Best Campsites in the Alps
Walking With its lakes mountains and varied terrain, the Alps region offers a wide range of cross-country walks and alpine treks. They have several hundred kilometres of graded footpaths and Grand Randonnées – GRs. The tour of Mont Blanc is perhaps the best known trek in the region. However other lesser known trails cross the Chablais, Bornes and Aravis mountain ranges. Treks across Haute-Savoie’s G.R.s enable hikers to discover some of the region’s finest scenery. They avoid built-up areas and link up with resting places and supply points on the way.
Country hikes across the valleys and plains can take place from May onwards. Treks in the medium-range mountains start in June and continue throughout the season until late November. Always ask for advice at the tourist offices to check on the accessibility of the footpaths and check the weather forecast before setting off.
There are three levels of difficulty:
Green is an easy hiking circuit between and 1½ and 3 hours long with generally an altitude difference of less than 350m.
Blue is an average hike 3 to 4 hours long between 350m and 650m altitude.
Red is for accomplished hikers and involves 4 to 6 hours of walking at an altitude difference of more than 650m.
Cycling Although the region is best known by cyclists for its prestigious high mountain passes and its long and acrobatic mountain bike descents, there are other spots to be discovered on your bike. It is full of quiet little roads in the valleys, middle mountain paths, undulating vineyards, lakeside scenery and especially breathtaking alpine panoramas.
White Water Sports In the heat of the summer, white-water sports will refresh all of those who crave strong sensations. The rivers Isère and the Doron in the Savoie area are ideal for rafting, kayaking and hydrospeed. Whatever the level of difficulty, adventure is guaranteed.
Para-gliding and Hang-gliding is available in many resorts for those who want to see things from higher up.
The Alpine Lakes are always worth a visit and are good for all manner of water sports – sailing, wind surfing, water-skiing and underwater diving.
Lake Geneva or Lac Léman, the largest lake in Western Europe, 70km long and 14km wide is crescent shaped and forms a natural border with Switzerland. Thonon-les-Bains and Evian are the most important towns on the French side.
Le Bourget is the largest natural lake in France, 18km long and 3.5 km across at its widest part. Aix-les-Bains situated on the edge of the lake is a busy spa town renowned for its balneotherapy.
Lake Annecy is a deep blue lake surrounded by majestic mountains, and covers an area of 27km². The shores of the lake offer a succession of magnificent views and pretty towns including Annecy town at the northern end of the lake with its impressive 12th century castle, arcaded streets and cathedral. Doussard is set back from the southern shore of the lake and Talloires is probably the most famous resort after Annecy. It nestles at the foot of the Roc de Chère and was for centuries a major pilgrimage centre.
Aiguebelette good for fishing, rowing and swimming as no motorboats are allowed.
Col de Forclaz at a height of 1,150 metres offers magnificent panoramic views over lake Annecy and is a centre for hang-gliding.
Chamonix Mont Blanc – Aiguille du Midi is the one of highest cable cars in Europe and transports passengers to the Aiguille du Midi 3,942m high in 20 minutes. At the top there is a breathtaking panorama of Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks, the Swiss and Italian Alps and the valley of Chamonix.
Les Deux Alpes lies at the boundary between the North and South Alps, and at the gateway to the Ecrins National Park. It offers a unique ski area with snow all year round on the glacier at the top, at a height of 3,600m, as well as magnificent views in summer.
Alpe-d’Huez 1860 m high is a popular winter and summer sports resort renowned for its exceptional micro-climate, a vast paradise for lovers of skiing, pure air and wide open spaces.
Oisans Region Allemont is a small village in the Eau d’Olle Valley, at the heart of the Oisans on the shores of Lac Verney. It combines the delights of water and mountains all year round.
Bourg d’Oisans capital of the six valleys of the Oisans, is the gateway to the Ecrins National Park and offers a wide range of cross-country skiing activities in winter.
Venosc is an authentic, charming, peaceful mountain village, just an 8-minute cable-car ride away from the resort of Les Deux Alpes.
Vercors Regional Park has deep caves and gorges cutting into vast wooded plateaux and lush green valleys. Although cross-country skiing is popular in the winter, it attracts lovers of climbing, caving and hiking in summer.
Chartreuse The Chartreuse Massif looks out over Grenoble to the south and Chambery to the north. St Pierre-de-Chartreuse is famous for its Carthusian monastery and unique liqueur.
Autrans was used for some of the 1968 Olympic Games and is most famous for cross-country skiing, but is also popular for downhill ski-ing, dog-sled rides and snowshoeing. The Aventure Parc located in Autrans, is the world’s strangest amusement park: 752 obstacles built in a dense forest at an altitude of 1,201m. Thrills guaranteed! Children must be at least 8 years old, or one metre tall.
Pont-en-Royans This village, originally a prosperous centre for the wood trade, is famous for its picturesque houses clinging to the rock face above the river – an ingenious feat of construction.