The Rhone Valley is part of the Rhone Alpes region in southeast France, bordering Switzerland and Italy to the east and Provence to the south. It includes the Savoie and Haut Savoie, Isère, Ain, Ardèche and Drôme. Historically the region has been one of the main trade routes giving the area a rich heritage and a diverse population.
The Rhone has a varied landscape with dense forests, lush pastures, clear lakes and spectacular mountain peaks. Bordering Lake Geneva, the spa towns of Aix-les-Bains, Thonan and Evian are very scenic while Chamonix is where the Mont Blanc tunnel cuts through the Alps to Italy.
Lyon is the regional capital, sitting on the Rhone River. Other major towns in the Rhone-Alpes region include Saint Etienne, Annecy, Chambery, Grenoble and Montelimar.
The varied landscape with its scenic lakes and rivers provides excellent fly-fishing, angling, rafting and superb golf courses. Relax in the natural spas after a day of hiking and biking through the wild hill country. Climbers and potholers find plenty of challenges. In the winter, skiing, skating, snowboarding and snowshoeing are popular activities.
Overlooked by towering Mont Blanc, the area has been a favourite spot for hiking, climbing and winter sports for centuries. Bird watchers will enjoy the small lakes and birdlife in the Dombes. To the west are the vineyards of the Loire and the forests and gorges of the Ardèche. Further south are the lavender fields and olive groves. Each area offers its own particular attractions and things to do.
Cultural activities can be found in most cities around your self catering gite in the Rhone Valley. Lyon has a grand Opera House, theatres, museums and gardens and is said to be the gastronomic centre of France with some excellent chef-owned restaurants. Visits to the local vineyards are a pleasant way to sample the local wines which rarely find their way outside the region.
The beautiful Rhone Valley is at its best weather-wise between April and October and winter sports attracts visitors to the higher elevations.
Regional cuisine includes the tasty salad called “machon” which has potatoes, dandelion leaves, bacon, garlic sausage, brawn or other meats. It is served for lunch with Beaujolais wine by the jugful! Dairy produce dominates the Savoie while fresh fish comes from the mountains, mushrooms from the forests and fruits from the orchards. Frogs legs are a locally delicacy and the Swiss influence can be found in the sweet brioche.
The main airports serving holiday rentals and gites in the Rhone Alpes are Grenoble, Annecy, Geneva and St Etienne with several low cost airlines.
Those wanting to self-drive can cross the channel by ferry or Eurostar and make the 760km journey south in 7-8 hours. The TGV high speed train runs from Paris to Lyon and takes two hours.