Fort Marie-Christine one of the 5 forts of the Esseillon barrier © Philippe Lemonnier

Forts and fortresses

From Vauban to Maginot...

As the natural border between France and Italy, the Alps boast a remarkable historical heritage in the heart of the mountains. All along the Route des Grandes Alpes®, some thirty French and Italian Alpine fortifications bear witness to military history from the 16th to the 20th century. From Vauban, Louis XIV's engineer-architect, to General Séré de Rivières, from the French Maginot Line to the Italian Alpine Wall, here's a selection of forts and fortresses you're sure to see and maybe even visit.


The Telegraphe fort

Situated on the col of the same name, it dominates the Maurienne valley and commands the road to the Col du Galibier via the resort and village of Valloire. It was built on the site of a former Chiappe articulated-arm optical telegraph (Lyon - Milan line), according to the Séré de Rivières system.

Le fort de Ronce

Built between 1877 and 1880, to protect the Kingdom of Italy from a French invasion via the Mont-Cenis pass, this fort joined the Alpine Wall, the Italian equivalent of our Maginot Line, before the Second World War. After the Allied victory, Fort de Ronce, overlooking Lac du Mont-Cenis, a magnificent site in Haute-Maurienne Vanoise, became French and Savoyard in 1947.

Le fort d'Exilles

You'll see it if you take the Val de Suze on the variant that leads from Val-Cenis to Oulx. The object of a historic back-and-forth between France and Italy, this magnificent fort, the contemporary part of which was completed in 1829, is reputed to have "hosted" the famous Masque de Fer under Louis XIV.

The fortress of Mont-Dauphin

The Vauban stronghold of Mont-Dauphin was built from scratch by Vauban, in 1692. Shaped like a star, it dominates the town of Guillestre, a stopover on the Route des Grandes Alpes®. Along with Briançon and 10 other Vauban sites throughout France, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.


Le Fort de Tournoux

Between Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye and Jausiers, on the stage linking Guillestre to Barcelonnette via the Col de Vars, the Fort de Tournoux overlooks the crossroads where the Ubaye and Ubayette valleys meet. Built in the mid-19th century, this impressive structure, which rises between 1290 and 2000 meters, in some ways resembles a Tibetan lamasery.

The Maginot Line

Ouvrage de Restefond, camp des Fourches, fort de Rimplas and its annex at La Frassinéa... These Maginot Line works, built to stop Mussolini and the Axis forces, dominate the Tinée valley and Valdeblore (Colmiane resort and Col Saint-Martin).

The Mont-Alban fort

A rare work of 16th-century military architecture in good condition, the small fort of Mont-Alban, situated at an altitude of 220 meters at the entrance to Nice, offers a magnificent panorama. It will be the first or last stone sentinel of your journey on Route des Grandes Alpes®.


The map