Welcome to UNESCO biosphere reserve
The Große Walsertal lies in the south of Vorarlberg in the district of Bludenz and is very thinly populated. A mere 3,500 residents live in an area of 192 km² in six independent communities. In the year 2000 the entire Große Walsertal was included by UNESCO in its list of worldwide exemplary regions for sustainable living and economy and was distinguished in this context as a “biosphere park“.
Green grassy hills next to rocky limestone peaks
Geologically the valley is divided into two: the northern part is characterised by the soft green mountains of the Vorarlberger Flysch, the southern part by the wild romantic, rocky peaks of the Kalkhochalpen, which are more than 2,700 m above sea-level.
Special features of the flora and fauna
The Große Walsertal is very species-rich due to the diversity of the geological substrata and the different land usage forms. On the mountain pastures rich in herbs the protected arnica plant can still be found, an old medicinal plant for healing wounds. The limestone grasslands in the Große Walsertal are ideal habitats for the rare nigritella, a small reddish-brown orchid with a strong vanilla-like smell. On the meadows above the tree line the hiker is accompanied by the shrill whistles of the marmot, which is quite common here. The Alpine toad flax proliferates on the calcareous scree floors. The imposing Rote Wand is not only the highest peak in the valley, at 2,704 m, but also offers a habitat for chamois and ibexes.
History and culture of the Walser people
The ancestors of the Walser people emigrated in the 14th century from Wallis in Switzerland. They settled exclusively in areas that were still unpopulated, cleared the trees there and spread their houses and farmyards across the steep slopes of the valleys. Commissioned by the Count of Montfort, the ancestors of the Großwalsertal tribe controlled the passes and frontiers in this impassable terrain, and in return they received the right to call themselves free farmers, paying little tax. Because of this it is said that even today the Walser have a great love of freedom. People lived in the Große Walsertal for many centuries cut off almost entirely from the rest of society, and this has left its traces behind. If you take your time you will find an independent culture, an independent dialect and even an independent philosophy of life.
The Große Walsertal as an exemplary environmental region 34 tourist companies in Große Walsertal work according to criteria based on the Biosphere Park philosophy, i.e. in harmony with nature. Four companies were awarded in 2004 with the Austrian Eco Label for Tourism. The entire region was premiered with numerous environmental awards: the European Village Regeneration Award 2004, the European EMAS Environmental Certification 2004, Energy Region of the Future and the European Energy Award, the ARGE Alp Prize and the “Community of the Future” main prize are just some of the many environmental awards.