Posted on 07 January 2024
Just one term can describe why the French Alps are so popular, and that is unique exclusivity. From the Mont Blanc massif to outdoor activities, there is much more to this popular destination than ski resorts. In an average year, roughly 100 million people visit the French Alps to experience the wide range of things to do besides the popular activity of ski slopes. Additionally, many people look to invest in ski property markets by buying chalets or apartments. Without a doubt, nowhere else in the world can match this destination. As Europe’s most extensive mountain range covers 1200 square miles, don’t think an overnight visit will suffice.
Why the French Alps are so Popular
1: Gorgeous Lakes in an Ideal Destination
The mountain ranges feature several beautiful lakes, that really do take your breath away. When thinking about the French alps, many people just assume ski resorts and frozen lakes, but from Spring through to Autumn, these lakes are a hive of activity.
While most of Lake Geneva is in Switzerland, its eastern tip extends into the French Alps, including the towns of Evian-les-Bains and Thonon-les-Bains. Located near Annecy, Lake Annecy, one of the cleanest lakes, boasts clear turquoise water and scenery that attracts people to swim during summer.
Situated near Aix-les-Bains, Bourget Lake, France’s largest natural lake, offers beautiful scenery surrounded by mountains and vineyards. Serre-Ponçon Lake, created by the Serre-Ponçon Dam on the Durance River, is one of Europe’s largest reservoirs.
Lauvitel Lake, a glacial lake in Ecrins National Park, is known for its alpine scenery. Near Morzine, Montriond Lake is surrounded by forests and offers peaceful settings in the Portes du Soleil ski area. Lac Blanc in the Vosges Mountains, specifically in the Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges, is part of the northern section.
2: Beautiful National Parks
Established in 1963, Vanoise National Park was the first national park in France and a popular destination. It is in the Graian Alps and spans the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions that earn fame for alpine scenery, diverse wildlife, and numerous hiking trails. Additionally, established in 1973, Écrins National Park, in the Southern French Alps, encompasses parts of the Isère and Hautes-Alpes departments. It is France’s largest national park with high mountain peaks, glaciers, and various flora and fauna. These national parks provide protected environments to preserve biodiversity and opportunities for enthusiasts to appreciate the natural beauty.
3: Delicious Alpine Cuisine
French Alpine cuisine reflects unique alpine flavours and resources influenced by mountainous landscapes, local agriculture, and freshwater lakes and rivers. For property owners, and travellers, they are a delight on an apres ski session after the slopes. A classic Alpine dish, fondue involves dipping pieces of bread into melted cheese (usually a blend of Gruyère and Emmental) mixed with white wine and garlic. The Raclette dish features melted cheese (traditionally Raclette cheese) scraped onto boiled potatoes, pickles, and charcuterie.
Tourte aux Chanterelles savoury pie is filled with chanterelle mushrooms, a common ingredient in Alpine forests. Tartiflette gratin dish is made with layers of potatoes, Reblochon cheese, onions, and bacon. The list of dishes also includes Gratin Dauphinois, Aligot, Farcement, Saucisson and much more. Let’s also not forget about the famous French wine that accompanies this local cuisine.
4: The World’s Best Ski Regions
The French Alps feature world-class ski resorts and extensive ski areas, attracting winter sports enthusiasts from around the globe. Don’t forget, France is the world’s number one ski country and this speaks volumes. Les Trois Vallées, the largest linked ski destination, comprises several interconnected resorts, including Courchevel, Méribel, Val Thorens, and Les Menuires.
Spanning the French-Swiss border, Portes du Soleil, one of France’s largest ski areas, includes resorts like Morzine, Avoriaz, and Châtel. Named after the Olympic skier Jean-Claude Killy, Espace Killy combines the Val d’Isère and Tignes resorts, offering a vast and diverse ski terrain. Paradiski ski area links the resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne through the Vanoise Express cable car, creating a massive ski domain.
