The southern canton of Valais is best known as the home of the alpine village of Zermatt and the imposing Matterhorn but there are plenty of other reasons to visit, too.
The canton borders both France and Italy to the south with French the official language on the western side and German spoken in central and upper Valais.
Popular destinations in Valais
Zermatt – the alpine town at the foot of the Matterhorn is a world renowned ski resort that offers year round skiing on the Matterhorn Glacier. For those who aren’t into snow sports, there are numerous ways to view the iconic peak either by cable car or rack railway. Hiking is a popular summer activity and the pretty car-free town centre is perfect for shopping or enjoying a meal or drink at one of the many cafes, bars and restaurants.
Other ski resorts in Valais include Verbiers, Crans Montana and Saas-Fee.
Leukerbad – The small town of Leukerbad is home to 65 thermal springs that each day release 3.9 million litres of hot water! It’s no wonder then that Leukerbad is a well known mountain spa resort with visitors arriving for both therapeutic and relaxation treatments. Skiing and hiking opportunities are also plentiful around Leukerbad.
Aletsch Glacier – more than a dozen glaciers can be found in Valais but none are more impressive than the Great Aletsch Glacier. Consisting of 10 billion tons of ice, the glacier is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and stretches for 20 kilometres from the Jungfrau Region (in canton Bern) to the Massa Gorge. There are observation points at Eggishorn, Bettmerhorn and Moosfluh.
Valais vineyards – the Valais is Switzerland’s largest grape growing region with 5,000 hectares planted with grapes. Many of the vineyards, where around 60 varieties are grown, are planted on terraced hillsides overlooking the Rhone Plain where sunshine is at a premium.
The castles of Sion – perched above the city of Sion on opposite hills are the medieval castles of Valeria and Tourbillon.
Other highlights in Valais include:
St-Leonard underground lake – the largest in Europe. It measures 300m in length and is 20 metres wide and 10 metres deep.
Grand Dixence – the world’s highest gravity dam at Val des Dix.
Champex Lac – an idyllic mountain lake that is often referred to as ‘Switzerland’s little Canada’.