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Isère Family Holidays & Breaks

Grenoble's cable car.Grenoble's cable car.© www.bastille-grenoble.com
Skiing in Isère.Skiing in Isère.© E Lecocq
Participants in the Coupe d'Icare.Participants in the Coupe d'Icare.© Alain Doucé
Walking in Isère.Walking in Isère.© E Lecocq
Boating on a lake in Isère. Boating on a lake in Isère. © YCGC Pays Voironnais
Horse-riding in Isère.Horse-riding in Isère.
Cycling in Isère.Cycling in Isère.© S Corporon
Flying Time 1.1hrs
Timezone GMT +1
Currency Euro

Today

Overview

This pretty département south of the main ski regions of the French Alps is home to two big ski resorts, Alpe d’Huez (hub of the Massif des Grandes Rousses area) and Les Deux Alpes. Together known as the Grandes Alpes, they offer plenty of easy and intermediate terrain. Alpe d’Huez in particular is widely underrated and has never been very trendy yet boasts charismatic skiing from village to village and from high above-treeline areas to sweet valleys.

In summer, as in the rest of the Alps, hiking, cycling, climbing and horse-riding are popular family activities, as is swimming in crystalline mountain lakes. And the picturesque area capital, Grenoble – flat yet surrounded by mountain ranges – has some year-round attractions for families.

Things to do with kids in Isère

Ski at Alpe d'Huez, a favourite for family holidays in Isère, or at Les Deux Alpes.

Explore Grenoble, an hour and a half from the main ski resorts. Kids go mad for a ride on its cable car with its funky bubble-like pods accommodating up to six people. It takes you up to the 19th-century fortress of La Bastille, which offers great views over town and, on a clear day, Mont Blanc in the distance. Meandering paths take you back down the hillside. Because of its overall flatness, Grenoble is also great to explore by bike – there are special routes alongside the Drac and Isère rivers. Métrovélo has good-value bike hire, including baby seats. A good rainy-day bet is the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, with stuffed animals and skeletons aplenty, plus displays on earth sciences and ethnography.

Take a jaunt on the Chemin de Fer de la Mure, a tourist train taking you over spectacular viaducts and through 18 tunnels, including the 1km ‘Tunnel Mystérieux’ complete with magic lanterns and animated models. Departing from St-Georges-de-Commiers less than 20km from Grenoble, it has a special kids’ carriage with a play area. Closed at the time of writing, it's scheduled to be back in action in 2020.

Hike from Chamrousse, south-east of Grenoble, to mountain lakes Lac Robert and Lac Achard. There are various paths, some well-suited to families, and when you get there you can swim or fish (with a permit) amidst gorgeous scenery.

Eat

See our French Alps destination guide for tips on eating out in Isère and the region as a whole. Grenoble has a particularly good choice of Italian and Asian restaurants (it has an Italian quarter).

When to go to Isère

The ski season in Isère lasts from December to April.

Summers sports enthusiasts find the area pleasantly uncrowded even in high season. Another good time to bring kids is September, when the annual four-day Coupe Icare festival of free flight at St Hilaire du Touvet–Lumbin includes a concours de déguisements with para-glider and hang-glider pilots flying in costume, plus street performances and children’s activities.

Cost

Isère is cheaper than many other areas of the French Alps due to some of its ski resorts having been underrated in the past. A wide choice of self-catering accommodation helps keep costs down too.

By Nick Dalton

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