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Rhône-Alpes: mountains, lakes and river valleys

This article is also available in: Italian

Rhône-Alpes is a region in south-eastern France, which represents the second economic region of France, after that of the capital Paris. The Rhône-Alpes is in second place among the French regions also in terms of surface area, it borders Italy and Switzerland to the east, the French regions of Franche-Comté and Burgundy to the north, and Auvergne to the west , to the south with Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

The region, whose capital is the city of Lyon, is made up from an administrative point of view of 8 departments: Ain (01), Ardèche (07), Drôme (26), Isère (38), Loire (42), Rhone (69), Savoy (Savoie, 73) and Haute-Savoie (74).

The Rhône-Alpes extends from the Alps in the east to the Central massif in the west, in the center of the region lies the fertile valley of the Rhône and its main tributary, the Saône. In the southwestern part, the Ardèche river creates the deepest canyon in Europe.

The region also has, in its north-eastern section, numerous lakes, among them, in common with Switzerland, Lake Geneva, the largest Alpine lake in Europe, and, all belonging to France, Lake Bourget and Lake Annecy. Along the border with Italy rise the highest mountains of the Alps, with numerous peaks over four thousand metres, among these the highest peak is Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) which reaches an altitude of 4,810 metres.


Tourism in the Rhône-Alpes is highly developed, the region has both artistic and natural attractions, the territory is protected by a dense network of natural parks, between these two national parks: the Vanoise National Park (Parc national de la Vanoise) and the Ecrins National Park (Parc national des Ecrins); and six regional natural parks.

Among the natural wonders the Ardèche Gorges, one of the most spectacular canyons on the continent, and Mont Blanc, the Alps are an important destination for lovers of skiing and other winter sports among the most famous ski areas Les Trois Vallées, Chamonix, Megève, Pralognan-la-Vanoise, Alpe d’Huez, Courchevel.

Spa tourism is also an important activity in the region, with famous spa resorts such as Aix-les-Bains and Évian-les-Bains located there.

Among the cities, the regional capital, Lyon, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, indeed the city retains an important architectural heritage ranging from Roman times to the 20th century, UNESCO has highlighted in particular the districts of the Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon), the Fourvière, the Presqu’île and the Croix-Rousse.

Other historic cities rich in art are Annecy, Grenoble, Chambéry, Valence, and Saint-Étienne. Among the smaller towns we point out: Balazuc, and Vogüé (Ardèche); Pérouges (Ain); La Garde-Adhémar, Mirmande, Le Poët-Laval, and Montbrun-les-Bains (Drome); Oingt (Rhône); Bonneval-sur-Arc (Savoy); Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, and Yvoire (Haute-Savoie); Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez (Loire); Saint-Antoine-l’Abbaye (Isère).

For archeology lovers, the numerous Roman remains present in the region including the remains of Roman Lyon (Lugdunum) on the Fourvière hill, the Roman remains of Vienne, and those scattered along 85 km of the Roman aqueduct of Gier (Aqueduc du Gier), which starts from the heights of Saint-Chamond in the Pilat, passing through Mornant, Orliénas, Chaponost, Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon and ending in Lyon.

The region is also an important destination for food and wine tourism, among the typical dishes of the area we find Lyon salami (saucisson de Lyon), cardoons au gratin (cardon au gratin), marrons glacés, and Lyonnaise salad (salade lyonnaise), among the wines the Beaujolais and the Côtes-du-Rhône are famous.

The climate of the Rhône-Alpes.

  • Area: 43,698 km²
  • Population: 6,208,000 (2010)
  • Capital: Lyon

This article is also available in: Italian


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