake Cauma is in Flims in eastern Switzerland, close to Chur. The lake itself is a very popular destination in the warmer months, because of the beautiful beaches and abundant hiking trails in its surroundings.

It’s a small island without any infrastructure and you can visit it by kayak, SUP, and pedal boat. If the beaches on the shore of Lake Cauma get a bit too crowded to your liking, just head to this island so you can enjoy some peace and quiet. Also, there are plenty of trees on the tiny island, so lots of shade to keep you protected from the harsh summer sun.

Île de la Harpe

Île de la Harpe
Île de la Harpe

Île de la Harpe is a small island in Lake Geneva, just off the coast of Rolle. The town is situated on the northern shore of the lake and is only a 25-minute train ride from the city of Geneva. This is a man-made island that was created in 1838 by merchants who wanted to protect the harbor in Rolle.

The island features an obelisk erected in honor of Frédéric César de la Harpe, a local politician after whom the island was named. Although there’s not much infrastructure on the island, it’s a place you can easily visit by boat, and it features a beautiful landscape as well as panoramic views of Lake Geneva.

Schnittlauchinsel

Schnittlauchinsel
Schnittlauchinsel – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Schnittlauchinsel is in Lake Walen, south of Konstanz. It’s the only island in the lake and, despite being so tiny, one of the largest islands in St. Gallen canton. The name of this island literally translates to Chives Island, but you might be able to guess that just by the strength of the scent coming off this island.

You can visit Schnittlauchinsel only by kayak or boat as there are no moorings on the island. It’s possible to visit this island only when the waters are low because high waters have been known to flood it.

Pfyn-Finges Islands

Pfyn-Finges Islands
Pfyn-Finges Islands © Pfyn-Finges Nature Park

Pfyn-Finges Nature Park features a river and several small lakes, which naturally means multiple small islands. In fact, it’s impressive just how many islands are in the Rhone here, and it’s definitely worth it to visit the area and see the beautiful landscapes.

The islands in the Rhone are mostly rock and pebble, without any infrastructure and flora. They’re not really islands you can visit, but more so islands you can see and admire if you’re already in this nature park. Pfyn-Finges Nature Park offers loads of things to do to its visitors, but I don’t think it’s worth a trip if you’re going there just for the river islands.

Schnäggeninseli

Schnäggeninseli
Schnäggeninseli

Schnäggeninseli is an island in Lake Brienz, which is possibly Switzerland’s most beautiful lake. The island is close to Iseltwald and you can easily visit it from this small town, which is known for stunning landscapes and spectacular views.

Lake Brienz is famous for its surreal turquoise color that it owes to glacial waters. A visit to this tiny island offers a unique perspective on this vast lake, and it’s definitely something you should do if you’re in the area. Schnäggeninseli features a small chapel and you can easily access it in your own boat, kayak, or even SUP because it’s so close to the shore.

Werdinsel

A park on Werdinsel in Zurich
A park on Werdinsel in Zurich

Werdinsel is an island on the Limmat River in the northern area of Zurich. It’s actually one of the top five islands in Switzerland by size and it is easily accessible by bridges that connect it to the mainland.

Unlike the tiny islands in the Swiss lakes, Werdinsland features a lot of infrastructure. There are even roads that allow for car access, as well as a restaurant, park, natural swimming pool, and playground. Werdinsel even has a recycling center, which is probably the most impressive thing about it.

Map of the Swiss Islands

Frequently Asked Questions

How many islands are there in Switzerland?

There are approximately 300 islands in Switzerland. They can be found in the country’s numerous rivers and lakes.

What is the smallest island in Switzerland?

The smallest island in Switzerland is Île de Peilz. It is in Lake Geneva, and it measures just a few dozen square meters. 

What is the largest island in Switzerland?

Ufenau Island in Lake Zurich is the largest island in Switzerland without a land connection to the mainland. There are three more islands with a larger landmass (St. Peter’s Island, Schacheninseli, and Grien), but all three are connected to the mainland by bridges and are therefore considered peninsulas. 

Does Zurich have an island to visit?

Yes, Zurich has a couple of islands you can visit – Saffa Insel and Werdinsel. Ufenau, the largest proper island in Switzerland is also in Lake Zurich but in the Schwyz canton, and you can easily visit it from the city of Zurich. 

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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