Recently featured as one of the Best New Travel Adventures for 2013 in USA Today.
This 6 night guided tour takes us off-the-beaten-path to some of the wonderful hidden treasures of Switzerland’s Valais region. The Valais (called Wallis in German) is a large mountainous area that stretches the Rhone river valley, from the shores of lake Geneva to the headwaters of the Grimsel pass, and contains some of the highest mountains in the Alps. Forming much of the Swiss-Italian border, exploring the Valais also reveals numerous beautiful side-valleys. While lesser-known than places like Verbier and Zermatt, these hidden gems can be even more enjoyable. On this tour, we’ll meet in Riederalp, a tiny village high on a south-facing slope at the edge of the massive Aletsch glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps. After 2 nights there, we’ll head to car-free Saas Fee, a quieter alternate to Zermatt, surrounded by a giant cirque of glaciers and jagged peaks. Then we’re off to Zinal, another small and atmospheric village at the end of the Val d’Anniviers and one of the highlights of the Haute Route. If you think you’ve seen it all in Switzerland, think again! This tour highights the surprising depth of some of the lesser-known stops in the Swiss Alps.
Our typical day starts with a continental buffet breakfast at our hotel – delicious fresh baked bread and croissants, local meats and cheeses, cereal, fruit, coffee and juice – which gives us the energy needed for the upcoming tours. Soon we’ll be out on the trail, where you’ll get to choose between an easier walk or more strenuous hike for the day. Each morning, you’ll be handed a lunch to carry, and at a mid-point along the way we’ll choose a beautiful spot to stop and enjoy our picnic. We get a lot of compliments on our imaginative lunches – making them something to look forward to as well!
We should finish our hike around 4 pm, giving you time to wash up, relax, perhaps do a bit of shopping in town or relax in our fun hotel pool and spa. After that, we’ll enjoy dinner together at our hotel or another local restaurant. These are usually multi-course feasts, featuring both local and international specialties like chicken, fish, or cheese fondue. Our hotels enjoy excellent reputations for their fine cuisine. We’ll leave one dinner free in Saas Fee so you can explore on your own.
While hiking in Riederalp, Saas Fee and Zinal, we have numerous hikes to choose from each day. We’ve described some of our favorite hikes here, but expect your own tour to vary slightly.
Riederalp – Arrive in Switzerland, and transfer by train to our meeting point in Riederalp, high in the mountains above Brig. Riederalp is reached only by cable car, but in typical Swiss fashion, the trip there is easy and enjoyable.
Enjoy the atmosphere of this tiny car-free village, on a south-facing slope with views to the Matterhorn and other giants of the Swiss Alps. We stay in the center of town in a comfortable 4-star hotel. (Hotel Walliser Spycher)
Riederalp – The massive Aletsch glacier is Riederalp’s top attraction. It’s 14 miles long, and dramatically winds from the top of the Jungfrau to the giant moraine walls behind Riedealp.
We’ll have many options for a great hike through ancient pine-larch forests with stunning views, and back to Riederalp for the night. (Hotel Walliser Spycher)
Saas Fee – Leave Riederalp by cable car, train and then bus, to the atmospheric car-free village of Saas Fee. Saas Fee is reminiscent of Zermatt, but is much quieter, and is ringed by glaciers and 4000 meter peaks.
We’ll enjoy a half-day hike up to Hannig, a beautiful viewpoint in an open meadow high above town where you can see the entire valley. (Hotel Metropole or Saaserhof)
Saas Fee – A great option today is the hike up to the historic Britannia hut, one of the most popular alpine club huts in Switzerland. This 100-year-old hut is perched at over 3000 meters above sea level and promises panoramic views of the whole region.
Despite the altitude, optional cable cars give us the option for a fairly easy day today. Dinner will be on your own in Saas Fee. (Hotel Metropole or Saaserhof)
Zinal – Our tour travels by bus and train to the beautiful Anniviers valley, and the tiny village of Zinal tucked at the end of the valley. Zinal is a quiet town with just a couple of hotels and shops sprinkled among centuries-old houses and barns, and it serves as a peaceful base.
For a first hike, we might choose an energetic walk up to the Roc de la Vache pass for views of the surrounding peaks. An easier option stays along the valley floor, passing farms and waterfalls enroute to the Petit Mountet hut. (Hotel Europe or Besso)
Zinal – There are many peaceful trails in the valley above Zinal. One of our favorites starts with a bus to the nearby Moiry reservoir, where we climb to the Sorebois pass for unforgettable views before descending back down to Zinal.
You may choose to rent bikes for a thrilling descent to town, or ride down by cable car. An optional longer return takes us on a long balcony walk around the valley with even some surprise views of the Matterhorn peaking over the ridge at the back of the valley. Return to Zinal for our final evening. (Hotel Europe or Besso)
Depart – After breakfast at our hotel, we’ll say our good-byes and leave for our post-trip destinations
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