Switzerland is well-known for the preservation of its traditions, some of which date back hundreds of years, and Valais is no exception. The Canton of Valais is a stunning example of what happens when ancient culture and traditions meet the 21st century. Bringing about some of the most luxurious, yet humble living styles you can find globally.
Life in Valais
The lifestyle in Valais is inspired by nature, more specifically, the mountains and the snowy landscape that the Canton is spread across. The buildings and houses that make up each village within Valais are a fusion of natural building materials and architecture that merges seamlessly with its surroundings. Most of the buildings within Valais are almost too beautiful to believe they are man-made, and the traditional designs have stood the test of time so are still implemented today. Grimentz is a fantastic example of a village that takes you back in time thanks to its widespread continuation of traditional building techniques and architecture.
Valais thrives thanks to its massive ski scene with an endless number of ski runs spread across the mountains and deep into the valleys beneath. Farming communities are dotted throughout the pastures below, themselves withholding their farming traditions, which include food festivals as well as the way they make their products.
Many villages in Valais have their unique customs and traditions, such as the festivals in which Tschäggättä, Sunnetreelleta and other mythical figures make their way through the villages and farmlands to chase away the winter and any evil spirits in the area. These occasions are very much community events, where locals spend hours creating masks and costumes to be worn in performances – something that really should be seen to be appreciated.
Dry-Stone Walls of the Rhône Valley
Supporting the expansive terraced vineyards of the Rhône Valley are over 1,600km of dry-stone walls standing in perfect harmony with nature. Although man-made, these interconnecting walls date back hundreds of years and were created on a truly mind-blowing scale. The traditional building techniques have aged just like the fine wines they help to produce. They provide sturdy, eco-friendly, and long-lasting support for the vineyards and the livelihoods that have depended on them for hundreds of years.
These walls have now been recognised by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of humanity. The dry-stone walls trace their way throughout Valais, and the construction techniques have been passed down through generations. You might even get a chance to see how these walls were first constructed all those years ago.
A Journey of Discovery
Valais is dotted with reminders from the past and the people who have passed through this part of Switzerland. As you travel through the villages and mountainside you are sure to come across remnants from the various tribes who first settled in the Canton.
Archaeologists have uncovered an endless number of secrets and stories which helped create the Valais we see today. The area has been touched and influenced by events and eras, most of which that has occurred over the last 2,000 years has been documented. The unique history is available in Saint-Maurice at the Valais Media Library, the main centre for religious cultural treasures. But it is not just the museums and information centres which will take you back hundreds or even thousands of years.
Reminders of Valais’s past present themselves in broad daylight in the forms of ancient buildings and architecture. The Stockalper Castle in Brig, and at the Tourbillon and Valeria castles in Sion are just a few of the relics left behind from the Middle Ages which are still standing to this day.
Festivals in Valais
Festivals take place in Valais throughout the year, most of which have taken place for years and years as part of a tradition. Of course, these festivals have been modernised to enhance them for the 21st century, but you will still find the same underlying values and community spirit within them. Music has always played a significant role in Swiss culture, perhaps more so now than ever. The music festivals held in Valais are often accompanied by skiing events, this beautiful mixture drawing people from all over the world.
Skiing is a much-celebrated sport in Valais and has played a big role in the lives of the residents for years – providing a means of transport across the expansive mountain landscape. Festivals such as Snowboxx which are held in the ski resorts often involve skiing in one form or another, be it races, challenges, or simply as a form of transport to the festival.
What Will You Find in Valais?
With so many things to see and do in Valais, there is something for everyone. You will find traces of the rich Swiss culture and tradition in almost everything you do and everywhere you visit. You will struggle to resist the infectiously warm and friendly festivals and celebrations that take place in the villages and resorts that make up this beautiful part of Switzerland. For more information on what it is like to live in Valais get in touch with us to see if the lifestyle of Valais is right for you!