DEPARTMENT OF ISERE : 38
||L’Isère is part of Rhône Alpes. It is the biggest department of Rhône Alpes and the second in terms of population.
Isère comes from the celtic Isar which means “iron” which was probably once found in the Isère river.
|Isère was created at the time of the French revolution, on the 4th March 1790, from a part of the Dauphiné region.|
The boundaries of the department have been changed very often down the years, the last change having taken place in 1971 with part of the department being passed over to the Rhône department.
The main town in Isère is Grenoble.
However depending on where people live, north or south Isère, they consider their main town to be Lyon or Grenoble.
|The department is very varied.|
-in the north: one finds the limestone region of Crémieu, with its typical medieval stone houses, set along the Rhône river and at the foot of the Jura mountains.
-halfway between Lyon and Grenoble you have a host of small regions all different and it is these distinctions that lend such great charm to this area. The houses are made of “pisé”: raw earth with a high clay and grit content beaten and packed between 2 planks. To prevent the house from collapsing in the rain they are topped with watertight roofs that extend far out over the walls forming an umbrella effect.
-north of Grenoble you have the massif de la Chartreuse and its beautiful mountains that can be scrutinised every day to check for the first snows of winter.
-to the east of Grenoble you have the Belledonne mountains and les Grandes Rousses.
-south of Grenoble you have l’Oisans and the Vercors and its sweaping landscapes.
-in the west the valley of the Rhône set between Lyon and Montélimar. The Rhône river has linked north and south since Roman times and the villages perched on either side of it are exceptionally pretty. As you go south look up the hills along the Rhône river and you will discover the vineyards and wonder how it is possible to harvest the grapes from that steep angle in order to then make the wine.
The views are magnificent and breathtaking.
It is not unusual to be sipping your aperitif in your garden on a warm sunny day whilst surveying these beautiful mountains still covered in snow.
|PNR Vercors (Isère) – © RAT/P. Blanc|
|The department has a semi continental climate, with the winters often cold and snowy and the summers hot and dry. During the winter it is possible to ski or huddle over the open log fireplace and then laze by the garden pool throughout the Summer.|
The lower part of the department has a more Mediterranean climate.
The mountains suffer a harsher climate due to the altitude as some peaks in the region reach 4000m.
|Charavines, au bord du lac de Paladru (Isère) – © RAT/P. Blanc|
What to do and see|
|There are 3 national regional parks: |
|parc national des Ecrins, the largest of the French national parks. Many of the summits rise up to more than 4000m and there are numerous glaciers. There is a great variety of species of animals and plants in the park.|
-parc naturel régional du Vercors, the unusual variety of landscapes means that there is a diversity of climates too. This has helped to create an exceptional reserve for flora and fauna.
-parc naturel régional de la Chartreuse, home to the many paragliders that launch themselves from its summits. It is the smallest of the parks.
|There is an abundance of water in the northern part of the department which means that there are a great many lakes, caves and galleries, a potholer’s paradise…|
In the “pays de la Bièvre” there are some beautiful lakes and the area is much appreciated by horse riders and walkers.
Roybon is home to a nature reserve where hundreds of European animals roam free in a 300 hectare park.
The limestone Massif de la Chartreuse is north of Grenoble. It is a haven for hiking in summer.
The massif de la Belledone with its crystalline rocks, rises east of Grenoble.
The Vercors is very accessible for a “mountain” region. The houses are made from lauze, the local stone. The villages are beautiful and each has their own particular architectural features. There are any number of walks to choose from and each leads to water at some point. There are beautiful hidden streams and water falls just waiting to be discovered by a determined walker.
You can also benefit from a guide to ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the natural treasures of the area.
|lac de Monteynard (Isère) - © RAT/JL. Rigaux|
|The Lac de Paladru has beaches for sunbathing while the more active can undertake any number of water sports.|
The steam train of La Mure with its 12 viaducts and 18 tunnels is worth a visit. It was the first high-voltage electrified railway line in the world.
The miniature train circuit of Chatte near St Marcellin is very popular.
The giant mushroom and insect forest near St-Antoine-l’Abbaye is worth a visit.
In the Vercors the musée des automates with its clockwork characters.
The musée de l’eau in Pont-en-Royans is unique and you can taste 600 waters from all over the world.
A must is a visit to the St-Romain-en-Gal museum. The Roman theatre is one of the largest of the Roman Empire.
|The north of the department is renowned for its medieval towns with its exceptional history. There are many unusual churches around and the Roman history is very visible.|
Stone calvers were very popular in these areas during the Roman times and it is possible to travel back in time at different moments in the year when the local residents re-enact history in a series of pageants. Archaeological finds abound in this region.
Morestel is also known as the painters’ corner because of the number of artists that visit all year round.
Brangues is the resting spot of writer Paul Claudel.
La Bièvre and its surrounding areas.
La Côte St André was the birthplace of Hector Berlioz and the town keeps the memory of their favourite son constantly alive.
The town has an 18th century covered market place, still very much in use.
There is also the chocolate and the liqueur museums.
St Antoine l’Abbaye’s history dates back to 1070.
Grenoble is the “capital of the Alpes”. It is surrounded by snowy peaks.
The town is the second centre for scientific research in France and is also rich in art and history. It is one of the leading centres for contemporary art.
There is much to do and see and the town is most certainly worth an extended visit. The night-life is very lively.
The university is highly regarded in France and welcomes students and visitors from all over Europe and further afield.
The Lac de Paladru is an area rich in history and a Neolithic site was found in the lake.
In the massif de Belledone there are many spas as the waters are renowned for their healing properties and are prescribed for skin problems and rheumatism.
The Vercors was used by the resistance fighters during the last war, as it is so central and, therefore, it was possible to communicate with all of France. There were more than 4000 resistance fighters by 1944.
There are also a great many gorges in the area and most are well worth the visit, for example les Grottes de Choranche.
Pont en Royans is a village that overlooks a river and some of the medieval houses were carved out of the cliff face and can still be seen today.
Die is a southern Vercors Roman town with an amphitheatre, public baths and cobbled streets…well worth a visit.
Vienne is a Gallo Roman town that has been inhabited since the 5th century BC. It was the main port during Roman times. A visit round the town is extremely worthwhile.
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