Ayent, Arbaz, Grimisuat, Saint-Léonard & Savièse
The municipality is made up of 11 hamlets, none of which is actually called Ayent: Anzère, Argnou, Blignou, Botyre, Fortunau, La Maya, La Place-Villa, Luc, Saxonne, Signèse and St-Romain.
The municipality of Ayent extends from the Rhone plain to the Bernese Alps, up to the Wildhorn (3248 m). In this territory, which over a length of about 20 kilometres, all the degrees of altitude and vegetation that characterise the sunny side of the main valley of the Valais are present: hamlets situated on small terraces, around 1000 m altitude; and then higher up at 1500-1600 m, in a mountainous area partly covered by forest, we find mayens, old alpine chalets made of stone and wood, tinged brown by the sun; and even higher, from 2000 m, the alpine pastures. Perched at an altitude of 1,500 m on a plateau where pastures once unfurled, the resort of Anzère dominates the Rhone valley; its panorama extends from the Bitschhorn to the Mont-Blanc massif, offering twelve giants over 4,000 m. Anzère is a medium-sized, welcoming and friendly resort.
The heart of the resort is quite unique: a pedestrian zone where shops, boutiques, restaurants, terraces, play and relaxation areas, as well as a Spa and Wellness centre, form a continuous gallery.
Once a week in winter in square welcomes visitors to the village with a glass of traditional mulled wine which is prepared in a huge cauldron: an ideal opportunity to make contacts and to build relationships with local people.
In winter, the resort offers holidaymakers 60 km of pistes for all levels.
In the summer, numerous hiking routes allow visitors to criss-cross meadows, forests and alpine pastures, to follow the route of the Ayent bisse, to access the Rawyl pass, the Wildhorn glacier, the Tseuzier dam or the Audannes hut, at an altitude of 2508 m.
"Website of the commune of Ayent"
Located between Anzère and Grimisuat at an average altitude of 1150 m, the commune of Arbaz enjoys the same healthy and sunny climate (perched on the adret hillside, it faces due south), as well as a magnificent view of the Rhone valley and the Valais Alps. This small village of a thousand inhabitants has successfully preserved its typical old houses and is much appreciated for the friendly welcome it extends and for the calm atmosphere there. It is a paradise for contemplative types, whether they prefer to daydream during long walks through the larch forests or along the "bisses", or while angling on the banks of one of the two ponds in the commune, or observing the stars: Les Creusets observatory is located between Arbaz and Anzère. This observatory belongs to the Société astronomique du Valais romand and is run by a team of volunteers who regularly organise public visits and audiovisual presentations. During visits organised throughout the year, enthusiasts are able to access the various facilities on site. (2 x 20 cm telescopes, 1 x 40 cm large telescope, 1 x high resolution camera and 5 x astrophotography stations).
More athletic visitors will also find plenty to fill their days: Arbaz has an excellent dolomitic limestone rock face, 40 metres high, for climbing lovers which is accessible from early in the year until early winter. With its 3 sectors comprising 42 climbing routes, the Arbaz cliff is an ideal school for both beginners and experienced climbers. Arbaz also has tennis courts and numerous mountain bike trails.
"Website of the commune of Arbaz"
Grimisuat lies a little below Arbaz, between 600 and 1000 m altitude, towards the west. This commune benefits from an intermediate location: between the plains and the mountains, close to the town and its amenities (Sion with its shops and cantonal administration is only 10 minutes away), but in a preserved and peaceful setting, giving it a real vocation as a perfect residential setting. And the Valaisans have caught onto this, increasing the population almost three-fold since the 1970s. The commune currently has 3,000 inhabitants, split between the village of Champlan on the lower plateau, and the main village on the second plateau; connected by the Coméraz villa zone.
To the east of the village, recent development does not conceal the ancient roots of Grimisuat, to which Christa castle, dating from 1200, bears witness, as do the 117 hectares of vineyards which situated halfway up the hillside, surrounding Champlan and the neighbouring hamlets. In this residential setting, the emphasis has been placed on quality of life, physical development (Vita trail, children's playground, fishing pond, summer swimming pool, tennis court, two gymnasiums, etc.) and cultural development (folk music and singing societies, people’s university, library, games library, theatre group, etc.): Everything in one place to make you want to come and share the life of the inhabitants. Many artists - painters, sculptors, musicians - have settled in the town to benefit from its creative atmosphere.
"Webside of the Municipality of Grimisuat”
Going a little further west, you reach the commune of Savièse, located on a plateau overlooking Sion. It is made up of six villages (St-Germain, the main town, in the centre, Drône in the east, Granois and Chandolin in the west, Roumaz and Ormône in the south) and a few hamlets nestled in the heart of nature and surrounded by vineyards. On a sunny hillside invigorated by the wild waters flowing off the Tsanfleuron glacier, patiently channelled in the 15th century, the renowned Savièse vineyards extend over nearly 300 hectares: Fendant, Pinot, Petite Arvine, Muscat and many other wines are produced from its grapes and can be tasted in the communal cellar, as well as in the local cafés and restaurants.
The welcome you will find here, as in the hotels and guest houses, is marked by simplicity, cordiality and authenticity, echoing the natural setting that extends out from the gates of the town. This natural setting provides visitors with all the pleasures of slow tourism: they can walk along the Sanetsch, on the edge of the Tsanfleuron ice, on one of the most imposing karst sites in Europe; follow the impressive route of the Torrent-Neuf irrigation channel, clinging to the side of steep rock faces; or take to the forest and vineyard paths to visit the ruins of the Château de la Soie, the summer residence of the Bishops of Sion. Since the end of the 19th century, it has attracted many artists who have come to set up their easels here. Works by painters of the Savièse School are exhibited at the Maison de la Culture and at the Maison de Commune of St-Germain.
"Website of the commune of Savièse "
If we now go down to the plain, heading back eastwards, we arrive at the last stage of this walk through central Valais, St-Léonard. It is yet-another wine-growing commune, with a vineyard of about 100 hectares covering the entire hillside up to the edge of the forests. St-Léonard is one of the five communes in the Valais that can claim a Grand Cru selection, an appellation awarded by an independent commission. The wines grown and harvested in this area can be enjoyed in the village cafés and restaurants as well as in the carnotzets - locals’ tasting rooms. Art has a special place in St. Leonard's.
The church in the old village of Sonvillaz has been transformed into a magnificent gallery that welcomes local and regional artists throughout the year. Once a year for three weeks, a renowned artist is invited to create an event which may include an exhibition, practical work, conferences, exchanges of all kinds. The artist is question can meet the public and introduce them to their world. The aim is to enable visitors to access to their own creative process and artistic sensibility. But it is for another work of art, entirely shaped by nature, that many travellers first come to visit St. Leonard: its underground lake, discovered in 1943, the largest navigable underground lake in Europe (over 300 metres long, 20 metres wide and on average 10 metres high). This natural cathedral, carved out of gypsum, has amazing ferrugineous decorations. Every year, 80,000 visitors come to admire them in an unreal darkness, gliding slowly over the calm water in boats carrying about fifteen passengers.
"Webside of the commune of St-Léonard"