The top winter photo spots in Valais
Do you love photography? Patrick Güller, Valais Instagrammer, shares his tips and his favourite spots for winter photographs to help you embellish your Instagram account and create lasting memories of your visit to Valais. Ice caverns, snowy summits with magnificent views, fairy-tale mountain villages… On your marks, get set, shoot!
Ice caverns of Zinal Glacier
Every winter, the caverns within Zinal Glacier turn into magnificent grottos of ice, frozen into shape by the cold: a wonderful opportunity for taking evocative pictures. This natural treasure is located in unsecured terrain and there is a risk of icefall. Therefore, we strongly advise against unaccompanied excursions and recommend staying only near the entrance. You can reach the ice caverns on a guided snowshoe walk from Zinal: allow about 2½ hours for the walk there and as much again for the walk back. These vast ice vaults in a thousand shades of blue change size and form every year, which makes this place all the more magical. The best time to visit is from the end of December to the end of February, when this glacial cathedral from another epoch is at its most impressive.
Patrick Güller’s tip: When weather conditions are favourable, guided snowshoe walks are organised every Tuesday and Thursday. The activity does not require any special training, but participants should reckon on about 5 hours’ snowshoeing with a vertical difference of nearly 400 metres.
Pointe de la Plaine Morte
The Pointe de la Plaine Morte is a peak at the top of the Crans Montana ski area, nearly 3,000 metres above sea level, which offers magnificent views of the Plaine Morte Glacier and of the western end of the Rhône valley. You can access this vantage point via the ski area’s cable cars – notably via the Funitel from Les Violettes up to the Plainte Morte. Once you reach the summit station, allow about 5 to 10 minutes to walk across to the peak. You even have the option of coming up at daybreak to watch the sunrise bathe the surrounding snowy peaks in glowing colours: one Sunday a month, you can ride up at dawn for a natural spectacle that will take your breath away, followed by a hearty breakfast.
Patrick Güller’s tip: Aim to visit on a day with low cloud or fog at lower altitudes to admire the Valais and Bernese Alps rising above a sea of cloud covering the whole Rhône valley.
Goms suspension footbridge
Popularly known as the “Goms Bridge”, this classic summer excursion destination and photo subject retains all its charm with the arrival of winter. Many of the rich colours will have disappeared, but the contrast between the watery blue of the Rhône and the immaculate white of the snow is especially photogenic. The Goms suspension footbridge is 280 metres long and passes 92 metres above the floor of the Rhône gorges. You can reach it on foot from the car park in Fürgangen, beside the road, or from Bellwald-Fürgangen railway station, a few hundred metres away.
Patrick Güller’s tip: To enjoy the best possible light conditions, head for the bridge early or late in the day. And if you have the chance, visit the bridge during or just after snowfall. This fresh white coat adds to the scene’s fairy-tale charm!
Located 786 metres above sea level, the Montorge is one of several hills overlooking the city of Sion. Thanks to its low altitude, the hilltop is accessible on foot year-round, which allows visitors to observe how the magnificent views over the Rhône valley evolve through the seasons – even in winter. Access is via the “Parcours Vita” fitness trail that starts at the Montorge lake and which takes you up to the castle ruins. Allow about 1 hour for the 2.4-kilometre walk.
Patrick Güller’s tip: During the weeks before and after the winter solstice, the sunsets are aligned in such a way that they illuminate the whole Rhône valley. The photograph below, for example, was taken on 27 December.
Zermatt is undoubtedly one of the most magical places in Valais, especially in winter. The photo opportunities are endless and extremely varied: from views of Zermatt with the iconic Matterhorn in the background to the countless freshly prepared ski pistes, the Valais resort has so much to offer. As the town is car-free, access is exclusively via public transport from Täsch, where you can leave your vehicle at the Matterhorn Terminal car park before taking the train to Zermatt.
Patrick Güller’s tip: Even though the resort of Zermatt is particularly popular with tourists, there are still vantage points and especially times of day at which you can escape the crowds. Sunrise is one of these special moments when you can find yourself alone, in tune with nature.
