Martigny, and here we wanted to see the Gorges du Trieges. Well, we thought we found the road, so we headed up a very, windy, Mountain road to the town of Salvan. We continued onto the end of the road which was Le Tretien. Some how, we never did find the gorge, but what we did see, was fabulous views on this Mountain road. The town of Salvan was nestled in amongst the Mountains, and as we headed back to Martigny, the valley views were out of this world, plus, we could see a pair of turquoise Blue lakes, with people on jet skii's, this really was a scenic drive.
If you have a Car, and some time, take the drive, the scenery is great!
After the township of Chamoson, our next village of some note, was Saillon. What a surprise this was, for here high above the town, was the 1000year old Bayart tower, a 19-metre-high Keep built by the Count of Savoy.
There is a sad story to this Tower, and I will quote:
"In the spring of 1301, 19-year-old Guigonne de Saillon, said to be the most beautiful girl in the valley, was engaged to marry Anselme de Saxon, sworn enemy of the Bishop of Sion. Before the wedding could take place, the bishop captured Anselme and executed him. In despair, Guigonne de Saillon threw herself from the top of the Bayart Tower."
Looking towards the Mountains, I could see a footbridge, the only problem was, I didn't know how to reach it, wish I did, because I read it is a suspension bridge and has a waterfall running into a deep gorge. The Gorge was impassable before the bridge was built to give access by footpaths from Saillon and Leytron.
Saillon is also the home to the World's smallest vineyard that has a total of just 3 vines! It was created in honour of "Robin Hood" of the Alps, Joseph-Samuel Farinet. Probably swiss people know of him, I didn't, but you can find out all about him in the Museum.
The Dalai Lama is its current honorary "owner" of the small vineyard. The vineyard is surrounded by stones brought from all over the world as well as a block of marble representing the Stone of Freedom. This shows the distances to other cult sites on our planet e.g. the Pyramids of Giza and Uluru in Australia.
I thought it was rather interesting!
In the 19th century the village became world famous for its marble, and it also has a thermal spa, so you can see, there is quite a lot in this little village!
On the way to Sion, we travelled via the A9 highway.
Heading back to Martigny, we decided to try the back road, passing through Vetroz to Chamoson. The road travelled fairly paralel to the highway, but closer to the Mountains, through villages and past vineyards, orchard's and some interesting rock formation's. This route was much more scenic, and we could drive slower and take in the scenery more.
Chamoson had a Roman, 1Ith century church, and houses of the old central part of the village dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Sion is ringed by vineyards and you can explore this world , wandering through the vines. In particular, there is a path called “BISSE DE CLAVAU” which runs along a 500-year-old aqueduct to irrigate vineyards from Sion to St. Leonard. (about 7 km).
The many bisses you can find in the Valais are “small water channels”.
They are carved into the hillsides, run through the vines and often bordered by stony walls.
From the path there are nice views of the valley with the serpentine Rhone, the two hills with their castles while a long stone wall runs along the track.
BISSE DE CLAVAU
Sion is located in the Rhône Valley, which is a well known wine growing region. The vineyards along the river Rhône offer many panoramic hiking paths.
When we hiked from St. Leonard to Sion, we realised that our path was part of two signposted hiking routes:
The 66 km long Chemin du Vignoble (Path of the vineyards) leads from Leuk to Martigny and passes Sion. On the way you find some information tablets about wine growing.
Another hiking path leads along the Bisse de Clavau, which are the irrigation systems for the vineyards. They exist since the mid 15th century.
The small town of St. Leonard is located about 7 km east of Sion. It has less than 2000 inhabitants and is famous for the largest undergound lake (Lac Souterrain) in Europe.
One grey morning we went from Sion to St. Leonard by train (single fare 4,40 CHF) and visited the underground lake which is well signposted from the train station. Admission costs 10 CHF.
Tours of the 300 m long lake are only possible by large rowing boats.
The guides speak various languages and tell you everything about the mysterious cavern and the lake. The tour lasts about 45 minutes.
When we left the underground lake the weather had improved and we decided to walk back to Sion along the so called "Bisse de Clavau". This is a path which follows the irrigation system for the vineyards and offers panoramic views of the Rhone valley.
I must admit that I enjoyed the hike much more than the visit of the underground lake, but all in all this was just a perfect programme for a relaxing daytrip.
We started the hike along the “bisses” or Suonen in German in St. Léonard. The bisses are small water channels built along the mountains in order to water the hills. On this walk you will find them in the vinyards.
In St. Léonard you start the walk in the part of Uvrier. Coming from the underground lake you walk towards Sion until you hit the river coming down the hill. There you will find the hiking paths signs.
After leaving St. Léonard the path takes you up quite steeply through the vinyards until you reach the water channel. You then follow the water channel until you end up above Sion. There are a couple of places where you can go down to Sion. Along the way you enjoy superb views on the Rhone valley and the surrounding mountains. Somewhere along the path there are some vines of old species. You will see information about it hanging there. Unfortunately not in English though.
The hike takes about 2,5 hours and you could do the hike the other way round. Check out my
St. Léonard page for more information.