About this Switzerland walking region
The Valais (Wallis in German) is the third-largest canton in Switzerland, stretching across the Rhône valley, from the glaciers of the central Alps to Lake Geneva. While around 20 per cent of the region is covered in glaciers, it rather paradoxically enjoys one of the best climates in the country, with low rainfall and exceptionally high levels of sunshine. The perfect blend for hiking in the Swiss Alps, including walking in Zermatt, or exploring the lesser-known corners of this enchanting region.
The Valais has a long and rich history, and many traditions live on to this day. Both French and German are spoken here – French in the west, German in the east – and in the south, the land borders on Italy. The cultural influences from these three countries give the Valais a unique character. The canton’s capital town of Sion is the only sizeable settlement – and it can provide an interesting excursion as part of your Switzerland walking holiday for its interesting sights and laid back ambiance.
The French-speaking Lower Valais boasts some of Europe’s finest outdoor recreation hotspots, including Verbier, Crans-Montana and Nendaz. The scenic Upper Valais – where German is spoken - is home to some of Switzerland’s highest peaks, perfect for walking in the Swiss Alps - including the incredible Matterhorn (4,478m/14,692ft). With a heady mix of alpine grandeur, famous resorts such as Zermatt and Saas-Fee and pretty, unspoilt villages, this region is quite simply a year-round adventure playground for lovers of the great outdoors. While many of the resorts are perhaps best known for their skiing, summer holidays are equally fabulous, as the melted snow reveals a landscape quite like no other.
Walking in Valais: Zermatt, Verbier, Saas-Fee...
Zermatt, Verbier and Crans-Montana are the three best-known resorts in Valais – yet the region as a whole remains relatively unknown to travellers. While few make the effort to explore the lesser-visited corners of the glacial Rhône valley, those who do are rewarded with some of the country’s finest walking, hiking and outdoor sports opportunities. The Valaisian Alps are beautiful whatever the season; but it’s summer when hiking takes centre stage. Summer holidays in Valais and Zermatt are a walker’s dream. The enticing, picture-perfect combination of flower-filled meadows, glassy lakes, virgin forests and towering, snow-capped peaks offers no less than 8,000 km (4,971 mi) of signposted paths – with routes to suit all abilities, from gentle valley strolls to more challenging mountain ascents. The best known peaks here include the Matterhorn, the Dents du Midi and the Monte Rosa (4,634m/15,203 ft) - the country’s highest mountain and second highest in all of Western Europe.
Zermatt – Matterhorn
The star of Switzerland’s resorts: Zermatt (1,620m (5,315ft) ● You’ll be spellbound by the scenery and the mesmerising Matterhorn (4,478m/14,692ft) ● Surrounded by 38 peaks above 4,000 metres (13,123ft) ● Don’t miss: ride Europe’s highest altitude cable car and experience the ‘Matterhorn Glacier Paradise’ at 3,883m (12,740ft).
Verbier & Val de Bagnes
One of the largest holiday resorts in the Swiss Alps ● Awe-inspiring scenery and over 400km (249mi) of hiking trails ● Verbier boasts a cutting-edge infrastructure of cable cars and gondolas ● The Upper Val de Bagnes: authentic hamlets in the valley below Verbier ● Val de Bagnes, beautiful and one of Switzerland’s best kept secrets.
Saas Fee and the Saas Valley
Surrounded by the 13 peaks of the Mischabel mountain range; all of them over 3,962m (13,000ft) ● Saas Fee – pretty, car-free, and set on a high plateau at 1,800m (5,905ft) just over the mountains from Zermatt ● Skiing is the primary activity in winter here, but the summer hiking trails cover over 350km (217mi) too.
Rugged mountains and vineyards dominate the stunning scenery ● The twin towns of Crans and Montana have much to offer, including views from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc ● Situated at 1,500m (4,921 ft) on a sun-drenched plateau high above the Rhône Valley ● In summer, walking, hiking and mountain biking take centre stage!
Aletsch Glacier: Bettmeralp & Riederalp
Enjoy top hiking on this car-free sunny plateau at close to 2,000m (6,562ft) ● Walking in the close vicinity of the Aletsch Glacier ● The nearby Mt. Bettmerhorn (2,643m/8,671ft) and Mt. Eggishorn (2,926m/9,600ft) offer impressive views of the glacier ● Bettmeralp has been awarded the ‘Families Welcome’ quality certificate.
Brig-Belalp & Naters
High up above, on the sun terraces of the Blatten-Belalp, life runs at a more leisurely pace ● Lively Naters, an alpine town with southern charm – below the mighty Aletsch Glacier and surrounded by vineyards ● Don’t miss the 124m (407ft) long suspension bridge across the Massaschlucht Gorge ● Here you'll find the legendary ‘Suonen’.
Champéry, Morgins, Les Crosets...
French speaking, in the Chablais region, on the border with France ● One of Switzerland’s oldest tourist destinations ● Located in the huge skiing area of ‘Les Portes du Soleil’; yet these three villages have managed to preserve much of their traditional charm ● Choose from more than 800km (497mi) of scenic hikes.
