How many regions in Switzerland can boast about sunny vineyards, adrenaline kicks, and eternal ice? As I would discover, Villars-sur-Ollon is such a multi-talented place.
Villars-sur-Ollon in the Vaud Alps is located right in between two well-known touristic regions. On one side, there is the Vaud Riviera, epitomized by Montreux and Lavaux. And on the other, canton Valais. I had a chance to discover the region at the end of summer.
It turns out that this lovely resort has a lot to offer - for every season and at every altitude. I decided to structure my Villars-sur-Ollon guide by altitude above sea level. Let’s start in the valley and work our way to the glacier...
Follow our Villars-sur-Ollon guide to make the most of every season (and altitude).
Aigle or Bex are entry points into the region
My readers will know that I care about traveling by public transport. After all, there is no better place than Switzerland to use trains, buses, and boats. They are smooth, convenient, and overall stress-free.
On the IR90 line linking Geneva to the Valais, you will be able to stop in Aigle or Bex. There, buses and mountain railways will wait up to take you further on the journey.
This guide includes activities starting from both Aigle and Bex. While visiting the old town of Bex, I can highly recommend making a pit stop at Restaurant Grotto 04. The local menu, nice selection of wines, and friendly staff made it a pleasant experience on my way to Villars.
Wine tasting with a view at Domaine de Trécord
In Ollon, the town located between Aigle and Villars, I met up with winemaker Harald Cropt who took me through his vineyard, Domaine de Trécord.
His fascinating story and quirky personality turned a classic wine tasting tour into a very unique experience. A Swiss-Haitian wrestler, Harald has now continued the family's winemaking tradition with passion. He harvests and vinifies everything on site. Blessed with a gorgeous panorama, his 12 different grape varieties turn into divine wines.
Two personal favorite wines: the Vin Doux Naturel for an apéritif and its Red Assemblage for the main course. I will admit that my own cellar now has a few more bottles. Not for long, though...
Inside the Salt Mines of Bex
While vineyards enjoy the region's abundant sunshine, my next destination certainly does not. I am headed to the Salt Mines of Bex where the cutest and littlest train takes me deep into the mountainside.
Millions of years ago, the sea stretched all the way here, and as it dried up, tonnes of salt remained. The Bex Salt Mines has been operating since the 15th century and should continue to do so for a few hundred years more. The visit would be incredible for anyone willing to push their limits and learn a lot - unless they happen to be claustrophobic.
Enjoying the historic charm of Villars
It’s time to head up to the town of Villars. As a historian of tourism, I am excited to discover this resort that has attracted mountain lovers from across Europe for over a century now.
I meet with the team currently renovating Villars Palace in the heart of town. This innovative regeneration project will use the iconic palace and turn it into a key institution yet again. The new Villars Palace will reopen in summer 2022, but anyone can get a taste by staying at the hotel's lodges.
Along with the reopening of the town's public baths, Villars is now able to combine its historic fame and authentic charm with modern infrastructure. What's not to like?
Mountain carts or mountain bikes for adrenaline junkies
Villars's landscape is amazing: its unique geographical and geological position means that every time you tilt your head, you will see very different peaks. But you should not just look at these mountains, you should enjoy them, too!
On my first day here, I rent a mountain cart and ride it down the slopes. The adrenaline is noticeably pumping through my body: if the phrases "real-life Mario Kart in the Alps" or "the best summer alternative to skiing" make any sense, you will understand... I am having an absolute blast!
The next day, I move on to rent a mountain bike. The local guide and ski instructor, Fabienne Duc from the Swiss Ski School of Villars, is taking me for an amazing ride through lakes, forests, meadows, and hamlets.
I can highly recommend a guided tour. And in case you want the ride to be more pleasant and less sweaty, e-bikes are available, too.
Etivaz cheese on top of the mountain
On the Col de la Croix pass lies a dairy farm where the famous Etivaz cheese is made using traditional techniques. I start my day with a breakfast on-site, then head into the dairy at 10 AM sharp.
There, I get to witness cheese being prepared by taking milk out of a huge cauldron. It is not an easy task - the small room heats up to over 50 degrees Celsius. But it is a privilege to meet Col de la Croix's passionate dairy farmers. What a way to start the day away from busy town life. And, of course, you can buy cheese right off the farm.
Finishing up in style at Glacier 3000
Villars, Gryon, and Les Diablerets have come together to propose a great choice of activities and breathtaking destinations. Therefore, it only makes sense to end up way at the top of Glacier 3000.
The postal bus from Gstaad or Les Diablerets stops at the cable car station at Col du Pillon. A fifteen-minute cable car ride later, I find myself at a staggering altitude of 3000 meters above sea level.
Glacier 3000 is a year-round destination offering everything from skiing to glacier walks and sled rides with huskies. Crossing the mighty Peak Walk by Tissot is a must-do (and free) activity. If this was not on your bucket list already, add it and check it right off!
From Glacier 3000, the sweeping views across the Swiss Alps are incredible. What a formidable moment to stop and reflect on where my next adventure might take me.
(Many thanks to Vaud Tourism and the Villars Tourism Office for showing us the very best of this wonderful region.)