Exploring the Beauty of Route des Grandes Alpes: A Campervan Adventure
Exploring the Beauty of Route des Grandes Alpes: A Campervan Adventure

Exploring the Beauty of Route des Grandes Alpes: A Campervan Adventure

Uncover the breathtaking wonders of Route des Grandes Alpes in your campervan, as we guide you through key stops, route details, and camper-friendly accommodations.

Are you ready for an unforgettable road trip adventure through the heart of the French Alps? Picture yourself cruising along winding mountain roads, gazing at snow-capped peaks, and stopping at charming villages along the way. Welcome to the Route des Grandes Alpes, a legendary journey that spans approximately 700 kilometers (434 miles) from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean Sea. In this article, we will take you on a virtual tour of this iconic route, providing valuable insights into key stops, route details, and places to stay with your campervan.

The Allure of Route des Grandes Alpes

Route des Grandes Alpes, often referred to as the “Great Alpine Road,” is a road trip dream come true for adventurers seeking natural beauty, cultural immersion, and thrilling driving experiences. This legendary route was officially established in the early 20th century and has since become a symbol of exploration in the French Alps.

Why Choose a Campervan?

Before we dive into the specifics of this remarkable journey, let’s consider why a campervan is the ideal way to explore Route des Grandes Alpes. Campervans offer a unique blend of mobility and comfort, allowing you to travel at your own pace, sleep amidst stunning landscapes, and have all the conveniences of home on the road. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or new to campervan travel, this route promises to be an adventure of a lifetime.

Key Stops Along the Route

As you embark on your campervan adventure along Route des Grandes Alpes, there are several must-visit stops that will leave you in awe of the region’s beauty and culture.

1. Thonon-les-Bains

Thonon-les-Bains is the starting point for your journey along Route des Grandes Alpes. Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, this charming town is known for its picturesque waterfront promenade, historic Château de Ripaille, and vibrant markets. It’s an excellent place to stock up on supplies for your campervan journey and enjoy a leisurely lakeside stroll.

2. Annecy

Heading south from Thonon-les-Bains, you’ll reach the enchanting city of Annecy. Often called the “Venice of the Alps” due to its scenic canals and charming old town, Annecy offers a wealth of attractions, including the Palais de l’Isle, Annecy Castle, and the crystal-clear Lake Annecy. Park your campervan and take a walk through the cobbled streets, savoring local cuisine and enjoying the stunning surroundings.

3. Albertville

Continuing your journey, you’ll arrive in Albertville. While the town itself is not as famous as some of the other stops on this route, it’s a great place to explore the rich history of the region. Don’t miss the Conflans medieval town and the beautiful Saint-Grat Church. Albertville also serves as a gateway to several nearby ski resorts, making it a fantastic year-round destination.

4. Beaufort

Nestled in the heart of the French Alps, Beaufort is a small village renowned for its delicious cheese. As you approach this charming alpine village, you’ll be captivated by the stunning scenery. Be sure to taste the local Beaufort cheese, a culinary delight that’s synonymous with the region. A visit to Beaufort is a true immersion in alpine culture.

5. Bourg-Saint-Maurice

As you continue your journey southward, you’ll reach Bourg-Saint-Maurice, a gateway to the world-famous ski resort of Les Arcs. Here, you can take a break from driving and hop on the funicular railway that leads to the resort. Even during the summer months, Les Arcs offers outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking, providing a different perspective of the Alps.

6. Briançon

One of the crown jewels of Route des Grandes Alpes is Briançon. This fortified town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers a glimpse into the architectural history of the region. Explore the stunning Vauban citadel and walk along the impressive city walls. Briançon’s elevated location provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

7. Barcelonnette

Barcelonnette, located in the Ubaye Valley, is a picturesque town with a strong Mexican influence. Surprising, right? The town’s unique history is tied to the Mexican immigrants who settled here in the 19th century. Explore the colorful houses, enjoy local cuisine, and soak in the charming atmosphere of Barcelonnette. It’s a delightful stop along the Route des Grandes Alpes.

8. Gap

GAP, a bustling town nestled between the mountains, is your next destination. It offers a perfect mix of outdoor adventure and urban charm. Take a stroll through the town center, visit the historic Gap Cathedral, and enjoy the local cuisine at one of the restaurants. Gap also serves as a gateway to exploring the Ecrins National Park, a paradise for hikers and nature enthusiasts.

9. Castellane

As you approach the end of your journey on Route des Grandes Alpes, you’ll arrive in Castellane. Situated at the gateway to the Verdon Gorge, this town is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Hike the stunning Verdon Gorge trails, go whitewater rafting on the Verdon River, or simply relax and savor the beauty of the region. It’s a fitting end to your alpine adventure.

Route Details and Driving Tips

Now that you’re familiar with the key stops along Route des Grandes Alpes, let’s delve into the route details and driving tips to make your campervan journey smooth and enjoyable.

Route des Grandes Alpes

The Route des Grandes Alpes, also known as the Great Alpine Road, stretches for approximately 700 kilometers (430 miles) through the heart of the French Alps. This iconic route offers travelers a chance to explore some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in Europe, from the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea to the lofty peaks of the Alps.

