Valais

The Valais is exactly that: a long, narrow, L-shaped valley which was cut by glaciers between two alpine mountain ranges. The main cities in the region are along the river Rhone which cuts through the bottom of the valley, between its source at the Rhone glacier in the east and its temporary destination of Lake Geneva in the west. The main tourist resorts and many small villages are in the side valleys to the north or the south.

Valais offers an amazing diversity of landscapes. Within a few kilometres there are the highest glaciers and mountains of the Alps and almost subtropical places where even almond and pomegranate trees grow.

Some of the best spring skiing in the world is available in the Valais, at prices which although high beat the equivalent offerings in Colorado.

Regions

Cities

Other destinations

Talk

The language divide between French and German speaking Switzerland runs through the Valais. German is spoken in the upper (eastern) part of the Rhone valley. French is spoken in the lower (western) part down to Lake Geneva. The city of Sierre (German: Siders) makes up the border between the two regions and is one of the few cities in Switzerland to be officially bilingual. English is widely spoken and understood in towns and touristy areas, but by no means universal.

The dialect spoken in the German speaking part of the Valais is classified as Highest Alemannic and is vastly different from standard German. It is different also from the other variants of Swiss German to the point where it can be hard for even Swiss people to understand the locals. The language is highly localised and it is generally possible to identify someone's home village or valley by their dialect. The most rustic (and interesting) variations are usually found in the side valleys such as Lötschental, the Goms, the Mattertal or the Saastal. Most locals will prefer to speak to outsiders in High German, which is universally understood and spoken (albeit with a heavy accent).

People in the lower part of Valais speak standard French with sometimes a heavy local accent. There is however a dialect still spoken in some areas in the central areas of the Valais. Called Arpitan or simply Patois, this language seems to be slowly disappearing and as a traveller you are unlikely to ever encounter it. Virtually all its speakers also speak French and will usually use French when talking to outsiders.

Get in

The nearest international airport is either Geneva for the western part of Valais or Zurich for the eastern part. Direct trains depart from both airports for Brig. It is also possible to fly into Milano Malpensa Airport instead. The journey is not much longer; however, there are fewer connections available and there are no direct trains from the airport. There is a small airport in Sion, but it is served by very few seasonal routes.

The train from Geneva airport runs twice an hour along the main Rhone valley through most of the canton, stopping at stations including Saint-Maurice (1:40hr, not all trains stop), Martigny (1:51hr), Sion (2:05hr), Leuk (2:21 hr, not all trains stop), Visp (2:32 hr) and finally Brig (2:41hr). The train from Zurich Airport runs hourly and stops at Visp (2:22hr) and Brig (2:33hr) passing through the 34-km-long Lötschberg base tunnel. For a more scenic journey, the route through the old Lötschberg tunnel still runs. It requires a change of train in Bern, Thun or Spiez and takes around an hour longer to reach Brig. It offers a nice view on the Rhone valley as it slowly descends the side of the mountain. This train is popular among hikers, as it has a supplementary stop at Goppenstein, giving access to the Lötschental, as well as a couple stops on demand along the way to Brig passing through a popular hiking area.

Get around

Swiss railways (SBB-CFF) in the main valley. Buses span out from the many train stations in the valley and go to almost every inch of the region. The main interchange station for the region is Brig, where trains from the north (Basel, Berne, Zurich) meet trains from the west(Geneva, Lausanne, Sion) and Italy (Milan).

For timetables and tickets for trains see: , Post Buses timetables:

The train from Brig to Zermatt is run by a private company and is expensive. The journey is stunning, and is the only way to get to the centre of Zermatt, as the village is car-free.

See

View of the Aletsch Glacier and several Alpine peaks from Eggishorn Mountain

Do

Lower part of Valais

Middle part of Valais

Eat

A Raclette being served in the traditional way by slicing off molten cheese off half cheese wheel.
Raclette, the most famous of the local dishes from Valais.

Drink

A great diversity of world-class wines. The landscape in the main valley is covered by vineyards.

Stay safe

Go next

In the Valais Region

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