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Introduction

Anybody who thinks that great mountain scenery in France is confined to Haute-Savoie and Savoie must have missed out on this area.

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Geography

Hautes-Alpes includes the national park of Écrins and the Regional Natural Park of Queyras.

The villages of the Queyras are noted for their sundials.

The Hautes Alpes have an exeptional climate, with cold winters and very warm summers. Year round, the air is fairly dry. In summer time, temperatures easily rise to the mid 30's, in winter, night temperatures of -10 °C are not exeptional in the valleys. The region is famous for having more than 300 days of sunshine each year. In winter snow is frequent, but in between snow showers, the sun takes over and blue skies are very frequent.

During winter, in the Queyras, snow is very frequent, and a phenomenon called "le retour d'est" (the reurn of the east) often brings heavy snowfall on a very short period of time. During this phenomenon, clouds are blown back and get stuck against the mountain range, losing all of the humidity they contain. It is not exeptional that certain places in the Queyras get more than 2 metres of snow overnight.

Apart from high mountain ranges, you'll also find a big lake in the Hautes Alpes, the lake of Serre-Ponçon. Approximately 22 square km big, this lake was created with the construction of a big dam in the middle of the 20th century.

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Towns and villages

The capital of the Hautes Alpes is Gap, a town situated in the southern part of the Hautes Alpes.

Up north you'll find the town of Briançon. Near to the border with Italy, Briançon, the highest town in Europe, is in a great situation and has a lot of fortifications done by Vauban.

Halfway between both of them you'll find Embrun, a small town situated on a rock, with nice views on the lake of Serre Ponçon and the valley of the Durance river.

Between Embrun and Briançon, you'll find Guillestre. At the entrance of the Queyras, Guillestre is a small town of about 2,200 inhabitants. Just next to Guillestre, is the fortified village of Mont Dauphin, a village conceived and constructed by the famous military architect Vauban. Situated on a plateau, above the confluent of two rivers, the Guil and the Durance, it offers magnificent views on the valley, and is well worth a visit because of its military architecture.

When you enter the Queyras, via the canyon of the Guil, you'll find several beautiful villages and hamlets, such as:

  • Ceillac - two beautiful camp sites among the larches and no end of great walks - fine centre for exploring the Queyras.
  • St Véran - the highest commune in Europe.
  • Aiguilles

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Sights and Activities

Monte Viso is, as its name suggests, just the other side of the Italian border but the views towards it when walking from above St Veran are superb.

The typical villages of the Queyras are worth a visit, as is Mont Dauphin.

You'll find some of the highest mountain passes in the Hautes Alpes in the area of the Queyras and Guillestre. The Col de l'Izoard as well as the Col Agnel are beautiful landmarks, and favourite spots of cyclists that like a challenge.

The Hautes Alpes are a region ideal for sport activities. Skiing in winter, on the slopes of numerous ski resorts, such as Vars, Risoul, Les Orres, Montgenèvre or Serre Chevalier, but cross country skiing as well. In winter, you can go dog sledding or snow shoe hiking.

In the other seasons, there is plenty of choice. Hiking of course, but also rafting or kayaking on the rivers the Durance and the Guil, paragliding, kitesurfing on the lake of Serre Ponçon.

In Saint Crépin, you'll find an airstrip famous for its great conditions for fans of glider planes. Several other airstrips allow you to practice this sport as well.

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Getting There

By Plane

Closest airports are in Marseille and Lyon in France, or Torino in Italy.

By Train

TGV stations are in Aix-en-Provence or Grenoble (France), or in Oulx (Italy). Night train from Paris stops in Gap, Embrun, Mont Dauphin/Guillestre and Briançon.

By Car

Coming from the north, highway until Grenoble, afterwards local roads 'route nationale' via Gap or Briançon.
Coming from the south, highway till Gap.

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Getting Around

When you're coming to the Hautes Alpes, a car is the easiest means of transport to get around, especially in some more remote locations of the area. There are bus connecitons between the mayor cities, but they hardly or less frequently connect to these more remote villages.

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Hautes-Alpes Travel Helpers

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This is version 16. Last edited at 12:01 on May 21, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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