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Top 5 refuges in protected natural areas

It’s time to put your phone in flight mode, lace up your hiking shoes and slip your sleeping bag into your backpack along with your headlamp… And we’re off for a night at a mountain refuge – the perfect way to discover the mountains for real and enjoy a great escape to remember!

A moment out of time at the Refuge du Viso

At the heart of the Queyras Regional Nature Reserve

Teetering on the edge of the Massif du Queyras, Mont Viso rises to an impressive 3,841 metres and is home to numerous breathtaking hiking trails perfect for getting your fill of fresh air and nature. On the slopes of the mountain you’ll come across a delightful refuge coveted by hikers, climbers, mountaineers and families alike: the Refuge du Viso. Perched at 2,460 metres, this mesmerizing site where time seems to stand still promises a fabulous change of scenery. Leave the subway, smartphone and daily strife behind and get back to basics with a grass roots holiday to remember. A genuine ode to friendship and sharing, the refuge features a large, welcoming table where hungry hikers can enjoy digging into local, organic produce cooked with tender loving care. And by the way, the Queyras cheese is to die for!

A night at the Refuge du Chiran and observatory

Under the starry skies of the Verdon Regional Nature Reserve

Let’s head to the Refuge de Chiran nestling at the heart of the Verdon Regional Nature Reserve for a magical experience between land and sky, unforgettable night under the stars and bird’s eye breakfast gazing at the sunrise… The views from the refuge over the Alpine mountain ranges and Mediterranean Sea are truly exceptional. What’s more, when the telescope is up and running in the evening, you’ll enjoy stargazing in the company of a professional astronomer. The refuge can accommodate 16 people, making it perfect for families. Tip: don’t forget to put a thick pair of socks and your cosiest sweater in your bag – at 1,900 metres the cold is… invigorating to say the least!

The authentic Refuge de Chabournéou

A 100% mountain escapade in Écrins National Park

Welcome to Valgaudemar valley, home to the rustic and authentic Refuge du Chabournéou. It’s easy to forget about modern comforts here and get back to what really matters: nature. Nestling amid the summits of Jocelme, Loup and Chabournéou, the message is clear: you are in just the right place for a hiking adventure in the mountains! Not to mention the view from the terrace: a genuine picture-postcard! And after your daily hike, you can enjoy sitting back and savouring delicious local, organic cuisine before delving into the various evening entertainment hosted by the refuge, including photo exhibitions, live music and watercolour painting lessons. The Refuge de Chabournéou is simply surprising…

Between lakes and mountains at the Refuge de Vens

Mercantour National Park – a must!

The eco-friendly Refuge de Vens welcomes visitors for an afternoon snack, hot meal or cosy night in the idyllic setting of Mercantour National Park. Nature reigns supreme at this unique site, set facing the Vens lakes and summits. This is also an ideal base for many delightful hikes celebrating the splendour of the mountains. And maybe you’ll come across a chamois or majestic eagle on your way… Look out for the stars of the refuge too: the donkeys Caprice, Oscar, Djando and Merlin are in charge of delivering all the supplies for guests!

Top-notch comfort at the Refuge du Pic du Mas de la Grave

A marvel at the heart of Écrins National Park

Our last stop is the charming Refuge du Pic du Mas de la Grave, at the heart of Écrins National Park. You’ll love the top-level amenities on offer at this mountain chalet, including a Finnish sauna for inimitable relaxation and a boules court for battling it out at aperitif time! And at dawn, a genuine playground opens up before you in every season as you step out of the refuge. Summer is of course the perfect time to head out for a hike in Écrins National Park. Our fave is Pic du Mas de la Grave: the climb is steep but the view from the top will soon make you forget about your aching legs! And in winter, this is a dream place for whooshing down the slopes in La Meije or Chazelet. Self-managed in winter and subject to prior booking in summer, the refuge features two dormitories accommodating 4 and 6 guests. The meals are homemade and the mountain breakfasts are divine…