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Rhône Alpes: from the river plains to the Alps

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The French region of Rhône Alpes comprises a large area of south-eastern France which extends from the Alps – on the border with Switzerland and Italy – to the Rhône and Saône valley. The main center is the city of Lyon which is also the capital of the region.

The region is made up of eight departments: the Ain (01), with the capital Bourg-en-Bresse; Ardèche (07), with the capital Privas; the Drôme (26), with the capital Valence; Isère (38), with the capital Grenoble; the Loire (Loire) (42), with the capital Saint-Étienne; the Rhone (Rhône) (69), with the capital Lyon (Lyon); Savoy (Savoie) (73), with the capital Chambéry; and Haute Savoie (Haute-Savoie) (74), with the capital Annecy. With the administrative reform of 2016 it is part of the new Auvergne-Rhône-Alps region.

Geographically, the eastern part of the region includes the Alpine chain along the borders with Switzerland and Italy. In this area there is the highest mountain in France, Mont Blanc (4,810 meters), located along the border with Italy.

The central area, the most densely inhabited, is characterized by the Rhône and Saône valleys which converge at Lyon. The western area sees the beginning of the mountains of the Massif Central, in this area there is also one of the natural wonders of France, the Gorges de l’Ardèche, where you can admire one of the deepest canyons in Europe. The most important lakes are Lake Geneva, along the Swiss border, and Lake of Annecy.


From the tourist point of view, the Rhône Alpes region is very interesting, located between Paris and Provence, is located at the center of important road and railway lines and is served by two large airports such as those of Lyon and Geneva.

From a naturalistic point of view, the landscape is very varied, ranging from the snowy peaks of the Alps, to the lakes, to the intensely cultivated plains, to the hilly areas cultivated with vineyards. Among the main attractions are the famous Gorges de l’Ardèche, an impressive and wild canyon that is crossed by a beautiful scenic road 50 km long.

Another important tourist attraction is the Alpine chain with its mountains full of ski fields for the winter and for walking and hiking in the summer. The region prides itself on being the largest ski area in the world. With renowned ski centers such as Alpe d’Huez, Val-d’Isère, Chamonix and Les Deux Alpes. The region also hosts 8 natural parks, including 3 national parks (Vanoise, Cévennes and Écrins).

There is no lack of artistic attractions: the regional capital, Lyon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other interesting towns from an artistic point of view are Annecy, Grenoble, Chambéry, Vienne and Saint Etienne. The economy of the region is highly developed, the Rhône-Alpes is after the Île-de-France, i.e. the Paris region, the second largest economic area in France.

  • Area: 43.698 km²
  • Population: 6,058,000 (2007)
  • Capital: Lyon (Lyon)



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