Valais romand
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Panoramic view of the 'Portes du soleil' : Click to enlarge picture
Les portes du soleil
© Jacques Kuenlin

Tacked seamlessly south of Haut-Léman, VALAIS ROMAND, or the French-speaking part of Valais, comprises the westernmost portions of the canton. Occupying the broad Rhône valley floor and the most accessible foothills just above, it’s more populated and livelier than the wilder German-speaking east. Mountain passes aside, the road and train line from Montreux is the sole route in and out; the mountains flanking the Rhône are cut through with a handful of dead-end valleys, wonderful for long-distance hiking, but only the high pass roads over the Grand-St-Bernard to Italy and the Col de la Forclaz to Chamonix in France give access from outside. These two roads join the valley at Martigny, a rather unprepossessing place much overshadowed in both style and appeal by its near neighbours, the cantonal capital Sion and, on the French–German language border, Sierre. The vapid resort towns of Verbier near Martigny, and Crans-Montana above Sierre, are two of the best-known ski resorts in the world, offering the combination of groomed pistes and chic après-ski that Switzerland is famous for.

South to Martigny
Roads and train tracks cross the broad Rhône at Aigle and Bex to a slice of Valais to the west and the small resorts of Champéry and Morgins, where you can ski the vast Portes du Soleil ski area in the shadow of the Dents du Midi range, shared with a number of French resorts just over the border (www.portesdusoleil.com). Main roads head on south towards Martigny, crossing the Vaud–Valais frontier at the ancient town of St-Maurice.

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