9 reasons to visit Isère


In the heart of south-eastern France, Isère offers exceptional natural attractions and a rich cultural offering – from year-round outdoor activities to art de vivre (the French way of life) and beautiful cities to discover, including Grenoble and Vienna. Here is our selection of slow tourism and outdoor offerings.

1. Green Grenoble

As Capital of the Alps and European Green Capital 2022, Grenoble continues to take big steps towards improving the sustainability of the entire Alpine region. Grenoble Alpes Tourisme, as the city’s official partner, is committed to more responsible tourism and offers a program of specially prepared guided tours (including on nature and biodiversity in the city), numerous eco-friendly activities and low-carbon holidays.

Want to explore on two wheels like the locals do? Grenoble has once again been named cycling capital by the Fédération des Usagers de la Bicyclette (FUB). Other activities include exploring by canoe and a unique city via ferratawhich starts in an old quarry just five minutes from the city center.

2. To the market in Vienne

Vienne has the second largest permanent market in France with 350 stalls making it a must visit. Every Saturday it fills the main streets and alleys with more than 6km of stalls. Early risers might encounter the two star chefs Philippe Girardon and Patrick Henriroux, who are regular visitors.

If you love jazz, visit the city’s ancient Roman theater, the Jardin de Cybèle and other venues for the annual festival. Jamie Cullum, Nate Smith, Michael Kiwanuka, Black Pumas, George Benson and Herbie Hancock headlined this year.

Attention cyclists: the planned ViaRhôna cycle path along the Rhône between Saint-Romain-en-Gal and Condrieu will feature an eco-designed surface, ingeniously composed of local gravel and a vegetable product from the paper industry.

Vienne boasts an ancient Roman theater among its many charms © Flyvision Films

3. Terres de Berlioz

The Terres de Berlioz area has 300 farms producing everything from saffron to beer, meat to cheese and fruit to vegetables, all of which can be bought on site or at local markets. One of the lesser-known products features on the menu of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lyon: the squab – a little-known but delicious and sophisticated dish. Sonia Guillon from the Pigeonneau des Terres in Pajay, near La Côte-Saint-André, breeds more than 400 pairs of pigeons, which are mainly fed with grain from their own production.

Composer Hector Berlioz could be considered the father of the modern music festival – from 1830 he organized a number of musical events. Nowadays, in August and early September, you can enjoy symphonic music at concerts in La Côte-Saint-André and throughout the Isère department.

4. Very Vercors

The great plateau of the Vercors massif rises like a fortress over the surrounding valleys and culminates in an incredible escarpment. Beyond lies a vast, richly wooded nature reserve, home to ibex, chamois, black grouse and vultures. With 4,000 km of marked walking and hiking trails, 700 km of mountain bike trails, three mountain bike sites awarded by the French Cycling Federation, 50 km of greenways and scenic roads ideal for cycling and 230 km of bridle paths, this is a beautiful destination for nature lovers, 32 canyoning sites, 31 climbing school sites, 3,000 cave sites, eight paragliding sites, an 18-hole golf course and 16 orienteering sites.

The Vercors Regional Nature Park has numerous projects to preserve and promote its natural and cultural heritage and is committed to responsible tourism and responsible development, an approach recognized at European level by the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism. www.inspiration-vercors.com/en

5. Great Trièves

Just an hour from Grenoble, in the south of Isère, the area known as Trièves is made up of 27 villages surrounded by the Vercors and Dévoluy mountains. There is a wide agricultural plateau and the turquoise waters of Lake Monteynard-Avignonet – ideal for water sports such as windsurfing, fishing, kayaking and kite surfing. This area, where the northern and southern Alps meet, has an exceptional natural diversity with different plant species and rich wildlife.

The commitment to ecotourism is strong here: the Trièves Ecotourism Charter presents accommodation and activity providers committed to an eco-responsible approach. Including La Poulânerie in Prébois, where you can enjoy a holiday on an organic farm. Guests can stay in a farmhouse, a fox hut, a Kyrgyz yurt or a round straw and earth hut. Hostess Mireille rents out donkeys for hikes so she can share her passion for hiking with everyone.

