Going on a road trip through the French Alp’s has to be on any true petrol head’s bucket list. The winding roads, the epic views, the amazing stop off points and top-notch cuisine make the mountains and passes of ‘les Alpes’ one of the greatest driving holiday experiences in the world. Here is a quick guide on the ins and outs of how to get the most out of your trip. We’ve divided it into the two most crucial aspects of the journey for you. First, and probably the most important aspect for most driving fanatics, is the journey. At the end of the day, the car IS the destination for many road trippers and the location a distant second place. Secondly, the stops where you can take a break from putting the pedal to the metal and take in the simply stunning sites along this epic journey. In the French Alps you can mix the two together easily for a masterpiece of a driving holiday.
For the perfect road trip, you need the perfect planning. Not only are the smaller, winding roads through the French Alps the most scenic, such as Route des Grand Alps’, the larger bypasses and motorways are owned by private corporations who force you to pay a toll to use their roads. In fact, if you want to drive to the South East corner of France, it could cost you anywhere between €60-80 from the UK.
As a result it may simply be cheaper and more fun to rent a car instead. This means you can ditch your bog-standard commuter and go for something with a bit more “je ne sais quoi” for a few days. In the summer why not go for a retro convertible or battle cruiser 4×4 in winter, to make the most of your environment.
The 4×4 will help in snowy seasons not only in terms of keeping you warm, and having the winter tyres and mandatory safety triangle, but also give you somewhere to put your skiing or snowboarding equipment. This is a must if you’re going through resorts such as Tignes, Val d’Isere and Meribel on your trip and is the perfect driving break for thrill-seekers. Just be careful if you rent a car from Geneva airport. It’s possible to get either a car registered for Switzerland or France, so make sure you get the right one!
A good idea is to plan your trip before you go and this is made easier by apps that help you plan your journey. Many even have info updates such as snow road closures, traffic and scenic route options to give you the perfect mix of planning ahead and flexibility.
A popular stop off from this direction is Lake Annecy. Boasting some of the clearest water in Europe, which flows into the picturesque old town’s canals, giving it the nickname the Venice of the Alps’, this area has a host of activities to try and explore as you make your way around the gorgeous coastline. Stop off and go for a swim, water-ski or take a wander around the quint town of Annecy and its castle.
On the way south to the famous Tarentaise Valley ski country a stop of at Mont Blanc is a must. The highest mountain in Europe, this 16000 foot high white behemoth is sure to make everyone look up in awe.
Around here, you’re also getting into prime Tour de France territory, especially the 21 pin road, Alpe d’Huez, the cyclists have to face. This road is a delight to look at but a killer for any rider’s crotch and calves. If there’s any need to remind you why driving is the best, this road is it, as was shown on Top Gear with Richard Hammond racing two French alpine skiers. If Hammond’s done it, we’re sure it’s worth a mention- and if he actually didn’t crash, we can assume it’s safe enough too. There is also the iconic Tignes Dam to drive over that was shown on the program, famous for its massive mural of Hercules.
Another must is to start and end your epic journey in two real high points for a grand finale. In terms of the French Alps two perfect stating and end lines are the cities of Grenoble and Nice. These cities give you something a bit different from the sheer beauty of the Alps but give you as a hub for people and culture. Examples in Grenoble include the cathedral, museums; cable car to epic views a funicular railway. Meanwhile, in Nice, you can enjoy casinos and fresh sea food in the picturesque harbour before continuing on through the French Riverview to Cannes and Monte Carlo.