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 kilometers 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.
- Upper Valais -- German speaking, eastern part of Valais
- Lower Valais -- French speaking, western part of Valais
- Martigny - old roman town at the bend in the valley, museums and great views
- Verbier - first class ski destination with lots of English and Australian visitors throughout the ski season
- Sion - the political center of the Valais
- Brig - the center of Swiss-German speaking Valais, Stockalper castle
- Visp - the second major Swiss-German speaking town, important centre of industry
- Zermatt - the Matterhorn, skiing, glaciers, views
- Saas-Fee - possibly the best place in the world to snowboard
- The St. Bernard Pass - a pass to Italy, origin of the Bernhardine rescue dogs
- Les 4 Vallées - A single lift ticket covers this huge ski area in French speaking Valais
- Simplon - a high mountain village and a pass through the mountains to Italy
- Turtmann - a nice little village with traditional houses with several theme walking trails.
The language divide between French and German speaking Switzerland runs through the Valais, with French spoken in the west of the canton, and local German dialects at the eastern end.
Swiss railways (SBB) in the main valley. Buses in the side valley. Many cable cars in the mountains.
For timetables see http://www.sbb.ch/en/index.htm
The train from Brig to Zermatt is run by a private company and is very expensive, if you don't have a travel pass that is also valid for this company!
Lower part of Valais
- At Martigny, visit the Gianadda museum () : sculptures and paintings, history of the city (especially when the region was part of the Roman empire)
- Near Martigny (Vernayaz) : the "Pissevache" cascade and the "Gorges du Trient" ( - )
- If you happen to be in Valais during Carnival, don't miss the carnivals of Sion and Monthey
- Easily accessible in the summer, the Great St. Bernard Hospice is a monastery situated on top of the St Bernard Pass. It is possible to eat with the monks and even stay the night. The monastery is open in the winter, but only accessible by helicopter or skis.
- Heli-skiing is available in the winter, and you don't have to be a advanced skier to experience back-country terrain via helicopter. Most heli-ski companies are based in Anzere.
Middle part of Valais
- At Sion, the basilic of Valère on top of a hill with the oldest organ in Europe. On the opposite hill, the ruins of the Castle of Tourbillon, very nice view on the city and the valley.
- Fondue - Melt Swiss cheese in a pot, dipped with pieces of bread on a fork. There are some variants :
- tomatoes mixed with cheese
- chocolate instead of cheese
- using vegetables (carrots) instead of bread
- Raclette - Another fancy of melt cheese, with potatoes and gherkins
- Cholera - Pastry made of potatoes, apples, onions and cheese
- Brisolée - hot chestnuts with butter, bread, thin slices of dry-cured and smoked meat
A great diversity of world-class wines. The landscape in the main valley is covered by vineyards.