© Alban PERNET

Villages and resorts

of Haute Maurienne Vanoise

Located in Savoie in the Northern Alps, the Haute Maurienne valley is inhabited all year round.
8,666 permanent inhabitants, 10 villages and 6 resorts. From Saint-André to Bonneval sur Arc, each village with its own character and specificities will charm you and leave you with unforgettable memories!

You’ve never heard of Haute Maurienne? This heavenly little corner of Savoie in the Northern Alps?

That’s it, this time we’re telling you everything!  This region at the end of the valley has some extraordinary assets and those who know it keep coming back and talking about it!

In Haute Maurienne Vanoise, there are no big resorts, no overcrowding, just authentic villages. Mountain villages where farming is still very much alive and which turned to tourism as early as the mid 20th century, when French and foreign mountaineers were already climbing our highest peaks : Albaron, Charbonnel, Ciamarella, Grande Casse, Dent Parrachée, and the Vanoise glaciers.
The creation of the Vanoise National Park in 1963 brought a certain notoriety to the valley, offering protection for an unspoilt nature waiting to be explored.

The valley has two road “exits”: the Mont-Cenis pass which gives you access to Italy and the Iseran pass, the highest mountain road pass in Europe, which links us to Val d’Isère and the Tarentaise valley.
Please note that these passes are not accessible in winter! The Mont-Cenis pass is generally open from May to October and the Iseran pass from June to September. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, check openings before you travel, on Savoie-route.fr

Not to be missed!

Haute Maurienne Vanoise is a concentrate of the Alps. Between unspoilt nature, unusual sites, military heritage, religious buildings and the culinary delights of Savoie, you cannot leave without experiencing our key attractions.

The

gates of the valley

of Haute Maurienne

La Praz, Saint-André and Le Freney

  • La Praz is a hamlet of Saint-André located on the right bank of the Arc, below the impressive EDF dam of Bissorte. This dam’s cladding is in local stone, “La Praz stone”, a carboniferous sandstone that’s tougher than concrete and was also used for the construction of the imperial road, for the flagstones of Saint-Jean de Maurienne Cathedral and the churches of Modane, Fourneaux and Saint-André, as well as Modane station and a number of houses. The massive, dark-coloured rocks were widely used to rebuild homes and other structures after Haute Maurienne suffered brutal destruction during the Second World War.
    La Praz aluminium factory kept the hamlet busy for 90 years (1893-1983) but all that remains is the arched pressure pipe installed by Paul Héroult in a specific shape to accommodate the terrain; it had to straddle the River Arc and, above all, avoid being damaged when the water level rose!
  • Saint André is a picturesque village full of bloom that backs onto the valley’s south slope on the edge of the Vanoise National Park. The village features a church built from the dark stone of La Praz. This church replaced the beautiful Baroque church which was destroyed during the last war. The road climbs gently towards the Vanoise National Park and the Polset and Orgère valleys. Just after the hamlet of Le Col, the Sapey fort, which protected and monitored the mouth of the Fréjus tunnel, becomes visible. Continue to the Plan de l’Ours to discover the Internet’s ancestor, the Chappe telegraph!
    During the last century, the numerous streams flowing down from the glaciers fed the highly active watermills of Pralognan hamlet. A tour with one of the volunteer guides is well worth doing.
    At the end of the road, the fir trees become sparse and chalets appear on the mountain pastures dotted with grazing animals in the lush green valleys of Polset and Orgère.
  • Le Freney is the first village you cross after leaving the A43 motorway on the road to the Fréjus tunnel which leads to Italy. During the Second World War, before being destroyed, Le Freney was home to the arsenal, the ammunition depot, the administrative quarters and the supply offices of all of Modane’s forts and barracks. The arsenal also included a petrol plant and a warehouse where oats were stored for the horses and mules.
    Since the opening of the Fréjus road tunnel (1980) and the Maurienne motorway (1996), Le Freney has become an autoport which houses organisations involved in heavy transport on the Alpine trunk road between France and Italy. The village roundabout is the “Gateway to the Vanoise National Park” where you can take the road to Saint-André and the Orgère valley.

 

The

border towns

of Haute Maurienne Vanoise

Fourneaux and Modane

These 2 villages form a very dynamic commercial hub. The train station, the A43 motorway and the Frejus tunnel leading to Italy make this a key transit area.