Six romantic villages and hamlets, away from the crowds ● The French-speaking part of Switzerland ● Chamoson is the largest wine producing area in Valais ● Diverse landscape: vineyards, orchards, mountain pastures and 2,000m (6,562ft) peaks ● Mayens de Chamoson: most popular village for summer hiking and winter activities.
Evolène Region & Arolla
Evolène was voted the most beautiful village in French-speaking Switzerland ● Traditional wooden houses and an air of tranquillity ● A wealth of hiking opportunities: 250km (155mi) of clearly-marked trails ● The pristine hamlet of Arolla (1,998m/6,555ft) is on the Walker’s Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt.
Goms – Aletsch
Sunny and serene ● The uppermost valley along the River Rhône ● Surrounded by 3,000-metre peaks (9,800 ft); top views of the Aletsch Glacier ● 700km (435mi) of hiking and biking trails ● Famous for its authentic villages with old wooden houses and barns in the Valaisian style and its 70 white-washed baroque churches.
Grächen – St. Niklaus
Fairytale village set high above Zermatt, at an altitude of 1,620m (5,315ft) ● Numerous leisure facilities and a very child-friendly infrastructure ● An outstanding area for scenic walks ● 250km (155mi) of signposted paths, from themed trails and the traditional ‘Suonen’ irrigation channels to the high-alpine regions and glaciers.
Where hiking and wellbeing go hand in hand ● The largest thermal spa and wellness resort in the Alps ● Soaring 4,000m mountains (13,123ft) ● 60km (37mi) of walking paths ● Hike the classic among classics: the historic walk from Leukerbad to Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland via the Gemmi Pass route (approx. 4 hours).
Leuk & Susten
The historic town of Leuk and the village of Susten: one community right in the heart of the Valais ● Over 200km (124mi) of marked trails at an altitude between 600m (1,969ft) and 2,500m (8,202ft) ● The area boasts 3,500 hours of sunshine a year, excellent for growing grapes ● Susten: gateway to the Pfynwald Nature Reserve.
The Lötschental Valley
Classic Swiss Alps grandeur in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jungfrau-Aletsch ● Nestled between the Bernese and Valais Alps ● One of the most scenic walking areas in the Valais ● Lötschental Valley is around 30-km (18.6mi) long, which makes it the largest of the Valais side valleys ● Choose from 200km (124mi) of walking paths.
Martigny & Salvan-Les Marécottes
Terraced vineyards and magnificent alpine peaks ● Martigny, an ancient Roman town (from 15 BC) with a surprisingly modern feel, makes for some attractive wandering ● The Trient Valley provides the link between Martigny and Chamonix ● French speaking and close to where the borders of Switzerland, France and Italy converge.
Three French-speaking villages at an altitude of 1,300m (4,265ft): Mase, Vernamiége and Nax ● Only 20 minutes from Sion ● For mountain lovers and fans of gentle walking: many bisses (irrigation channels) ● The Réchy Valley, a paradise for flora and fauna enthusiasts ● Don’t miss: the underground lake of Saint Léonard!
Typical Valaisian mountain villages in the heart of the Upper Valais ● Easily accessible from the Rhone Valley/Visper Valley ● Surrounded by the Mischabel Mountains and the Weisshorn Group ● Lush meadows, dairy farms, cows and goats are encountered every step of the way ● 500km (311mi) of top Alpine walking trails.
Nendaz and its Suonen
In the hearth of the French speaking ‘Les 4 Vallées’ ● The sunniest part of Valais ● Gentle walking along ancient irrigation channels – the Suonen ● 100km (62mi) of paths along 8 channels, 6 of which still carry water ● On the mountains: an additional 150km (93mi) of trails to reach summits ● Mont-Fort (3,330m/10,925ft).
Sierre, St. Luc & Zinal (Val d’Anniviers)
A chain of authentic Swiss mountain villages with sun-blackened wooden houses in the scenic Val d’Anniviers ● The main attractions in summer are hiking and climbing ● Surrounded by several 4,000-metre (13,123ft) peaks ● Both, French and German, are spoken in pretty Sierre (Siders), which is one of Switzerland’s sunniest towns.
Sion (Sitten) & Veysonnaz
Sion (Sitten in German) is the capital of the Valais, an attractive sunny town with roots dating back to Neolithic times ● Veysonnaz is a typical Valaisian mountain village, set on a slope high above Sion ● There are around 300km (186mi) of waymarked paths in the Sion/Veysonnaz region, incl. gentle irrigation channel walks.
Visp and around Visp
The old town of Visp stands at the entrance of the valley that leads to Zermatt and Saas Fee ● The narrow alleyways and weather-beaten wooden houses of the 24 mountain villages transport you back in time ● The area offers an extensive network of irrigation channels ● Large wine growing area and 500km (311mi) of hiking trails.
More great places to go walking in Switzerland:
Bernese Oberland, Graubünden (Grisons), Bern and hiking near Bern, Eastern Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Lake Geneva Region (Vaud), Lake Lucerne Region, Ticino, Jura & Three-Lakes Region, Jura, Pays de Fribourg, Alpes Vaudoises, From Schwyz to Zurich