Secret Valais Valleys (Village-based hiking/walking tour)
Visit: Riederalp, Saas Fee, Zinal
Length: 7 days, 6 nights in 3-star hotels
Hike Rating: Moderate - Strenuous, 5-7 hours/day, 1000'-3500' elevation gain/loss
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.
Day 1 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)