wildlife of the pre-Alps (by train)
A week in the French Pre-Alps, an attractive landscape of limestone hills and plateaux.
3rd – 10th June 2024
Single Room Supplement – £125
Return train travel London St Pancras to Valence. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Seven nights accommodation, full board.
Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. ETIAS/visa costs. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 6, maximum 14.
Our trip will be based around the French regional natural park of Vercors. This lies in the south-eastern part of the country, near the border with Italy. It incorporates the largest nature reserve in mainland France: around 17,000 ha. The area is part of the Pre-Alps limestone hills, which form a peripheral ring around the Alps, and our daily excursions will take us to explore the warm southern slopes. It is a superb area for sub-alpine flowers, which are easily accessible. The insects are impressive, with a fine array of butterflies and many of the specialities of southern Europe.
Wildlife Travel has had many enjoyable holidays in this area in the past, and we are delighted to be able to return once again. The holiday will appeal to anyone who wishes to enjoy wild flowers on pleasant walks through stunning scenery – plus there is the bonus of travelling by train rather than having to fly.
Our visit is timed to make the most of the natural history: June is the period when the best of the flowers bloom, butterflies are flying and many birds are still breeding. Along the way, we will keep our eyes peeled for the typical mammals of the high mountains: Alpine Ibex, Alpine Marmot and Chamois, while high altitude birdlife may include Golden Eagle, Citril Finch and Alpine Chough.
There are many beautiful, spectacular and species-rich places in France: with its combination of landscape, marvellous diversity of plants and animals, easy accessibility and remarkably unspoilt character, Vercors must rank amongst the best.
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 After travelling to Valence by train, our coach takes us to the village of Les Nonières (around 90 mins), where we arrive in time for a late dinner.
Day 2 We enjoy a leisurely familiarisation with the hamlet of Les Nonières and its wildflowers, and wind our way up to a local waterfall, enjoying the butterflies and other wildlife en-route.
Day 3 We take a short journey to Le Col de Pennes to explore the upland meadows and woods, with excellent butterflies such as Scarce Swallowtail, Duke of Burgundy, and Almond-eyed Ringlet, and many unusual flowers. We walk down a quiet road with magnificent views of the valley below and the distant, southern slopes of the Vercors.
Day 4 We explore the lower Vallon de Combeau; enjoying a walk through meadows and pastures rich with typical sub-alpine plants, such as Globeflower, Sainfoin, Yellow Bellflower and many colourful composites.
Day 5 We take a longer walk through the upper Vallon de Combeau, which leads us up to the alpine meadows at around 1,800m. The meadows here can be a riot of colour, with species including Alpine Bartsia, Antennaria, Elder-flowered Orchid and Wild Tulip, and we will enjoy spectacular views of the Alps.
Day 6 We follow the River Bes as it cuts its way through the Gorges des Gats before continuing via the village of Boulc to the reserve of Marais de Rochebriane, a semi-wetland good for dragonflies and butterflies with an orchid-rich limestone outcrop.
Day 7 We head under the Col du Menée and wind our way down to Col du Prayer looking for orchids and butterflies as we walk through alpine meadows before travelling on to Le Cirque d’Archiane a massive natural amphitheatre of cliffs that rise to 1,800m, and are a nesting place for Golden Eagles and Griffon Vultures.
Day 8 Following breakfast, we start our journey back through the Drome valley, passing vineyards, walnut groves and lavender fields until we reach Valence and our train home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.