Descent of the dramatic Dala river valley to vineyards overlooking the only untamed stretch of the river Rhône. Charming villages, fascinating history and superb wines.
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This dramatic walk packs in tremendous variety, even for Valais: culture and history, spectacular mountain scenery, dramatic gorges, winemaking villages and glorious views of the wildest stretch of the Rhône valley. The hike falls into two halves. It begins at the spa resort of Leukerbad with a descent of the wild Dala valley. Lower down, the trail diverts through the vineyards of two of Valais’ most charming winemaking villages. The route finishes just short of the river Raspille, which marks the border between German- and French-speaking Valais. The trail is marked as a Kulturweg – «Cultural Pathway» – for good reason. The ancient Romans came this way to frequent Leukerbad’s hot mineral springs, the most abundant in the Alps. For centuries, the Dala valley was an important trade route into Valais – from the Bernese Oberland via the Gemmi Pass. The very first group package tour to Switzerland, organised by Thomas Cook, travelled up the Dala valley in 1863, and the route is now commemorated as the ViaCook. Part of our trail follows the route of a disused railway line, which ran between Leuk and Leukerbad from 1915 to 1967. But it was another railway line that definitively diverted traffic away from the valley: the Lötschberg, which opened in 1913. In 2007, the pioneering new Lötschberg tunnel opened: 400 metres lower, it can accommodate trains travelling up to 250 km/h. The first half of the trail follows a scenic route through the Dala valley, incorporating sections of the old Roman path and former railway line. The second stretch leads through the vineyards of Varen (known for its Pinot Noir wines made with grapes grown by natural methods) and Salgesch (home to one of the two sites of the Wine Museum of Valais). Highlights: Leukerbad spa resort – the most abundant hot springs in the Alps Wild Dala valley: Roman path, historical villages, picturesque chapels Winegrowing villages of Varen and Salgesch, superb views over untamed Rhône