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Best places to cycle in the French Alps

As the epicentre of the cycling world, there’s a lot of riding to discover in the French Alps. Here’s everything you need to know

The French Alps have some of the most famous climbs in the world. The likes of Alpe d’Huez and the Col du Galibier rank among the more storied in Tour de France history and attract cyclists from across the globe each year. There are plenty more places that never see the Tour, however, but are equally worthy of your pedalling power.

As you head further south, the Alps are more famous for climbs on the route of the Paris-Nice stage race. With the Alps range starting almost on the Côte d’Azur – also known as the French Riviera – there are stunning climbs like the Col de Turini and Col de la Madone within striking distance of Nice and the coast.

Photo: Pete Goding

Then there’s Mont Ventoux. An outlier from the main Alpine action, it’s ripe for pairing with the Vercors area of the Alps and other stunning climbs on the eastern edge of the Rhône valley.

Having been travelling the world to find the most beautiful – and toughest – places to ride since 2012, we’ve spent a lot of time in the French Alps, so we’ve collated our findings to help you plan your next trip. We’ve also got information on how to get there and the main gateways to the Alps.



Map of French Alps’ best cycling climbs

With the French Alps stretching for around 300km, there are lots of mountains to climb, as well as multiple international gateways to get to them. So we’ve grouped the list into départments and split into its natural northern and southern halves to make it easier to navigate.

We’ve ridden every one of these climbs, either as one of our Big Rides or Classic Climbs, so for most you’ll get the inside scoop of how far and how hard, where to stay and how to get there.

Best places to cycle in the Northern Alps

Best places to cycle in the Southern Alps

Travel advice

Best places to cycle in the Northern Alps

Haute-Savoie

The host region of the 2027 UCI Cycling World Championships – ie, one of the new super champs featuring almost every cycling discipline, Haute-Savoie sits on the Italian and Swiss borders and is home to natural wonders including Lake Annecy, Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc.

Mont Blanc

Photo: Patrik Lundin

The Alps’ highest peak and Europe’s second highest, Mont Blanc is a beast. Although there isn’t a road to cycle to the top, it provides plenty of stunning cycling.

  • Where: The Mont Blanc massif is large, it crosses départment and international borders, with Italy claiming the south side and the northern tip in Switzerland. In France, Saint-Gervais, Megève and Chamonix are popular access points, and Cormayeur is the primary Italian stop
  • How: Geneva is about an hour’s drive from Megève with transfers available

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Lake Annecy

Photo: Geoff Waugh

  • What to ride: As well as riding around the lake itself, Lake Annecy is close to the Col des Glières, Col de la Colombière and Col des Aravis climbs. The latter crosses over into the Savoie départment, where you can find more climbs, such as the Col de l’Arpettaz, within reach
  • Where: Lake Annecy, and Annecy itself, are in the western part of Haute-Savoie, close to the Swiss border at Lake Geneva
  • How: Annecy is just 40km south of Geneva

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Isère

Named after the river – but not including Val d’Isère – the Isère départment sits just south of Lyon and includes the travel hub of Grenoble as well as some of the Alps’ very best cycling.

Alpe d’Huez

Photo: George Marshall

The most famous Tour de France climb of them all, featuring the iconic 21 hairpin bends.

  • Length: 14.5km
  • Gradient: 7.9% average, 14% maximum
  • Where: Starting from Bourg d’Oisans
  • How: Bourg d’Oisans is about 50km from Grenoble

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Col de Sarenne

Photo: Jojo Harper

Next to Alpe d’Huez but without the crowds, there’s less history with the Sarenne but it’s still a beast, and can be added onto your Alpe d’Huez ride.

  • Length: 12.8km
  • Gradient: 7.5% average, 14.1% max
  • Where: Starting from Lac du Chambon
  • How: Lac du Chambon is just over 15km away from Bourg d’Oisans and 60km from Grenoble

In pro cycling:

  • It was used as a descent in 2013 Tour de France for a double ascent of Alpe d’Huez but was criticised for its lack of guardrails and narrow, twisting roads.

Route suggestions:

Les Deux Alpes

Photo: Juan Trujillo Andrades

  • Length: 9.8km
  • Gradient: 6.2% average, 10% max
  • Where: Starting from Lac du Chambon
  • How: Lac du Chambon is just over 15km away from Bourg d’Oisans and 60km from Grenoble

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Savoie

Sitting under Haute-Savoie and on the border with Italy, Savoie is a cyclist’s paradise in the summer and a winter sports mecca when the seasons turn.