  • Fourneaux, whose motto is “Apud Fornellos” (close to the furnaces) owes its name to the iron ore mines of the Sarrasins mountains where the mineral used to be fired in the village furnaces. The church was destroyed by bombs during the last war and rebuilt in the dark-coloured stone of La Praz.
    The “Rotunda” is another curiosity of Fourneaux. Built at the very beginning of the 20th century after the Fréjus tunnel was built in 1871, this roundhouse was a garage and exchange hub for Italian and French locomotives. It is now under renovation to serve as an SNCF maintenance shed which will be needed for work on the future transalpine railway link.
    For a pleasant, easy walk to the Replaton fort towering above Fourneaux and Modane, take the path starting in the gardens located after the bridge, behind the Embellie cinema.
    If you don’t look closely you’ll make no distinction between the towns of Fourneaux and Modane because they follow on from each other on the same road, the D1006 (formerly the RN6), alongside the River Arc and the railway lines.
  • Modane became internationally known at the end of the 19th century with the construction of the Fréjus railway tunnel. In October 1871, the brand new railway station of Modane welcomed the first train ever to travel from Paris to Rome. The 13,688-metre tunnel was electrified in 1915 and cars were able to travel between France and Italy by rail shuttle until 1980, when the Fréjus road tunnel took over.
    Don’t hesitate to visit the Muséobar opposite the station, which retraces the town’s wealth of activity of centuries past and reminds us what the mechanical piano sounded like. A real history lesson for children and adults alike!  An atmosphere worthy of the far west is revealed by the military forts (Lavoir, Replaton, Sapey and Saint-Gobain), the Leaning House, the Modane underground laboratory, which provides more information on the research carried out on neutrinos and dark matter inside the Fréjus tunnel, and the monumental entrance to the tunnel where an old locomotive and its wagons have been transformed into an exhibition venue.
    At this natural border with Italy and the department of Hautes-Alpes, a multitude of hiking paths invite you to explore from Valfréjus, 6 km above Modane. You’ll inevitably cross Modane if you take the GR5 hiking trail from the Vanoise National Park down via the Orgère valley and back up towards the Thabor via Valfréjus. Modane is the “town” of Haute Maurienne where you’ll find all the shops. This is where you’ll get off your train to catch a bus to one of the resorts or the upper valley, and this is where the last traffic lights mark the gateway to an unspoilt, more pristine nature.
Vibrant

villages

of Haute Maurienne Vanoise

Avrieux and Villarodin-Bourget

  • Avrieux is an admirably flowery village that basks peacefully in the sun, inviting you to enjoy the sweet life in the shade of the Saint-Benoït waterfall. It is the ideal place for a family picnic and, on a hot summer’s day, you can make the most of this giant 90-metre mister! The Baroque church of Saint Thomas Becket boasts exceptional wealth, as does the adjoining Notre-Dame des Neiges chapel.
    To the North-East of the village stand the Esseillon fortresses. The Marie-Thérèse Redoubt in Avrieux, with its unique horseshoe shape, now houses the fortified heritage interpretive centre. An escape game, “The Gate of Secrets”, awaits children and parents after a trip to the nearby “Parcobranche du Diable” adventure park. Climbing enthusiasts and adrenalin addicts know it well because the Via Ferrata du Diable in the gorges of the River Arc is the longest via ferrata in France. For even greater thrills, you absolutely must try the Diable and Paradis zip lines. Not for the faint-hearted!
    At the cutting edge of technology with the world’s largest transonic wind tunnel, ONERA (national aerospace research agency) in Avrieux proposes guided tours of the hydroelectric power stations that are fed by the Aussois and Mont-Cenis dams.
    With the neighbouring village of Villarodin/Bourget, Avrieux created the resort of La Norma in 1971 on the slopes of the mountain of the same name which culminates at 2,917 metres.
  • Villarodin/Bourget is two villages merged into one: Le Bourget on one bank of the River Arc, and Villarodin on the other. Le Bourget on the south side gets noticed for its Roman belltower with Lombard arcatures on the listed “Historical Monument” of the Saint-Pierre Baroque church. For beer fans, the Brasserie des Sources de la Vanoise, a brewery on Rue Château Feuillet, proposes tours and tastings of their different brews flavoured with saffron.
    Now what is that big rock at the entrance to the village? The Rocher des Amoureux (lovers’ rock) is a climbing site which is reputed for abseiling. It is also a welcoming place where you can enjoy a friendly get-together on the treetop terraces of “UnAir2Bar” and listen to local bands in the evenings.
    Below the resort of La Norma, right by the D1006 road, the narrow alleys and Baroque churches of Saint-Julien and Saint-Ferréol in the village of Villarodin are well worth exploring.

 

Haute Maurienne Vanoise

Right on your doorstep!

Whether you come by motorbike, car or train, there’s nothing easier than getting to Haute Maurienne. Follow the signs for Italy on the A43 motorway, then the D1006 road. Take your time on the Grandes Alpes road to make the most of this natural landscape of wild beauty.