Bhutanese Bridge over the Illgraben – Leuk, Switzerland - Atlas Obscura
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Leuk, Switzerland

Bhutanese Bridge over the Illgraben

A symbol of friendship between the mountainous regions of Switzerland and Bhutan. 

In 2002 the United Nations declared the “International Year of Mountains” in order to promote solidarity between the mountainous regions of the world and raise awareness for their sustainable development. From this, the idea to build the Bhutanese Bride over the Illgraben creek in the Wallis region of the Swiss Alps was born—a symbol of the “bridge” between different cultures.

Specifically, the Bhutanese Bridge symbolized the friendship between the canton Wallis in Switzerland, country of the Alps, and the Kingdom Bhutan, country of the Himalaya. The bridge also connects the German-speaking area of the Wallis mountains with the French-speaking area.

Planned in Bhutan, the bridge was built by constructors in Wallis under the supervision of a Bhutanese engineer. During the planning period even the Queen of Bhutan came to visit the Wallis. It opened in 2005. To protect the bridge, both a Christian Cross and a Bhutanese stupa, built by French Lamas, were erected nearby. Prayer flags decorate the bridge along both sides of the rail.

The 134-meter-long bridge is situated 855 meters above the creek level, and offers great views.  But be forewarned the small Illgraben creek often dries up and can quickly become treacherous: Many mudflows occur every year, sometimes carrying several thousand tons of rubble and mud at 25 km per hour, in a wall 2 meters high. Those mudflows are very dangerous, fascinating as they are, even to locals.

Know Before You Go

The bridge can be crossed at all times, but not during mudflows.