Walking in Valais and Zermatt

Wonderful hiking in Valais… the hauntingly beautiful and sunny canton of Valais, tucked away in a South Westerly corner, is best known for its magnificent mountain peaks, including walking in Zermatt and the mighty Matterhorn.

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

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

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

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.

Crans Montana

Crans Montana

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

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

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…

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.

Chamoson

Chamoson

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 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

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

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.

Leukerbad

Leukerbad

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).


Photos

Travel Information

Best time for a walking holiday...
May/June to September/October

Fly to...
Zurich Kloten (CH), Geneva-Cointrin (CH), Basel-Mulhouse (FR), Bern (CH)

Switzerland Walking Regions