Col de la Croix de Fer

Photo: Alex Duffill

Tour de France bridesmaid that’s never been the final climb in a stage, and regularly paired with Alpe d’Huez, its long, gradual ascent isn’t to be scoffed at and there are three ways up,.

  • Length: 30km (from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne); 21.9km (from La Chambre); 27.5km (from Barrage du Verney)
  • Gradient: 5.1% average, 9.6% max (from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne); 7.4% average., 12% max (from La Chambre); 4.7% average, 12.7% max (from Barrage du Verney)
  • Where: On the Isère border. Start from either Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne or La Chambre on the Savoie side or Barrage du Verney if you’re going up from the Isère side.
  • How: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is just over an hour’s drive away from Grenoble and about two hours from Lyon, Geneva and Turin. To La Chambre, it’s just over an hour from Grenoble and just under two from both Lyon and Geneva. It’s just under an hour’s drive from Grenoble to Barrage du Verney, about two hours from Lyon, and just over two hours from Geneva. 

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Col de la Loze

Photo: Alex Duffill

A traffic-free(!) beast of a climb constructed in 2018 linking popular ski destinations Courchevel and Méribel, with two routes to attempt.

  • Length: 23.4km (via Méribel); 26.3km (via Courchevel)
  • Gradient: 7.3% average, 18% max (via Méribel); 6.5% average, 16% max (via Courchevel)
  • Where: Both ascents officially start from Brides-les-Bains, which is just under 35km from Bourg-Saint-Maurice
  • How: Brides-les-Bains is about an hour and a half’s drive away from Grenoble, two hours from Geneva or just over two hours from Lyon

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Col de la Madeleine

Photo: Alex Duffill

Mouth-wateringly named climb featured 25 times in the Tour de France connecting the Maurienne and Tarentaise valleys with four different ways to the top.

  • Length: 24.5km (from Notre-Dame-de-Briançon); 28.3km (from Aigueblanche); 19.8km (from La Chambre via D76); 19km (from La Chambre via D213)
  • Gradient: 6.3% average, 11% max (from Notre-Dame-de-Briançon); 5.4% average, 11% max (from Aigueblanche); 7.7% average, 11% max (from La Chambre via D76); 8% average, 11% max (from La Chambre via D213)
  • Where: Both ascents from the Maurienne Valley begin at La Chambre, and coming from the north side in the Tarentaise Valley the Notre-Dame-de-Briançon and Aigueblanche starting points are just 5km apart
  • How: It’s just over an hour by car to La Chambre from Grenoble and just under two from both Lyon and Geneva. To Notre-Dame-de-Briançon and Aigueblanche, it’s an hour from Grenoble and two from Lyon and Geneva.

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Col de l’Arpettaz

Photo: Alex Duffill

A superb climb that’s off the beaten Tour track, so you’ll see fewer cyclists and traffic, with a whopping 42 hairpin bends to enjoy.

  • Length: 16.3km
  • Gradient: 7.1% average, 12% max
  • Where: Starting from Ugine, less than 20km from Lake Annecy
  • How: Ugine is about an hour’s drive from Grenoble, an hour and half from Geneva and two hours from Lyon

In pro cycling:

  • Nothing, so it’ll be quiet!

Ride suggestions:

Col de l’Iseran

Photo: Alex Duffill

Sitting on the Italian border, at 2,764m it’s the highest pass in the Alps and has two gruelling ascents to ride up.

  • Length: 48km (from Bourg-Saint-Maurice); 32.9km (from Lanslebourg-Mont Cenis)
  • Gradient: 4.1% average, 12% max (from Bourg-Saint-Maurice); 4.2% average, 10.8% max (from Lanslebourg-Mont Cenis)
  • Where: The north side begins, like many others, at Bourg-Saint-Maurice, the south side starts at Lanslebourg-Mont Cenis, unsurprisingly where the Mont Cenis climb also begins.
  • How: Grenoble is the closest travel hub to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, an hour and half drive away, with the drive from Geneva taking just over two hours. To Lanslebourg-Mont Cenis, it takes two hours from Grenoble or Turin and two and a half from Geneva.

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Col du Galibier

Photo: George Marshall

Monster climb and scene of countless epic Tour battles, with multiple ways to the top.