Day 1: Nice to Menton

Our journey begins in the vibrant city of Nice, nestled on the French Riviera. After picking up your campervan, head eastward along the picturesque coastal road, enjoying stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. The drive from Nice to Menton is a short 40 kilometers (25 miles), making it a perfect starting point for your adventure.

Key Stops:

  • Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild: Start your trip with a visit to this opulent villa and its stunning gardens overlooking the sea. It’s a masterpiece of French Riviera architecture.
  • Promenade des Anglais: Take a stroll along this iconic promenade in Nice, known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant atmosphere, and charming cafes.

Where to Stay:

  • Camping Les Mimosas (Menton): This campsite offers a peaceful atmosphere and all the amenities you need for your first night on the road.

Day 2: Menton to Barcelonnette

Today, you’ll leave the Mediterranean behind and head into the heart of the Alps. The drive from Menton to Barcelonnette covers approximately 200 kilometers (125 miles) and will take you through dramatic mountain landscapes.

Key Stops:

  • Col de la Bonette: This famous mountain pass offers spectacular views and is the highest road in Europe. Don’t forget your camera!
  • Jausiers: A charming Alpine village that’s perfect for a lunch break. Explore its narrow streets and enjoy some local cuisine.

Where to Stay:

  • Camping Le Tampico (Barcelonnette): Nestled in the heart of the Alps, this campsite provides a cozy spot to spend the night.

Day 3: Barcelonnette to Briançon

On day three, you’ll continue your ascent into the French Alps, driving approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) to reach the fortified town of Briançon.

Key Stops:

  • Fort Queyras: Explore this impressive mountain fortress, which dates back to the 17th century. The views from its ramparts are simply breathtaking.
  • Old Town of Briançon: Wander through the charming streets of Briançon, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its well-preserved Vauban fortifications.

Where to Stay:

  • Camping le Parc des Eco-Mines (Briançon): This campsite offers a peaceful retreat in the midst of stunning Alpine scenery.

Day 4: Briançon to Val d’Isère

As you continue along the Route des Grandes Alpes, you’ll enter the heart of the French Alps. The drive from Briançon to Val d’Isère covers around 100 kilometers (62 miles) and will take you through some of the most captivating mountain landscapes in France.

Key Stops:

  • Col du Galibier: This legendary mountain pass is a must-visit. With its challenging roads and panoramic views, it’s a favorite among cyclists and adventurers.
  • Val d’Isère: Known for its world-class skiing, Val d’Isère is a charming Alpine resort town that’s worth exploring year-round.

Where to Stay:

  • Camping Les Lauzes (Val d’Isère): Set up camp in the heart of the Alps and take in the stunning surroundings.

Day 5: Val d’Isère to Annecy

On day five, you’ll continue your journey through the Alps, driving approximately 130 kilometers (81 miles) to reach the enchanting town of Annecy.

Key Stops:

  • Lake Annecy: Take a leisurely walk along the shores of this pristine lake, often referred to as the “Venice of the Alps.” You can also rent a paddleboard or kayak to explore its crystal-clear waters.
  • Annecy Old Town: Explore the charming cobbled streets, canals, and medieval architecture of Annecy’s Old Town. Don’t forget to visit the Palais de l’Isle, a historic castle located on an island in the Thiou River.

Where to Stay:

  • Camping Les Rives du Lac (Annecy): Enjoy a peaceful night’s rest near the shores of Lake Annecy.

Day 6: Annecy to Chamonix

As your journey through the French Alps continues, you’ll drive approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the famous town of Chamonix, nestled at the base of Mont Blanc.

Key Stops:

  • Mont Blanc: While Chamonix is famous for its ski resorts and mountaineering history, it’s also an ideal starting point for exploring Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak. Consider taking a cable car to Aiguille du Midi for breathtaking views.
  • Chamonix Town: Stroll through the charming streets of Chamonix, where you’ll find shops, restaurants, and a vibrant atmosphere.

Where to Stay:

  • Camping les Marmottes (Chamonix): This campsite offers a stunning backdrop of the Alps and easy access to the town of Chamonix.

Day 7: Chamonix to Lake Geneva

On your final day, you’ll leave the towering peaks of the Alps behind and drive approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles) to reach the shores of Lake Geneva, a fitting conclusion to your epic journey.

Key Stops:

  • Lake Geneva: Relax by the serene waters of Lake Geneva, or if you have time, explore the charming towns along its shores, such as Evian-les-Bains or Yvoire.

Where to Stay:

  • Camping de la Piscine (Thonon-les-Bains): This campsite is situated near Lake Geneva and offers a peaceful setting for your last night on the road.

