Visit Rhone-Alpes, France
The Rhone-Alpes region features much of the greatest scenery in France, from the high Alps of the Savoy region to the lavendar fields of the Drome and the stunning Gorges de l'Ardeche. A great outdoors destination!
The Rhône-Alpes region is a wild and very beautiful part of south-east of France, bordering Italy and Switzerland to the east and Provence to the south. The departments in the region are Ain, Ardeche, Drome, Isère, Loire, Rhone, Savoie and Haute-Savoie.
Please use the tabs above to discover each area within the Rhone-Alpes.
Six unmissable highlights of a visit to Rhone-Alpes
Ecrins National Park
France This Way feature articles set in the Rhone-Alps
Savoy Alps - the Haute-Savoie department & high mountains in the east
The eastern part of the Haute-Savoie department is 'high Alps' country', including the highest mountain in France, Mont Blanc (on the border with Italy) and many other high mountains and passes.
Also to visit are the fabulous alpine towns of Chamonix, Megeve and Saint Gervais. The Olympic town of Albertville and Conflans is also in this area, and the town of Beaufort is close to the ski-resort at Arêches-Beaufort.
Other highlights in Haute-Savoie include Lake Geneva and the towns along its shores, be sure to visit Evian les Bains, Thonon les Bains and the beautiful village of Yvoire, and in the nearby mountains is the picturesque alpine village of Abondance.
see the Haute-Savoie travel guide for more destinations
Savoy Alps - the Savoie department & Lake Geneva
Outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, mountain climbing, skiing etc are predictably key activities throughout the region, where natural beauty is the great attraction.
The Savoie department is also well known to cycling enthusiasts because some of the most exciting stages in the Tour de France take place here each year, including the climb of Alpe d'Huez.
There is a large spa town at Aix-les-Bains, on the banks of the Bourget Lake and Chambery is a favourite for vistors to this area. The Vanoise National Parc is a scenic highlight in the mountains to the east, while the 'beautiful village' at Bonneval is also in this part of the French Alps.
see the Savoie travel guide for more destinations
Isere department - the south-eastern Rhone-Alpes
The Isere department, south-east of Lyon, includes a varied mix of environments, with higher mountains to the east including the Ecrins Natural Park.
The Isere department is also an important Alpine destination for skiing enthusiasts with the Deux Alpes and the Alpe-d'Huez ski-stations within the borders of the Ecrins National park and Les-7-Laux further north.
see the Isere travel guide for more destinations
Drome and the south
Bordering Provence, the Drome region of the rhone-Alpes is best known for its lavendar fields and quiet market towns.
Relaxing in the Drome-Provence region, surrounded by lavender fields, and visit Vaison la Romaine (itself across the border in Provence), or visiting the Vercors Natural Regional Park. Two picturesque villages include Le Poet-Laval to the north of here and La Garde-Adhemar to the west.
travelling along the Valley of the Rhone, including the principal towns of Vienne, Romans-sur-Isere, Montelimar, Nyons and Valence, also the nearby town of Tain l'Hermitage best known for its gourmet products. The town of Crest also merits a visit, while a 'beautiful village' to discover in Drome is Mirmande, a medieval village near Montelimar
Ain, Loire and Rhone departments - the northern Rhone-Alpes
North-east of the mountains the landscape of the landscape is quite different, less dramatic but with its own distinctive appeal.
Among the highlights of this region are the Dombes plateau and lakes, north of Trévoux and Pérouges, ideal for bird-watching; Bourg-en-Bresse to the north of the region, and the surrounding pretty villages such as Coligny, Verjon, Pressiat, Cuisiat, Treffort, and Meillonnas, each with their own character.
In the north-west of the region around Villefranche-sur-Saone is the beaujolais wine region, while the main towns of Lyon (capital of the region) with its lovely Presqu'ile centre and Cremieu are to the east. Near to Lyon is the monastery at Eveux designed by Le Corbusier.
The pretty medieval town of Perouges is a 'most beautiful village' in the Ain department, while Oingt, at 20 km from Lyon, is in the Rhone department. Also close to Lyon are Anse, Trevoux and Theize. On the border with Switzerland and close to the Jura mountains, visit the spa town at Divonne-les-Bains, or head south in the Ain department to visit Belley and the Pays de Bugey.
In the Loire department is the attractive natural park of Pilat and in it the pretty villages of Pelussin and Malleval and the 'most beautiful village' of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez. Its capital is Saint-Etienne.
See more information in the Ain travel guide
Ardeche - south west Rhone Alps
The Ardeche, to the south-west of the Rhone-Alpes, has several highlights and places of great natural beauty and is a spectacular 'outdoor' destination.
Start perhaps with the Gorges de l'Ardeche - amazingly beautiful, about 40km of deep gorges with the Ardeche river at the bottom and best accessed from Vallon Pont d'Arc (not to be confused with Pont d'Arc itself, the stone arch at the entrance to the gorges).
Another sight not to be missed in the Ardeche is the Bois de Paiolive near Les Vans, where olive trees are interspersed with large, curiously shaped rock formations, and the nearby villages of Chambonas, Naves and Banne (see below).
The 'capital' of the Ardeche is Privas, also in a fine setting, while the cathedral town at Viviers has quite an extensive old town and the classified 'most beautiful village' of Balazuc is on a cliff on the banks of the Ardeche River.
A useful classification of villages in the Ardeche is as 'villages of character' many of which are very beautiful and in very scenic locations. These include : Ailhon, Alba-la-Romaine, Antraigues-sur-Volane, Beauchastel, Banne, Boucieu-le-Roi, Chalencon, Desaignes, Jaujac, Labeaume, Meyras, Naves (near Les Vans), Saint-Montan, Thueyts, Vinezac and Vogue. (The majority of these villages are in the south of the department around Aubenas.)
Ski resorts in the Rhone-Alps
Skiing is a major attraction to the region which includes much of the best skiing in France - and is also the most popular region with those who visit every year.
Many of the smaller resorts are combined into 'ski domains' that give combined access to a very wide range of facilities and ski opportunities, both on and off piste.
Some of the best known ski resorts and domains in the Rhone-Alps include:
- the 'Espace Killy' ski region includes Val d'Isere and neighbour Tignes
- the Three Valleys (Les Trois Vallées) ski-region includes the resorts of Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens (with Les Menuires)
- the Paradiski region with Les Arcs and la Plagne, among others
- the Portes du Soleil ski region, including Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz
- skiing at and around Chamonix Mont-Blanc, also nearby Megeve and Sallanches.
- south-east of Grenoble, the Deux-Alpes region, and the Les-7-Laux resort to the north-east of Grenoble
- Other popular skiing areas are found at L'Alpe d'Huez - both a ski resort and renowned Tour de France mountain stage - and at Valmorel.
- The resort at La Clusaz is popular with 'day-trippers' from Annecy.
Don't forget: many of the popular ski resorts are also ideal destinations for summer visitors who want to explore the mountains as hikers etc.
Map of Rhone-Alpes
French version: Rhone-Alpes (Francais)
Classified tourist sites to visit in Rhone-Alpes
Listed below are some of the main places and destinations in Rhone-Alpes that have received 'official' tourist classifications.
Aquarium de Lyon
Aquarium du Lac du Bourget
Grand Sites of France
Cirque de Sixt Fer a Cheval
Gorges de l'Ardeche
Classified 'most beautiful villages')
Brou Royal Monastery
towns classified as Recommended Detours
Regional Natural Parcs
Massif des Bauges
Abbatiale Sainte-Marie (Cruas)
Abbaye d'Aiguebelle (Montjoyer)
Abbaye Saint Martin d'Ainey (Lyon)
Abbaye Saint-Fortuné de Charlieu (Charlieu)
Cathédrale Notre-Dame (Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux)
Cathédrale Saint-Apollinaire (Valence)
Couvent des Cordeliers (Saint-Nizier-sous-Charlieu)
Eglise de Saint Michel (La Garde-Adhemar)
Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Lyon)
Listed 'Remarkable Gardens'
Jardin botanique alpin La Jaÿsinia
Jardin d'eau de pré curieux
Jardin de l’écomusée
Jardin des herbes
Jardin du musée Hébert
Jardins du Château de Saint-Bernard
Le Labyrinthe - Jardin des Cinq Sens
Les jardins du Prieuré
Parc de Gerland
Parc de la Tête d'Or
Parc du château de Laye
Parc du château de Vizille
Parc du château du Touvet
Sites of Natural Beauty
Aiguille du Midi
Bois de Païolive
Cascade de la Diomaz
Cascade du Ray-Pic
Col de l'Iseran
Col de la Croix-de-Fer
Col de la Faucille
Glacier des Bossons
Gorges du Fier
Grottes de Choranche
Mer de Glace
Roc de Chere
Walibi Rhone Alpes
4* Towns in Bloom
Zoo or wildlife park
Jardin zoologique de la ville de Lyon
La Ferme aux crocodiles
Parc animalier de Courzieu
Parc de la Tête d'Or
Parc zoologique de Saint-Martin-la-Plaine