Sadly, many of the lovely villages in the Alps are written off by some people as wholly devoted to skiing. If you are like me and look for holidays with a little culture thrown in, you might be put off visiting because of their sporty reputation. However, lots of these settlements have been around for hundreds of years. Once small, isolated shepherd villages or important towns for Alpine travellers, they now offer visitors a fascinating glimpse into what life was like in the Alps before the powder hounds discovered its shimmering slopes.
This post will take you through a suggested itinerary perfect for culture-vultures and show that somewhere like La Clusaz has plenty to offer those searching for local history, hidden gems and authentic experiences.
Lovely La Clusaz
La Clusaz, a village nestled in the French Alps, is best known as a ski resort. However, unlike many modern resorts that have sprung up in the past few decades, La Clusaz has hosted winter sports for over one hundred years. In 1902 a road opened up a route between the valleys of Thones and Aravis allowing the small, isolated village of La Clusaz to become a haven for tourists in the winter and summer.
Even if skiing doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are plenty of reasons to visit this charming old village.
If you only have a limited time to spend in La Clusaz, you might want to consider following an itinerary. This will help you get the most out of your time in the region and not waste a single minute.
- A Horse Ride – The village has a tradition of horse riding and there is no better way to appreciate the natural beauty of the region than from horseback. Aravis Passion provides guided horseback tours all week long. You can ride first thing in the morning – from 8.30 – or enjoy a sunset ride – they close at 7.30 pm. Set aside about 3 hours for this activity.
- Visit the Castle of the Dukes of Savoie – This castle is in nearby Chambery and dates back to the eleventh century. Though it is free to visit the gardens and courtyard, it is well worth paying for a guided tour of the sumptuous interior. The castle is open from 10.30 am to 6 pm and closed on Mondays.
- Barrage et Site de Roseland – Visit this beautiful spot in Arêches to see the incredible contrast between its man-made dam and reservoir and the natural splendour all around. You’re sure to get some stunning photographs.
- Nature Reserve – Keep the day nature-focused and head to the nature reserve of Bout du Lac in Doussard. There is a lovely nature trail which leads you to the atmospheric ruins of Beauvivier Castle and the interpretation provided reveals the history of the peasants who used to live there.
- Abbaye Impériale in Baume-les-Messieurs – This peaceful abbey in the quiet hamlet of Baume-les-Messieurs offers a glimpse into the way of life in this region. It is free to visit, though I recommend the audio guide for just €4.
Top Tip: Guided tours are available from 1st April to 30th September and last around 45 minutes.
- Chambery Cathedral – Return to delightful Chambery and explore its magnificent cathedral – which is over six hundred years old – and its astounding interior. As the area is very swampy, the cathedral is supported by 30,000 poles!
- Medieval City of Conflans – Just a short drive away from Chambery is Conflans, a medieval stopping place for travellers between France and Italy. You’ll find authentic local traders and simple cobbled streets. This is a great place to buy souvenirs.
- St Martin de Belleville – This charming village is surrounded by Alpine beauty. Think pretty chalets and snow-capped mountains. The village – once infamous as the setting of the Marquis de Sade’s “120 Days of Sodom”- is now is home to an excellent small museum detailing the history of the region (open from December to April every day except Saturday, entrance €3).
- Nightlife – La Clusaz has some really great bars whether you want to sit and relax or dance the night away. I’d recommend La Datcha for a chilled cocktail and, though it might seem quiet, the bar gets livelier as the night wears on. Le Bachal is a great little wine bar, perfect for wine and charcuterie and open until 2 am.
Where to Stay
Résidence – Les Grandes Alpes – This gorgeous five-star residence provides guests with beautiful chalet-style apartments offering privacy and comfort. The apartments come with a fully equipped kitchenette, so you have the independence to eat whenever you want, meaning unlimited exploration of the local area.
Les Cimes – Les Cimes has a superbly central location and its rooms are cosy and full of character. With access to a pool, sauna and spa, it’s the ideal place to relax after a busy day.
How to Get There
From the UK, the best way to reach La Clusaz is to fly into Geneva Airport. Four airlines fly direct from London airports to Geneva, and the flight usually takes just an hour and a half.
To reach La Clusaz, book an airport transfer from Geneva. I’d recommend Shuttle Direct as they offer fair prices with no hidden extras. If you are on a budget, they offer a shared shuttle, and if you want to travel in style you can book a private transfer – perfect.
About Shuttle Direct
Our excellent drivers provide inexpensive transfer options which deliver you straight to your hotel or resort. Shuttle Direct offer brilliant prices and an efficient, friendly service. Simply pre-book online in minutes.