Enjoy the vastness of the Oisans mountain range on horseback © Bruno Longo

6. Matheysin

Are you looking for a unique, peaceful retreat to get away from it all? Located between lakes and mountains in the south of the department of Isère, the little-known Matheysine area is an unspoilt plateau full of character between Trièves, Écrins and Dévoluy. The area also bears witness to the rich mining activity that has shaped its identity over the centuries. The Mine Image Museum, the Matheysin Museum and the Petit Train de La Mure highlight this aspect of history.

Climb numerous passes and peaks and discover magnificent turquoise lakes – there are six lakes and reservoirs in total, as well as 900 km of marked hiking trails and 800 km of marked mountain bike trails and a bike park. All this, plus eight cultural sites that can boast the label “Heritage in Isère”.

Looking for eco-friendly accommodation? L’Oriel du Sénépy Gîtes are located in a secluded spot at the foot of the largest mountain pasture in Isère, making them the ideal place for an unplugged holiday with family or friends.

7. Oisane

High-flying holidays are the order of the day here: the mountainous region of Oisans in the south-west of the Isère is full of majestic glaciers, crystal-clear lakes, nature parks, rivers and refreshing waterfalls – vast playgrounds for active visitors with long-distance hiking, mountaineering, cycling and summer skiing on the list of great ones outdoor adventure. There are 24 mountain huts to stay in, five mountain guide offices and guides to help you discover the regions (do a 13-day bivouac hike on the GR54 route of the Écrins with Cyril Valois, a mountain guide). based in Le Bourg d’Oisans) plus 37 artisans who make up the ‘Oisans Savoir-Faire’ route.

The remarkable resort of Alpe d’Huez is offering some free ski lifts this summer to make moving from one part of the resort to another easier. Strategically placed lifts include Télécentre, Alpe Express and Télévillage.

The Belledonne massif is an outdoor lover’s paradise © Vincent Croce

8. Belledonne

The Belledonne massif is a wild, sheltered mountain range in the Alps, spanning two departments (Isère and Savoie) and reaching an altitude of almost 3,000 meters. Full of lakes, craggy peaks, scree slopes and mountain pastures offering a variety of landscapes, the area is an endless source of adventure, whether gentle or sporty. This is a true paradise and natural backyard for outdoor activities. In Isère alone there are 770 km of marked hiking trails, plus nine mountain huts and around 60 unmanaged huts for overnight stays. There are five Natura 2000 areas and 72 natural areas of ecological, faunal and floral interest. Oh, and 70 lakes and 18 mountain passes too!

New for 2022: La Maison du Chef in Uriageles-Bains – the new hotel complex of two Michelin stars Christophe Aribert in the heart of the landscaped Uriage Park. The Maison du Chef was designed and built around the theme of the tree, a symbol dear to the chef.

9. Chartreuse

The Chartreuse Regional Natural Park – also known as the “Emerald of the Alps” – with its wild landscapes and spectacular panoramas is at once mysterious, unspoilt and fascinating, a true place to awaken the senses and the perfect place to breathe fresh air and breathe work out or switch off. It’s also on Grenoble’s doorstep, just an hour from Lyon and three hours from Paris.

Whether enjoyable, meditative or sporty, there are many new experiences to be had here, all with the focus on the unique landscape. It has 1,300 km of marked hiking trails, more than 300 km of marked running trails, more than 10 fishing spots, including large spots in lakes and rivers, and seven hang-gliding schools.

New walking routes include Escape into the Wild & Unusual, a beautiful and easily accessible six-day trip with a qualified guide supervising the trip. The tour introduces hikers to the secrets of the Chartreuse: its unique landscapes, traces of history, stories of life in the past, a visit to the Grande Chartreuse Museum and many other interesting places.

Learn more here: www.alpes-isere.com

From France Today magazine

Lead Photo Credit: The delightful city of Grenoble © Pierre Jayet


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