Chemin du Vignoble: Venthône – Leuk (stage 4)
The final stage of the Chemin du Vignoble («Vineyard Trail») links French- and German-speaking Valais, and takes in medieval villages, a vast nature park and an innovative wine centre.
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There are three versions of the Chemin du Vignoble («Vineyard Trail») through the main winegrowing villages of Valais: for motorists, for cyclists and for hikers. The 4-stage, 65-km hiking trail culminates in this dramatic walk along the wildest stretch of the entire lower Rhône valley. Because of the unstable geology, this stretch of the Rhône has never been tamed. The branching river, its stony islands and the vast pine forests on its southern banks – among the largest in the Alps – form the heart of the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park. This vast reserve, one of Switzerland’s biodiversity hotspots, stretches from the river up to mountaintops and glaciers, taking in the vineyards on the north bank – through which our trail leads. This leg of the Chemin du Vignoble is notable for another reason: it crosses the river Raspille, which marks the boundary between French- and German-speaking Valais. The atmosphere in French-speaking Venthône and Miège is quite different to that in German-speaking Salgesch, Varen and Leuk – which adds to the charm of this hike. Highlights along the way include the Espace Terroirs in Miège. This innovative visitor centre features an exhibition that explores the way soil and landscape affect vines and wines; there’s also a café-restaurant and a tasting venue with more than 50 wines. As well as glorious views, the hike promises a rich experience of local history – culminating in Leuk, home to many fine medieval buildings including an impressive castle imaginatively renovated by the leading Swiss architect Mario Botta, now a cultural venue with music, theatre and exhibitions. Leuk is also home to Switzerland’s oldest vine: a Cornalin planted in 1798 in the heart of the village. Highlights: Glorious views of the untamed Rhône and vast pine forests of the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park Espace Terroirs in Miège – innovative wine visitor centre Experience of two languages, two cultures Historical village of Leuk, with medieval castle renovated by Mario Botta