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Best Alpine Villages in Summer

Five of the best villages in the French Alps in summer

Winter in the French Alps doesn't last forever

Mention the French Alps (Alps property) to most people and they picture images of snowy mountains, intrepid skiers, log cabins rosy with the glow of log fires and snow-tanned people, warmly wrapped in hats, gloves and scarves. The Alpine villages are famed for their ski resorts, their snowfall, their après ski social lives... in fact, they are synonymous with winter. However, even in the Alps, winter doesn't last for ever, and when summer comes round the best of these villages take on a whole new persona.

Summer in the Alps is delightful

Skiing and snowboarding are replaced by equally adrenaline fuelled rafting, canyoning, paragliding and mountaineering, while gentler sports like snow shoeing morph into walking, pony trekking and swimming in the crystal clear mountain lakes (Sport in France). Summer in the Alps can be every bit as delightful in summer as in winter. (French Sports and Sports Clubs in France.)

The perfect location for your French property

While the winter ski resorts are well documented, and choosing a location for a ski property (Ski property) is a relatively easy job (Ski Chalets for Sale in France), finding the perfect summer location for your French property can be a little tougher. Particularly as finding a popular winter location which is also a perfect summer location is the ideal solution for many, especially those wanting to buy a property to rent out in France (How to Buy the Perfect French Property to Rent Out).

Vibrant atmosphere or peaceful and traditional?

So finding the right place for you might take a bit of research. Some of the big name ski resorts are expert at transforming themselves into summer resorts, but others can go terribly quiet in the non snow season. In summer, as in winter, there are resorts for people who like a really lively social scene and want to be in a vibrant atmosphere with lots of other holidaymakers. Then there are also those which attract people for the opposite, perhaps their calm beauty, traditional architecture, or their heritage and character.

Popular resorts year round

The following villages are all popular and well known winter resorts, but each also offers special attractions in the summer. So these will be perfect village locations for those looking to buy a property to rent out (Letting property in France), as demand in these places will be high year round.

1. Chamonix - a perfect summer resort

Although Chamonix has around 10,000 inhabitants, it is a true Alpine village in many ways. It may be one of the highest profile ski resorts in the region, but it has also retained many original Savoyard features and buildings as well as its traditions. Practiced as it is at attracting winter tourists, it is little wonder perhaps that Chamonix (Chamonix Property Guide) is also a dab hand at transforming itself into a perfect summer resort. Chamonix in summer, as in winter, is ideal for those who like to be in a lively resort with plenty going on around them.

Huge variety of sporting activities

In Chamonix in the summer you can choose from a huge variety of sporting activities, and there is bound to be something to suit all tastes, ages and abilities. The resort was the birthplace of mountaineering, so if this is your bag you will find no shortage of opportunities to test yourself against the mountains. The towering Mont Blanc, on the doorstep of Chamonix, awaits you! Lifts in Chamonix run all summer long, so there is no difficulty involved in getting wherever you want to be for your chosen activity.

Gentler options include golf and walking

If mountaineering isn't quite your bag, don't worry. Other possibilities for spending your leisure time are white water rafting, mountain biking, paragliding or canyoning, while gentler options include golf, walking and horse-riding.

2. Évian les Bains - genuinely Savoyard

With around 7,300 full-time residents, Évian les Bains is not much more than a big village, yet its famous name goes before it, leading visitors to expect far more of an urban sprawl than actually exists. Évian is, of course, famed for its spa waters, with bottled water from its natural source being one of the world's leading brands. That aside, Évian les Bains (Évian-les-Bains Property Guide) is in many ways one of the best places in the Alps to enjoy a summer break. Its dreamy setting on the shores of the glorious Lake Geneva marks it out as different from the majority of Alpine villages, yet it remains genuinely Savoyard in character and ambience.

Lake Geneva is the main attraction

At lower altitude than Chamonix and the ski resorts, Évian's main attraction is Lake Geneva, whose waters and shores offer endless opportunities for summer sports and activities, whether these be sailing, cruising, swimming, sunbathing or dining lakeside with some of the loveliest views in Europe around you. Évian has an almost other worldly elegance, reminiscent of times past, and this, coupled with its spa treatments and tranquil setting make it a perfect place to recharge the batteries and enjoy the soft air and sunshine of an Alpine summer.

