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.
- 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
Use of the trails and the information on this website is at hikers’ own risk. Local conditions may entail changes to routes. Valais/Wallis Promotion accepts no liability for the accuracy and completeness of information on this website.
For all hikes:
- Bring a map. Download full description of this route including large-scale map by clicking on «Print» icon, top right of this page.
- Use marked trails only, and observe all signposting – for your own safety, to safeguard grazing animals and to avoid disturbing wildlife.
- Close gates after passing through.
- Please be considerate to other trail users, and to the plants and animals.
- Do not leave any waste in nature.
For mountain hikes:
- Take extra care protecting yourself from the sun at altitude. UV radiation can be exceptionally strong, even in cloudy weather.
- Plan hike carefully: take into consideration fitness level of each participant, weather forecast and season.
- Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains, without warning. Appropriate clothing is therefore essential, along with adequate supplies of food and water. In uncertain weather, turn back in good time.
For high-altitude hikes:
- Inform others of the route you plan to take. Whenever possible, avoid going alone.
- Do not venture onto glaciers without a mountain guide.
- Take note of the warning signs that point out the constant danger in river beds and along watercourses below dams and reservoirs: water levels may rise rapidly without warning.
Tips, hints and links
More information about the destination:
Getting thereA9 motorway, exit 27 (Sion-Est), follow signs for Evolène.
ParkingSeveral parking possibilities in Evolène. Follow the local car park routeing.
Book recommendation by the author
Author’s map recommendations
- good footwear
- clothing suitable for the weather: always carry a waterproof jacket
- hat or cap
- bottle for water
- binoculars (optional)
- hiking poles (optional)
- printout of this hike (click «Print» icon, to download)
For certain walks: