The villages that are involved in the nature park are Binn, Ernen (including Ausserbinn, Mühlebach, Steinhaus), Grengiols, Bister, Niederwald and Blitzingen. Their most important features are valuable natural and cultural landscapes and significant landmarks. The typical, historic forms of settlement are villages and hamlets.
Population and economy
According to the statistics of the Canton of Valais from 31.12.2019, the population amounts to 1'219 residents. These are distributed as follows:
Since the start of the second part of the 20th century, the regional economy has been undergoing a long-lasting structural change from an agrarian to a service society including a shift from jobs in agriculture to jobs in the service sector. During this transformation many jobs have been lost in the areas of craftsmanship and trade. Some of them could be replaced due to the growth of the service industry, which was especially induced through tourism. The effects that urbanisation and globalisation had on the agglomerations and depletion of the peripheral regions, which are the results of the concentration of growth, have been noticeable since the mid 90s. Nevertheless, the region is provided with a potential for innovative marketable products and services, whose valorisation should facilitate an economic reorientation and stabilisation of the socio-economic situation.
The spruce village of Binn is at 1400 meters above sea level. The name Binn has only been given to the village in recent times. The original name of this main settlement with its SwissHistoric hotel Ofenhorn and its beautiful stone bridge was Schmidigehischere. Its parish church with its patron saint St. Michael adorns the face of the hamlet of Wileren. The village is of national importance and in 1992 it won the Heritage Prize.
The hamlets of Ze Binne, Heiligkreuz, Giessen and Fäld are also part of the village. In 1998, due to its sound, harmonious and picturesque scenery, Binn was the first Swiss village to receive a medal of the «Archicultra» foundation. Heiligkreuz is an old Valais place of pilgrimage and a very exceptional place of strength.
Link to the website of Binn: www.binn.ch
With its 530 citizens Ernen is the most populous village in the Binntal nature park. It used to be the main village of the district of Goms and the headquarters of jurisdiction. The dungeons in the town hall and the gallows on the hill between Ernen and Mühlebach are still witnesses of that time.
Thanks to the well-preserved village centre with its wonderful historic buildings like the Tellenhaus with the oldest Tell frescos of Switzerland, the Kapuzinerhaus or the Jost-Sigristen-Haus, Ernen was given the Henri-Louis-Wakker award by the Swiss Heritage Society in 1979. In the last few years Ernen has gained a reputation as the music village, in which there are many high quality concerts with international musicians during the summer. Mühlebach with the oldest compact Swiss village centre in timber construction, Ausserbinn and Steinhaus with their affectionately restored chapels are parts of Ernen, too.
You can also visit the mill in Bonacher, which lies just beneath Ernen. It is located at the Wuhr, which is an old water conduit that was used for watering the meadows. It is a floor mill in which the waterwheel lies horizontally underneath the building.
Link to the website of Ernen: www.ernen.ch
The Valais mountain village with rural tradition is located in a well-preserved cultural landscape on the trading trail that leads over the Albrun Pass. The village centre with its narrow and steep alley and its nearly circular village square is of national significance. Its landmark is its monumental neo-Romanesque church, which was built in 1914.
In 1799 Grengiols was destroyed by fire. Over 22 residential houses and 80 commercial buildings were burnt down. The village was restored, though, within only a few years after the fire. Due to a unique wild species of tulips, which blooms on some old rye crop fields in the second half of May, Grengiols has recently become known as the village of tulips. Grengiols is located at the foot of the Bättlihorn, which is its backyard mountain. The barren high plateau of the Furggen alp, the Breithorn with its extraordinary view of the Bernese Alps and the valley of Saflisch with its marvellous alpine flora and the crystal clear Blausee invite people to come and hike.
The nice hamlets of Ze Hyschere and Bächerhyschere are parts of Grengiols, too. On the hiking path to Ernen and Binn lies the beautifully located hamlet of Hockmatta, which nowadays is not being inhabited all year round anymore.
Link to the website of Grengiols: www.grengiols.ch
One of the first written evidences about Bister dates as far back as 1374 (in the Bystur). The scattered settlement is located on a lynchet west of Grengiols and consists of the two main hamlets Egga and Dorfji as well as a few more singularly placed groups of buildings. The in the hamlet of Bänna located chapel St. Anna with its baroque altar from 1698 was built in 1651.
The municipality extends from the Rhone (770 meters above sea level) to the 2993 meter high Bättlihorn. It mainly consists of forests and utilised agricultural meadows and fields. Today Bister is one of the smallest villages in Switzerland.
In winter the Goms cross-country ski tracks begin in Niederwald. It is one of the most original and full-of-character villages in the area of Goms. The oldest house in this densely populated village dates back to the 16th century. The small village with its roughly 50 citizens is now world-famous. Cäsar Ritz, who later was declared «the king of hoteliers and hotelier of the kings» by King Edward VII, was born in Niederwald.
The Cäsar Ritz fountain, which stands on the village square, was a gift from Monique Ritz, Cäsar Ritz's daughter-in-law, who is also the last representative of the Ritz dynasty. In 1994 the fountain was adorned with the Cäsar Ritz monument, a sculpture that was built by the sculptor Hans Loretan. One of the oldest and most marvellous houses in Niederwald is Cäsar Ritz's birthplace, where people have lived in up until today. Also worth seeing is the St. Theodul church, which dates back to 1666. Its precious altars and pulpit were built around 1700.
Link to the website of Niederwald: www.obergoms.ch
Blitzingen is located in the middle of Goms. Today the village spreads over the original village of Blitzingen as well as the hamlets of Bodmen, Wiler, Ammern and Gadmen. Despite the small size of these hamlets, they have kept their autonomy until the cantonal constitution of 1848 led to merger.
Blitzigen has belonged to the district of Ernen since the 11th century. Together with Niederwald und Rottenbriggen, the five municipalities of Blitzingen built the parish of Ernen. The Chaschtebiel just above Blitzigen used to be the place of assembly of the entire district of Goms and the place where the banneret and the official manager were elected. In 1616 this part split from its mother church Ernen and thus Blitzigen founded its own parish in 1877. In the night from 12 to 13 September 1932 the village of Blitzigen burned down. Only a few houses, the church and Geren were spared. The village was re-erected in its traditional style within a year. Off the road lies the dreamy hamlet of Bodmen. In the West of it, in the Schmali, you can find the probably largest larch of the Valais. Measured on the ground, it has a circumference of 7 meters. In the hamlet of Ammern there is an outdoor and handcraft museum that attracts many people.
Link to the website of Blitzigen: www.blitzingen.ch