The Mont-Cenis

Between France and Italy, at an average altitude of 2,000 meters, lies the Mont-Cenis plateau. In the heart of Haute Maurienne Vanoise , this exceptional site offers a breathtaking panorama, with its immense turquoise lake, unspoilt mountain pastures, ancient French and Italian forts and peaks rising to over 3,000 metres.

The Mont-Cenis

Between France and Italy

Mont-Cenis has always been a site of great importance. Since the Middle Ages, the Mont-Cenis pass has been a very important passageway between France and Italy.
From Charlemagne to Napoleon, crowned heads used the pass. Sometimes with their court for courtesy visits. More often with their armies to go to war. Merchants, pilgrims and travelers also took advantage of this passage which leads to Turin and then to Rome.

The site is also exceptional for its micro-climate, at the limit of the Northern and Southern Alps, which allows a rare flora to develop. An Alpine Garden, to be visited free of charge in summer, presents this flora to be discovered while admiring the panorama and the view on the lake.

A huge lake in the heart of the Alps

The Mont-Cenis plateau is marked by its superb lake. While there has always been a natural lake on the plateau, it was not nearly as impressive as the one today. The current body of water is a dam lake. The "barrage poids" built between 1962 and 1968 supplies, among other things, the hydroelectric power stations of Villarodin-Bourget.

It is possible to walk around the lake (5 hours walk). The fluctuations of the lake level allow to reveal some of its secrets. At the beginning of June, the lake being very low, one can for example see the old dikes built from 1911 to 1921 by the Italians. The Mont-Cenis plateau was indeed Italian until the end of the Second World War.

A border zone

A heritage to visit

On the border between France and Italy, Mont-Cenis has always been of strategic and military importance. The site remained for centuries within the Kingdom of Piedmont Sardinia. But, with the birth of Italy and the attachment of Savoy to France, the Mont-Cenis became a border zone. The plateau is Italian and very quickly fortifications are built. Forts with late 19th century architecture, like the superb Ronce fort that can be visited easily in summer, the Variselle fort, the Malamot fort, the Turra fort... Bunkers were then scattered in the mountain pastures. After the Second World War, the Mont-Cenis became entirely French. These forts and this unusual heritage remain from this troubled period.

Adventure land

Mountain biking, gravel, hiking and marmot walks

The Mont Cenis plateau is also a superb area for many sports and activities. Cycling enthusiasts can enjoy the ascent of the pass from Val Cenis-Lanslebourg (and the bravest can descend to Susa in Italy and then climb the steep slopes on the Italian side). The plateau is also ideal for mountain biking and gravelling, with its former military trails. There's also a "discovery" circuit around the lake, which you can try out on an electrically-assisted mountain bike, making it even easier to climb up from Val Cenis-Lanslebourg!

When it comes to walks and hikes, the site offers family outings to see the marmots or the pretty high-altitude lakes of Petit Mont-Cenis. For the more athletic, the hiking possibilities are endless, including the Petit Mont-Cenis signal (3,162m, one of the "3000" accessible by hikers in summer at Haute Maurienne Vanoise), or hikes as far as Italy with overnight stays in refuges or bivouacs.


Aquatic activities

Canoeing, fishing and pedal boats

For those who love water sports, it is now possible to navigate on the Mont Cenis lake by canoe or pedal boat. Located at 2000 meters above sea level, the Mont Cenis water sports base is the highest in Europe. In summer, at the beginning of the day, the lake is often very calm and becomes a real mirror reflecting the surrounding peaks. An even more magical vision from a canoe.

The lake also offers great catches for fishing enthusiasts.