Le Parc naturel régional du Queyras dans les Hautes-Alpes, vue sur le Col Girardin

Parc Naturel Régional du Queyras

Accessible by a single road in the winter and by the iconic Col d’Izoard and Col Agnel passes in the summer, Le Queyras abounds with an exceptional natural and cultural heritage.

Welcome to a Forgotten Paradise

Chamois, marmots, golden eagles, and the iconic black grouse live in Le Queyras sheltered from the urban world. Open to the West and bordering Italy, the park is made up of mountains that peak at more than 3,000 metres, like the famous Mont-Viso. Legendary passes such as the Col d’Izoard and Col Agnel test Tour de France riders to the fullest. The larches blaze here in autumn and the forest is covered in snow in winter. Not surprisingly, wood is an economic resource here, used as much for construction as it is for making furniture and toys. Le Queyras’ remarkable architecture that differs from one valley to the next, particularly with the fustes [log chalets] in Molines in Saint-Véran or the arched farms in Arvieux, make it a choice destination. Enchanting, Le Queyras is one of the rare forgotten paradises of the Alps.

Queyras Ambiance

If you walk around Le Queyras, you will see a sea of clouds from 10 a.m. to sunset in one out of three days. This is the Nebbia, water vapour produced by the sun on the Pô basin – a phenomenon caused by a dry climate that accentuates altitude-related temperature contrasts. In autumn, the forest looks like an Indian summer. No wonder, it seems to have the same ecological profile as Canada’s Boreal Forest. As a result, larch needles will crack under your feet when you walk, the only conifer to shed its needles in autumn. In spring, you will answer the thundering call of the torrential waters of the Gorges du Guil which gush at an altitude of 2,500m towards Abriès. We suggest a  stop at the Fontaine Pétrifiante de Réotier. The water is 22° C and the colourful rocks create spectacular shapes. Likewise, you can swim in the pool in summer and winter  at the thermal springs of Le Plan de Phazy. Whatever the season, the natural charms of Le Queyras will enchant you.

The Pine: The Star of Le Queyras’ Forests

An icon of Le Haut Queyras located at a record altitude of 2,500 metres, the forests of stone pines, Swiss pine and larches only have three months to grow. On the sunny slopes, admire the powerful Scots pine. Considered to be the « tough guys » of the pine family, they can grow on steep terrain and are resistant to avalanches. However, on the poorer soils, it’s the mountain pines that flourish. Grown at an elevation of up to 2,400 m, the harsh climate doesn’t scare them – it actually helps them retain the soil. Furthermore, if you pass the door of a Queyrassian house you will surely see furniture made of pine.

You’re Never Alone in the Park

In autumn, look up to see mourning warblers in the coniferous forests. It’s the period for altitudinal migration to the valleys. In spring, be on the look-out for the Alpine marmots coming out of their hibernation. Open your ears, they can be detected by their whistling. Watch out, golden eagles are looking for them too! In addition, you can also listen out for the song of the Tengmalm’s owl, which is in its breeding period. Would you be able to recognise it? Here’s how: 5 to 7 « whoops » made in one or two seconds, punctuated with intervals of 2 to 3 seconds. Easy, right? In summer, take your binoculars and look for mountain goats on the heights and chamois and mouflons (wild sheep) a bit lower. Most importantly: stay on the alert. Some of these animals will surely accompany you on your walks.


The Alps’ Flora and Fauna

The Vauban Touch

This high-mountain region, designed by water and glaciers, has also been marked with Vauban’s fingerprints. For instance, Mont-Dauphin and its fortifications are a fine example. In addition to its historic dimension, the view here is stunningly beautiful. Similarily, if you want to explore another work by this town-planner before his time, go to Château Queyras at an altitude of 1,400 m. Vauban redesigned and re-equipped its fort, originally a mediaeval bastion.

Next, the typical village of Saint-Véran is an essential stop. It has many accolades: listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France,[1] it is also the highest commune in Europe and is the main inhabited site in Le Queyras. To impress your friends upon your return, point out that the word Queyras comes from Quariates, the name of the first settled population of Saint-Véran. Don’t miss its observatory, so you can head home with stars in your eyes.

UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Alps