Northern Isère has so much to offer yet has remained under the radar of property buyers – until now. Quentin Revol shares a very well-kept secret
The northern part of the Isère department in Rhône-Alpes is a little gem of an area which so far has not made it onto the radar of overseas property buyers. However, this is set to change, as its proximity to not one but four international airports, low property prices and beautiful scenery have all helped to put it on the map.
Situated in the east of France, bordering the Ain, Rhône and Savoie departments, within striking distance of the French Alps, northern Isère boasts traditional countryside, rolling hills and beautiful lakes set against a picturesque mountain backdrop. Many villages in the hills enjoy views of the Chartreuse, Les Bauges and Les Monts du Bugey mountain ranges, with the occasional glimpse of Mont Blanc on a sunny day.
This part of the country is conveniently accessible from all over the world with a number of different airlines, both budget and otherwise. It is less than an hour’s drive from Lyon, Chambéry and Grenoble airports, while Geneva airport in Switzerland is just over an hour away. There is also a TGV station in Lyon-St-Exupéry airport, providing fast access to France’s high-speed train network.
The sleepy rural villages and towns are the perfect place to enjoy the French lifestyle à la campagne, yet at the same time are close to a number of large cosmopolitan cities and towns offering cultural diversity and plenty of things to see and do.
Lyon, for example, is considered to be the gastronomic capital of France, so is well worth a visit to enjoy some of the country’s finest cuisine, while the charming old town of Annecy is renowned for its stunning lake. And then, of course, there’s Grenoble, often referred to as the ‘capital of the Alps’ due to its size and its proximity to the mountains.
And yet you don’t have to go far in search of activities. The towns and villages of northern Isère, and the hilly terrain between Lyon and Chambéry known as the Avant-Pays Savoyard, also have plenty of things for visitors to do and offer an authentic way of life, each with their own weekly market.
Life is close to nature; farmers tend to sell their produce straight from the farm and restaurants take pride in serving local products.
To the west of the region you will find the towns of Bourgoin-Jallieu and La Tour-du-Pin, and behind them in the hills many smaller villages such as La Chapelle-de-la-Tour and Dolomieu. To the north is Morestel, a beautiful medieval town that is popular with painters, while further to the east you’ll find Aoste and Le Pont-de-Beauvoisin. The latter is divided in two by the Guiers river; one half of the town is in Isère, the other in Savoie.
The French Alps and ski resorts are easy to get to thanks to the excellent motorway links, allowing locals to enjoy day trips to the slopes. Some schools here even run ski clubs and most offer regular ski outings.
Most major ski resorts are within an hour and a half’s drive, while the smaller family resorts such as St-Pierre-de-Chartreuse are just 45 minutes away. Other typically French resorts such as Villard-de-Lans and Chamrousse are also close enough to be ideal for a day’s skiing.
Despite its inland location, there are numerous water-based activities to enjoy in this part of France courtesy of the many lakes and beaches nearby. Paladru is a natural lake formed by the Rhône glacier while manmade Romagnieu is a leisure lake offering fishing, swimming for children and a beach.
In neighbouring Savoie, Lac Aiguebelette is one of the cleanest natural lakes in Europe, and closer to Aix-les-Bains the stunning Lac du Bourget is the southern most point of the Jura mountain range and is popular with motorboat enthusiasts.
With plenty of challenging routes and stunning scenery the area is equally popular with cyclists. The ViaRhôna cycle route follows the Rhône river from Lake Geneva in Switzerland all the way down to the beaches on the Mediterranean coast, with other marked cycle paths along the river offering a safe and car-free place for families to hop on their bikes.
Traditionally a farming region, the textile industry has also contributed to the development of the area. Today the area has a diverse economy, with farming communities and modern enterprises standing side by side. This is also reflected in the range of people who live here, from agricultural workers and commuters to families, retirees and second home owners.
Quentin Revol is the owner of estate agency Agence Love ImmoTel: 0033 (0) 4 74 88 65 60