Tour des villages (Val d'Hérens)
Tour of the historical villages of the upper Val d’Hérens. Beautifully preserved, they bear witness to traditional life in the Valais mountains.
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A cluster of well-preserved historical villages forms the cultural and social heart of the upper Val d’Hérens. Evolène and Les Haudères, the two largest, lie among the low meadows on the valley floor. Three other villages – La Forclaz, La Sage and Villaz – stand on a glacial terrace that makes a sunny balcony about 300 metres higher up, surrounded by pastures. The villages have lovingly restored their characteristic wooden houses and barns, beautifully decorated with flowers. Evolène was voted the prettiest village in French-speaking Switzerland in 2012, and is an official Swiss heritage site – like Les Haudères. Framed by alpine meadows and fragrant forests, they have retained all their historical charm. The pastures that surround the villages are the ancestral home of the stocky black cows of the Herens breed, which take their name from the valley – and have become a symbol of Valais. These combative cows fight naturally in order to establish a hierarchy in the herd; hikers will often see pairs lock horns until one turns tail. Organised fights are a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike; the cows’ Raclette cheese, served melted, is prized throughout Switzerland. The valley is also known for its fascinating geology, which visitors can explore with the help of a free app, «GéoGuide Val d’Hérens» (details at www.evolene-geologie.ch). Locations along the village loop appear on excursions A and E on the app. Les Haudères has its own «Centre de géologie et de glaciologie», with a permanent exhibition; the tourist office at Evolène can provide further printed information. Highlights: Historical villages of wooden houses and barns, beautifully preserved Walk on two levels – valley floor and sunny glacial terrace 300 m higher Cultural heart of upper valley: markets with farmers and artisans in traditional costume