Chemin du Vignoble: Sion to Venthône (stage 3)
The third stage of the Chemin du Vignoble (“Vineyard Trail”) leads from Sion to near Sierre, along a scenic “bisse” irrigation channel and past charming vineyard restaurants.
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The Chemin du Vignoble follows a scenic route through the sunny, south-facing vineyards and their charming villages. There are also versions for cyclists and motorists, but it is the 4-stage, 66-km hiking trail that allows the most leisurely experience of the many pleasures en route. Along this third stage, from the northern edge of Sion to the vineyards above Sierre, the valley of the river Rhône is noticeably narrower. Water plays a starring role from the very beginning of this leg of the hike: the route leads along a “bisse”, one of the historical irrigation channels built to carry precious water from the glaciers to the sunny vineyards, orchards and fields of Valais. The Bisse de Clavau was built in the mid-15th century and leads through some of the world’s steepest terraced vineyards – with superb views over the ancient city of Sion. This first section features several “guérites” – open-air vineyard restaurants, shaded by vines, ideal for exploring the local wines. When the path reaches the gorge of the river La Liène, the trail leaves the “bisse” to drop down to the village of St-Léonard to cross the river before climbing back up to the vineyards on the far side. And here, the path passes over one of the most unusual attractions in Valais: the largest navigable underground lake in Europe. Access is from the village below; the 30-minute guided boat tours over the crystalline waters are magical. The trail continues through a string of winemaking villages to finish in charming Venthône, home to a cluster of medieval buildings including a 12th-century fortified tower that now houses a restaurant and exhibition space. Highlights Bisse de Clavau – historical irrigation channel with superb views over Sion, attractive “guérite” vineyard restaurants along the way Europe’s largest navigable underground lake at St-Léonard String of pretty winemaking villages, tasting opportunities en route