Northern Alps: paradise in all its forms…
They symbolise high mountains, with their icon Mont Blanc (4,808 m.) and the Winter Olympics (Chamonix in 1924, Grenoble in 1968 and Albertville in 1992).
The region covers three Departments:and l’Isère (Dauphiné).
Haute- Savoie is of course evocative of Mont Blanc and its massif easily accessible from the Vallée Blanche. The many hiking and climbing possibilities available have made the whole Chamonix valley immensely popular..
France’s first major ski resorts were started in Haute-Savoie: first, in the nineteen twenties, which remains the best-known French resort in the world, Megève, the “jet set” resort and Saint Gervais with its discreet charm.
You can also visit Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), with Thonon, Evian famous for its waters and Yvoire with its medieval village.
Further south, the Lac d’Annecy and the surrounding area offer magnificent scenery, and, just a stone’s throw away, the Aravis range with, among others, the resorts of La Clusaz and Grand Bornand. Don’t forget the newer resorts with their ultra-modern architecture, designed and built in the seventies, with the sole aim of providing the best ski slopes possible: Avoriaz and Flaine.
There are also many village resorts that have remained charmingly picturesque: Vallorcine, Samoëns, Morzine… Between Châtel, Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz, skiers will have access to some 600 km of pistes. On your marks!
Savoie follows closely with a range of resorts to satisfy all kinds of wishes. Savoie’s tourist vocation predates that of Haute-Savoie with a greater number of “all-in” resorts. In the heart of the department, with a direct access to the Vanoise Park, we find the 3 Vallées, the world biggest skiable domain. The 3 Vallées is made of the Méribel valley (Brides les Bains and Méribel), Saint-Bon (Courchevel, La Tania), Belleville (Saint-Martin de Belleville, Les Ménuires, Val Thorens) and of the Orelle’s resort. Though the domain is a paradise for skiers, winter sports at the 3 Vallées aren’t kept for the experts: the Brides-les-Bains village offers many packages designed for beginners and proposes many possibilities of short-stays for everyone.
On the verge of the 3 Vallées, Pralognan and Champagny en Vanoise’s resorts have succeeded in conserving a more authentic style, making them ideal for families.
Tignes and Val d’Isère, two other super stars, dominate the Haute Tarentaise, although they in no way overshadow two other exceptional players: La Plagne and les Arcs.
On the edge of the two departments are Notre Dame de Bellecombe and Les Saisies, one of the best places for Nordic skiing. Savoie is also the Lac du Bourget and Aix les Bains, one of the largest spa resorts in France.
Above Aix, the Revard Belvedere opens onto the Massif des Bauges making a beautiful natural environment for hiking or Nordic skiing in winter.
Finally, the Maurienne region offers a wide range of destinations and walks in the surrounding area: Aussois or Termignon-la-Vanoise, in Haute Maurienne, which have kept the charm of a traditional village, as have Bessans and Bonneval sur Arc, at the foot of the Iséran Pass. Val Cenis, La Toussuire, Valloire and Saint François Longchamp have managed to gain a position in a more profitable niche.
L’Isère – formerly known as the Dauphiné – is a land of contrasts.
When we speak of Isère, we are bound to think of the Massif du Vercors, a paradise for potholers with its many caves and chasms. The Vercors, a mountain of moderate altitude, and the Chartreuse region are ideal leisure areas for young and old: Nordic skiing in Autrans, and downhill skiing in Villard de Lans. In summer, marked trails and forest tracks offer numerous opportunities for walking.
With both Alpine foothills and steep slopes, Isère is characterised by terraced landscapes. The Belledone range, with its mountainous slopes, requires a more technical approach, and is perfect for downhill skiing and rock climbing. Finally, in the heart of the Grenoble region, the Oisan with Chamrousse, les 2 Alpes and l’Alpe d’Huez – the latter made famous by its spectacular stage finish in the Tour de France – are all major resorts in their own right.
Access to Northern Alps:
- By road via numerous motorways (including the white motorway), then well-maintained roads to the resorts. It is worth noting however that in some peak periods there can be particularly heavy traffic on certain major trunk roads.
- By train: Direct TGV in season from Paris and Lille to the different valleys then shuttle service or bus to the resorts.
- By plane: numerous flights to Lyon, Geneva, also Chambéry and Grenoble.