Chamonix, with challenging slopes and views of the iconic Mont Blanc, easily attracts those who love skiing and mountaineering. Alpe d’Huez boasts of sunny slopes, offers varied ski areas, and belongs to the Grand Domaine Ski, including resorts like Vaujany and Oz-en-Oisans. With an extensive skiable glacier and vibrant atmosphere, Les Deux Alpes also attracts skiers and snowboarders.
Including resorts like Flaine, Samoëns, and Morillon, the Grand Massif offers a diverse range of slopes and mountain views. In the southern French Alps, Serre Chevalier Vallée is one of Europe’s largest ski areas and encompasses several villages. While not a traditional ski resort, La Grave is renowned for challenging off-piste terrain.
5: The Popular Mer De Glace Sea of Ice
In Chamonix Valley in the Haute-Savoie region of France, Mer de Glace belongs to the Mont Blanc massif, the highest mountain range in Western Europe. The glacier was formed from the accumulation and compaction of snow over centuries, and is nothing short of spectacular. If you like viewing the wonders of mother Nature, this is up your street.
Mer de Glace, one of France’s largest glaciers, covers 40 square kilometres and stretches for approximately 7 kilometres (4.3 miles), descending from an elevation of around 2,400 meters (7,874 feet) to about 1,400 meters (4,593 feet.) Visitors reach Mer de Glace on the Montenvers Railway. This historic cogwheel train departs from Chamonix and offers views along the way. From Montenvers station, visitors descend steps and an elevator to reach the glacier’s edge.
At the lower end, an ice grotto called “Grotte de Glace” or Ice Cave is carved into the glacier each year, and it provides visitors unique opportunities to explore the interior with sculptures, tunnels, and caves created by natural movements.
Mer de Glace has scientists interested in studying glaciology and climate change. Monitoring stations have been set up to track the glacier’s movement and changes in its size over time. Like many glaciers worldwide, the Mer de Glace has been experiencing a recession due to climate change. The glacier has shrunk in size, indicating global warming on mountain glaciers.
The surrounding area offers several outdoor activities, including hiking and mountaineering. Mer de Glace is not only a natural wonder but also of scientific importance and a popular destination for tourists seeking to witness an alpine glacier.
6: Airports to Get to the French Alps
Several airports service the French Alps, making them easily accessible for property owners. Geneva Airport, close to the French border, serves as a gateway to the French Alps, especially for destinations like Chamonix and the Portes du Soleil ski area. Chambéry Airport is popular to reach the Three Valleys (Les Trois Vallées) and Paradiski ski areas.
Grenoble Airport is well-positioned for those heading to ski resorts like Alpe d’Huez, Les Deux Alpes, and others in the Oisans region. While not directly in the Alps, Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport serves the broader region.
Annecy Airport is a smaller airport convenient for travelling to the Annecy region and nearby ski resorts. Travellers can choose the airport that fits their itinerary and the specific ski resort they plan to visit. Ground transportation options, including buses, shuttles, and rental cars, are available from these airports to various alpine destinations.
7: Summer in the French Alps
In recent years, more and more people have flocked to the property market, because the Alps is now a year-round destination with several activities attracting visitors with their landscapes and diverse terrain. The French Alps boast an extensive network of hiking and mountain climbing trails suitable for all levels, from gentle walks through alpine meadows to challenging ascents to mountain peaks, there are options for every hiker.
The region offers numerous mountain biking trails, ranging from downhill courses in ski resorts to cross-country routes through alpine landscapes. Bike parks are available in many areas, or you can soar above breathtaking landscapes by paragliding. Many resorts and mountain areas offer tandem paragliding experiences for both beginners and experienced enthusiasts.
The Alps provide excellent rock climbing for climbers of various skill levels. Via Ferrata routes, equipped with cables, ladders, and bridges, allow adventurers to explore the mountains while secured to the rock. It’s a thrilling activity that combines elements of hiking and rock climbing.
The mountain rivers are perfect for white-water rafting. Experienced guides lead rafting trips down various rivers, providing an adrenaline-pumping experience against the scenery backdrop. Explore the natural beauty by navigating through canyons, jumping into crystal-clear pools, and rappelling down waterfalls. Canyoning tours are available for individuals and groups.
