Hautes-Alpes is the Department of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur formed during the French Revolution of 1790. The population is 142.3 thousand people.
The name of the Department itself emphasizes its high altitude location within the French Alps. The average height of the mountains is about 1 thousand meters and the highest point is over 4 thousand meters. The Department borders with other French Departments - Alpes de Haute Provence, Drome, Isere, Savoie, as well as with the neighbouring Italy.
Biggest cities of the Department are Gap, Briançon, Embrun.
Hautes-Alpes is, above all, the incredibly beautiful views, breathtaking and overflowing sense of aesthetic satisfaction. The fresh alpine air and outdoor activities and sports. Interesting long history despite the desire of the ancient people to get away to the mountains and, thus, to protect themselves from many fateful events. Also it is the beautiful small towns that are usually scattered in the valleys among the mountains or along the river, or as if clinging to the rocks watching the world go down. Despite the small population small towns of the Department have carried their uniqueness through the centuries, steeled in the struggle for survival, preserved their identity, character and traditions. Today they are mostly modern ski resorts, centres for recreation and leisure activities that can provide visitors with what they were so lacking in their orderly everyday life, namely a close contact with nature, physical outdoor activity, incredible boost of strength, energy and vigour for a long time.
High in the mountains (750 m above sea level), between the historic area of Dauphiné and the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, there is the administrative centre of the Department and a charming town, Gap (the population is about 43 thousand people). The town is famous for its rich and well-preserved nature: near it there is the Écrins National Park and the Dévoluy mountain range and Serre-Ponçon Lake. Gap is crossed by the tributary of Durance river, the Lui river. In 2002 it was recognized as the Alps City of the Year.
The first settlements appeared here during the Neolithic era. In the middle of the 1st millennium BC at the place of Gap the Celtic-Ligurian tribes who spoke Celtic language settled. In the 2nd century BC Gap within Gallia Narbonensis was conquered by the Romans, and the local population was Romanized. In the valley of Durance the Romans built the road that connected the region with the Roman Valencia. At that time the Roman garrison consisting of 360 people under the name of Vapinkum was located in the town with a mission to protect the road from looters. At the end of the 4th century the new strong fortifications with ramparts and towers that protected the city from the onslaught of the barbarians were built on the site of the old fortifications.
In the late 10th century Gap came under the rule of Episcopal authority and became the part of the Conte-de-Provence region (France) and then a part of Forcalquier County. In the 14-15th centuries, the Dauphiné region along with the town of Gap was separated from France. In 1512, the city, together with Provence, was once again attached to the French crown. It is known that in the 12th century the Templars were in the city.
In the 14th century, the city took advantage of the massive influx of people in the region which was due to the transfer of residence of the Popes in Avignon and actively developed crafts whose products were in demand among the visitors. These were the processing of leather and manufacture of woollen yarn. The development of works and crafts contributed to the rise of the city during this period.
The 16th and 17th centuries became the particularly dark times for the city which was caused by violent fratricidal religious wars that swept the south of France. In 1577, Gap which was a stronghold of Catholicism in the region was captured by the Protestants which resulted in its serious harm. The Cathedral was burned, the monasteries and the people's homes were plundered. In 1622, Gap returned to fold of the Catholic Church.
In 1692, the troops of the Governor of Piedmont, Duke Victor Amadeus II, captured the city in the battle against the French King, Louis XIV. Gap was plundered and burnt once again: 798 houses of 953 were destroyed.
In 1790, during the French Revolution, the province of Dauphiné was divided into three parts: the Drôme, Isère and the Hautes-Alpes. Gap has become the prefecture, the most mountainous in France.
In 1802, Baron Charles-François de Ledusett was appointed the Prefect. Under his leadership, the town of Gap and the Hautes-Alpes Department obtained a significant development. Solid new roads connecting Gap with Italy and the valley of the Drôme were built.
In 1875, the railway was built here, and a new era of development began for the city.
During the Second World War the city was occupied by the Nazis. In 1944, under the orders of General de Gaulle, the guerrillas and the French Resistance forces carried out a brilliant operation and liberated Gap from the Nazis. Several hundred of soldiers managed to capture more than 1,200 Nazis.
Today, Gap is a lovely alpine town that can satisfy the most demanding travellers providing them with a rich cultural, educational, sports and recreational programs. In summer, the city hosts a variety of music and festive events and fairs.
There are many interesting places for visiting and contemplation in Gap. They are: Le Quattro Theatre, the Cathedral, the Cathedrals of Notre-Dame and Saint-Arnoult, the churches of Saint-André-les-Cordeliers and Saint-Roch, Holy Mother and St. Peter. And also there are lovely chapels, medieval town hall, a conservatory, a clock tower, National Park de Gap, a variety of unusual sculptures.
The most famous natives of Gap are the Protestant reformer and Bible translator, Guillaume Farel (1489-1565), as well as the modern composer, Jacques Bolognese (1947).
In March 1815, after escaping from Elba Island, Napoleon stayed here on the way to Paris. All the local population came to see him off. It really touched the Emperor, and he proclaimed a historic speech in which he said that his whole life was devoted to the honour and happiness of France. As we know, Napoleon was not destined to get to Paris. He lost the Battle of Waterloo.
Tourism industry of the city is largely dependent on a skiing recreation in winter. But in summer it is nice also. At this time, the visitors are attracted by the opportunity of active leisure in the open air - hiking, rafting, climbing, air sports. Regular stages of Tour de France race undergo through Gap.
Briançon is the capital of the Écrins region and the mountain town in France (1,326 m above sea level) with almost 12 thousand inhabitants. In particular, a lot of tourists are here in winter because the city is connected by a convenient network of roads with beautiful ski resorts in the French Alps. Briançon is built on a plateau with the centre at the confluence of the rivers Durance and Gisagne. Also the road to Turin lies from here.
In the Roman times, Briançon bore the Latin name "Brigantium" and was under the dominion of the King Cottius, as mentioned by the ancient Greek scientist, Ptolemy. Briançon played an important strategic role in the garrison town on the border with Italy. In the late 17th-early 18th centuries, the major fortification works on the construction of defensive redoubts and Asfeld bridge over the Durance River were carried out (1730-1731). The unsurpassed master of fortification Vauban, got his hands and talent for these works. He rebuilt and fortified the ancient fortress after which it became one of the most powerful strongholds of France. Some more turrets were placed on the rocks around the city. The fortifications of Vauban consisting of 12 groups of strengthening structures and facilities along the borders of France, in 2008, were relegated to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The town of Briançon is very picturesque, the aura of comfort and peace is inherent to it. Especially fascinating is the old town with crooked and narrow streets, medieval houses which are almost not affected by time. There are also small original churches and provincial restaurants. Four gates through which in the ancient times it was only possible to get to the fortified city survived. Climbing the stairs to the defensive walls you will find yourself in front of a strikingly beautiful panorama of picturesque valleys, snow-capped mountain peaks and mountain pass (and at the same time a national park and resort) of Montgenèvre connecting France and Italy. For the city protected by mountains from several sides perfect weather with no wind and rain is characteristic for the entire year. Also, travellers in these parts will be pleased with good slopes and well-established tourist service.
Briançon is especially popular among the cyclists. Since 1947, a total of 22 times, the stages of Tour de France race passed through Briançon, as well as the routes of bicycle races Giro d'Italia and the Dauphiné Libéré.
The tourists who come to the Hautes-Alpes from all over Europe for kayaking on the rivers of the region often stay in Briançon. Also, the town is a base station of a large ski resort of Serre Chevalier.
If you want to see all this beauty with a bird's-eye view use the company's services which will make your dream of flying in an airship. You will get an extraordinary fun.
The city is the ideal place for summer and winter holidays, a paradise for different kinds of sports. In summer it's hiking, climbing, rafting, kayaking, paragliding, mountain biking. In winter – hiking, snowmobiling, ice climbing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing.
It is easy to get from Briançon to Serre Chevalier with its 250 km of trails or cross the Franco-Italian border to go skiing in the Italian resort of Montgenèvre.
Embrun is the alpine town famous for its amazingly beautiful surroundings and, as a rule, good sunny weather for which it earned the title "Nice of the Alps". Not far from Embrun there is the Écrins National Park which is part of the mountain group, Massif des Écrins. The highest peak of the groupe is the peak Barre des Écrins (4,102 m). The mountain group, along with the Mont Blanc are the highest mountains in the French Alps. Massif des Écrins covers an area of 120 m2 and has a distinction in rich flora and fauna, as well as many kilometres of scenic trails for hiking. Back in the 19th century, these places have become popular with climbers. Today it is a great place for hiking, mountain climbing and descents.
The Serre-Ponçon Lake is one of the largest reservoirs in Western Europe located downstream the tributary of Durance River and bordering with the two Departments at one time. Only lengthwise it extends for 20 km. Around the lake the nature is perfectly preserved and excellent conditions for tourists are created. The fishermen, the families with children, the lovers of swimming and picnics, water sports will always find a place for recreation and interests here. Its highlight is a small charming chapel of Saint-Michel which as a steadfast tin soldier stands on an island in the middle of the lake that remains not submerged by a miracle.
La Grave is the town and alpine resort in the Hautes-Alpes (the highest place is the peak of La Meije, 3,982 m), especially popular among the ice climbers and extreme skiers who prefer off-piste descents. The height difference is more than 2 thousand meters. Also the town boasts several interesting little churches, Sainte-Anne du Chazelet Oratorio, as well as traveller and court geographer of the King of France Henry II, Nicolas de Nicolay born here.
The third by highlands town in Europe, the ski resort since 1939, the member of the Most Beautiful Villages of France Association ... All this is about the small, but amazingly beautiful town of the Hautes-Alpes, Saint-Véran. Although only 260 people live here, the town is rich in various interesting objects. They are several churches and a Protestant temple, ancient sundial and observatory, a museum of rural life, the centuries-old fountains and stoves which the bread it still baked. It is also a great place for skiers, because the length of the longest slope falls short of 10 km.
In addition to beautiful nature and excellent conditions for outdoor activities and sports the local cuisine makes unforgettable memories. The Hautes-Alps are characterized by more nutritious and hearty dishes than those that are preferred in the Mediterranean Departments. Especially they like here the dauphine potatoes (of potatoes, milk, butter and cheese) and tourtons, small fried patties with various fillings (potatoes, meat and a variety of cheeses, necessarily including goat cheese, spinach) which are served as an appetizer to red wine. The tourtons can also be sweet – with apples, chocolate, strawberries. The Department also famous for its honey and apple juice, as well as for a gourmet dish – terrines of foie gras with figs.
So if you want to join the army of fans of rest in the mountains choose the Hautes-Alpes of Provence. And you will not regret it!