While others may picture rolling hills and country towns when thinking of the French countryside, the first thing that springs to our mind are the Alps. We love visiting this beautiful part of France, whether strapping on skis and hitting the slopes, jumping on a mountain bike or enjoying the scenery on foot. Another great way to experience the Alps is by car, especially with a road trip along the famous Routes des Grandes Alpes – an experience you’ll never forget. Read on for our highlights.
What is the Routes des Grandes Alpes?
The Routes des Grandes Alpes is a 684km mountain road that goes from Thonon-les-Bains on the banks of Lake Geneva all the way down to Menton, winding through breathtaking alpine landscapes and beautiful national parks. While some people choose to cycle the whole route, many decide to travel by car and bring bikes to use for daytrips along the way. If you’re pushed for time, or you only want to do a short trip, you can always choose to drive just one section of the whole route.
The Routes des Grandes Alpes begins in Thonon-les-Bains, a town in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France. The town is located on the banks of Lake Geneva and boasts amazing views of the Lake and the mountains beyond. Before you set off on your road trip, you might like to spend some time in Thonon-les-Bains checking out the local sights – such as the Château de Ripaille – and taking in the beautiful scenery.
During any road trip, we recommend making plenty of stops; sometimes for a few hours, overnight or perhaps longer, and on this route, you won’t want to miss Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Bourg is a paradise for people who love the outdoors. In winter it’s a prime spot for skiing, but during the warmer months, it’s perfect for hiking and mountain biking. While you’re there, spend a day exploring the mountainous landscape by bike, to really make the most of those breath-taking views.
Parc National de la Vanoise
The Routes des Grandes Alpes takes you through several national and regional parks, one of which is the Parc National de la Vanoise, France’s very first national park. Parc National de la Vanoise is well known for its unique, alpine wildlife, such as the Alpine Ibex and the Chamois. The park is also home to more than 100 bird species, including the Eurasian eagle-owl and the Alpine accentor. Stop in one of the nearby towns, and spend some time walking through the park and see how many animals you can spot. Then, finish the day off with a delicious meal and glass of well-deserved wine.
Situated in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region at an altitude of 1,326 metres, Briançon is a place that holds the title of the highest city in France. This historic city is full of cultural sights, so if you love interesting architecture and history you should definitely spend some time here. Visit the Redoute des Salettes fort and the city walls – you won’t be disappointed.
The Routes des Grandes Alpes ends in Menton, a beautiful place on the French Riviera that is known as la perle de la France (the pearl of France). If you drive the whole route from start to finish, or if Menton is part of the section you choose, we’d recommend that you spend at least three days there. Explore Menton’s famous gardens – Jardin Serre de la Madone and Les Colombières, to name just a few – and discover its many historic sites, including Saint-Michel-Archange. And don’t forget about the beaches, of which are there are many!
Experience the Routes des Grandes Alpes
If you want to take a road trip along the Routes des Grandes Alpes start planning your journey with Alamo UK today. We have rental points throughout Europe, so getting on the road is easy.