Rhône-Alpes: six reasons to visit …
Dramatic soaring alpine mountains, deep twisting river valleys and lakes – the personification of outstanding scenery. The Alps covers a vast area from Annecy in the west to the Swiss and Italian borders in the east and from Geneva in the north whilst reaching almost to the Mediterranean in the south.
From the lofty peaks of Savoie-Mont Blanc to the lavender fields of the Drôme, the sparkling Alpine lakes to the rugged scenery of Ardèche, the eight departments of Rhône-Alpes offer the ingredients for every kind of family holiday, summer and winter.
Here are six reasons we think you should visit the Rhone Alpes:
1/ Family-friendly snow sports
With 180 ski resorts and 17 linked ski areas, Rhône-Alpes boasts the world’s largest ski area with every kind of resort from traditional Alpine villages to internationally famous centres like Chamonix, Megève and Val d’Isere. Whatever your budget, you’ll find a wide choice of self-catering chalets and apartments, with equipment hire and expert tuition for all ages. Try snowboarding, ice skating, or snowshoes; take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh; and enjoy family meals in authentic Alpine restaurants.
2/ Summer in the mountains
The Alps are a paradise for active families in the summer months. Take the cable car to go hiking across flower-strewn pastures; fly down the slopes on a summer luge; and try your skills on an accrobranche trail amongst the treetops. For a real rush of adrenalin, try canyoning or white water rafting; take a tandem flight in a paraglider; or try rock climbing on a fixed via ferrata circuit. Everything is possible – whatever your age and experience. And if you really can’t do without a ski fix, try glacier skiing at resorts like Les Deux Alpes and Tignes.
3/ Great lakes, great scenery, great fun
Nestled beneath the Alpine peaks are three of the five largest lakes in France – Lake Geneva, Lac du Bourget and Lac d’Annecy. Go swimming in Lac d’Annecy, one of the purest lakes in the world; take a tour by bike, on foot or on roller blades; and explore the glorious old town with its flower-fringed canals. Aix-les-Bains on the shores of Lac du Bourget is a centre for all kinds of mountain and water sports. A pretty canal connects the lake to the unspoilt upper reaches of the Rhône where you can book canoe excursions or hire bikes.
4/ Heritage towns
The UNESCO World Heritage city of Lyon is packed with family-friendly museums and activities. See the world’s first moving pictures at the Lumière Brothers Museum, and tread in the steps of Roman sandals at the twin theatres on Fourvière Hill. A short drive down the Rhône Valley, Vienne is also one of a handful of towns to boast two Roman theatres – often used today for pop, rock and jazz concerts – and a complete, intact temple. And don’t miss the extensive archaeological site of St.Romain-en-Gal across the river for villas, shops, and a line of Roman loos!
5/ Rural retreats
With two national nature parks and six regional ones, Rhône-Alpes has everything for countryside holidays. Like birdwatching or fishing? Then visit the Dombes, ‘land of a 1000 lakes’ to the north-east of Lyon. Hiking, biking or horse-riding? Then try the scented landscape of the Drôme with its lavender fields and aromatic plants on the fringes of Provence. Or head west across the Rhône to the Ardèche to explore a rugged landscape dotted with medieval villages. Canoe down the Ardèche river beneath the natural stone arch of the Pont d’Arc and refuel on a picnic of local cheeses and charcuterie, fresh fruit and crusty bread for maximum flavour with minimum food miles.
6/ Family attractions with the Wow! factor
Kids love to go underground, so prepare to be amazed at the limestone formations of the Aven d’Orgnac in southern Ardèche, and in cave systems like the Grottes de Choranche in the lofty Vercors plateau in northern Drôme. Visit the interpretation centre for Grotte Chauvet in Vallon Pont d’Arc to learn about paintings of more than 400 animals found in the world’s oldest decorated cave – a replica cave and new visitor centre open in 2014. Thrill to live action displays and much, much more at the Salva Terra Medieval theme park near Lyon, and enjoy a different kind of thrill amongst the 350 scaly residents of La Ferme aux Crocodiles at Pierrelatte in the Rhône Valley.
As you might imagine, winters can be severe in the Alps, especially in the mountains. It is surprising how much the temperature changes as you climb. In winter time it can be pouring with rain in the valleys and as you drive towards the mountains the rain turns to a driving blizzard. So go prepared!
On the other hand, the summers are temperate although with more rainfall than in other areas of France. Check opposite for the latest Alpine weather and 5 day forecast
For further ideas, visit: www.rhonealpes-tourisme.com
Here’s more information to make the most of your visit to the Alps: