There are just some vacations or go-to places that are on lots of people’s bucket list, like the famous Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, Oktoberfest or the Leaning Tower of Pise. Places, that have that magical pull because of the stories and history behind them. Today, we’ll be taking a look at much smaller and “hidden” places in the Alps, specifically the French Alps.
The French Alps are most notable for its highest mountain, the Mont Blanc, at just above 4800 meters. The highest mountain in Western Europe most certainly drives tourism and skiers from around the world, however, we’ll be taking a look at the villages and resorts surrounding the French Alps today.
The Citadelle de Besançon
The Citadelle is perched nearly 400 feet directly over the Citadelle de Besançon – a beautiful old village that dates back to the 1600s. The views are spectacular, with stunning vistas of the village and of the river Doubs snaking below. There’s an enormous number of mini-adventures available in the village, making it perfect for a family with many to please.
The entry fee for the Citadelle de Besançon includes an audiobook guide about the Citadelle in English, French, and German, and there is an amazing 3-D movie about the architecture available at Espace Vauban.
The area also includes two eateries and two museums. One area has insects and scorpions on display – perfect if your party includes the five to twelve-year-old adventurous boy or girl set – an area containing nocturnal rodents, and an aquarium where you can pet the koi. One of the museums is the Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation, a World War II museum considered one of the best in the country. However, as a wartime museum, it is not necessarily appropriate for younger children.
Val Thorens is an ancient village in the French Alps that hosts an all-inclusive resort. However, keep in mind the ‘ancient village’ part: this isn’t some sanitized and cruise-like operation, but a place where it is just as easy to get out into nature and have an adventure as it is to sample French pastry at one of the local eateries or take a casual stroll through the village. The lodging options are extensive, as no-fuss, no-muss or elaborate as you choose.
Water runs through and around the village, with many lakes and streams to explore – and – perhaps needless to say – in the winter, the skiing is amazing. Don’t just use the ski lifts to go skiing, however. Use them as sightseeing tools, too. They’ll give you a breathtaking look at the French Alps from above that you won’t be able to experience in any other way. They can also drop you off so that you can hike and explore.
Perhaps the most amazing experience this resort town can offer is its microlight and paragliding sessions. Imagine yourself soaring over the French Alps, the clouds and mountains filling your world. There’s no other word but wow.
There are childcare options available, even for children as young as 24 months: if you want to go skiing, there are trained daycare professionals who can look after your child until you’re ready to pick them up. Like a lot of resort areas, there are themed weeks, and a lot of different activities to do, like cooking or biking or watching some entertainment. However, you’d make the best use out of this vacation spot by hiking the gorgeous natural landscape, skiing or paragliding (why not both?), and enjoying what the village has to offer.
Sixt-Fer-á-Cheval hosts one of the largest nature reserves in all of France. Of course it has the breathtaking mountains for which the French Alps are known, but it also boasts waterfalls, including the Cascade de Rouget (the ‘Queen of the Alps’). If you visit in the winter, there is skiing and ice-climbing; however, summer also allows opportunities for hiking, exploring, and mountainclimbing. Le Cirque du Fer á Cheval is a legendary mountainclimbing experience with its limestone cliffs that stand up to 2300 feet. Even less experienced climbers can rejoice, because it is possible to hire pack animals and a guide and head to some of the most spectacular views in the world that way.
The Sixt-Fer-á-Chaval also offers swimming, white water rafting, and other water sports in its nearby waterways.
On top of the gorgeous natural vistas that Sixt-Fer-á-Cheval offers, there is also historical interest in the village. There is an abbey that was built in the 1100s that, for the history or architecture enthusiast, may be worth the trip all on its own.
There are numerous accommodations available in and around the village, from hotels to bed-and-breakfasts, to full house rentals for families (or for that privacy the individual or couple sometimes wants and needs!)
There is so much more to explore in the Alps that I know I could talk about the ancient architecture, museums, natural beauty, and humbling hugeness of the mountains for pages upon pages more. But you know what you should do, now? Stop reading and dreaming and start experiencing.
Good luck on your adventure!