Comprising two hamlets backed by a schist ridge, Clavans features pretty fountains, flower-filled squares and an interesting church. The fast-flowing Ferrand torrent, which gives its name to the Valley, gushes down in waterfalls from the glacial Lac des Quirlies (2600m), before tumbling into the turquoise waters of the Lac du Chambon. With its flower-strewn pastureland, typical shepherds huts, ancestral traditions and daring roads, Clavans-en-Haut-Oisans is a land combining the modern day and memories of yesteryear.
- Untamed environment
- Track to Alpe d’Huez in the summer (35 mins by car)
- At the foot of the Col de Sarenne
- Peace and revitalisation
In summer, you can go up over the Col de Sarenne – a marvellous unspoiled viewpoint over the Massif de la Meije – and on up to Alpe d’Huez on the pastoral track. For hikers, Clavans is on the GR54 Tour de l’Oisans long-distance footpath and the Montée du Cerisier or the traditional walk up to the Lac des Quirlies (listed site) will reveal magnificent scenery. In winter, the Grand Sablat glacier off-piste run can be tackled with a guide from the Pic Blanc (Alpe d’Huez) down to Clavans.
History and Heritage
The name Clavans comes from Cla, meaning “key” and Aarvan, meaning “high”. In olden days, it was a customs village on the former Savoie border, which the peddlers used across to sell their haberdashery, trinkets and alpine plants throughout France and even as far as Russia. When they returned, they brought other products back to the village, together with news of the outside world. Some fine houses still bear witness to their prosperity and some of them sheltered Huguenots during the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), when hundreds of Protestant refugees fled to Savoie. The inhabitants of Clavans-en-Haut-Oisans have managed to maintain the traditions from this era both as regards crafts (wickerwork, the manufacture of locks and the production of honey) and culinary traditions, using simple yet filling products.
A long time ago the story went around Clavans of the foultoum’, a ghostly light that brought all the villagers out into the square at dusk. A touch of superstition made the Clavanchons wary and the phenomenon caused great intrigue. Everyone had their idea about where this light came from, dancing between the trees further up the stream. Even the mayor had difficulty maintaining a minimum of sang-froid among his population, so deeply was the legend rooted in Clavans.
But as with many mysteries, an explanation was found. A young lad called Petit Pierre thought to stand on the shoulders of a tall Clavanchon and reported that the legend was simply the reflection of the bulb of a street lamp, which was diffusing its ghostly rays in the caress of the breeze.