On all the main trade routes since the dawn of history, the Rhône-Alpes region has always been a melting pot of people and cultures which accounts for the wealth of its heritage. Continental in places, alpine in others and Mediterranean elsewhere, the geography of the region gives visitors a variety of landscapes unique in France.
The Rhône-Alpes which is made of the departments of Ain, Ardèche, Drôme, Isère, Loire, Rhône, Savoie and Haute-Savoie, offers an overwhelming choice for sports enthusiasts. Family skiing, interconnecting slopes, cross-country skiing and new snowsports, all served up with magnificent scenery. In the summer, the mountains are just as alluring. A paradise for those who love wide, open spaces and hikers in search of real freedom.
To the south, the mountains display the colours and scents of Provence: the Baronnies massif, not far from Mont Ventoux, is a patchwork of vineyards, olive groves and lavender fields. It’s perfect for hiking and mountain biking. Golf fans will find plenty to keep them occupied as Rhône-Alpes is the second golf region of France. The area is noted for the scale, diversity and sheer number of its natural parks – there are 25 nature reserves and eight natural parks including Vanoise, Vercors and Pilat, each one of unique ecological importance. Soaring eagles and mountain flowers, wild boar and mountain deer, you’ll find them all here.
Lyon, the capital of the Rhône-Alpes, is a UNESCO World Heritage city whose history goes back 2,000 years and yet still manages to be one of the most vibrant and exciting places in the country. Close to the Beaujolais vineyards, Lyon is a renowned gastronomic centre and has more museums on more diverse subjects than any French city. Grenoble, capital of the Alps and the Dauphiné, is also very popular and is the ideal base for exploring Chartreuse, Vercors, Belledonne and Taillefer.
Between lake and mountains, Annecy is a real gem of ancient narrow streets, mansions and a moated fortified château. The lake is the purest in Europe, a very good reason to ‘take the waters’ during your stay! Valence is where the south really begins. Here you’ll find all the flavours of Provence, with colourful food markets and sun-warmed shuttered houses.
Photo: CRT Rhone-Alpes/Jean-Luc Rigaux
You’ll eat like a gourmet in Rhône-Alpes, every corner of the region contributes to its unique cuisine. There are the famous Volaille de Bresse, orchards of peaches, apricots and cherries from the Rhône Valley, black olives from Nyons and Tricastin, truffles, pears of Isère. Various meats and sausages are at the heart of many local dishes, along with freshwater fish such as trout, pike, perch and carp. And the cheeseboard boasts such palate-pleasers as Tomme and Reblochon, Blue de Bresse and Picodon. Wash it down with a Beaujolais or Côtes-du-Rhône and finish with a glass of green or yellow Chartreuse.
Follow one of the numerous Tourist Trails, itineraries designed to help you make the most of your stay. They include the Olive Route in the Drôme and the Wine Route which takes you in Beaujolais, Savoy and Côtes-du-Rhône. If you enjoy history, follow the Ducal Route of towns, châteaux and abbeys that played a part in the House of Savoie, or Napoleon’s route as he crossed the region on his way from Paris to exile in Elba. The Lavender Trail takes you through the heady countryside of Drôme from the fields to the distilleries and you can see thousands of wild birds on the Dombes Wetlands route.
The Rhône-Alpes region is one of easiest to access. By air, the international airports Lyon-Satolas and Geneva-Cointrin serve the area. Those of St Etienne, Grenoble and Chambéry-Aix welcome some low-cost and charter airlines. The high speed TGV rail network brings Lyon within easy reach of Europe's major cities : Paris 2h, Marseille 2h30, Lille 3h30, Stuttgart 3h30, Turin 3h30. The Eurostar and TGV service via Lille offers a 5 hour link to London.
Lyon is at the heart of a national and trans-European motorway network and The "Autoroute Blanche" links the winter sport destinations of the Massif de Mont Blanc as far as Chamonix and the Mont Blanc tunnel.
Stunning scenery, a fascinating history and something for everyone all year round, the Rhône-Alpes really does offer you so much more.
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