Valais / Switzerland
Val Ferret is actually two separate valleys linked by the Col de Ferret on the border of Italy and Switzerland.. On the Swiss side, the valley drains towards Orsieres, whereas on the Italian side, it drains southwestwards towards Courmayeur. The border with France is also just a short drive away, so when you stay in this area, you’ll have three countries to explore.
In winter there’s local skiing in La Fouly and Champex Lac, as well as access to larger resorts such as Verbier, Courmayeur and Chamonix. The Val Ferret area is very popular for cross-country skiing and there is also a great choice of snow-shoe trails.
In spring, summer, and autumn, walkers and cyclists will be spoiled for choice, with great mountain trails and easier walks for families. The lake at Champex is a great place to spend the day, with swimming, boating and play areas for children.
As you’d expect the scenery in Val Ferret is spectacular, with gorges, mountains and forests to discover. The hillsides are covered in Alpine plants, many of which have culinary and medicinal uses - the botanical garden near Champex is a great place to learn more about them.
This diverse area has so much to offer!
There’s local skiing on the slopes around the villages of Champex-Lac and La Fouly.
La Fouly has 20km of slopes and four lifts, with a winter sports area ranging from 1.600-2,200m. Champex, at 2000m altitude, is nicknamed "Little Canada" and has very good snow conditions. It has four lifts and 25km of pistes.
A little further afield, the Le Châble cable car takes you directly to the popular resort of Verbier, where 80 lifts will give you access to over 400km of pistes. All these resorts offer paragliding, ice climbing and many other snow sports.
If you fancy something a little different, marked snowshoe trails start from the village. Ski-touring and cross-country skiing are also popular - tourist offices in Orsières and Champex-Lac will be able to advise you and provide trail maps.
There are 400km of walking trails around Val Ferret, ranging from lakeside strolls ideal for families to more challenging, long distance hikes.
There’s plenty to attract climbers too - one of the most popular peaks is the Aiguille d’Argentière, which at 3901m is the region’s highest.
The 170km Tour du Mont Blanc, a long-distance hike which circles the Mont Blanc massif, passes through Val Ferret - if you don’t want to tackle the whole route, the section that passes through Val Ferret is one of the most scenic, and a great challenge for experienced hikers.
In summer, the lake of Champex is an ideal starting point for walks and bike rides. The cable car to La Breya allows you to enjoy the view without the climb. You can also explore the lake by boat or pedal boat, before sampling the local cuisine in one of the restaurants on the shore.
Skiing and boarding are the main activities that bring guests to Val Ferret in the winter, and in the summer, hiking, biking and climbing are the most popular. But when you stay at an OVO Network property, there is so much more to see and do.
Here are some of our favourite things to do in and around Val Ferret - you’ll find the details below.
The beautiful lake at Champex is a wonderful place to visit, both in the summer and the winter, and it won’t take you long to realise why it is nicknamed “Little Canada”. In the summer, explore the lake in a pedalo, a paddle board or rowing boat, have a dip in the open air pool, relax with some fishing or enjoy a walk around the shores or up into the hills. In the winter, there’s skiing, ice-skating snow-shoeing to be tried.
There are more than 4,000 species of plant to discover at the Flore-Alpe Botanical Gardens near Champex-Lac. Follow the paths that wind between rock gardens and overhang the water features and enjoy the colour and perfume of these Alpine flowers. There are guided tours in the summer, workshops for adults and children as well as plant days and exhibitions. Check the website to find out what’s going on while you’re in the area. The garden, which is free to enter, is open daily from may to October, 10am to 6pm.
Walkies will never be quite the same once you’ve walked one of these beautiful bear-like hounds! The Barry Foundation, which took over the breeding of this species from the Grand Saint Bernard hospice in 2005, offers this unique experience at various times throughout the year - in winter, children aged 2-8 can sit in sledges pulled by the dogs, and in spring and summer you can take the dog on a lead, accompanied by a dog keeper. Check the website for more details.
Sit back and let the stunning scenery pass before your eyes on this incredible train journey through wild forests, gorges and past pretty Alpine villages. The Mont Blanc Express has linked Martigny and Chamonix for over a century and now, with panoramic carriages, the views have never been better. Check the website for the timetable, which can be subject to change, according to the weather and work on the line.
Keen golfers will find playing in the mountains quite a different experience. Verbier Golf Club, at an altitude of 1600m, has 36 holes over two courses, both with spectacular views of the Mont Blanc range. Each course also has its own restaurant, open for lunch, dinner or just a quick drink.