  • Length (north): 18.1km (from Valloire); 34.9km (from Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne)
  • Gradient (north): 6.9% average, 12% max (from Valloire); 5.5% average, 12% max (from Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne)
  • Length (south): 8.5km (from Col du Lautaret); 35.7km (from Briançon)
  • Gradient (south): 6.9% average, 10% max (from Col du Lautaret); 3.9% average, 10% max (from Briançon)
  • Where: The east side of the Alps between the Italian border and the Isère region. In Savoie, riders can start from either Valloire or Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, depending on whether you want to include the Col du Télégraphe in your ride, and from the Haute-Alpes side it's either Briançon or the top of the Col du Lautaret, depending on whether you want to climb that one
  • How: Whichever side you stay it’s about halfway between Grenoble and Turin, with between one and two hours to the foot of the mountain from each by car, the shortest transfer being Grenoble to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne

In pro cycling:

Ride suggestions:

Col du Glandon

Photo: George Marshall

Another great climb in sniffing distance of, and often ridden alongside, Alpe d’Huez, with two routes up, the south being more popular and following much of the same road as the Col de la Croix de Fer.

  • Length: 21.3km (from La Chambre); 24.1km (from Barrage du Verney)
  • Gradient: 6.9% average, 12% max (from La Chambre); 4.8% average, 9% max (from Barrage du Verney)
  • Where: The northern ascent begins on the outskirts of La Chambre, just up the road from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. From the south the climb actually begins in Isère at Barrage du Verney, just 10km north of Alpe d’Huez’s summit
  • How: It's just under an hour’s drive from Grenoble to Barrage du Verney, about two hours from Lyon, and just over two hours from Geneva. To La Chambre, it’s just over an hour from Grenoble and just under two from both Lyon and Geneva

In pro cycling:

  • Always the bridesmaid, the Glandon has featured in the Tour de France 14 times, though never as a summit finish. Its most recent appearance was in 2015 when Romain Bardet won Stage 18, which crested the Glandon just before heading up the Lacets de Montvernier and finishing in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

Ride suggestions:

Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard

Photo: Dan Milner

Cresting the mountain between France and Italy, this climb is best known for a pink road (on the Montvalezan route) and a dog.

  • Length: 31km (from Bourg-Saint-Maurice); 26km (via Montvalezan); 22.6km (from Pré-Saint-Didier); 27.6% (from Morgex)
  • Gradient: 4.4% average, 6% max (from Bourg-Saint-Maurice); 5.1% average, 13% max (Montvalezan); 5.3% average, 10% max (Pré-Saint-Didier); 4.6% average, 8.2% max (from Morgex)
  • Where: Both French ascents begin at Bourg-Saint-Maurice, the two Italian options start at either Pré-Saint-Didier or Morgex, which are just 5km apart in the Aosta Valley
  • How: Grenoble is the closest travel hub to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, an hour and half drive away, with the drive from Geneva taking just over two hours. It’s under two hours to drive to the Aosta Valley from both Turin and Geneva

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Cormet de Roselend

Photo: Dan Milner

Tour legwarmer for the Iseran and close to the Haute-Savoie border and Mont Blanc. This col connects the towns of Beaufort and Bourg-Saint-Maurice, with Lac de Roselend and Chapelle de Roselend highlights of the ascent from the former.

  • Length: 20.3km (from Beaufort); 19.4% (from Bourg-Saint-Maurice)
  • Gradient: 6% average, 8% max (from Beaufort); 6% average, 9% max (from Bourg-Saint-Maurice)
  • Where: Start from either Beaufort or Bourg-Saint-Maurice, the former closer to the Haute Savoie border and Mont Blanc, and the latter closer to the Italian border as well as climbs including Col de l’Iseran and Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard
  • How: Beaufort is just over an hour from Grenoble by car and about two hours from Geneva and Lyon. Bourg-Saint-Maurice is 15-30 minutes further from each

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Lacets de Montvernier

Photo: George Marshall

Maybe the most photogenic climb on the Tour, it has become a Tour staple just for the images. It’s not the hardest climb but its hairpin bends are a big draw for racers and amateurs alike.

  • Length: 3.2km
  • Gradient: 8.5% average, 11% max
  • Where: The bottom of the climb is about halfway between La Chambre and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
  • How: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is just over an hour’s drive away from Grenoble and about two hours from Lyon, Geneva and Turin

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:



Best places to ride in the Southern Alps

Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

Sandwiched between Alpes-Maritimes and Hautes-Alpes on the Italy border, most of the action is in the east of the départment crossing with cols cresting regions north, east and south.

