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Alsace to French Alps

Brisbane
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Alsace to French Alps

I am planning a 4 - 5 week driving trip in 2019 to the Black Forest region in Germany and Alsace in France, and then to French Alps and then on to the south of France. The southern end of the Black Forest / Alsace trip will be Freiburg or Colmar. Should I drive to the French Alps or fly to Geneva to start the second part of my trip? Is there anything worth seeing between Colmar and Chamonix? Is it better to start the Black Forest / Alsace trip from Colmar and end up in Mannheim and fly to Geneva?

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5 replies to this topic
Grenoble, France
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1. Re: Alsace to French Alps

Yes there is stuff to see. The Jura mountains are very nice, with great waterfalls like Saut du Doubs or Cascades du Hérisson, villages like Baumes Les Messieurs and its natural amphitheater.

What's your plan exactly ? Like where do you land from Australia ? The best way to do it is probably train to Strasbourg, rent the car here, do around 8-10 days in Alsace and Germany, 4 days in Jura, a week in the Northern Alps, a week in the Southern Alps, and the last week you have planned for Southern France. You can then drop the car in somewhere like Avignon, and take the TGV back to Paris. That's a nice itinerary for active people who like to hike in the mountains. If you're mostly into just scenic drives, landscapes, food and villages/historic locations, spend 4-5 days less in the Alps and add them to the South. A must do is the Gorges du Verdon, especially what they call its "grand canyon", and the villages of Luberon. What month are you going ? If it's July/August, it Luberon/Verdon gets really crowded, and you may best look into less busy places, like Ardèche, Cévennes, Albigeois, Gorges du Tarn...

Regarding the Alps, don't underestimate the number of things there is to see even if you don't hike much. Just the drive is long and beautiful : through Beaufort and Cormet de Roselend, then Col de l'Iseran, Col du Galibier, Col du Lautaret, Briançon, col de l'Izoard and the Queyras mountains, Lac de Serre Ponçon... Some of these mountain passes don't open until June, so again you should tell use when you plan on going.

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2. Re: Alsace to French Alps

Thanks very much Nicolas.

I prefer to visit Europe in May - June as it is less crowded. In the last few years I have visited much of Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and Budapest in April - May - June, and also Paris, Annecy and Chamonix, by car except for big cities like Paris and Rome. I have looked up your suggestions and they seem excellent and to my taste - mountains, historical and architectural places, scenery, and villages with local character. I am no spring chicken so not much into hiking, although I do a lot of walking in towns to see places.

I still have not figured out where to land in France and whether to arrive in one city and leave by another. I have mostly done my trips this way and I know it costs more but saves a lot of time and overnight hotel costs. One idea is to arrive in Frankfurt, hire a car and drive down to Mannheim, Heidelberg towards Black Forest etc. and cross over to France at Strasbourg into Alsace. Your suggestions south of Freiburg look good. There seem to so many scenic places there. What are you referring to when you say Northern Alps and Southern Alps? When do the passes open in June? I may have to put off Southern France and Luberon for another time, as I would like to visit Luberon during Lavender season which I believe is in late July-August.

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Grenoble, France
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3. Re: Alsace to French Alps

I've lived in Australia, Melbourne precisely, and there are flights that do Lyon - Dubai - Melbourne. Maybe there is the same for Brisbane I don't know. But that would be the only option besides Paris. It would save you a bit of driving I reckon, already Paris - Strasbourg is longer than Lyon - Strasbourg, plus at the end of your trip you wouldn't have to drive all the way back to Paris.

The French Northern Alps are Chamonix Mont Blanc, Vanoise, Chartreuse, Belledonne, Vercors, Bauges... That's Haut Savoie, Savoie and Isère basically. Southern Alps are Hautes Alpes, Alpes de Haute Provence so Ecrins, Queyras, Mercantour, that kind of thing. As their name suggest the Southern Alps are sunnier and warmer. Twice the amount of rain in the Northern Alps. The cols open in late May usually, this year some aren't yet because of the huge amount of snow we had. In any case some are open all year like Col du Lautaret between Grenoble and Briançon.

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4. Re: Alsace to French Alps

If you rent a car in Germany & drop in France you will pay €€€ in one way fees. These will be substantially less or zero with a France to France rental.

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Grenoble, France
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5. Re: Alsace to French Alps

The mountain passes open at different dates depending on the altitude and the size of the snow mantle. This year was exceptional, so some are still closed. Usually they're all open by that time of year.

If you scrap the South of France, and assuming you start in Lyon, I'd do Germany first, then Alsace, both amounting to around 10 days, then a week in Jura, then in the Alps I would divide it into 3 regions.

1) Start by a lower region (less than 2500 m high) and where you can hike in June. For that I think Vercors and Devoluy are good candidates. Vercors is a huge plateau with great hiking and wildlife : mountains goats, vultures and marmots mainly. The same in Devoluy, but more mineral, with dramatic mountains. You can stay near the lakes isere-tourisme.com/equipements/les-passerell… like in La Mure or if you like being in the mountains, at Gresse en Vercors or Saint Michel Les Portes for example. If you like a lost valley leading to nowhere, have a look at Le Désert en Valjouffrey in Ecrins as a day trip it's one of my favorite areas. It's like modern life hasn't reached this part of the Alps. Several interesting hikes start from around here.

2) From here you should make your way to Briançon via the Lac de Serre Ponçon. On the way the Queyras mountains are spectacular and have kept their authenticity with almost no ski slope or ski lift. At least hike Lac de Sainte Anne, and if the Col de L'Izoard is open, drive it. There's a desertic landscape that's quite unique here. Near Briançon, vallée de la Clarée is a beautiful valley, great hikes like Lac du Serpent, Briançon itself has an old town and a "regular" town. In the area, the hike to Glacier Blanc from Pré de Madame Carle is a must, you get to the refuge, and can climb a bit higher for an even better view of this spectacular glacier. Spend at least 3 days in Queyras which is an amazing region, and a couple of days around Briançon.

3) Last you can go back to Grenoble via Col du Lautaret, open all year. This where you have the Meije area. Great couple of hikes here : Plateau d'Emparis with Lac Lérié and Lac Noir. You can drive up a gravel road quite high and hike the lakes in a couple of hours. The reflection of the Meije and its glaciers on the lake is a classic. Lake Goléon nearby also offers the same reflection. For a spectacular valley, hike to Col d'Arsine and the 2 newly formed glacial lakes from a road down from Villar d'Arène to Pas d'Anna Falque. It's a medium hike with plenty of marmots and spectacular mountains. 3 to 4 days should be enough around here, keep 1 or 2 days to drive back to Lyon, with maybe a stop at a lake like at Aix Les Bains.

If you think that's too much hiking, remove one of the 3 and do Annecy + Chamonix instead. June isn't too crowded compared to July/August which I find suffocating in those 2 areas (it seems like foreigners only know the Alps by Annecy and Chamonix).

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