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Rhône-Alpes climate: when to go?

This article is also available in: Italian

The Rhône-Alpes region, due to its richness and diversity of landscapes, is characterized by a great variety of climatic types.

The region is in fact subject to its southern end to the Mediterranean influence (part of the departments of Drôme and Ardèche), this causes mild winters, hot and relatively dry summers and a high number of hours of sunshine, rainfall occurs mainly in autumn and spring.

To the east, where the Alps rise (the north of the Drome, the eastern half of Isere and the two departments of Savoy (Savoie and Haute Savoie)), we have a climate of mixed continental and Alpine types. Rainfall is heavier on windward slopes than on leeward slopes of mountain ranges.

The continental climate affects a large part of the region, in particular the whole flat area of the Rhône valley (departments of Ain, Loire, Rhône (Rhône), part of Isere, Drôme and Ardèche), this causes cold winters, with sun in the mountains, while fog or clouds are frequent in the underlying plains. Summers are hot in the lowlands, but nights are cool in the Alpine valleys.

Generally, most of the region has long, hot summers, with average maximum temperatures above 25°C and cold, windy winters, sometimes with snow, but also with sunny days. The average annual temperatures are between 5°C and 15°C, they are higher in the southern part of the region, the one under the influence of the Mediterranean climate, while they are lower in the reliefs affected by the mountain climate. The mistral wind blows in the Rhône Valley at any time of year, but is more likely to blow during the winter.

The influence of the Atlantic Ocean is felt in the hinterland of the region, the Alps block the perturbations coming from the ocean and thanks to this the Rhône-Alpes receives a significant amount of precipitation.

Average annual rainfall varies between 700 mm and 1,200 mm in flat areas up to over 2,000 mm in the hills. In the flat areas, winter is the driest season, even the central months of summer are relatively less rainy, while in the intermediate seasons, between April and June and between September and November, rainfall is higher. In mountain areas, the rainiest months are the winter months between October and February.

The number of rainy days is higher in the Alpine departments of Savoie and Haute-Savoie, where there are on average between 130 and 150 rainy days per year, while in the southern areas affected by the Mediterranean climate, values between 70 and 60 are recorded rainy days in a year.

Snow falls quite often in winter, usually between October and May, obviously the altitude and the presence of mountains greatly vary the number of snow days, for example in Grenoble, which is 384 meters high, it is they have an average of 25 days of snow a year, while in Chamonix (1,042 meters high) there are an average of 49 days of snow in a year.

WHEN TO GO TO THE RHONE-ALPS?

The best time to visit the Rhône-Alpes region are the months between May and September, months that guarantee mild temperatures and long days of light. Winter is the best period for lovers of skiing and other winter sports.

RHONE-ALPS CLIMATE TABLES

LYON (197 m)
MonthAverage low (°C)Average high (°C)Rain (mm)Rainy days
January0,16,2 53 9
February1,28,4 50 9
March3,312,4 55 9
April5,615,3 72 10
May9,920,0 87 11
June13,123,5 80 9
July15,627,0 62 7
August15,326,7 69 7
September11,922,3 88 8
October8,416,7 94 10
November3,610,2 75 9
December1,57,1 55 10
YEAR7,516,4 843 107
BOURG-SAINT-MAURICE (865 m)
MonthAverage low (°C)Average high (°C)Rain (mm)Rainy days
January-3,84,9 96 10
February-3,17,1 96 8
March-0,311,0 73 8
April2,713,9 58 8
May6,819,0 74 11
June9,522,1 81 11
July11,825,5 72 9
August11,625,2 68 9
September8,621,1 72 8
October4,715,790 9
November-0,28,9 95 9
December-2,65,5 107 9
YEAR3,915,0 985 111
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