Hidden in the heart of the mountains, the Fort de Champex has 600m of tunnels, which were once home to an underground community. Built in 1942 to provide fire support to infantry defending the Grand Saint Bernard pass, it was classified as secret until 1999. Now you can visit this fascinating site, with its garrison, batteries, communication centre and observation posts.
A cross between scrambling and rock climbing, via ferrata is Italian for iron path. Participants wear harnesses which are safely fastened to iron rails, which allow them to follow a path around cliff faces and cliffs and ledges. The trail in the Mauvoisin Gorge, near Verbier, has two sections of varying difficulty, but both are fairly challenging. Safety equipment can be hired from the Fionnay hotel, but you should wear sturdy shoes, gloves and take a small rucksack for water, etc.
Get a birds’ eye view of the mountains from these two ziplines - on a good day you can see as far as Lake Geneva! Take the La Breya chairlift for the first zipline, which will take you 540m across the valley. From there it’s a 10-minute walk to the next zipline, a 520m journey back to your starting point. There are great views from here too, of the Combins massif at a height of 4,300m. The zipline is open to anyone over the age of 10, with a minimum weight of 40kg. For prices and dates, check the website.
Said to be in the top 10 of Europe’s most beautiful gorges, the Durnand Gorges are a great day out for walkers. A network of footbridges and wooden walkways lead you past 14 breathtaking waterfalls, with a new view at every turn. The path is about 200m long and includes over 300 steps, but on the return journey you can follow a footpath through the forest. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable walking shoes! Check the website for admission fees and opening times (April to October).
Holidays don’t have to be non-stop action - sometimes it’s nice to just take a break and relax. The natural thermal baths at Lavey are the perfect place. The water has taken up to 5,000 years to get to the springs at Lavey, where it emerges at a temperature of 65C - the hottest spa water in Switzerland. Whirlpools, massage jets, waterfalls and underwater currents will all help to relax and soothe you. There are also steam rooms, relaxation areas and saunas as well as massage packages, but you’ll need to bring your own robes or buy them in the shop. Children aged four and over can be admitted - check the website for current prices.
The impressive Fondation Pierre Gianadda art gallery in Martigny, is well worth a visit while you’re in Val Ferret. You’ll find works by Rodin, Miro and Brancusi in the sculpture park, and take an archaeological walk to discover the amphitheatre and the Roman history which led to the founding of the museum. The car museum houses a superb collection of 50 vehicles and there are regularly changing temporary exhibitions. Check the website to find out what’s on.
Located at the Hotel Terminus, this cafe restaurant offers seasonal dishes inspired by local produce. You’ll need to book, especially if you are planning a fondue evening, which they do very well. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff friendly - a great choice for a family night out. There are options for vegetarians and vegans, as well as children’s menu and takeaway too. If the weather is right, there’s a sunny terrace with great views of the mountains opposite.
Route du Lac 6 Hotel Mont Lac, tel: +41 26 565 66 00
This family restaurant run by an enthusiastic mountain guide serves great home-cooked food made with local ingredients. Why not book in for a guided hike, a cookery course or perhaps a foraging workshop?
Les Arlaches 9 Praz de Fort, Orsieres, tel: 41 79 509 14 24
A real family business, the current owners are the fourth generation to run this traditional mountain restaurant. Their signature dish is steak, which comes in various sizes according to your appetite, but the menu also features fondues, tartares, game and local specialties. On a sunny day, the terrace is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the mountain view.
La Douay 12, Orsieres , tel: +41 27 783 12 30
Whether you’re looking for a family supper or an elaborate dinner, this charming restaurant will have something for you. Choose from a seasonal three-course menu showcasing local ingredients, or opt for a homemade burger, pizza or Swiss specialities. A children’s menu is available. In the summer, you can eat on the terrace.
Route du Lac 54, Hotel du Glacier, Champex, tel: +41 27 782 61 51
Located at the Hotel Terminus, this cafe restaurant offers seasonal dishes inspired by local produce. You’ll need to book, especially if you are planning a fondue evening, which they do very well. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff friendly - a great choice for a family night out. There are options for vegetarians and vegans, as well as a children's menu and takeaway too. If the weather is right, there’s a sunny terrace with great views of the mountains opposite.
Route de la Gare 25, Orsieres, tel: +41 27 552 11 01
Swiss, Italian and Portuguese cuisine are on offer at this popular restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s a great choice of pizzas, which come in two sizes, fondues and a fairly predictable menu for children.
Somlaproz 106, Orsieres, tel: +41 27 783 15 28