Enter the magic and mystery that surround the Swiss Valais.
Renowned for its glittering mountain peaks, spectacular glaciers and endless vineyards, this region rich in legends offers a truly fascinating experience.
Legends of the Swiss Valais: An experience of majesty and fascinations
Discover the secrets of ancient Swiss Alpine villages, explore enchanted forests, admire mythical waterfalls and feel part of this incredible landscape on a wonderfully majestic exploration.
History of the Canton of Valais
The Swiss canton of Valais is a land of long history with an impressive heritage. Its roots go back to prehistoric times, developing in the Bronze Age and consolidating with the Roman Empire.
Since then, the region has developed through various dominations and integrations:
From the Burgundians to the Carolingian Empire, from the Kingdom of Burgundy to the Bishop of Sion, from the Holy Roman Empire to the retreat of the Savoy.
The country of Valais saw its name take shape in the 13th century, until the birth of a federal republic which brought together the German-speaking Upper Valais and the French-speaking Lower Valais in 1634 within the Republic of the Seven Tithings*.
Origins and historical development
Over the centuries, human activity in the Valais has developed continuously.
Various cultures have left their mark on the cultural and geographical landscape of the region, and archaeological remains such as the Celto-Roman city of Octodure* bear witness to this.
The name “Valais” probably comes from the Latin Vallis Pœnina which means “Pennine valley”, the ancient Roman geographical name.
The region has had an eventful history over the centuries, as evidenced by its current location between France and Italy in the Swiss Confederation.
Valais became the 21st canton of the Swiss Confederation on 4 August 1815.
The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century had a profound impact on the population of the Valais: historic sites such as the Abbey of Saint-Maurice*, the oldest monastic establishment in the Christian West still in operation, still bear witness to this period of contradictions and conflicts.
Main town and its monuments
The administrative capital of the canton is Sion, an ancient medieval fortress built on the steep slopes of a hill near the Rhône river. Today, Sion is home to several notable historical sites such as the Tourbillon castle built in the 13th century, the fortified medieval upper town, the 17th century Capuchin convent and the Marjorie tower built in the 13th century.
Geography of the Valais
With a total area of 5,114 km² and a considerable percentage of mountains, more than 80%, it offers travellers an exceptional variety of spectacular alpine landscapes.
Geographical location and climate
The Valais is located in the southwest of Switzerland, on the border between France and Italy. It is bordered by the Western Alps with one of the highest mountains in Europe: the Cervin in French, the Cervino in Italian or Matterhorn in German, culminating at 4,478 metres.
The mountains that surround the Valais protect it from low-pressure climatic influences, with generally low rainfall and good sunshine throughout the year.
Map of Valais
Road networks, railway lines or even administrative contours, you can consult the page dedicated to the mapping of Valais:
Mountains and lakes
Located at the foot of the most spectacular Swiss Alps, the mountains of the Valais offer hikers a rugged landscape, glistening glaciers, pristine forests and peaks that reach 4,000 metres.
There are also natural lakes and reservoirs such as Lac de Geronde and Lac de Mauvoison, which are among the deepest in the Alps.
Fauna and flora
As a leading wildlife destination, the Valais is renowned for its exceptional diversity of birds, plants, mammals and insects that inhabit its lush forests and rugged mountains.
For example, the Derborence* nature reserve offers a fascinating visit to the Valais Alps at the foot of the Diablerets mountains on 260 hectares.
Economy and culture of the Valais
The canton is home to dynamic towns and a multi-sectoral economic diversity between tradition and modernity.
Economy and sectors of activity
In the Valais, agricultural production plays an important role in the economy, although it has been in sharp decline for several decades. It provides the local population with part of its daily diet, as well as being a source of exports to other cantons and to Europe.
The wine industry is also highly developed. A wide variety of wines are produced locally in several century-old cellars located throughout the canton.
Water and hydroelectric power production accounts for 30% of Switzerland’s national production. Industry and construction employ 30% of the active population.
Finally, with 65% of jobs, the tertiary sector, including tourism, has become the main source of economic activity in the canton.
The official languages of the canton are French andGerman.
However, due to its turbulent history, there are also different languages spoken by some inhabitants: Arpitan, Italian, Romansh and other dialects.
Festivals and cultural activities
Throughout the year, and especially in the summer months, the Valais becomes a vibrant place thanks to the many festivals and events* that are organised in the canton.
Culture lovers will find, among others, the international classical music festival in Sion, the PALP Festival or the Carnival of Sion, to name but a few festivities.
Visitors can also take advantage of the canton’s cultural and natural heritage with activities such as discovering monuments, hiking in the heart of nature, sailing on an underground lake or a guided tour of a glacier.
The historic and cultural region of the Valais offers travelers a unique experience, far from the beaten track and classic tourist destinations.
Whether you are looking to hike through spectacular scenery, discover the history of this region or simply enjoy a delicious local wine, you are sure to be charmed by your trip to the Valais.
- Latest articles related to Valais:
- Octodurus celtic and Roman city, City of Martigny (French)
- Republic of the Seven Tithings, Wikipedia
- Abbey of Saint-Maurice, Wikipedia
- Derborence nature reserve, Pro Natura (French)
- 50 years of Valais economy, Credit Suisse (French)
- Festivals and agenda, Culture Valais (French)
- The communes of the Valais, Canton (French)
- Ask a question ? Cantonal Media Library (French/German)
- Map of the Rhône river
- Where to sleep (French) in the Rhône valley?
- Weather along the Rhône
- Taking the train in Switzerland and France
- Rhône road by bike
- Activities and leisure in Switzerland