Mont Fort is the highest peak of the “4 Vallées” ski area, culminating at an altitude of 3,329 metres; the views of the Valais Alps from here are sublime. You can reach the summit by a sequence of cable cars and/or chairlifts from Nendaz or Verbier. Head back down from the summit by cable car or, if you are brave, on skis: the run down to the Col des Gentianes, with a vertical drop of 380 metres over a distance of 1,780 metres, starts with a steep mogul field that is suitable only for very good skiers with an excellent level of fitness. An extra bonus: at the summit, you have the option of enjoying a delicious fondue as you admire the breathtaking views!
Patrick Güller’s tip: Take the first or last cable car of the day in order to make the most of the best possible light conditions. It is well worth heading for the summit of the Mont Fort when the Rhône valley lies under a sea of cloud: your photographs will be all the more beautiful!
Hospice at the Great St Bernard Pass
Located at an altitude of 2,473 metres, on the border with Italy, the hospice at the Great St Bernard Pass is one of the key historical sites in Valais. The structure as we know it was built in 1900 and continues to welcome travellers crossing over the Great St Bernard Pass. In winter, the hospice is accessible only on showshoes or touring skis. Before heading up, enquire about snow conditions and avalanche risk, and book a guide to accompany you on your journey. Allow about 2½ hours to climb up on touring skis from Bourg-Saint-Bernard, near the entrance to the Great St Bernard tunnel and the start of the road over the pass.
Patrick Güller’s tip: Spend the night at the hospice (accommodation by reservation only) and take advantage of the occasion to shoot night-time photographs in this remote spot, far from all light pollution. The winter landscapes are especially photogenic at night, both under a new moon as well as by full moon.
The Goms valley is an ideal destination for anyone wishing to experience a winter landscape of fairy-tale beauty. Photographers are spoilt for choice: attractive subjects abound, from rivers and forests to churches and little wooden houses. The Goms is effectively the uppermost section of the Rhône valley, stretching all the way from Gletsch at the foot of the mighty Rhône Glacier to Lax, and from an altitude of about 1,300 metres at the valley floor to well over 3,000 metres at the summit of the majestic surrounding peaks. The wide, sunny valley is also a paradise for cross-country skiing, with 90 kilometres of marked trails.
Patrick Güller’s tip: Combine a trip to the Goms valley with a visit to the “Goms Bridge”, located near Bellwald, or to the magnificent Aletsch Arena region, home to the spectacular Great Aletsch Glacier.
Nax – Mont-Noble
Dubbed the “Balcony of the sky” thanks to the breathtaking panoramic views up and down the Rhône valley and across to the Bernese Alps, Nax perches proudly on a high plateau above the city of Sion. Located at an altitude of 1,300 metres on the southern side of the Rhône valley, the village is perfectly aligned for dramatic sunsets, making it a favoured spot for photographers wishing to capture the magical “golden hour” from one of the finest vantage points in Valais. In winter and autumn alike, the days often end with glorious shimmering colours and a magnificent golden light, offering perfect conditions for fabulous sunset photographs.
Patrick Güller’s tip: When you reach the vantage point known as the “Balcony of the sky”, follow the path that leads to the outcrop below, a few hundred metres away, to enjoy an even more impressive view of the floor of the Rhône valley.
Villages of Riederalp and Bettmeralp
The charming villages of Riederalp and Bettmeralp, both situated in the Aletsch Arena region, are two traditional alpine settlements that are well worth a visit. Both are car-free; access is via cable cars from Mörel and from Betten Talstation (on GPS: Grengiols Guldersand). Riederalp and its neighbour Bettmeralp are idyllic spots for photography enthusiasts: located at an altitude of nearly 2,000 metres, the two villages are often covered by thick blanket of snow, creating the impression of a pristine white paradise. Take advantage of a visit to marvel at the Great Aletsch Glacier, close by.
Patrick Güller’s tip: The chapel at Bettmeralp and its magnificent backdrop of mountains are undoubtedly among the most photographed subjects in Valais. From certain vantage points, depending on the weather, it is also possible to make out the Matterhorn from an unfamiliar angle that still offers an impressive view. To get a good result, use a telephoto lens.