For keen mountain walkers looking for their first Alpine trek, then how about the Tour of the Vanoise? This 10-12 day walking tour makes an almost figure-of-eight circuit through the heart of one of France's finest mountain regions.
Cicerone publishes a wide variety of trekking guidebooks to the Alps, Pyrenees and even further afield. But with so much choice, where do you start?
For keen mountain walkers looking for their first Alpine trek, how about the Tour of the Vanoise?
This 10-12 day tour makes an almost figure-of-eight circuit through the heart of one of France’s finest mountain regions. The route is an obvious one, and by combining sections of that classic long-distance trail, the GR5, with the GR55 which cuts through the wild heart of the region, a multi-day trek becomes practicable.
Although not as well-known as the Tour of Mont Blanc, or as challenging as the Tour of the Oisans, the Tour of the Vanoise is every bit as inspiring and rewarding as these two neighbouring routes, and one which makes the perfect introduction to Alpine hut-to-hut trekking.
Overnight accommodation on the trail is primarily to be found in mountain refuges, or hotels and gites d'etape in valley resorts and villages, allowing you to travel light, yet stay in simple comfort at the end of each day.
Beginning at Modane in the Maurienne, the Tour is usually tackled in a counter-clockwise direction. Each stage has its challenge, but there are no glacier crossing, no scrambling sections or lengthy paths exposed to either stonefall or vertigo inspiring exposure.
When to go
The Vanoise region receives plenty of snowfall in winter. The departure of this snow determines the best time to tackle the tour. Although it may be possible to cross some of the passes as early as mid-June following a particularly mild winter, the beginning of July is usually early enough. September offers, perhaps, the most favourite conditions for a walking tour of the Vanoise Alps. Gone are the crowds, summer’s heat is beginning to wane and prolonged periods of settled weather are often to be had.
How to get there
By air – the nearest international airports for the Vanoise region are at Turin (11/2 hrs from Modane by Train) Chambery (11/2 hours) Lyon St Exupery (2hours) Grenoble (21/2 hours) and Geneva (21/2 hours).
By rail – the fastest approach by rail is via the high-speed Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris, followed by the Paris to Turin TGV which stops at Modane, taking about 4 hours from Paris.
Still not sure? The take a look at the Cicerone guidebook Trekking in the Alps, which describes 20 classic treks across the Alps.