From Val d'Isère to Val-Cenis via the Col de l'Iseran, the highest road pass in Europe
Route North / South
↗ 1025m ↘ 1494m
Leaving Val-d’Isère, very soon you’re tackling the first hairpin bends up to the Col de l’Iseran. It’s not that the slopes along the way are necessarily that steep, but the climb is mainly at an altitude of over 2000m. So it hurts a bit! The pass, at 2764m in altitude, marks the divide between the great Tarentaise and Haute-Maurienne Vanoise area. At the end of the steepest part of the descent, you cross Bonneval-sur-Arc, then, a few kilometres later, Bessans. You come next to Val-Cenis, which includes the two villages of Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard, from where an alternative link, going via Mont-Cenis and Oulx (the latter in Italy), leads to Briançon.
Route South / North
↗ 1494m ↘ 1025m
As soon as you leave Val-Cenis, you begin tackling the 32km leading to the summit of the Col de l’Iseran (2764m), with a shift in altitude of almost 1500m. Along the way, you cross the final two resorts of the Haute-Maurienne Vanoise area, Bessans, then Bonneval-sur-Arc, at the foot of the series of hairpin bends leading to the pass. On this side, what with the steep slopes at an altitude over 2000m, this ascent can very rapidly feel extremely testing. After reaching the summit of the Iseran Pass, enjoy the descent to delightful Val-d’Isère. Tackling this portion marked the Tour de France back in 2019, as the day’s riding along here proved one of the most epic in recent decades; in fact, the stage had to be stopped at Val-d’Isère, asmudslides had blocked the road before the arrival at Tignes, while French rider Julian Alaphilippe lost the leader’s yellow jersey.
- Bonneval-sur-Arc: this little resort-village, the highest in the Haute-Maurienne Vanoise area, is a member of the association of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Its magnificent chalets built of stone and covered with stone roof tiles make it a rare surviving example of traditional mountain construction techniques. Enjoy the lovely 4km walk to the hamlet of L’Écot, its architecture simple and austere.
- Haute-Maurienne Vanoise: this area, on the edge of the Vanoise National Park, includes six resorts: Aussois, Bessans, Bonneval-sur-Arc, La Norma, Val Cenis and Valfréjus, plus the little town of Modane. All told, it offers a concentrated selection of what such a mountain area can offer by way of things to see and do!