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 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 landMountain biking, gravel, hiking and marmot walks
The Mont Cenis plateau is also a superb area for many sports and activities. Cycling enthusiasts will be able to climb the pass from Val Cenis-Lanslebourg (and the more courageous will be able to go down to Susa, in Italy, and then climb the steep slopes on the Italian side). The plateau is also an ideal playground for mountain biking and gravel with its old military tracks. A "discovery" circuit also allows you to go around the lake, to be tested with an electrically assisted mountain bike to go up even more easily from Val Cenis-Lanslebourg!
As far as walks and hikes are concerned, the site offers family walks to see the marmots or the beautiful altitude lakes of the Petit Mont-Cenis. For the more athletic, the hikes are endless with notably the signal of the Petit Mont-Cenis (3162m, one of the "3000" accessible by hike in summer in Haute Maurienne Vanoise) or the hikes until Italy with night in refuge or in bivouac.
Aquatic activitiesCanoeing, 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.