An “eagle’s nest” village!
Located on the eastern side of the Massif du Grand Renaud, the village overlooks the Bourg d’Oisans plaine and offers an outstanding panoramic view of the Grandes Rousses, Romanche valley and Vénéon valley. In summer, life is laid-back and friendly, with its little restaurant, festive events and traditions. Linked to Villard-Reymond by a track that overlooks the Romanche valley, visitors can enjoy a hike to explore two picturesque Oisans villages.
- Picturesque balcony road
- Unusual church
- Well-preserved village
- Paved road as far as Villard-Reymond
Untamed areas for enjoying the great outdoors
The untamed surrounding areas are perfect for a wide range of outdoor activities, especially hiking, with the Chemin des cascades, the family hike the Boucle des Croix and the more challenging Vallon du Rochail, which offers a superb panoramic view point over the Ecrins… For cyclists, the road up to Villard Notre Dame is to be climbed at least once in a lifetime, suspended above a sheer drop and with dark tunnels, it leaves unforgettable memories. In winter, icefall climbing can be enjoyed in the Cirque du Rochail and ski touring is also available from the village.
History and Heritage
The history of the village is closely bound up to that of mountain farming. In the mountains, people chose where to settle according to the potential of the surrounding land for growing crops and the qualities of the site, such as the amount of sun, safety in both summer and winter (away from rock falls and avalanches) and accessibility to high altitude pastureland for summer grazing. Villard-Notre-Dame ticked all the boxes and despite difficult access to this promontory, the village was home to 316 people in 1806! This compares to 29 today. The way of life at this time enabled inhabitants to be virtually self-sufficient, which explains the high population. The church bears witness to the long life of the village. Overlooking the square and visible from many parts of Oisans, it is built in a sober and elegant style and has been the subject of significant renovation. The door to the building, protected by a wide porch, is the oldest part, dating from the end of the 15th century/ early 16th entry, being the only identifiable mediaeval part of the church.
Another feature of the commune is is the La Gardette mine, an important mineralogical heritage site. Situated at an altitude of around 1290 m, the site was discovered by crystal hunters at the beginning of the 18th century. The quartz mined for crystals was of internationally-renowned clarity and specimens can be seen in the Bourg d’Oisans Museum.
Access via a picturesque road
The road leading to Villard Notre Dame is in itself an exploit and a reason to visit! Narrow and spectacular, the RD 219 is one of the most picturesque roads in Oisans. Cut into a vertical rock wall, construction began in 1937 and lasted two years under the aegis of Joseph Paganon, Member of Parliament for Isère, Senator and Minister. It is highly popular with cyclists in the summer, with a 10% gradient throughout the 8.9 km climb!
After passing through a wood, the end of the climb is perfect for admiring the Alpine sites surrounding the village. From one of the last bends, the loveliest view is the one over the lower Vénéon valley and the untamed valley torrent that flows from the Rochail glacier, with its wonderful waterfalls.
The unusual history of the church pulpit
In the 19th century, Jean-Pierre Napoléon Richard, born in Villard-Notre-Dame, left the village for the Haute Loire in the centre of France, peddling textiles and around his 30th birthday settled in a village called Tence, at an altitude of 850m. There, in 1882, he became rector of the secular brotherhood of the Pénitents du Saint Sacrement. In the same year, at the age of 69, he sculpted the first pulpit in the Chapelle des Pénitents de Tence, which now houses a religious art museum. Although he had sold his properties in Villard-Notre-Dame, he returned in 1886 to sculpt a second and particularly original pulpit in the church of his home village, to the same design as that created in Tence.
For more information, contact Office de Tourisme de Bourg-d’Oisans
Oppening periodsFrom 01/01 to 31/12/2017.
Closed exceptionally on January 1st, May 1st, May 8th, November 1st, November 11th and December 25th.
September to June
Monday to Saturday : 9am - 12am and 2pm - 6pm
July and August
Everyday : 9am to 6pm.