The Swiss call Valais ‘the Heart of the Alps’. Home to some of the most spectacular mountains in Europe (there’s 45 summits here over 4,000 metres above sea level), it’s a tagline that the region more than lives up to. If you’re looking to get up close and personal with the highest mountains in Switzerland, Valais is definitely where you want to be. There’s the Monte Rosa (aka Dufourspitze), which is the country’s highest of course, but the real icon here, and world’s most photographed mountain, is the Matterhorn. Yes, that is the one on the Toblerone bars.
Unsurprisingly, when you stop and consider just how mountainous this part of Switzerland is, there’s a lot (and we mean ‘a lot’) of outdoor activities to be done here right throughout the year. Last summer, we took GB snowboarding royalty Jenny Jones and presenter Hersha Verity out to the Valais region so that the pair could experience for themselves just some of that sweet adventure magic that’s on offer in the area. Here’s what the two of them, accompanied by our production crew, spent their time doing. It’s also, ultimately, why you should follow in their footsteps this summer.
Our adventure with Jenny and Hersha saw us spend time outside in Region Dents du Midi, Nendaz and Veysonnaz, Aletsch Arena and Saas-Fee. From scenic e-bike rides to restorative forest yoga sessions, from big adventure hikes in the shadow of big mountains to live-long-in-the-memory views of Europe’s longest glacier, our week in the Swiss region of Valais served up everything we could have hoped for (and more). Come with us on a journey as we explore the details of Hersha and Jenny’s Valais trip and also, while we’re at it, shine a light on some activities that will almost certainly inspire you to book an Alpine escape of your very own.
E-Biking In The Region Dents du Midi
All the fun of mountain biking, with less of the body-breaking uphill labour involved, in amongst some of the planet’s finest outdoor terrain? Sign us up, and then sign us up all over again if you’d be so kind. Kickstarting their time in Valais by taking some rental bikes for a spin in Region Dents du Midi, after beginning in the village of Morgins, there’s arguably no better way of easing yourself into some time spent in this part of the world than taking an e-bike for a spin. Cruise about, cover big distances, and see lots and lots of special scenery with the help of a bike-riding tour guide… it’s the stuff of dreams.
One potential way to embrace the e-bike existence in this part of the world is to lean fully into the ExplorGames A La Cartes offering. It’s a ticketed experience which takes the art of e-biking, and throws a course full of puzzles into the mixer. If the thought of going on a quest, where the fate of humanity and nature hangs in the balance, excites you then this might be just the experience you and your group are after. Food enthusiasts will also be happy to know there’s an opportunity to refuel one’s self on delicious local specialities during the ‘mission’. Switzerland is home to a lot of delicious food and drink, and Valais is no exception on that front.
For those of you who want to up it in the adrenaline stakes here, Morgins is home to a killer bike park while Champéry has its legendary Downhill World Cup venue (sight of that iconic Danny Hart ride in 2011). If the World Cup course sounds a bit too spicy for you, there’s actually 11 downhill tracks in total here so feel free to work your way up to the most extreme courses in stages. Les Crosets also has some wicked MTB trails as well.
Here’s some bottom lines to remember about mountain biking in this corner of the Alps. Consider them the key takeaways, the stuff to mull over in the dead of night, the objective reasons – in other words – why anyone who loves riding bikes across mountainous terrain should get this destination squarely in their sights. The main thing to remember is it’s part of the largest mountain bike area in Europe meaning there’s plenty of riding to indulge in. There is, in actual fact, a mouthwatering 600 km of mountain bike trails running through the Portes du Soleil area. Yes, epic exploration and putting miles in your legs is very much on the cards here. With so much on offer of course, the appeal of e-bikes is clear. They do, after all, make riding long journeys, with tiring climb sections, less of a brutal endurance event. Whatever your chosen mode of transport, there’s 12 mountain bike / e-bike routes throughout the Region Dents du Midi; each of them memorable in their own way.
If the sheer amount of bike riding to be done in Valais feels a little overwhelming, don’t panic. Book yourself on a Best of Valais with a guide experience. It’s your chance to take advantage of a local mountain-bike guide, and soak up their knowledge of the area like a sponge. Depending on which option you go for, they’ll either accompany you on a half-day or a full day of mountain biking adventures. Recommended.
