Water holds an important place in the Swiss Valais region. Glaciers, lakes, dams and rivers are beautiful to visit and vital to protect. But there is a lesser known water feature here that is unique in the world – the historic bisses of Nendaz.
Nendaz sits on a high plateau overlooking the Rhone Valley, halfway between Zermatt and Chamonix, offering breathtaking views of the Alps.
The bisses, a network of ancient irrigation channels, some dating back to the 15th century, are still used to bring water to fields and crops, including raspberries and apricots, that otherwise might suffer. And as well as symbolising the Nendards’ centuries-old struggle to control and preserve their precious water, they also make for a superb series of family-friendly hikes. The 98km of well-worn paths alongside the eight bisses – six of which have crystal-clear water flowing through them – are virtually flat, pass through beautiful, varied countryside and offer walkers some surprising views over the valleys, villages and mountains.
They are terraced between 800m and 2,200m, are readily accessible to hikers of all levels and each has its own special character. For example, you can follow the popular Bisse du Milieu, a 3h 30min walk, returning to Nendaz via the Bisse Vieux, stopping off at one of several restaurants along the way.
In contrast, another recommended path is the wilder, less-trodden Bisse d'en Bas which departs below Planchouet.
To allow you to make even more of these lovely walks, shuttle buses are organised to Isérables, Veysonnaz and Siviez.
For more information see nendaz.ch
The 8 bisses of Nendaz
Bisse d’en Bas
A route less walked along and a bit more chaotic than the others. The track is not as easy, but reaches wilder, more mysterious places.
Bisse de Baar
Its source starts at the chateau de Brignon and it irrigates the beautiful apricot orchards of the right bank of the valley.
Bisse de Chervé
The highest bisse of Nendaz. The route here is much more open, with magnificent views over the Rhone Valley.
Bisse de Salins
The oldest in the region, dating back to 1435, and still flowing with water.
Bisse de Saxon
At 32km, this is the longest walk of the bisses de Nendaz.
This route is found near the resort of Nendaz and includes many fascinating features such as a waterfall and a stepped passage.
Grand Bisse de Vex
Another bisse dating back to the 15th century. At 12km long, it takes walkers to Veysonnaz and on to the Mayens-de-Sion.
Bisse du Milieu
From the center of the resort, this is a pleasant walk into the valley; beautiful chapels along the way.
Four more natural wonders
The Japanese Garden, so called because of its resemblance to a tended garden, is totally unique in the region and possesses an ecosystem all of its own. The water that runs down the numerous meanders makes it popular with families.
The larches of Balavaux
From the lake at Tracouet, accessible by cable car, a half-hour walk brings you to the alpine region of Balavaux, with more than 250 trees aged between 300 to 1,000 years old and classed among the biggest larch trees in Europe.
Perched on the edge of the mountain at an altitude of 1,116m, Isérables is an exceptional location. Many marked walking paths allow you to discover its extremely rich and varied flora.
Pra da Dzeu
Pra da Dzeu is a patois name meaning ‘the meadow in the fores’. The area is traversed by the Bisse of Saxon which directs the water from the River Printze up towards the hilltop of the village of Saxon.