Valais (in French) (UK: // VAL-ay, US: // val-AY, French: [valɛ] (listen); Arpitan: Valês), or Wallis (in German) (German: Wallis [ˈvalɪs] (listen)), more formally the Canton of Valais, is one of the 26 cantons forming the Swiss Confederation. It is composed of thirteen districts and its capital and largest city is Sion. The flag of the canton is made of thirteen stars representing the districts, on a white-red background.
|Canton du Valais (French)|
Kanton Wallis (German)
|Anthem: Notre Valais/Wallis, unser Heimatland|
|Subdivisions||143 municipalities, 13 districts|
|• Executive||Conseil d'État, Staatsrat (5)|
|• Legislative||Grand Council (130)|
|• Total||5,224.49 km2 (2,017.19 sq mi)|
|• Density||66/km2 (170/sq mi)|
|ISO 3166 code||CH-VS|
|Highest point||4,634 m (15,203 ft): Monte Rosa|
|Lowest point||372 m (1,220 ft): Lake Geneva|
Valais is situated in the southwestern part of the country. It borders the cantons of Vaud and Bern to the north, the cantons of Uri and Ticino to the east, as well as Italy to the south and France to the west. It is one of the three large southern Alpine cantons, along with Ticino and the Grisons. It is a bilingual canton, French and German being its two official languages. Traditionally, the canton is divided into Lower, Central and Upper Valais, the latter region constituting the German-speaking minority.
Valais essentially coincides with the valley of the Rhône from its headwaters to Lake Geneva, separating the Pennine Alps from the Bernese Alps. A major wine region, the canton is simultaneously one of the driest regions of Switzerland in its central Rhône valley and among the wettest, having large amounts of snow and rain up on the highest peaks found in Switzerland, such as Monte Rosa and the Finsteraarhorn. Although a major hydroelectricity producer, Valais is essentially renowned for its tourism industry and for its numerous Alpine resort towns, notably Crans-Montana, Saas Fee, Verbier and Zermatt. Overlooking the latter town, the Matterhorn has become an iconic landmark of the canton.
In 1529, Valais became an associate member of the Swiss Confederation. After having resisted the Protestant Reformation and remained faithful to the Roman Catholic Church, it became a republic under the guidance of the prince-bishop of Sion in 1628. In 1815, Valais finally entered the Swiss Confederation as a canton.