The Maurienne is one of France’s greatest alpine valley. It benefits from a strategical position between France and Italy which brings together tragedies and progress. Today, the upper-valley is a paradise for nature and traditions lovers linked to the Vanoise National Park.
From elephants to power plants
The Maurienne is a 120 km valley forged by the river Arc. Its geography turns it quickly into a strategic position for communication and defense. Historically, the valley is one of the possible routes that took Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, and his elephants to cross the Alps and invade Rome. Later, the valley was the theatre of many fights, from French Revolution to WWII.
Down in the valley, numerous hydropower plants were installed, benefiting from the characteristics of the river Arc. That led to the installation of power-intensive industries like aluminium or other electrochemical plants. A major road and railway between Lyon and Turin (Italy) run through the valley via Modane and the Frejus tunnel.
XXL hiking trails
Somehow rough and dry, the upper-valley, with easy access from Modane, is a paradise for hikers. Many refuges and mountains huts enable multiple days hikes in breathtaking landscape. Indeed, the territory hosts many remarkable natural sites, a high concentration of 3000+ meters summits (Mount Thabor, Galibier, Grand Casse, the needles of Arves, etc.), and exceptional wildlife.
Besides, the Maurienne is linked to the Vanoise National Park, which is the first French National Park. Access to the Vanoise is possible via the refuges north of the valley : refuge de Plan du Lac, refuge de Plan Sec, refuge de l’Orgère, etc. To the South and West, the valley is connected to Italy and to the Italian Park Gran Paradiso.
At the end of the valley, a connection to the Tarentaise, another famous alpine valley is possible through the col de l’Iseran by road or hiking trail.
Access to great mountain scenery
Hikers will love the Maurienne, as it gives access to some of the top mountain escapes in France. For example, many hiking trails lead to great mountain lakes: lac d’Ambin (2 683 m), Black and white lake of the Carro (2 753 m), Lac de la Partie (2 540m). One section of the GR5, which is the hiking trail crossing the Alps from North to South follow the valley from Modane until the Col de l’Iseran.
The largest cycling area in the world
The Maurienne valley leads to some of the most famous ‘cols’ of the Alps: col du Galibier, col du Télégraphe, col de la Croix de Fer, etc which made history of Tour de France. The local tourism board proudly announce that the Maurienne is the largest cycling area in the world. They offer an online interactive bird’s eye view of the different challenges awaiting the cyclists.
Baroque art and traditions
To enjoy the local traditions, find a locally-made Opinel – a famous French pocket knife with wood handle – and use it to cut a piece of Beaufort, a locally-made yellow cheese and an heritage of agricultural traditions.
Should you be tired of hiking or cycling, take a couple of hours to visit Bessans. This particular village is famous for being part of a group of baroque churches and for its strong traditions. Visit the chapel of Saint Antoine and its famous paintings to form your own opinion. Alternatively, you can visit Bonneval-sur-Arc, the last village of the valley, or the Eisseillon fortress, a range of 19th century forts built by Italian (Sardinia Kingdom) to secure the access from French armies.
Access to the Maurienne
Easy access to the upper valley from Modane by car or train.
Pictures ©Maurienne Tourism Board & Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Tourisme