Isère is home to the legendary Alpe d’Huez climb with its 21 hairpin bends and the dizzying roads and villages clinging to the Vercors cliffs, as well as Chartreuse liqueur and many tasty local products. Here are five reasons why you should explore Isère.
1. Discover the Greenways
With more than 400km of voies vertes (greenways), the lush countryside of Isère is a paradise for cyclists of all levels.
The 50km ViaVercors, in the Vercors Regional Natural Park, is bursting with mountain landscapes, waterways, and remarkable fauna and flora. Enjoy a peaceful and relaxing journey on foot or by bike as motorised vehicles are largely banned. This eco-friendly intermunicipal link allows you to have fun with family, friends, or fellow sports enthusiasts. Along the way, you’ll come across educational stops and have opportunities to visit local producers and artisans.
The La Belle Via cycle route spans the departments of Haute-Savoie, Savoie, Isère, and Drôme. It covers a total of 364km, including 123km along the Isère river, offering stunning views of the summits of Chartreuse, Belledonne, and Vercors. It connects to the ViaRhôna European route at the start and finish, making it ideal for a trip towards the Mediterranean.
The ViaRhôna cycle route, stretching for 815km, alternates between secure greenways and shared routes. It caters to both families and accomplished cyclists, providing numerous options for day trips or longer routes. In Isère, it follows the banks of the Rhône for more than 90km, allowing you to discover the towns and villages, vineyards, and gastronomy of the area.
The 12km Via Chartreuse, from Saint-Joseph-de-Rivière to Entre-Deux-Guiers, mainly utilises existing paths or dykes. Along this route, you’ll encounter delights such as the Plantimay farm, the Herretang peat bog, Villette, the sources of Guiers, and superb vistas.
2. Indulge in Isère Gastronomy
Isère has launched its own recipe, the Tourte de l’Isère, a regional savoury pie highlighting local products. Simple to make and perfect for sharing after a day in the great outdoors, it uses Saint Marcellin cheese, Grenoble walnuts, and potatoes. Meanwhile, the Caves de la Chartreuse has reopened after 18 months of work. Visitors are invited to tour the world of Chartreuse liqueur via new museum spaces which retrace its history from 1084 to the present day and shed light on the skills of the Carthusian monks. The visit ends with a guided tasting of green and yellow Chartreuse.
3. Retreat to Mountain Refuges
Nothing could be more idyllic than a shepherd’s hut or log cabin perched high in the snow-capped mountains, or overlooking the sparkling lakes and rivers of Isère. There are plenty to choose from and many are just a couple of miles’ hike away. For instance, at 1,740m, Refuge le Habert d’Aiguebelle is Belledonne’s newest refuge, with room for 26 people, and the caretaker serves generous and tasty meals. Home to chamois, marmots, and ibexes, the mountain area surrounding the refuge is crisscrossed with hikes for all abilities.
4. Embrace Sustainable Tourism
Isère prioritises the environment with numerous green initiatives, and it benefits from a well-developed public transport system. The department boasts approximately 40 regional TER train stations, along with two major stations: Grenoble and Vienne. Additionally, the TAG network (Transport de l’Agglomération Grenobloise) operates 45 bus lines and five tramway lines, serving a total of 49 communes. The Ecotourism Car Free Stays guide showcases ecotourism partners and offers customizable carbon-free stays, allowing you to explore the region without relying on cars. Instead, you can use trains, buses, bikes, walk, or even travel by donkey.
5. Local Shopping
Visit the IS HERE ORIGINAL boutique at The Village Outlet in Villefontaine (next to Lyon airport). It showcases products and savoir-faire from the region, and you can discover a range of local and responsible goods in a charming and unique location.
From France Today magazine
Lead photo credit : Plateau des lacs © OT Oz
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