Here is a perfect example of a village perché, perched on a huge, sunny balcony overlooking the Romanche Valley! Another Oisans village which has become increasingly accessible over the centuries. The natural advantages of the location for farming, in particular the extensive pastureland, has meant that the village has always been inhabited. The proximity to a major pioneering resort enabled it to convert to a ski resort in the twentieth century. Today, it is a small village resort, innovating in its respect for authenticity.
- Oisans trail running resort
- “Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine Ski” village resort
- Well-planned village
- Well-preserved village atmosphere
After the construction of a ski lift in 1946, Villard-Reculas became the first satellite station of Alpe d’Huez and soon followed in the footsteps of its neighbour. Nowadays, this small summer and winter alpine resort offers a wide range of activities in quiet, authentic surroundings, including skiing, snowshoeing and ski touring in the winter and hiking, mountain biking and bicycle touring in the summer. The new Trail de l’Oisans label ensures that trail runners can enjoy a number of routes and local heritage is not forgotten, with both village and farm visits available.
History and Heritage
Like many Oisans villages, it is difficult to precisely date the origins of Villard-Reculas, but the remains of a supply channel dating from the time of the Sarrasins in the sixth century provides clues. The Sarrazins Canal (13 km long!), still maintained and operational, is the most interesting village monument. Essential for supplying water to the village, it also turned out to be extremely long-lasting.
The parish of Villard Reculas was founded in 1172, under the name of Ecclesia de Reculatis. In about 1360, Saint Catherine’s chapel was built next to the cemetery, perfectly situated for linking to the valley. Then in 1757, the church we see today was built in the centre of the village and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.
The name of the village indicates one of its features, namely its difficult access. “Reculas” refers to its remoteness (reculée) as the road we use today was only opened in 1981! Before this date, only the narrow, panoramic Route de la Confession (linking it to Huez) led to the village.
The new road opened opportunities for modern tourism, which proved to be the best way for the village to develop, thanks to its proximity to Alpe d’Huez. However, listening carefully to local inhabitants and pioneering in village planning, choices made as regards development were radically different. The most important concern of the village has become its most important asset, namely its charm and identity.
The Route de la Confession
The Route de la Confession was the first road leading to Villard-Reculas and was exceptional due to its construction (a real challenge for the era), its exposure between two cliffs, its legend (to which its name refers) and the wonderful view on offer.
On the road between Huez and Villard-Reculas, hanging from the cliffside, a mysterious sign announces the Confession Step (Pas de la Confession), as it was considered better to cross this terrible, steep passage with a clear conscience!
The Legend of the Confession has it that only pure souls could take the risk of travelling along this narrow road, exposed to rock falls (chamois enjoy jumping along the mountainside above) and intimidating for those scared of heights. The local Villarais were therefore deemed to be very virtuous. An oratory near Huez at the start of the road was an obligatory stopping place for confessing before tackling the road.
But at the time, construction of the road was a real breath of air for the villagers as previously, the only way of reaching the valley had been via the « Vieille morte » path (a hamlet in the Romanche Valley). As it was impassable in the winter, locals had to pass above the village to join the Huez pastures and the village of Huez. This was the only route leading to Villard Reculas before 1980, when the village was freed from its enclave status by the road linking it to Allemont.
For more information, contact Villard-Reculas Tourist Office