• Tours

The Esseillon forts, an alpine stronghold at more than 1,500 m high

Built at the beginning of the 19th century, the Esseillon Forts are exceptional examples of the defensive lines the House of Savoy used against possible French invasion. These sites have now been renovated and listed as historical monuments. They are an ideal place to visit and are the starting point for several treks


The towns of Aussois and Avriex purchased and revived the forts. Today, three self-tours allow visitors to discover the site on their own.

  • The Sentier des Bâtisseurs tour is a four-hour informative tour of the fort with signs and panels.
  • The Sur Les Traces du Marabout tour is a one-hour nature trail around the site.
  • The Découverte du Plateau d’Aussois tour is a two-hour walk to understand the mountains better and how humankind shapes them.

The Promenade Savoyarde de Découverte is a two and a half-hour educational and interactive game that follows the legend of a young Sardinian soldier from the past who now haunts the fort. Pick up a bag at the Tourist Office to help you find the clues as you romp around the fort.

A one-hour stroll accessible to all visitors also exists.

Barrière de l'Esseillon à Aussois


The Esseillon Forts were erected between 1820 and 1850 by the Savoy sovereigns. Located at the top of a natural barrier, the fortresses blocked the Haute-Maurienne and the Mont Cenis mountain pass. The fortifications are three kilometres long, cover an elevation gain of 250 metres, and comprise five forts named after the royal family:

  • Marie-Thérèse
  • Victor-Emmanuel
  • Charles-Félix
  • Marie-Christine
  • Charles-Albert (unfinished)

Each fort faces west to discourage any potential enemy. During peaceful times, the forts sheltered garrisons and served mainly as a military prison. The rather austere military life consisted of guard duty and training. Soldiers lived isolated in the forts, especially in the winter. They had a few bread ovens, but milk and fresh products were brought in from Aussois. Graffiti and drawings remain to give us a glimpse of what life was like for these soldiers.


After France annexed the Savoie in 1860, the forts became obsolete. Fort Charles-Albert was totally destroyed and Fort Charles-Félix partially. The forts became the property of the French army. During World War II, Moroccan infantrymen occupied the buildings, as we can see by the designs the battalion left on the walls.. 

Fort Victor-Emmanuel - Barrière de l'Esseillon à Aussois