The French Alps are home to well over one hundred mountain resorts, some of which are famous the world over, others are little gems. The region stretchs from Geneva and the border with Switzerland to Provence in the south and Nice on the Mediterranean coast, and includes such charming resorts as Chamonix, Aix les Bains, Val d’Isere and Courchevel.
The French Alps
From vast lakes – Lake Annecy, Lake Geneva, Lake Bourget and Lake Aiguebelette – to Europe’s highest peak Mont Blanc, the area called the French Alps is a vast mountain region that is well developed in parts, and remote in others. Much of the area is protected - there are regional nature reserves as well as the Vanoise National Park and the Ecrins National Park.
Rivers crisscross The Alps and are perfect for white water sports. The river Isère runs along the course of the Tarentaise Valley passing through Bourg Saint Maurice where there is an international canoe and kayak centre. The town is fast becoming the mecca of rapids canoeing and regularly hosts national and international events. The freshwater, glacial, lakes are ideal for sailing, windsurfing and other water sports - Lake Annecy is a popular spot. For hikers there are more than 5,000km of marked trails and many mountain huts throughout the region. The Alpine section of the GR5 long distance European hiking trail is a challenging but worthwhile trek. The route, which starts at the base of the Mont Blanc Massif and traverses the French Alps south to the Mediterranean, is referred to as the Grand Traverse of the Alps (GTA).
With so much mountainous terrain on offer the Alps is an obvious off-road bike destination. The Portes du Soleil region - the ski resorts of Morzine, Avoriaz and Les Gets - is on every mountain biker's must-do list, as is Alpe d'Huez - try the 30km-long, downhill, Megavalanche circuit. Via ferrata, climbing using permanent iron ropes and ladders, is a novel way to explore the mountains. Les via ferrata du Roc du Tovière, in Val d'Isère, offers one route for beginners and one for braver souls.