A chill in the air, alpenhorns sounding in the distance, and cows in flowery headdresses — it must be the annual Desalpes!

One of Tested Travel’s favorite festivals is the annual Desalpes held in towns across Switzerland in the early fall. Switzerland, like any country, has its folk traditions.  None, though, is more quintessentially Swiss than the Désalpe (also called the cow parade).

Led by cowherds and children dressed in embroidered traditional jackets and dresses, cows wearing large flowery crowns and with huge bells hanging around their necks descend from the summer alpine pastures to their winter barns.  This festival and tradition have been taking place since about 3000 BCE.

Today, the Desalpes is part parade, part local food festival, and part musical event.


In some villages, you can hear alpenhorns and yodeling and see traditional dancing. The alpenhorns are miraculous objects.  Long (often several meters long!) wooden horns that make sweet, dulcet tones.


Many of the Desalpes festivals also offer foods. Of course, you must try the local cheese made possible by these fancy (and huge!) cows. In addition, Tested Travel ate some fantastic sausages!  This is a great chance to go local!

The Cows, Costumes and Bells

The best part of the Desalpes is seeing these gigantic cows (and sometimes sheep) wearing flower headdresses being cheered, celebrated and loved by the people of the village.  Cows on parade is actually surprisingly loud!

Note:  These are really local events and can be hard to find.  A good source for the Desalpes festivals (at least the larger ones) is www.myswitzerland.com .