Driving Tips

Driving along Route des Grandes Alpes can be exhilarating, but it also requires careful planning and preparation:

  • Vehicle Check: Before hitting the road, ensure your campervan is in good condition. Check the tires, brakes, fluids, and all essential systems.
  • Navigation: GPS devices and maps are crucial for navigating the route. Cell phone signal can be intermittent in some areas, so having physical maps as backup is wise.
  • Mountain Passes: Be prepared for narrow and winding mountain passes. Drive cautiously, especially if you’re not accustomed to mountain roads.
  • Parking: Research camper-friendly parking spots in advance. Some towns have designated areas for campervans, while others may require overnight parking fees.
  • Supplies: Stock up on groceries, water, and camping essentials in larger towns along the route. Smaller villages may have limited shopping options.
  • Fuel: Keep your campervan’s fuel tank full, especially in remote areas where gas stations can be scarce.
  • Weather: The weather in the Alps can be unpredictable. Check forecasts regularly and be prepared for sudden changes in temperature and road conditions.

Camper-Friendly Accommodations

One of the advantages of traveling in a campervan is the flexibility it provides when it comes to accommodations. Along Route des Grandes Alpes, you’ll find various options for parking and spending the night.


Many towns along the route have dedicated campsites equipped with facilities such as electricity, water, showers, and waste disposal. These campsites are excellent choices for campervan travelers looking for comfort and convenience. Some recommended campsites include:

Aires de Camping-Car

France has a network of Aires de Camping-Car (motorhome service areas) that cater specifically to campervan travelers. These areas often offer basic amenities like waste disposal, fresh water, and parking spaces. While they may not provide the same level of comfort as campsites, they are a convenient option for a quick stop or overnight stay. Look for these designated areas along the route.

Wild Camping

For a more adventurous and remote experience, consider wild camping in your campervan. France allows wild camping in certain areas, but it’s essential to follow local regulations and respect the environment. Always leave no trace and camp responsibly. Research the specific rules for each location along the route, as they can vary.

Motorhome Parks

Some larger towns and cities, such as Annecy and Albertville, have motorhome parks where you can park your campervan for a fee. These parks often provide basic facilities and are conveniently located near city centers.

Recommended Activities Along the Route

Your journey along Route des Grandes Alpes is not just about driving; it’s about experiencing the beauty and culture of the region. Here are some recommended activities to enhance your adventure:


The French Alps offer a plethora of hiking trails suitable for all levels of hikers. Whether you’re a seasoned trekker or a novice, there’s a trail for you. Some of the best hikes include exploring the Ecrins National Park near Gap or tackling the challenging paths in the Verdon Gorge.


If you’re a cycling enthusiast, consider bringing your bike along or renting one. The Alps are a mecca for cyclists, with numerous challenging mountain passes and scenic routes. The Col du Galibier and Col du Tourmalet are iconic climbs that attract cyclists from around the world.

Local Cuisine

Indulge in the delicious cuisine of the French Alps. Sample regional dishes such as fondue, raclette, tartiflette, and crozets (small square-shaped pasta). Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of local Savoie wine or a sip of génépi, a traditional herbal liqueur.

Cultural Exploration

Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting museums, historical sites, and local markets. In Annecy, explore the Château d’Annecy and its museum, which showcases the region’s history. In Briançon, delve into the fascinating past of the Vauban citadel.


The landscapes along Route des Grandes Alpes are a photographer’s paradise. Capture the awe-inspiring mountain vistas, picturesque villages, and the play of light and shadow on the Alps. Don’t forget your camera or smartphone!

Packing Essentials for Your Campervan Journey

To ensure a comfortable and enjoyable campervan adventure along Route des Grandes Alpes, it’s essential to pack wisely. Here’s a list of essential items to consider:

  • Clothing: Pack clothing suitable for various weather conditions, including layers for cooler mountain climates. Don’t forget hiking gear if you plan to hit the trails.
  • Bedding: Ensure you have comfortable bedding for a good night’s sleep in your campervan.
  • Cooking Equipment: If your campervan doesn’t have a built-in kitchen, bring portable cooking equipment, utensils, and a camping stove.
  • Food and Supplies: Stock up on non-perishable food items, snacks, and cooking essentials. Don’t forget to bring reusable water bottles and containers.
  • Navigation Tools: Have reliable maps, a GPS device, and a compass to help you navigate the route.
  • First Aid Kit: Be prepared for minor injuries with a well-stocked first aid kit.
  • Entertainment: Bring books, board games, or entertainment devices for downtime in your campervan.
  • Outdoor Gear: Pack any outdoor equipment you plan to use, such as hiking boots, bikes, or fishing gear.
  • Camping Gear: If you plan on wild camping, bring camping gear like a tent, sleeping bags, and portable camping chairs.
  • Toiletries: Don’t forget toiletries, including toilet paper, soap, and hand sanitizer.
  • Camping Accessories: Consider items like a camping table, campfire supplies, and camping lights for added comfort.

Route des Grandes Alpes

Your 7-day campervan adventure along the Route des Grandes Alpes has taken you on a journey through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in France. From the Mediterranean coast to the towering peaks of the Alps, this road trip has provided unforgettable experiences and memories.

As you wrap up your journey, take a moment to reflect on the incredible natural beauty, charming villages, and rich history you’ve encountered along the way. The Route des Grandes Alpes offers a unique opportunity to explore the diverse landscapes of France, and your campervan adventure has allowed you to do so at your own pace.