Discover the spectacular mountains of the Rh�ne-Alpes in the summer and enjoy the huge variety of flora and fauna that thrive in this nature-lover’s paradise
Think of the mountains in summer and you may conjure up images of large empty spaces, pure air, alpine meadows and rushing rivers. The mountains are all of these things. But also, and most importantly, they are the men and women who work every day to protect their environment. It is thanks to their efforts that every year, thousand of visitors come to discover the mountains of the Rh�ne-Alpes in summertime. The beautiful region has got so much to offer, here are some excuses to visit and share the green mountains’ of the Rh�ne-Alpes.
The Rh�ne-Alpes stands out among France’s regions because it has such a large number of protected nature reserves. In total, the Rh�ne-Alpes boasts 39 reserves and eight parks – two national parks (Vanoise and �crins) and six regional natural parks (Chartreuse, Pilat, Bauges, Vercors, Haut Jura and Monts d’Ard�che). No other region has so many, giving the Rh�ne-Alpes a genuine natural advantage and offering an ideal destination if you’re looking for a place in which to observe wildlife and plant species.
Located between the Tarentaise and the Maurienne, La Vanoise, France’s first national natural park is home to a colony of 2,000 bouquetins (ibex), making it the largest French reserve of its kind in the Alps. Within this immense mountain range there are also plenty of villages with their own distinctive heritage, which are also protected, and these little treasures are worth discovering. The number of tourists visiting the park is proof of its attractions – every year 820,000 visitors come to walk in the streets of the old village of Bonneval-sur-Arc, listed as one of France’s most beautiful villages, or visit the hamlet of �cot surrounded by alpine meadows. There are also history trails, including itineraries of baroque and Roman highlights, that give visitors a chance to explore a different side of the park. www.vanoise.com
Protect and learn
There are many projects dedicated to environmental protection in the mountains of the Rh�ne-Alpes. These offer visitors the opportunity to find out about the efforts being made to protect and learn about the flora and fauna while enjoying the surroundings. The resort of La Norma in the Savoie is a botanist’s paradise. Located at an altitude of 1,350 metres on a large wooded plateau overlooking the Vanoise mountain range and the Arc valley, La Norma is a haven for plant-lovers; it boasts 24 species of rare flowers that have protected status. The presence of ultrasensitive bio-indicators such as lichens proves that the air is particularly pure and La Norma is also home to a number of unusual trees, including a wild apple tree which is more than 350 years old (they do not usually survive above an altitude of 600 metres!). The resort is a car-free zone, meaning that children can play safely, and the centre of the village is pedestrianised. In the summer of 2005, a 1,000- square-metre bathing lake was added to amenities, complete with a water slide and wooden and grass beaches’. This innovative lake is the only one of its kind in Savoie to have a water treatment system fed by spring water and it recycles water through large tanks of sand. www.la-norma.com
The biotope lake at Combloux in the Haute-Savoie, situated in the Mont Blanc mountain range, is France’s first 100 per cent eco-friendly lake open for bathing. The biotope at Combloux filters water without chemicals, using a process known as lagooning. The end product is clear water that is suitable for drinking. The biotope is made up of four separate areas: the bathing area; the filtration area; the regeneration area and an oxygenating area which has a small, stream-fed waterfall. www.combloux.com