Noteworthy sites to visit
From the marvellous to the amazing … go and discover the territory’s key sites.
The Pays des Écrins has some truly remarkable, natural sites, which have made it a famous, breathtaking place to visit.
Dormillouse, at the heart of the Parc National des Ecrins
Nestled in the Freissinières valley is the little hamlet of Dormillouse. The only village inhabited all year round in the heart of the Parc, Dormillouse is only accessible by a small path about an hour’s walk away. There are several impressive waterfalls on the way. Isolated but rich in history thanks to its religious past and the relics of its well-known Vaudois occupation (a temple and former school, Felix Neff’s house …), Dormillouse is composed of several little wood and stone houses. It has a rare and unique animal and plant life, so you might be privileged to see the Alpine Scabious, edelweiss, marmots, sheep (pastoralism centre) …From Dormillouse, you can choose amongst several walks available, and explore the sumptuous scenery of the Faravel and Palluel lakes.
Les Mines d'Argent du Fournel (Fournel silver mine) and le Musée de la Mine (mining museum)
The silver-lead deposit in the Fournel valley was substantially mined in the Middle Ages (10th to 13th Centuries). Using a digging technique with fire, the excavation went down to 100 metres. The silver extracted was used by the archbishoprics of Embrun, Cesana and Grenoble in their money minting workshops.
Then during the industrial revolution between 1785 and 1908, several mining companies in succession continude to extract the mineral, up to 300 metres under the mountainside. A factory was built in the depths of the Fournel gorges and the mining activity employed up to 500 people.
Since 1992, the site has been the object of various archeological excavations. Volunteer organisations have helped to rehabilitate the site which today is open to the public.
A place to wander around and explore, Fournel valley is somewhere to be visited during your stay in the Pays des Écrins. It is a witness to the pastoral life of times gone by and more importantly, the “sanctuary” of a unique biodiversity!
La réserve des Deslioures
The reserve is the biggest site in Europe for the “Queen of the Alps”. Created in 1993 by the ONF (forestry commission), this “sanctuary” is included in those natural sites classified Natura 2000.
At the end of the Vallouise valley, Ailefroide must be on your list of places to see during your time in the Pays des Écrins, a hamlet set apart from outside demands, except from the mountains as a playground : a quiet, peaceful place, which must be visited.
Le Pré de Madame Carle (Madame Carle’s meadow)
Formerly a fertile plain at the bottom of Vallouise valley, the Pré de Madame Carle offers itself as a gift … The road stops, taking you to the foot of the glaciers and there … nature offers you its best. If you go only to one place in Les Écrins, perhaps it should be this one….
Le Glacier Blanc
The second must-see place after Le Pré de Madame Carle, is the Glacier Blanc, a unique jewel in the crown of the Pay des Écrins, where mountain and ice merge. Visiting this site is a must, an opportunity to live a magic moment right there – in front of you!