Les Trois Cols

Photo: Juan Trujillo Andrades

The trio of the Col de la Cayolle, Col d’Allos and Col des Champs are a brutal loop just south of Barcelonnette packing 3,270m of vertical into just under 120km.

  • Col de la Cayolle: 29.2km, 4.1% average (from Barcelonette); 20.5km, 6.3% average (from Saint-Martin-d’Entraunes)
  • Col d'Allos: 23.6km, 6.3% average (from Barcelonette); 23.6km, 4.3% average (from Colmars)
  • Col des Champs: 12.5km, 6.6% average (from Colmars); 16.5km, 6.4% average (from Saint-Martin-d’Entraunes)
  • Where: Starting points of the loop are Barcelonette near the Hautes-Alpes border in the north, Colmars in the southwest and Saint-Martin-d’Entraunes across the eastern départment border in Alpes-Maritimes
  • How: Nice, Marseille, Grenoble and Avignon are around three hours away by car, depending on your start point

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Alpes-Maritimes

Arguably the ultimate holiday destination for cyclists – and home to countless pro racers – Alpes-Maritimes pairs some of cycling’s iconic climbs with the stunning Côte d’Azur – aka, the French Riviera – and hotspots of Nice and Monaco. It's also easy to ride into Italy along the Italian Riviera in Liguria, which is arguably more stunning than the French one.

Cime de la Bonette

Photo: Patrik Lundin

Crossing the border with Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence, it battles the Iseran for the claim of the highest pass in the Alps. The Cime is an extra loop up from the main Col de la Bonette pass to the mountain’s summit, so you might as well go all the way to the top.

  • Length: 24km (from Jausiers); 25.8km (from Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée)
  • Gradient: 6.6% average, 9% max (from Jausiers); 6.4% average, 9% max (from Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée)
  • Where: The climb, from both sides, hugs the France-Italy border while crossing départments, from the north in Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence you can begin at Jausiers or from the south, in Alpes-Maritimes at Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée
  • How: It’s an hour and a half drive from Nice to Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, Jausiers is a bit harder to get to: three hours from Marseille, Turin and Grenoble

In pro cycling:

  • The climb has featured in the Tour de France four times, but never as a summit finish and most recently in 2008 with a finish in Jausiers, which was won by John-Lee Augustyn.

Route suggestions:

Col de la Madone

Photo: Alex Duffill

A popular training climb for L*nce *rmstrong, Richie Porte and more but which doesn’t feature in the Tour. It climbs from the coast and is quiet.

  • Length: 14.8km (from Menton); 18.4km (from Cap d’Ail); 12.2km (from La Grave de Peille)
  • Gradient: 6.2% average, 9% max (from Menton); 4.5% average, 9% max (from Cap d’Ail); 6% average, 9% max (from La Grave de Peille)
  • Where: There are two coastal towns to start from: Cap d’Ail and Menton, the latter being slightly further up the coast past Monaco. The other side of the mountain, and therefore the in-land start, climbs up from La Grave de Peille
  • How: Cap d’Ail and La Grave de Peille are just a 30-minute drive from Nice, while Menton is 40.

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Col de Turini

Photo: Patrik Lundin

Signature climb from recent editions of Paris-Nice with top tier hairpin action linking Vésubie and Bévéra valleys. Also features in Monte Carlo Rally and is considered one of the world’s best driving roads.

  • Length: 15.3km (from Lantosque); 24km (from Sospel)
  • Gradient: 7.2% average, 9% max (from Lantosque); 5.2% average, 9% max (from Sospel)
  • Where: The southern start is in Sospel, by the Italian border, and the northern side begins at Lantosque
  • How: Sospel is a 50-minute drive from Nice and Lantosque is an hour. It’s only 40km between Nice and Sospel though, so you can stay around Nice and ride to the climb

In pro cycling:

  • The Turini has made four Tour de France appearances over the years, most recently in 2020 but never as the final climb. In Paris-Nice, however, it has featured twice, in 2019 and 2022, but both times was a summit finish of the queen stage.

Route suggestions:

Via del Sale/Route du Sel

Photo: Antton Miettinen

Gravel route on a military road that translates to ‘salt road’ and runs from France into Italy.

