Point de vue sur la station de Pra Loup en hiver

Stunning! Top 10 most beautiful spots in the Southern Alps

High peaks looming over azure lakes echoing the blue skies above, pure natural scenery, and a myriad of cultural riches. Here are our Top 10 breathtaking views and jaw-dropping stops in the heart of the Southern Alps.

The jewels of the Southern Alps

Admire icy works of art from La Grave

Amid the snowy peaks of Parc National des Écrins lies La Grave, one of the park’s most beautiful and authentic villages, instilled with the soul of the Southern Alps. Take a colourful cable-car up to the glaciers of La Meije in La Grave, set amid vast expanses of forest. After 30 minutes, climb off at Col des Ruillans, at an altitude of 3,211 metres and you’ve arrived: get ready to enjoy a 360° show encompassing the icy giants of La Girose and surrounding summits. Alpine scenery is a genuine work of art!

Meet Olivier, a Warden in the Ecrins National Park

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A winter wonderland

Make way to Mount Bégo

Tucked away at the heart of Parc National du Mercantour, the aptly-named Vallée des Merveilles harbours many curiosities to be explored on foot. This is a land of cave paintings, where countless tales of dancers, tribal chiefs and witch doctors are carved into the rock forever more. The valley stands under Mont Bégo, a sacred mountain and genuine sanctuary, rising to a height of 2,872 metres. Scan the horizon to admire the lakes dotted around the valleys and thousand and one colours of the mineral landscape.

Ecotourism in Vésubie Valley, Mercantour National Park

The mysterious ways of the past

Pierce the secrets of the Earth from Digne-les-Bains

Starting out from the must-see UNESCO Geopark, Route des Barles leads travellers on a fabulous journey into the history of the Earth and Mankind. Little by little, the gorge narrows and the adventure takes a new turn. The river Bès river leads the way into the « Clue de Barles », a little gorge harbouring unique geological sites and rock formations. Reminiscent of Andy Goldsworthy’s land art, many natural works of art adorn and carve out these hiking trails. Go past the astonishing stone sculpture in front of you and the gorge is straight ahead!

Land Art: contemporary art in the greatoutdoors

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All is quiet on the surface

Relax on a sunny terrace at Lac Serre-Ponçon

Spanning 28 km2, Serre-Ponçon is France’s largest reservoir. Retained by an immense embankment dam, it has become a paradise for bathers and highly-coveted water sports venue. It also owes it reputation to its geological and historic curiosities. Three villages were destroyed and immersed when the dam was built. Savines-le-Lac was progressively re-built on the banks of the lake. In the distance, you can still see Chapelle Saint-Michel, the symbol of Serre-Ponçon, standing on its little island.

Suspended between land and sky

Visit one of the most beautiful viewpoints of the Parc Naturel Régional des Préalpes d’Azur

Nicknamed « the eagle’s nest », Gourdon is one of 47 villages located in the Parc naturel régional des Préalpes d’Azur. Simply follow the signs to Cascade du Saut du Loup waterfall to reach the village. One of the most mesmerizing views over the entire valley lies at the end of the path. Ranked among “France’s Most Beautiful Villages”, this medieval gem appears to be floating in time and space, suspended over the Gorges du Loup canyon. Absolutely breathtaking. 

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Water as far as the eye can see

Climb to Europe’s highest lake in Allos

Europe’s highest natural lake, Lac d’Allos is one of the jewels of the Parc National du Mercantour, spanning 133 acres of azure blue and pine green -133 acres of pure nature – at an altitude of 2,200 metres. Fed by melting ice, the lake is surrounded by pretty banks where little marmots caper. You’ll often see vultures soaring there too, on their way up from the Gorges du Verdon canyon. This unique landscape never ceases to change and adapt. In spring, the poetic awakening of nature heralds warm summer days at the lakeside. And when autumn comes around, the falling leaves offer a magnificent firework display of colour.

Head to the high Alpine reliefs

Discover a unique geological and plant diversity

The Parc Naturel Régional du Queyras changes constantly in pace with the seasons, offering up a palette of joyful colours and incredible diversity of plant and animal life – our fave is the adorable Lanza salamander! The Mont Viso biosphere stands guard night and day over these priceless natural treasures. Take to the heights to admire the reserve’s mythical panoramic views from the Belvedere. But don’t miss what’s going on out of sight. Further to the West of the Hautes-Alpes, in the Parc Naturel Régional des Baronnies Provençales, the deeply entrenched Méouge Gorges – a Natura 2000 biological reserve – is a must-see too. Lined with natural pools and cliffs, your walk along the gorge leads you to the highlight of the show: a superb Roman bridge bedecked with three stone arches.

Giddy up! Riding into the sunset at the Queyras Regional Nature Reserve

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A bridge over a gorge

Roam the deep valley of l’Estéron

Wild and inspiring, the Estéron river snakes its way through many hidden treasures, not least of which is a magical gorge. Dotted with natural pools and waterfalls, the site offers fairytale scenery coupled with a hot-headed character reflected in its bubbling green waters. Perched on rocky outcrops, the villages of Les Ferres and Bouyon further North are departure points for the Route des Clues gorge walk to Gilette, home to Clue de la Cerisé. Walkers and hikers can enjoy an aquatic walk when the weather is fine and connoisseurs will confirm that one of the highlights is the stop-off facing Pont de la Cerisé bridge. Pause and wonder–this is a great canyoning spot too if you’re feeling sporty.

Food for the soul

Explore where ancient architecture and geology meet

Moving on, it’s time to tour Sisteron, a delightfully old-fashioned village criss-crossed with paved streets and little squares. A military work of art, Rocher de la Baume is set facing the village and appears to form part of it. The top of the Citadel offers an ideal angle for taking stunning pics. A paradise for photographers and climbers alike, this impressive rock is etched with deep folds. Yet the harmony between these two stone giants and the gently-sloping rooftops and colourful shutters of the old quarter is striking and promises holiday snaps to remember!

A fortified panoramic view

Multiply your vantage points strategically

It’s no surprise that Vauban fell in love with the town of Briançon, standing over no less than 5 valleys. Mythical mountain peaks rise up on either side of the town, now coveted by visitors from the world over. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this fortified town is famed for its exceptional heritage and captivating vistas over the Southern Alps. Our tip: climb up to Fort des Trois Têtes and simply gaze in awe!