Yoga Trail Session In Veysonnaz
There’s arguably no better way of connecting with the natural world, and yourself, in Valais than by doing some trail walking and forest-based yoga. Adventure-packed destinations like Switzerland obviously offer so much for people who are all about getting active outdoors but, as Hersha and Jenny discovered on their visit, there’s also a lot here for people who want to completely chill out. A yoga session outside, in the energetic forest of Veysonnaz, surrounded by trees and mountains, can do wonders for your mental wellbeing.
We went with a yoga guide on our visit, but there’s no reason you can’t take on the yoga path here self-guided. Put some steps in, take in glimpses of the spectacular scenery as it reveals bits of itself through the trees, and take moments to pause and immerse yourself in various yoga poses at staging areas along the way. The yoga path is in Magrappé forest. It was built in 2019, and is guaranteed to serve up moments of heightened relaxation. The path begins on the Bisse de Vex, with the four elements being represented across the seven wooden posts. The yoga breaks, represented by these seven wooden posts, are a combination of postures and exercises. They bring together strength, concentration, relaxation and inner focus. You feel calmer already, don’t you?
With four relaxing retreats and 20 outdoor classes to get your teeth into here, there really is plenty of yoga to embrace. If you’ve ever wanted to cut yourself off from the stresses of modern living and have something of a mental wellbeing reset then this destination needs to be on your radar. This yoga break in the mountains, for example, runs over the course of a weekend in Veysonnaz and will, through guided instruction from yoga professionals, really help you disconnect from your stresses.
Big Adventure Hikes, Big Mountains, In Saas-Fee/Saastal
A night in Saas-Fee followed by a big adventure hike, with big views of big mountains. There’s definitely worse ways to spend a day this summer. If you’re anything like Jenny and Hersha, you’ll find time to ask big questions en-route as well… big questions like “If you could be a biscuit, what kind of biscuit would you be?”
In times of outdoorsy activities in the adventure playground known as Saas-Fee/Saastal, you’re certainly well catered for. There’s 350 km of hiking trails to get stuck into, for a start. Factor in 80 km of bike routes, seven via ferrata routes and numerous other fun experiences, and it’s clear you’re not going to be spending much time indoors while visiting.
If you’re new to the area of the Saas Valley, it can be a little overwhelming to work out what to do, where to go, and what type of shenanigans to prioritise first. That’s where this high alpine world of experiences breakdown from our Saas-Fee friends will come in handy (check it out). From going full mountaineering mode on the Allalinhorn (4,027 metres) to having an unforgettable glacier experience via the Längfluh mountain station, and much more, it’s a useful guide; one that’ll help you to optimise your adventures in this truly brilliant area of alpine Switzerland.
Like much of Switzerland, the Saas Valley serves up more photograph opportunities than you’ll know what to do with (brace yourself, Instagram). The best way of getting between these spots, or at least to the respective starting points of the hikes that will get you to these spots, is with a SaastalCard. From the first overnight stay onwards, it will give you free usage of post buses and nine (yes, nine) cable cars. Whatever your stamina levels, it’s surely never been easier to move through the mountains and capture them in all their glory on your smartphone / DSLR camera.
Yoga Meet SUP, SUP Meet Yoga
Over at Bettmeralp, which is part of the Aletsch Arena, Jenny and Hersha sampled some SUP yoga. It’s essentially stand up paddle boarding crossed with, you guessed it, yoga. It’s another great way to relax to the max, and find some inner calm, while you’re knocking around in Valais. Imagine working your way through a string of yoga poses while floating around on your own slowly moving island, with nothing but your thoughts and developed sense of inner calm for company. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
With the help of expert guided instruction, you’ll be able to shake free of the chaos and really target your inner balance. The surrounding views aren’t bad either. Head on over to the Aletsch Arena website for more information on SUP yoga on Lake Bettmersee.
Check Out The Aletsch Glacier
The Aletsch Glacier is the longest glacier in Europe. 13 miles long, one mile wide, and 800 metres deep; this immense natural wonder really is a sight to behold. The glacier, which is rapidly receding on a daily basis, is also a powerful reminder that we need to make radical environmental changes and travel far more sustainably if we’re serious about ensuring these special places are recognisable 50 years from now. Go for big hikes when you’re in this part of Valais, and give yourself a chance to see the glacier from numerous different angles. One of the standout places to admire the glacier is from the View Point Eggishorn.
It’s worth pointing out here, before you get carried away, that visitors to the Aletsch Arena are only allowed physically onto the Great Aletsch Glacier as part of an official guided tour. Head to the Aletsch Arena website if you’re keen to book yourself onto one of these guided glacier tours.
To book experiences in Valais, head here: valais.ch/shop