Villar d’Arène, Its Nordic area and Écrins National Park
The Alpine atmosphere in the village is spectacular. It’s just a stone’s throw from Écrins National Park and is in the foothills of legendary peaks such as La Meije.
Although the Haut Vallée de la Romanche is orientated towards Oisans, Villar d’Arène and La Grave are the only settlements to be on this side of the Col du Lautaret while also being part of the Hautes-Alpes.
Villar d’Arène and its hamlets, the Pied du Col and Les Cours, are recognised nowadays for their authentic heritage, with traditional houses, chapels and fountains setting the tempo for any visit. Additionally, the ‘Au fil des fontaines’ route is a must-see, just as is the old-mill-ecomuseum.
In winter, the Espace Nordique du Pays de la Meije opens to cross-country skiing, with easy but varied loops, a snowshoeing trail and a pedestrian route. Itineraries are quite flat and go through forest undergrowth, the depths of the valley or higher-up around the Pied du Col. Don’t forget the natural ice-rink and tobogganing trail!
In summer, Écrins National Park is a stone’s throw away from majestic hiking landscapes with access to several Alpine-style mountain shelters. But that’s not all! There’s also the Via Ferrata, mountain biking, mountain climbing, fishing … and so much more!
What to see and do
A glacial Nordic area
You’ll feel like you’re in Canada, or Norway, depending on your tastes, right on the edge of the Oisans. At an altitude of 1,650 m, the village of Villar d’Arène took advantage of a break in the slope to develop. This is where ‘the great outdoors’ takes on its full meaning. High-altitude mountain atmospheres, snow-capped trees and imposing summits … you’ll find it all here! There’s 10 km for Nordic skiing, 11 km of snowshoeing routes through hamlets, a trail for Nordic walking, a relaxation area and the cherry on top of it all, a natural ice rink!
jardin du Lautaret
This high-altitude botanical garden is an ode to mountain flowers. It’s the epicentre for mountain botanicals, with more than 2000 species of plants and flowers from mountains around the world. This paradise for botanical lovers and scientists alike has been under the surveillance of the Université de Grenoble since 1899. We don’t think there’s a single question we wouldn’t have an answer for, so take a guided visit or check out our summer conferences to ask us! It’s said to be one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in Europe. Find out for yourself!
Écrins National Park and its shelters
From Villar d’Arène, entering Écrins National Park is an invitation to hike. The small valley of Pied du Col finds its way up to the Alpine pastures of Villar d’Arène, by ascending the Romanche which was once just a simple mountain stream. A gradual warm-up is followed by a climb to the plateau where the first shelters are located. The rest looks much like Écrins, where mineral rocks reign, be it in Arsine or the Massif des Agneaux, all under the watchful eye of the glaciers. High-altitude shelters await you at the end of the route, after which it’s Alpinist territory.