France, Drôme (26), Drôme provençale, Die (vue aérienne)
Hanging Houses of Pont-en-Royans
le Col de la Bataille et le plateau d'Ambel ( Vercors), France
NHP-ZB815-261361-0735 - © - Bob Gibbons
Grenoble - aerial panorama of the city
At the heart of the biggest Natural Park of the Northern Alps
A fortress erected above Grenoble, the Vercors is the largest Natural Park in the Northern Alps, an immense space where the silence of wild nature reigns. It’s reached via narrow gorges with spectacular cliffs, which open onto landscapes reminiscent of the Canadian forests in the north and the southern steppes in the south.
A guaranteed change of scenery for three days whilst you make a loop starting from Die.
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Leave Die early morning towards the Col de Rousset. Beware of the thermal shock at the tunnel exit: you’ll be leaving behind arid Drôme at 500 meters above sea level, going up to 1,250 meters in the mists of the Vercors, with its cool meadows and shady forests.
A little further along, leave the highlands on your right and turn left towards the Lente Forest, with Vassieux-en-Vercors marking the entrance. Here, you are walking in the footsteps of the ‘Maquisards’ (French Resistance fighters), so don’t miss a visit to the Resistance memorial and necropole that commemorate the tragedy of July 21, 1944. Moreover, 500 metres before Vassieux, on the road to the left, you will find the remaining debris of German SS commando gliders.
Further along, stop at Col de la Machine for a view of the entire Combe Laval. The road clings to the side of the wall, cut into the limestone cliffs above the Cholet valley, which it towers over from 600 metres above. The best point to stop safely is at the Belvédère de Gaudissart.
After a picnic break in the heart of nature, get back on the road to the Col de la Bataille. The passes along a ledge cut into the rock, above the cirque de Bouvante and its lake. Three successive belvederes provide stop-off points to admire the views.
Finally, head towards Pont-en-Royans where you can spend the night.
MyTripTailor tip: don’t miss the famous Clairette de Die! Drivers must of course drink in moderation.
You wake in Pont-en-Royans, for a long time the only point of passage for the people of Vercors to cross La Bourne towards the plains of Royans. Mounted to the wall with its corbelled houses and narrow streets, this village is poetry on the surface of a rock. It is the entrance to the Gorges de la Bourne and one of the most beautiful roads of the massif.
After breakfast, go to visit Choranche to cool off in its caves.
Next, take the road to cross the Bassin de la Balme, at the outlet of the Rencurel Valley.
Standing out on the wooded side of the slope opposite the road is the great Calvary of Valchevrière, erected in memory of the battles of July 1944. After the Pont de la Goule Noire (Bridge of the Black Ghoul), the gorge is reduced to a crevice where the road jostles for position with the river. After two tunnels, the road descends to Villard-de-Lans, tourist capital of the massif.
After Lans-en-Vercors, you can take the road to Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte, with its view of the Gorges du Bruyant, the Vercors Memorial and the Sans Venin Tower, one of the “seven wonders” of Dauphiné.
All that remains is to drive to Grenoble where you can spend the evening and the night.
MyTripTailor tip: Be careful, the Route des Écouges is one of the most dizzying passages of the Vercors.
Before leaving Grenoble, pause to admire its magnificent mountain setting: in the north, the cliffs of Néron and Saint-Eynard, advanced guards of the Chartreuse; to the west, the escarpments of the Vercors, dominated by the ridge of the Moucherotte; to the east, the silhouette of the Belledonne range, often covered with snow.
Taking a tour of the Bastille fortress will give you a better understanding of this panorama. Returning to town, go through the old town, around Place Grenette and the Grande-Rue, to the old Palais du Parlement Dauphinois.
It is now time to leave Grenoble in the direction of Le Pont-de-Claix, then Vif. The road and its variations takes you through isolated villages, capped by the huge silhouette of the Grand Veymont.
Next, head to Sisteron and the Col de la Croix-Haute, but only for 8km for a better return route via the country roads to Chichilianne and the Col de Menée before returning to Die, the starting point of your circuit.
MyTripTailor tip: be aware that the snow obstructs the Col de Menée pass from December to March and the rest of the year falling rocks are commonplace.
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