5 Villages to Celebrate Les Désalpes

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September 3, 2021

Photography by Gruyeres Tourism

What signifies “autumn in Switzerland” for you? Is it the forest foliage showing off its vibrant hues, the sidewalk chalkboards announcing the arrival of La Chasse, or is it when the temperatures drop and your clocks get set forward one hour? For us, it’s a combination of all of these in addition to one of Switzerland’s most charming seasonal alpine traditions: les désalpes.

Picture a procession of gorgeous milk cows laden with elaborate flower crowns and clanging bells around their necks marching next to cowherds and their families, dressed in traditional embroidered clothing. It’s a tradition that marks the end of summer, bringing cows out of the mountain pastures back into the barns for the long winter—and it’s been going on since about 3000 BC. In addition to the actual parade, each town offers traditional food, music, animations and more.

If this is something you’re interested in, here are 5 places you can watch the “cows come home” somewhat close to Lausanne. And as we are all accustomed to by now, make sure to double-check that they aren’t canceled due to health restriction measures (i.e. the St-Cergue one has been postponed to next year).

Gstaad

4 September 2021

Though the local website doesn’t really give much information, the Switzerland tourism site announces that this one will be much earlier than the others. There will be a musical performances, food and wine tastings, and lots of activities for the whole family. The event officially ends at 16h30 at the Hotel Gstaaderhof.

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La Fouly

18 September 2021

The event kicks off at 10am and the day will be filled with alpine horns, woodcarving, an exhibit showcasing animals of the region, a market, and of course musical entertainment, food, and wine. 

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Charmey

25 September 2021

Probably one of the most popular spots in the area to watch the festivities, be prepared for a bit more crowd at the Charmey désalpes (there’s even a shuttle from the Cailler Chocolate Factory up to the town as parking fills up quite quickly). The crowds are justified though–these dairy cows are some of the ones that are responsible for supplying us with our beloved gruyère cheese. 

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Blonay

25 September 2021

The herd will leave around noon and travel about 12 km before arriving into the village of Blonay–so expect the herd to arrive between 13h and 14h. However, you can get there as early as 11h with several activities and games for kids, the alpine horn and other musical concerts, along with some rumors about flag throwing…also, all the wine and cheese.

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Semsales

2 October 2021

We knew this had to be our fifth and final highlight when we saw our friend Sara from A Hungry Blonde featured in an article about this particular désalpe! If it was good enough for her to march in, it’s definitely worth a visit. Celebrate in this small village with the traditional alpine horns, a craft market and local food stands.

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