Valais is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Switzerland. The landscape is extremely diverse and exhibits several levels of vegetation, ranging from the almost Mediterranean-looking Brig, to the slopes with vines and intensive sunshine, to the mountains with glaciers and eternal ice and snow.
Ten of the highest mountains in Switzerland are located in Valais, including the Dufourspitze, the highest peak in Switzerland (4,634 m), and the Dom (4,545 m), the highest mountain in Switzerland. Last but not least is the most popular Swiss mountain, the Matterhorn (4,478 m).
Starting from Rhônetal, the mountain railways take you up to various sun terraces, for example to the car-free Bettmeralp plateau. Just like the sun terraces, the valleys of Valais also have their distinct charm. The Matter valley, Val d' Anniviers, Val D’Hérens and Val de Bagnes in the south, Lötschental, Leukerbad, the region of Crans-Montana and the Altsch area in the north and the idyllic high valley of Goms in the east.
Many of the most famous Swiss road passes are located in Valais: Furka, Grimsel, Simplon and the Nufenen. The most famous natural spectacle in Valais is undisputedly the Great Aletsch Glacier. With a length of 22 kilometres, it is the most impressive glacier in Valais. Together with the Aletsch Forest and the surrounding region, the Aletsch Glacier is a part of Jungfrau-Aletsch, the UNESCO world heritage site of the Swiss Alps.
The mountain Dents du Midi in the French-speaking part of Valais is less known yet very attractive. Valais is home to many other natural beauties, including numerous heavenly mountain lakes, such as the Märjelensee, a former glacial lake, and the Gibidumsee on the pass of the same name, in which you can see the reflection of the mighty Bietschhorn.
The Heida village of Visperterminen with Europe's highest vineyard is located beneath the Gibidum pass on a sunny mountain slope. The people of Visperterminen already cultivate wines in Visperterminen. Here, the special, spicy white wine is cultivated from the old Heida grape variety at heights of up to 1150 m above sea level. Saffron has been planted and harvested for centuries on the sun terrace Mund, which lies almost opposite to the Heida village.
Valais – the El Dorado for Bike Racers
Valais is a paradise for bike racers. The broad, extended Rhônetal (Rhône Valley) and its tributary valleys offer wonderfully diverse landscapes for bike racing. On some routes, you can comfortably glide on the paths, provided the wind in the Rhônetal does not blow straight in your face. On some others, the upward slopes are so tough that you quickly break into sweat while cycling up, but then you get to enjoy rolling down on the ultra-long downhill slopes. Show more ...
The Celts and Romans have left their mark on Valais, and the rows of poplars in Rhônetal can be traced back to Napoleon, who planted these trees for drainage to avoid getting stuck in the swamp with his troops.
Kaspar Stockalper, who built the Stockalper Palace in Brig, has also left his mark on this region. Brig with its patrician houses, beautiful alleys and squares is a gem. Sion, one of the oldest cities in Switzerland and situated at the crossroads of the Alps, enchants with its old town, the two hills, the basilica and the castle ruins.
Also worth seeing are the many quaint Valaisan villages in the valleys and higher mountain regions such as Grimentz, Evolène, Ernen and Mühlebach to name a few.
One also gets to see modern architecture in Valais: the episcopal Leuk Castle with its glass dome designed by star architect Mario Botta and the Gondo between Simplon pass and Italy, rebuilt after the mudslide, sits enthroned high above the valley floor.
Today, there is a safe but shaky suspension bridge for pedestrians over the Massaschlucht gorge between Riederalp and Belalp. Valais is also known for its thermal baths, for example Leukerbad and Brigerbad.
And last but not least, the customs and traditions of Valais are very important. One of them is the Tschäggette: even today, you can watch this traditional mask run with the typical, frightening wooden masks in Lötschental.
Traditional dishes from Valais are well known beyond the borders of the canton: fondue, raclette, saffron risotto with saffron from Mund as well as various apricot specialities such as compote or biscuits.
The Valaisan dried meat and rye bread go wonderfully well together and are also served in the rest of Switzerland. So are the wines: as Switzerland's largest wine producer, Valais produces many excellent wines. A very special and typical wine is the Heida wine that we mentioned above.