  • Climbs: Baisse de Peyrefique, Col de Tende, Pas du Tanarel, Colle Langan.
  • Where: We started our route in Breil-sur-Roya and finished by the coast in Menton
  • How: Breil-sur-Roya is an hour’s drive from Nice, or you can get the train, while Menton is 40 minutes from Nice

In pro cycling:

  • Nothing.

Route suggestions:

Drôme

Sitting between Grenoble and Avignon is Drôme, home to half of the Vercors Massif as well as a few under-the-radar climbs to be discovered.

Col de Macuègne

Photo: Matt Ben Stone

Sitting by Drôme’s southern borders with Vaucluse and Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence, it’s near enough to Mont Ventoux to use it as a warmup.

  • Length: 5.6km (from Séderon); 9.8km (from Montbrun-les-Bains)
  • Gradient: 4.7% average, 6.9% max (from Séderon); 4.9% average, 7.7% max (Montbrun-les-Bains)
  • Where: You can start from the east in Séderon or from the west, and closer to Ventoux, in Montbrun-les-Bains
  • How: It’s about an hour and a half drive from Avignon and two from Marseille

In pro cycling:

  • It has featured three times in the Tour de France and was only classified in the most recent appearance in 2013 when it was given Category 2 status

Route suggestions:

Vercors Massif

Vercours Fortress Big Ride cliff arch ride

Photo: George Marshall

The Vercors Massif is a sub-Alpine range on the border of Isère and Drôme and is home to stunning views and quiet roads, including multiple gorge balconies, perfect for a cycling getaway.

  • What to ride: Combe Laval (Col de la Machine), Col du Mont Noir, Col de Rousset, Gorges de la Bourne, Col de Prélétang, Col de la Croix Bernard, Pas de Pré Coquet, Gorges du Nan
  • Where: The Vercors Regional Natural Park begins on the south-western outskirts of Grenoble and follows the Drôme border south towards Provence
  • How: Flight or train to Grenoble and pick your starting point or fly to Lyon or Avignon and drive approx two hours

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Hautes-Alpes

The northernmost départment in the south, Hautes-Alpes shares borders and climbs with Savoie above it, Italy to the east, Alpes-De-Haute-Provence in the south and Drôme to the west. Ascents of the Galibier, including the gravel route, begin here. It’s not far from Grenoble and is where you’ll find Gap and Briançon.

Col Agnel

Photo: Alex Duffill

The third highest paved col in Europe passing across the border between France and Italy – where it is known as the Colle dell’Agnello – it has featured twice in both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.

  • Length: 20.6km (from Ville Vieille); 22.4km (from Casteldelfino)
  • Gradient: 7% average, 9% max (from Ville Vieille); 6.5% average, 15% max (from Casteldelfino)
  • Where: The start on the French side differs depending on where you look but we’ll stick with Ville Vieille, about 30km southeast of Briançon. On the Italian side it begins in Casteldelfino, about 70km southwest of Turin
  • How: Ville Vieille isn’t the easiest to get to, being a three hour drive from Grenoble and Turin. To get to Casteldelfino it’s a two hour drive from Turin

In pro cycling:

  • When featured in Grand Tours it has always been the first climb of the day, preceeding the Izoard on a couple of occasions

Route suggestions:

Col d’Izoard

Photo: George Marshall

A Tour classic crested by the greats from Coppi to Merckx and beyond that connects Briançon with the Guil valley.

  • Length: 19km (from Briançon); 14.1km (from the south)
  • Gradient: 5.8% average, 9% max (from Briançon); 7.3% average, 14% max (from the south)
  • Where: While the northern ascent begins in a town at Briançon, the southern side officially begins as the D902 road turns into the D947 (the D902 is the Izoard climb and continues when you turn left off the main road). The climb from the south can be extended by beginning at Montbardon or Guillestre, or Ville Vieille is just up the road in the other direction
  • How: Briançon is about two hours from both Grenoble and Turin by car (the latter being slightly closer), and it’s about three hours’ drive from each, as well as from Marseille, to get to the southern starting point

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Col du Granon

Photo: Alex Duffill

In two Tour appearances it has proved one climb too far for two phenomenons of the sport with its blend of high altitude and punishing gradients. There are two routes up but one is a gravel road.

  • Length: 11.3km
  • Gradient: 9.2% average, 11.1% max
  • Where: The climb starts in Saint-Chaffrey, just under 5km up the road from Briançon
  • How: Turin and Grenoble are about two hours from Saint-Chaffrey by car and it’s just over three to Geneva and Marseille

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:

Col du Noyer

Photo: Geoff Waugh

Punishing ascent near the Isère border that has featured in the Tour four times, but only once since 1982, so there won’t be a crowd.