3. Escape the crowds in Abondance

The little village of Abondance, in the Haute-Savoie department (Haute-Savoie Property Guide), serves up a blissful slice of Alpine life in summer. Savoyard and traditional to its very core, Abondance (Abondance Property Guide) is the place to go to escape the crowds, to breathe fresh, mountain air and to discover a world far removed from the hurly burly of modern life in the UK. The sound of summer in Abondance is the gentle tinkling of the cow bells fastened to the collars worn by the doe-eyed Abondance cows as they graze the sweet grass of the mountain pastures.

Discover a real Alpine way of life

The village has many old, original buildings, and the heritage includes such illustrious sights as the Notre Dame d'Abondance Abbey, a genuine 14th century Gothic-styled abbey adorned with important murals. Discovering a real, as opposed to tourism-inspired Alpine life is one of the charms of Abondance. Pay a visit to La Maison du Val, where you can watch demonstrations of traditional Savoyard crafts such as cheese making, and from where guided tours of Abondance and the surrounding area can be taken.

Explore the street markets

Wander around the street markets on lazy Sunday mornings, or take a table at one of the good selection of excellent restaurants in the village to get a taste of real Alpine fare. Sports fans can also find plenty to occupy them. All the usual summer mountain pursuits are available near to Abondance, which has easy access to the major resorts.

4. Meribel les Allues - traditional and beautiful

This traditional and beautiful Alpine village is just ten minutes away from the well established resort of Meribel Centre and makes an ideal base for enjoying the best of an Alpine summer without being in the thick of a crowd of tourists. It is picturesque, both in its pretty Savoyard architecture and stunning surroundings, and has a laid back, gentle pace of life. The village itself has a small selection of friendly bars and restaurants, but anyone wanting a livelier scene only has a short walk to reach all of this and more in Meribel Centre.

A plethora of activities on offer

If the tranquillity and Savoyard charm of the village and its immediate surroundings aren't enough to keep everyone in your party entertained, Meribel les Allues (Meribel les Allues Property Guide) in summer can provide more than enough activities to exhaust even the most energetic. Walking is a delightful way to enjoy the glorious scenery, of course, but Meribel Centre is one of the best sports centres in the Alps for any season. Rock climbing, zip wire, white water rafting, tennis, mountain biking and pony trekking are among the sports on offer, although by no means all of them! Meribel les Allues is the perfect blend of authentic Savoyard tranquillity and charm along with access to a buzzing activity and holiday centre.

5. Alpe d'Huez is a Mecca for cyclists

High in the Isère department (Isère Property Guide) of the French Alps is the village of Alpe d'Huez (Alpe d'Huez Property Guide). The dramatic mountain scenery and traditional charm of the old village are all it takes to attract many visitors, but for cyclists, this village is Mecca. The Alpe d'Huez climb is one of the most famous and perhaps the most feared of all the mountain stages of the Tour de France, the cycle race that tests the very best of the world's cyclists. Cycling fans of all abilities come to try their luck, and succeed or fail it is an experience none will ever forget. Should the Tour be passing through, there is nowhere better to be than on the twisting mountain roads of Alpe d'Huez to see close up the agony and the ecstasy of the Tour de France.

Lots to offer non cyclists too

For non cyclists, Alpe d'Huez has lots more to offer. Restaurants serving superb Alpine dishes, shops and an extensive sports centre can be found in the village, while just outside is all the beauty of the Écrans National Park. The adventure sports of white water rafting, kayaking, climbing and riverboarding (or hydrospeed) bring that adrenaline rush to the brave, while gentler options include swimming, sailing and pedalo fun on a tranquil lake.

Many more villages to discover

The above is just a small selection of the villages in the French Alps that are just as suited to summer as they are to winter. However, the French Alps cover an extensive area, and tucked into the folds of the mountains are a host of beautiful villages, waiting to be discovered in their green, summer glory.

Additional articles which may be of interest:

The Best Chateaux on the Market
French Tax on Holiday Homes Dropped
How To Buy the Perfect Second Home in France
Why buy property in France

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

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