Image courtesy of: Florian Pépellin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
The Maurienne Valley stretches for over 100km /62mi. This region is renowned for its many famous climbs and the Tour de France often hosts stages which either start, end or go through the nearby villages. Saint Jean de Maurienne which is popular as a ski destination in winter, is also a popular destination for cyclists in the warmer months. Discover more about the region below.
The riding available to you from this region includes some of the most famous passes. Climbs such as the infamous Col du Galibier, Col de la Madeleine, Col de la Croix de Fer and Col du Glandon all make regular appearances in the Tour de France. All these climbs are easily accessible from any of the villages and towns in the valley. Of course the actual riding itself will be anything but easy! Here, deep in the French Alps you will be well served with compact gearing as you head out to ride up the numerous hors categorie climbs.
All the routes listed below start and finish in the town of Saint Jean de Maurienne itself. Each route includes the ability to download files to a range of devices and includes other helpful information. Some of the routes are a loop so can be ridden in either direction. Click below to see the riding options in greater detail:
Lyone is the largest city and the natural gateway to the region. It is well connected by regular bus and rail services with onwards connections to to the area. Rome2rio.com is an excellent site to help plan your trip to the French Alps. Simply enter your start and end points and it will tell you the different options available, cost range and timetable.
Air – Lyon in France and Turin in Italy are the closest international airports which service this region of the French Alps. Whilst there is an airport at Chambèry, flights only operate during winter and so this is not really an option during the cycling season. See our airports page for further details on these airports.
Rail – Saint Jean de Maurienne is well connected by rail. It is serviced by both TGV and regional TER train services from France. The journey will take approximately 1hr 45mins from Lyon. It is also accessible with direct rail services from Turin in Italy where the trip will take just over 2hrs. Our page about the French rail network has more information regarding the French train network and booking tickets.
Road – If you are travelling from Lyon take the A43 autoroute direct to Saint Jean de Maurienne. (1hr 30min). We recommend reviewing the route planning tool on the ViaMichelin website which will also indicate any tolls along the route as well as fuel stations.
Bus – There are no direct buses to Saint Jean de Maurienne. From Lyon it is possible to catch a bus as far as Chambrèy and then take a train for the remaining journey.
Being a popular cycling destination there are a number of accommodation providers that cater specifically for the cycling market. Typically these establishments provide secure bike lock up and maintenance areas, bike wash down area, special catering and of course plenty of local advice on conditions and where to ride. A number of these places also operate tour style businesses where you stay in the one place and ride set routes each day which are fully supported. To help plan your stay we have included a list of the cycling specific accommodation options below.
There are plenty of other options available to you if this style of accommodation is not what you are after. To help you plan we have provided links to a number of booking sites so you can see what is available. Have a look at our page on French accommodation types to explore these options more.
There are no shortage of places to eat and drink in the area and we generally turn to tripadvisor.com to look at options for restaurants and cafés or just take a punt on a place that looks nice and busy and is open and serving food. We have yet to be disappointed with this method.
There are a number of weekly farmers markets in the region that are worth checking out if you have the time. Here you will find lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as local cheeses, small goods, seafood and meats.
Times for the markets are:
Every region in France has is culinary specialities and the Savoie region in the French Alps is no different.
With vast pasturelands all around it is no surprise that cheese dishes are a big feature in this region. Below are a list of dishes which you can seek out at many local eating establishments.
Tartiflette – a hearty meal of Reblechon cheese, potatoes, lardons and onions.
Raclette– a cheese traditionally made from cow’s milk. Traditionally Raclette is served at your table with a grill plate so you can choose how much you’d like your cheese warmed and melted. Scraping off the Raclette directly from the large cheese wheel onto potatos, pickles and onions is a must to try out!
Fondue – A dish which needs no introduction and is often normally associated with alpine skiing, Fondue is readily found in the region year round. Again a cheese lovers paradise!
Farcement – This traditional dish may be a bit trickier to find but seek if out if you can. It combines sweet and savoury ingredients which are formed in the shape of a large cake. The outside is lined with strips of cured meat such as bacon and inside is filled with raisins, prunes, potatoes and cream.
There are many options for cycle hire in this region of the French Alps. Largely this is owing to the popularity of cycle tourism. In the table below you will find an outline of cycling stores as well as places which offer rental bikes. It lists out bike hire options available throughout the French Alps, so be sure to sort via location to find the one closest to where you will be staying
If you are looking to hire a bike for your cycling holiday we would recommend getting in touch directly with the hire shop and arranging this in advance of your holiday. This will avoid the disappointment of missing out on a rental due to popular demand.
Another tip is to make sure the bike you hire is equipped with gearing which will allow you to climb the mountains with a greater level of comfort. Most road bikes for hire will now come with compact gearing to allow for this, but it is best to be certain!
This region of the French Alps offers up a few options of villages to use as a cycling base. We have listed each village below. When compiling this list we have taken into account ease of access to each of the rides, accommodation available as well as other services such as bike hire and eating establishments.
1. Saint Jean de Maurienne
Located on the banks of the Arc River, the town of Saint Jean de Maurienne is a popular cycling base. It is the capital of the Maurienne valley and has a wide range of services open year round. It is also very well connected in terms of transport links with the local train station providing easy links to both France and Italy. It has been the host village on many occasions for the Tour de France, most recently in 2019. For more information regarding Saint Jean de Maurienne click here.
The village of Saint Michel de Maurienne is located a further 13km / 8mi from St Jean de Maurienne. It is also on the banks of the Arc River and is well serviced by restaurants, cafes and bars. The village is very popular in winter due to it’s proximity to the the local ski resorts. In Summer it is an equally popular tourist hub, providing quick access to cycling cols, hiking and MTB trails as well as many other outdoor activities. In terms of cycling it is located at the base of the climb to the Col du Galibier via the Col du Telegraph. For more information regarding Saint Michel de Maurienne click here.
Whether you want to spend some time off the bikes or have family members that are not keen cyclists there are plenty of things to do around this area. Included below are just some of our suggestions.
Given the steep mountains which surround the valley, it is no surprise this area is renowned for some very impressive rock climbing and Via Ferrata. So if a vertical challenge is what you are after then this will be right up your alley. Learn more here.
Looking for a birds eye view of those roads you have climbed up? Then why not book yourself on a paraglide? Learn more here.
Located on the edge of the pristine Vanoise National Park, this area boasts a range of hiking trails accessible from most of the villages. You can choose to join an organised guided hiking group or pick a self guided route. There are trails of varying difficulty to choose from all the way from beginner to advanced. Whether you want to hike to the foot of mountainous peaks, or take in the vista of beautiful alpine lakes there is something for everyone. More information on the hiking trails can be found here.
Given its proximity to the Arc river, it is no surprise that there are many water based activities to choose from. Both white water rafting and canyoning are great options for the adrenaline junkie. Perhaps you are after something more sedate? Than why not try your luck at a spot of fishing? Whether it is on the river or at an alpine lake, this region is very popular with anglers.
For something a bit different there is also the possibility of some day trips away from the mountains. From the Maurienne Valley you can easily take a trip to the French city of Lyon. Feel like a quick trip to Italy instead? Then what about hopping a train to Turin? The journey to either city takes between 1hr 45min and 2hrs respectively on the train from Saint Jean de Maurienne.
As you can see there is quite a lot to keep you occupied in the Maurienne Valley. We have included some useful web site links below to help you see what is on offer and plan your trip further.
Viator.com – book a range of tours and attractions before you leave home
Savoie Mont Blanc Tourism – includes lots of information about the Maurienne Valley in the Savoie region.
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