  • Length: 7.5km (from Le Noyer); 14.5km (from Saint Disdier)
  • Gradient: 8.2% average, 10% max (from Le Noyer); 4.2% average, 9.5% max (from Saint Disdier)
  • Where: The east side begins at Le Noyer, just over 20km north of Gap, the west side starts at Saint-Disdier by the border with Isère
  • How: It’s an hour and a half’s drive from Grenoble, two and a half from Marseille and three from Geneva

In pro cycling:

  • Featured in the Tour in 1970, 1971, 1982 and 2010, never as a summit finish but often as the day’s toughest climb

Route suggestions:

Var

Filling the gap between Marseille and Nice, Var has some of France's most desirable coastline as well as part of the Alps’ southern tip.

Verdon Gorge

Photo: Patrik Lundin

Okay, so this is on the border between Var and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (and more in the latter), but we had to get something in this section so we’ve stuck it in Var, plus our route dips between the two départments. The Verdon Gorge is a stunning canyon that attracts tourists but is still a great place to ride.

  • Climbs: Col d’Illoire, La Route des Crêtes
  • Where: On the Var and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence border, between Marseille and Nice
  • How: It's a two and a half hour drive to Verdon Gorge from Nice, Marseille and Toulon

Route suggestions:

Vaucluse

Vaucluse marks the western edge of the Alps, so there aren’t many mountains to climb, but there is one of the most iconic…

Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux

Photo: George Marshall

One of cycling’s most famous – and brutal – climbs, with masses of history. There are a few ways up the Giant of Provence but all tend to be busy because it's a cyclo-tourist hotspot, there is also a gravel road that takes you most of the way up and should be quieter.

  • Length: 21.1km (from Bédoin); 21.2km (from Malaucène); 25.7km (from Sault)
  • Gradient: 7.6% average, 12% max (from Bédoin); 7.2% average, 12% max (from Malaucène); 4.5% average, 11% max (from Sault)
  • Where: Just northeast of Avignon near the Vaucluse-Drôme border, start from Bédoin, Malaucène or Sault, but the former is the most popular
  • How: It’s just a 40-minute drive from Avignon, but also an hour and a half from Marseille, two from Toulon and Montpellier, and two and a half from Grenoble

In pro cycling:

Route suggestions:



Travelling to the French Alps

Photo: Patrik Lundin

Avignon

Avignon is a little far from the main Alpine climbs, but puts you in proximity with the western Alps and Mont Ventoux in particular. You can fly and Avignon is also on the TGV network from Paris.

Geneva

The northern end of the Alps is probably best reached from Geneva, with frequent flights from across the UK and also Eurostar access from the UK with a change at Paris.

Grenoble

Grenoble is also accessible via air or rail, with the latter taking around seven hours from London. It’s a good jumping-off point for the most famous climbs in the central Alps, like Alpe d’Huez and Col de la Croix de Fer.

Nice

Along with Geneva, Nice is probably the major point of entry for cyclists wanting to head to the big climbs. With the Alps literally on its doorstep, it’s easy to access the famous climbs of Paris-Nice.

There are plenty of flights to Nice and it’s also accessible by TGV, which takes around nine hours from London.

Other options

Outside of those, you can also fly – or get the train to – Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Toulon or Turin and be within striking distance of your desired destination.

Where to stay

Photo: Paul Calver

Geneva, Nice, Grenoble and Avignon are major centres with plenty of accommodation. Others worth considering are Annecy, Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Briançon or Chamonix for the northern Alps and Barcelonnette or Gap for the south.

Another option is to head to the heart of the action and look for accommodation in a ski town. Out of season, they’re usually quiet, likely to be cheaper than in winter and have facilities like spas, swimming pools and decent restaurants. Plus there’s almost certain to be a climb back to the resort at the end of the day, because that's what you want, right?

Not sure where to start?

With so much amazing riding, working out what to climb and where to stay can be daunting. Fortunately, Cyclist Tours can help you. We’ve got some amazing itineraries, both guided and self-guided and you can narrow down your search by difficulty, accommodation rating and a host of other factors. If there’s one Must Do climb on your list, you can even search for tours which tackle it.

Want more holiday inspiration? Take a look at our full collection of Big Rides, Classic Climbs and sportives.


Main image: Juan Trujillo Andrades

Maps: Google Maps