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|Subdivisions||143 municipalities, 13 districts|
|• Executive||Conseil d'État, Staatsrat (5)|
|• Legislative||Grand Council (130)|
|• Total||5,224 km2 (2,017 sq mi)|
|Highest point||4,634 m (15,203 ft) - Monte Rosa|
|Lowest point||372 m (1,220 ft) - Lake Geneva|
It is near the valley of the Rhone River from its springs to Lake Geneva, that separates Pennine Alps from the Bernese Alps. The canton is one of the drier parts of Switzerland in its central Rhone valley. It is also one of most well-watered parts, having large amounts of snow and rain up on the highest peaks in Switzerland. It is perhaps best known worldwide for the Matterhorn.
The canton of Valais is in the south of Switzerland. To its south is Italy, to the southwest France. To the north the canton there are the Swiss cantons of Vaud and Bern; the cantons of Uri and Ticino lie to its east.
The wide, icy Rhone valley dominates the area. There are many side valleys off the main valley. At the head of the Mattertal valley is Zermatt, a pretty tourist village dominated by views of the Matterhorn (4,478 m). Fifty of the mountains are more than 4,000m high, with the highest, Monte Rosa, that reaches to 4,638m (15,217 ft), and there are many glaciers.
The Rhône drains the main valley from east to west up to Martigny, Switzerland, then in a right angle north to its mouth in the Lake Geneva. After the small town of Saint-Maurice, the northern banks of the river belong to the canton of Vaud. The main valley is between the Bernese Alps in the north and the Pennine Alps in the south. Only about half of the total area is considered productive.
The Romans called the area Vallis Poenina ("Upper Rhône Valley").
In 888, Valais became a part of the kingdom of Jurane Burgundy.
in 1474 was the Battle of Planta, a place near the capitale Sion. The Bishop of Sion and the people of the Sieben Zenden, beat the Duke of Savoy. The Battle of Planta is a part of the Burgundy War. After this battle, the bisoph conquired the area until Lake Geneva.
Valais did not follow the Protestant Reformation.
On March 12, 1529, Valais became an associate member (Zugewandter Ort) of the Swiss Confederation.
In 1628 the Valais became a republic, the République des Sept Dizains / Republik der Sieben Zenden but the bishop remained in power until Napoleon's troops invaded the Valais and created the République du Valais on March 16, 1798 but on May 1, 1798, the Valais became part of the Helvetic Republic and became independent again in 1802 as the Rhodanic Republic.
In 1810, the Rhodanic Republic was made a part of France, and was called the Simplon Department.
Valais became independent again in 1813 and on August 4, 1815 decided to join the Swiss confederation as a canton (state).
In 1845, the Valais joined the Catholic separatist league (Sonderbund), but never fought federal troops when other members of the league started fighting in 1847.
Wine production and tourism are some of the main industries of the canton. The Matterhorn near Zermatt is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Swiss mountains, as is its sister valley immediately east Saas Fee. Other parts of the mountains of the canton farther west are popular as well, such as the more French speaking resorts near Verbier and the Evolene & Arolla region. The resorts on the north side of the main Rhone river valley are popular, looking out southwards towards the Peninne Alps and still part of the southern slope of the Bernese Alps, such as the family oriented resort of Crans-Montana. The resorts in the Goms region are slightly less known, yet also receive attention during the summer hiking season and the winter ski season.
Apart from tourism, agriculture is still important, particularly cattle breeding in the mountains and dairy farming in the plains. The wine industry of the canton is the largest in Switzerland. There are also a large number orchards in the area, and saffron is also gathered here.
The most industrial western region of the canton is called Chablais. The area is very important for the economy. There are a lot of factories, the most important are the subsidiaries of Novartis and Syngenta, in Monthey. In the town of Collombey, there is an oil refinery.
Despite the thriving tourist industry, high level of infrastructure, and the many vineyards, canton Valais is still one of the poorest of the Swiss cantons, and not near the rich banking/financial cantons. A large portion of the canton's land and houses are now owned by foreigners.
A small airport is at Sion, but the main routes of transport are rail and road. Both networks are large and benefit from tourism. Many of the road passes are well known, such as the Grimsel Pass. The longest land tunnel in the world, the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, will soon be working, in late 2007 perhaps, connecting by rail the town of Frutigen in canton Bern, with the town of Visp in canton Valais/Wallis. This is to better spread car traffic in the highly scenic Kandertal, and also to provide faster transport through the Bernese Alps from the populous Mittelland in the north to the southern canton of Valais. Cars may be loaded onto the trains as freight.
Towns and villages
The following are the cities of the canton, by district.
- Cantonal government (in French and German)
- Tourist office Archived 2004-09-09 at the Wayback Machine
- Photo database Archived 2004-10-19 at the Wayback Machine
- Official statistics