French Alps - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to French Alps

French Alps

The deep valleys and soaring snow-covered peaks of the Alps border France, Switzerland and Italy in dramatic splendour, delighting walkers and climbers in summer and offering a challenge to skiers and snowboarders in the winter months.

Downhill skiing was established here towards the end of the 19th century by the English, since when an increasing number of French and international skiers (and more recently snowboarders) have been attracted to the first-rate resorts. French resorts may not be as picturesque as those in Switzerland and Austria but they are some of the most extensive and best; by European standards they are high, mostly between 6,562 and 9,843 feet (2,000m and 3,000m), and have reliable snow. The ski season runs from late November to April and is busiest during the Christmas and Easter holidays.

Climbers and hikers head for the Alps between July and September when the weather is more predictable and the snow above 6,562 feet (2,000m) has melted. There are a number of national parks with round-the-park trails requiring one or two weeks walking, there are also longer trans-alpine routes, which should only be attempted by experienced walkers. Local tourist offices supply detailed maps of their area. The towns of Grenoble, Annecy and Chambéry are good bases for hiking. Climbers tend to head to the Chamonix-Mont Blanc area.

Information & Facts


The French Alps offer lots of sunshine, but cold weather from November to April when the ski season is in full swing. The resorts are generally high and the snow is excellent, although the weather is relatively mild in comparison to the North American resorts. During the summer months the cool, sunny weather attracts hikers and climbers, particularly from July to September when the weather has settled and the high snows have melted.

French is the official language.

The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels, though you will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques, particularly in major tourist destinations. Foreign currency is not accepted.

Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October).

Aix-les-Bains is a popular and fashionable family holiday resort and spa town located on the eastern side of Lac du Bourget, the largest natural freshwater lake in France. Although the lake is icy cold, you can sail, fish, play golf and tennis, or picnic on the parkland at the water's edge. The main town of Aix is two miles (3km) inland from the lake and has been built around its thermal springs. Many small hotels line the streets, and streams of holiday visitors take to the baths each day; in the evening, for a change of pace, they play the slot machines at the Aix-les-Bains casino or attend tea dances.

Situated 80 miles (129km) east of Lyon, the holiday destination of Annecy has a magical setting on the shore of Lake Annecy at the foot of the French Alps. It has been called the Venice of the Alps because of the web of canals that cut through the Annecy old town. Annecy is probably the best base for a holiday in the Haute-Savoie region because of its location, conveniently situated near many interesting towns and attractions. Just six miles (10km) to its west is Gorges du Fier, a dramatic river gorge; a gangway takes visitors through a narrow gully that has been cut by a torrent of water over the eons; you can hear the roar of the river below. Emerging from this labyrinth, you'll be greeted by a huge expanse of boulders. The site is closed to the public between mid-October and mid-March. Visitors can also take a cruise on the ice-blue lake for which the town is famous.

Evian-les-Bains, on the southern end of Lake Geneva, is famous for its mineral water, which have been bottled since the early 18th century. Many of the French have second homes in Evian, but visitors come to this chic holiday resort principally to enjoy the creature comforts and spa facilities of the deluxe Evian-les-Bains hotels. The town has been a fashionable resort since the early 1800s, and much of its architecture comes from that century and the 1920s, making it an attractive city to stroll through. Aside from the springs, there are many things to do in Evian-les-Bains, including golf, sailing, hiking, river rafting and rock climbing.

The beautiful university town of Grenoble is situated on the Drac and Isère Rivers, and is surrounded by proud mountains, dramatic gorges and hidden valleys. The prosperous, lively and cosmopolitan city is a base for companies involved in the chemical, nuclear research and electronics industries, but more obviously to visitors it is home to 40,000 students, many international. There are some excellent walks among the mountains surrounding the city and there are ski slopes within easy driving distance, but for many tourists Grenoble is simply a stopover before heading further into the Alps. Before you go, however, take a scenic ride on the distinctive egg-shaped suspended cable cars known as 'Les Bulles'.

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