Chemin du Vignoble: Branson - Saillon (stage 1)
The first stage of the long-distance Chemin du Vignoble leads from near Martigny to the pretty medieval village of Saillon, through ancient terraced vineyards.
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The Chemin du Vignoble (“Vineyard Trail”) leads through the sunny terraced vineyards on the north side of the Rhône valley, linking picturesque villages that have given their names to many of the most prestigious wines of Valais. The route exists in three versions – for motorists, cyclists and walkers – which follow slightly different itineraries. The version for hikers (SwitzerlandMobility/Suisse Rando route 36) extends for 66 km over 4 stages, of which this walk from Branson to Saillon is the first. The hike mostly skirts the upper edges of the winemaking villages, revealing sweeping views across the Rhône valley, the orchards that cover its floor, and the mountains beyond. The climate here is exceptionally sunny and dry, which has given rise to Mediterranean-style vegetation with cacti as well as fig, olive and almond trees. Part of the route leads along a nature trail through an ancient chestnut forest, focus of an annual chestnut festival. The sleepy villages along the way are full of charm, culminating in Saillon, recently voted the prettiest village in French-speaking Switzerland. Allow time for a stroll through its twisting alleys and up to its clifftop medieval castle, with panoramic views from the roof terrace. Highlights: Winemaking villages – picturesque, historic and full of charm Mediterranean-style flora – thanks to the sunny, dry climate Saillon – medieval village with castle ruins and museum. Close by: “Vigne à Farinet” (world’s smallest vineyard, trail illustrated with stained-glass windows); “Passerelle à Farinet” (suspension footbridge over gorge), open-air theatre with falconry displays, etc.; “Les Bains de Saillon” thermal baths