The Vercors region– a mountain range with high plateaux located in the Rhône-Alps– delights visitors with spectacular scenery, a variety of outdoor activities and a feeling of being far from the crowds. Even though it’s only 16 miles southwest of Grenoble, it feels worlds away. Protected as the largest regional park in the northern Alps, the 330,000 acre Parc naturel régional du Vercors is more lush in the north and tends to he drier in the south.
Small villages offer simple accommodations. My favorite is Hôtel Le Val Fleuri in Lans-en-Vercors at an altitude of 1020 meters. The hotel is located in the heart of the village yet the sweeping view from the bedroom windows takes in the green valley and mammoth distant mountain peaks. Step out the back door and relax in a flower-filled garden with a book and a cool drink. Enjoy a simple and nutritious prix fixe dinner in Madame Bonnard’s alpine dining hall, where petit déjeuner is also served, or choose one of the nearby cafés. The invigorating mountain air and day’s activities stimulate the appetite.
For the adventurous, there’s paragliding off steep cliffs, or remain in a garden lounge chair and just watch the colorful show of gliders soaring off the plateau. How about a hike? Across from the hotel is a trailhead that meanders through the valley with a plethora of wild flowers to greet the eye. Cross a small gurgling creek and gaze at grazing cows, goats and sheep, or continue on for a days hike up to a scenic mountain lake.
There’s a myriad of hiking trails to choose from. Two French couples we met at the hotel were staying for a week and taking a different trail daily. You can rent a bike, as there are well developed bike trails throughout, or you can go fishing, caving or rock climbing. In winter the skiing and other snow sports are fantastic.
You may be inclined to take your car out and explore further. We drove to Saint-Nizier du Moucherotte for an incredible panoramic view of the area. Because the region was a base for the French Resistance during World War II, there are over 300 sites and museums dedicated to the resistance that you can visit. To the west is the Gorges de la Bourne and to the north, the Gorges d’Engins with their canyons, waterfalls and rushing water. It’s beautiful no matter where you go, with over 1800 different plant varieties.
Lans-en-Vercors has a few shops, but if shopping is on the agenda, drive or walk the four miles to Villard-de-Lans, the largest town in the area. It too has lovely surrounding scenery and is just a little more congested and commercial. Whatever you choose, there’s plenty to please everybody.
Jo Anne Marquardt is the author of My Trip Around the Hexagon: Meandering in France and Falling in Love with France, both available at Amazon.com. Her first published book, Falling in Love with France, offers responses to the various questions friends and family have asked her over the years about why she visits France so often. The second book includes illustrations and descriptive notes from her travel journals.
Visit Jo Anne’s website to check out her art: www.joannemarquardt.com.