Several golf courses are nestled in picturesque Alpine landscapes, allowing golf enthusiasts to play amidst mountain views. The Alpine lakes and rivers also provide excellent fishing. Whether you’re into fly fishing or traditional fishing, the region offers diverse options for anglers. Summer is also marked by outdoor festivals celebrating music, arts, and local culture, providing lively atmospheres for locals and visitors.
Aside from that, nature enthusiasts can embark on wildlife-watching excursions to observe animals in natural habitats. Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, or both, the French Alps offer various activities outside of winter months and this makes it a firm favourite for outdoor enthusiasts in summer.
8: Charming Villages and Popular Mountain Resorts
Charming alpine villages offer natural beauty, traditional architecture, and outdoor activities, making the Alps popular for those who want to experience traditional rural living and culture. On every corner, you can sense the Alpine culture and traditions, which are specific to the Alps, and reflect generations of mountain lifestyles.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc: Nestled at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix is a world-renowned destination for nature lovers that offers alpine charm, upscale shops, and vibrant atmospheres. It serves as a hub for mountaineering, skiing, and hiking.
Annecy: Often called “Venice of the Alps,” Annecy is famous for its medieval old town, canals, and Lake Annecy. The picturesque setting and the proximity to the lake make it popular for both summer and winter nature lovers.
Delightful Megève: Megève, a stylish and upscale alpine resort with a beautiful medieval centre, is famous for luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants, and boutique shops that attract visitors seeking sophisticated alpine experiences.
Les Contamines-Montjoie: Tucked away in Montjoie Valley, Les Contamines-Montjoie, a charming village surrounded by mountain scenery, offers a peaceful atmosphere and is a gateway to the Mont Blanc massif.
Yvoire: While not in the high mountains, Yvoire, a medieval village on the shores of Lake Geneva near the French Alps, offer well-preserved architecture and floral displays that make the area famous for day trips and lakeside escapes.
Saint-Véran: Saint-Véran, Europe’s highest commune in Queyras Regional Natural Park, wins admiration for its picturesque mountain settings and traditional chalet architecture.
Bonneval-sur-Arc: Recognized as one of the “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” (The Most Beautiful Villages of France), Bonneval-sur-Arc, a charming alpine village in Vanoise National Park, features stone-built houses and tranquil mountain ambiences.
Barcelonnette: Nestled in Ubaye Valley, Barcelonnette’s colourful houses and historical architecture are ideal for exploring the scenic landscapes of the Southern French Alps.
La Grave: La Grave offers off-piste skiing and mountaineering while retaining traditional alpine characteristics with views of La Meije mountain.
Beautiful Morzine: Morzine, a lively alpine village in the Portes du Soleil ski area, combines Savoyard architecture with modern amenities, making the area famous for both winter and summer activities. All these villages offer outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and unique charm and attractions, catering to various preferences and interests.
9: Unique Property Market
Given the alpine landscapes, the world’s best ski resorts and ideal weather, the property market of the French Alps offers exclusivity. With many resorts looking to carry on the traditions of alpine architecture, the rural ambience provides rustic, quaint atmospheres. In upscale resorts, these combine with modern living and stylish trends to present destinations often frequented by royalty and celebrities like Courchevel.
The fact that this isn’t your bog standard 3 up 2 down housing market instantly makes it an exclusive destination. From the ski apartments to the ski-in and ski-out chalets, property in the French Alps is one of a kind. (Read how to buy property.)
More about the Popular French Alps
Best Place to Ski in France: We have listed many reasons why the French Alps are so famous. Of course, skiing is one of them. Prepare for excellent choices when looking for the best place to ski in France. The best French ski resort will always depend on your preferences and skiing abilities. Still, some resorts stand out more than others, as seen in their popularity and fame.
We are Skiing Property, and we have many apartments and chalets for sale in the French Alps. If this is an investment you wish to pursue, contact us today and chat with an agent about why the French Alps are so popular and how you can invest. Alternatively, see our portfolio here and fill in the enquiry forms to receive more details via email.