The Route des Grandes Alpes is pure Alpine splendour. Alpine villages, historic monuments, and awe-inspiring roads and structures lead you to mountain passes, natural parks and open spaces waiting to be explored. Let's focus on the first two stages, which explore the legendary roads and passes of Savoie Mont Blanc.
This first 135 km (84 mi) stage involves four passes. The Col des Gets (1,170 m), then the Col de la Columbière (1,613 m), which allows you to travel between the Arve Valley and the Aravis Massif. Next the Col des Aravis (1,486 m) to the Val d’Arly Valley and finally, the Col de Saisies (1,633 m), which takes you back to the Beaufortain Valley. There are frequent rest areas along the Route, in particular at the top of the passes, where the view opens up into spectacular panoramas.
Towns and villages along the way: Morzine, Les Gets, Taninges, Cluses, Le Grand-Bornand, La Clusaz, Flumet and Notre-Dame de Bellecombe.
Be sure to: visit the Château de Ripaille (Thonon-les-Bains), a Mecca for local history; hike in the incredible Pont du Diable [Devil's Bridge] Gorges; stop by the Maison du Patrimoine [Heritage Centre] in Le Grand Bornand, located at a former farm; buy a wheel of reblochon cheese from a farm in des Aravis; see the Moulin du Meunier ['Miller's Windmill'] in Flumet.
With 175 km (109 mi) of road and a total elevation change of 4,137 metres, this part of the journey climbs four of Savoie's legendary passes. First, the Cormet de Roselend (1,968 m) takes you to Bourg St-Maurice, then the road leads you through the highest drivable pass in the Alps, the Col de l'Iseran (2,764 m), which connects the great Maurienne valleys in Tarentaise. The last pass is the Col du Télégraphe (1,570 m), which offers a magnificent view of the Vanoise Massif, then descends to the town of Valloire at the foot of the Col du Galbier (2,677 m), site of the famous Tour de France stage.
Towns and villages along the way: Bourg St Maurice, Val d’Isère, Bonneval, and then Val-Cenis
The Beaufort Dairy Cooperative is a perfect morning stop before traversing the high mountain pastures near the imposing Roselend Dam. Visit the church in Val d'Isère, which exemplifies Savoie baroque. The first village in the Maurienne Valley, Bonneval-sur-Arc, is classified as one of the "most beautiful villages in France"; discover the 'sculptor of demons' in Bessans.
From Thonon-les-Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva to Menton on the Mediterranean coast, the Route des Grandes Alpes is a 730 km (454 mi) trip through 18 famous passes that are fully accessible from June to October. It is an amazing route to drive or bike.
Sources : Grande Traversée des Alpes
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