Valais is perhaps the most beautiful region in all of Switzerland. It is home to the Matterhorn, probably the most famous mountain in the world, and 50 other mountains that reach over 4000 metres; the Aletsch Glacier, the longest glacier in Europe; the world’s highest mountain railways and a range of spectacular ice caves. There are 47 ski resorts here, including the world-renowned resort of Zermatt.
Covering an area of approximately 5220 kilometres, the Valais stretches from Lake Geneva to Ticino and neighbouring France and Italy. The Rhône River divides the canton into the mainly French-speaking Lower Valais (Bas Valais or Unterwallis) and the mainly German-speaking Upper Valais (Haut Valais or Oberwalis). The Lower Valais contains many interesting places to visit. Sion, with a population of about 26,000 is the capital of the canton. Explore the old town and visit the cathedral, whose belfry dates from the 11th century. Shop in the beautiful covered shopping arcade and continue to the Maison Supersaxo, built by Georges Supersaxo in 1505, or visit one of the many museums in the town. Martigny, situated on a bend in the Rhône River, is the oldest town in the region and is definitely worth a visit. Stroll around the old town toward the Roman ruins in the South and check out the huge amphitheatre that can seat 6,000. The Upper Valais is home to a number of thermal baths and most of the region’s ski resorts. Visit the resort of Zermatt, situated on the legendary Matterhorn mountain and enjoy the chance to ski all year round. Take a gondola or cable car to get the best views of the Alps imaginable. Saas Fee is a village located in a neighbouring valley that offers more in the way of nightlife than Zermatt. Visit the impressive Aletsch glacier and hike in the beautiful Alpine forest along one of the many marked paths. Have a go at bungee jumping, river rafting or mountain climbing.
If all that sounds like too much in the way of exercise, head for one of the area’s thermal baths and soak and meditate in a spectacular setting. Try out a Kneipp cure (hydro-therapeutic treatment) in one of the clear mountain lakes. Or play a round of golf at Crans Montana, home to the European Masters, and take in breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Traditional customs are still very much alive in the Valais so try and experience firsthand the amazing “Alpine queen” cow-contest, in which Eringer cows take each other on in mock fights.