St Maurice Tourist Attractions
The little town of St Maurice is picturesquely situated in a narrow pass in the Rhône valley, some 25km/16mi south of the end of Lake Geneva, at the end of a road which runs via Monthey to Champéry. This was the site of the Celtic settlement of Agaunum, where the legend has it that St Maurice and his companions of the Theban Legion were martyred by Roman soldiers about the year 300.
At the north end of St Maurice is an Augustinian abbey founded about 515 in honor of the martyrs, the oldest monastic house in Switzerland. The present church dates from 1611 to 1627; the beautiful Romanesque tower (11th C.) survives from an earlier building. The conventual buildings (now occupied by a secondary school and commercial college) were largely rebuilt in 1707-13. In the courtyard, between the cliffs, foundations and catacombs belonging to the earliest church on the site, including a fourth century chapel, have been brought to light.
The famous Treasury of the St Maurice Abbey contains some outstanding works of art, largely of the Merovingian period, including several reliquaries, a gold-enameled jug of Oriental origin and a Roman vessel of sardonyx andoffers one of the most significant collections of medieval gold work in Europe.
St Sigismond Church
The triple-aisled parish church of St Sigismond (18th C.) has beautiful Baroque side altars.
In St Maurice the two-story Town Hall, the Haus de la Pierre with an arcade of three stories and the Haus de Bons date from the same period. Also of interest is the pilgrimage church of Notre-Dame-du-Scex.
Castle (Military Museum)
St Maurice's 13th C. castle above the Rhône was built by the Savoyards and restored in the 16th C. It now houses a military museum.
Surrounding sights of St Maurice include Bex, Monthey, Champéry, and a driving tour Les Diablerets.
Bex (salt mine)
At Bex, 8km/5mi north of St Maurice is the only working salt mine in Switzerland (17 deg C / 63 deg F). The labyrinth of tunnels and shafts, only part of which is accessible to visitors, stretches for up to 50km/31mi as far as the villages of Villars, Chesières and Arveyes. A film show of the development of the tunnels from 1684 to the present day is held in a former salt water reservoir (1826). A "Bähnli" (small train) takes visitors to the mining area.
Chablais History Museum (formerly Bex Museum)
The Chablais History Museum presents archeological treasures from the Rhone civilisation of the European Bronze Age. Arms and jewellery made of bronze are the highlight of the collection.
Monthey - Medieval Castle (Museum)
From Monthey a road runs southwest into the Val d'Illiez, first climbing up the steep hillside in sharp bends and then continuing up the slopes of the valley high above the left bank of the Vièze. Amid the woods of chestnut-trees are many large boulders brought here by glacial action, including the Pierre à Dzo, resting on a base no bigger than a man's hand, and the Pierre des Marmettes, with a small house on the top.In 6km/4mi the road comes to Troistorrents (760 m/2,494ft), a prettily situated village at the mouth of the Val de Morgins, through which a road runs up to Morgins. The road continues beyond Troistorrents ascending the beautiful valley (many waterfalls) alongside the cog-railroad, with views of the Dents du Midi and the Dents Blanches.3.5km/2mi farther on is Val d'Illiez (952 m/3,124ft), a village which attracts summer visitors. The road continues up the valley, dotted with huts, and in another 3.5km/2mi reaches Champéry.
Champéry is a village of 1,000 inhabitants at the upper end of the Val d'Illiez, surrounded by forests and flanked by imposing peaks, popular as a health resort and especially for winter sports (heated swimming pool, tennis, golf, climbing school; curling with an indoor rink; cross-country skiing).
This annual festival takes place in mid-August.
Planachaux (Croix de Culet, Dents du Midi)
Two cableways, one (1.7km/1mi long, seven minutes) leaving from the south end of the Champéry, the other (2.2km/1mi, 10minutes) 1.5km/1mi north of the Monthey road, go up to the skiing area of Planachaux (1,800 m/5,906ft; several restaurants, mountain inn; many ski-lifts; beautiful views). There are many attractive walks and climbs from here.Walks: 1.25 hours southwest to the Chalets d'Ayerne (1,473 m/4,833ft; good general view of the valley), 1.25 hours south to the Chalets de Bonaveau (1,556 m/5,105ft; inn).Climbs: Croix de Culet (1,966 m/6,450ft; superb views), 2.5-3 hours west (30 minutes from Planachaux); Dents Blanches (2,645-2,764 m/8,678-9,069ft), seven hours south (with guide); Dents du Midi (Haute Cime, 3,260 m/ 10,696ft), seven-eight hours east (with guide).
Ollon (start of driving tour to Les Diablerets)
Leave St Maurice on road 9 (E 2), which runs north down the Rhône valley, and in 13km/8mi turns right into a steep and winding but very beautiful mountain road which comes in 3km/2mi to Ollon (15th C. church). From here the road continues uphill, with beautiful views into the Rhône valley, curves round to enter the Gryonne valley and climbs in several sharp bends to the village of Huémoz.
Villars-sur-Ollon, Chesières (health resorts)
From Huémoz the road runs along the hillside, with a view of Villars, and climbs again in a double hairpin bend to the health resort of Chesières (1,220 m/4,003ft).10km/6mi from Ollon is Villars-sur-Ollon (1,256 m/4,121ft), a popular health resort (salt-water swimming pool, golf-course, climbing school) and winter sports resort (several ski-lifts; cross-country skiing trail 25km/16mi long; ski-bobbing run; artificial ice-rink; curling; ski-flying school), magnificently set on a sunny terrace high above the Rhône valley, with views extending to the Mont Blanc group. It is the terminus of an electric railroad from Bex (1.25 hours), connecting with the line over the Col de Soud (1,523 m/4,997ft) to the Col de Bretaye (1,850 m/6,070ft), which is reached in 20minutes: beautiful views and good skiing (lift to the Petit Chamossaire, 2,030 m/6,660ft).
From the Col de Bretaye a chairlift (12minutes; on foot 45minutes) ascends Grand Chamossaire (2,120 m/6,956ft), from where there is a famous panoramic view embracing the Bernese, Valais and Savoy Alps and Lake Geneva, and (summer only) a chairlift to the Lac Noir and the Chaux Ronde (2,027 m/6,651ft).
From Villars-sur-Ollon the narrow road continues east over the Col de la Croix (1,780 m/5,840ft) and comes in 16.5km/10mi to Les Diablerets (1,163 m/3,816ft; pop. 1,200), a magnificently situated health and winter sports resort (climbing school, ski-lifts, toboggan run) in the Vallée des Ormonts, a high valley surrounded by wooded hills and dotted with huts.
Creux de Champ
The Ormonts valley is bounded on the south by the Creux de Champ, a semicircle of rock under the peaks of the Diablerets (Teufelshörner, 3,246 m/10,650ft; seven-eight hours, with guide; cableway from the Col du Pillon), with numerous waterfalls which join to form the Grande-Eau (pleasant walk, 1.5 hours, up the valley). Cableway (2.4km/1mi, 15minutes) to Isenau (1,770 m/5,807ft; ski-lift).
Col du Pillon
From Les Diablerets it is possible to continue over the Col du Pillon (1,546 m/5,072ft) to Gsteig, Gstaad and Saanen.
Sex Rouge Peak (2,971m/9,747ft) can be reached by cable-car from Pillon Pass or Reusch. The ride to the peak affords magnificent views of Les Diablerets Basin. The view from the summit is equally impressive, and includes the Swiss and French Alps, Les Diablerets Glacier, the Tornette and Pallette Peaks and the Ormonts Valley.