Rhône-Alpes, just north of Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur, is in south-east France and shares its eastern borders with Italy and Switzerland. The region, and particularly the Savoie and Haute-Savoie departments, is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. The mountains rise steadily from Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and keep climbing to the year-round ice-capped tip of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. In the winter it is a white-washed world of snowcapped peaks and icy lakes where everyone takes to the ski-slopes. In the summer months it is an entirely different place where you can enjoy the lowland pleasures of hiking through flower-filled meadows or swimming in the lakes. There are several national parks including the Parc National De La Vanoise, which is a wild mix of high mountains, steep valleys, glaciers and pathes with 500km of marked trails, which is ideal for ambitious walkers. A holiday home here would be ideal for breaks at all times of the year and if let out could bring a year-round guaranteed rental income, especially if it is based in the swish ski resorts such as Chamonix and Val d'Isere. While visitors flock to the ski resorts each winter, in the remote valleys such as the Haute Maurienne, rural life still goes on as it has for centuries, with prevailing ancestral traditions.
The Alps can no longer be called a wilderness as there are many densely populated pockets. Building tends to be on the south facing slopes that are warmer. Unfortunately air pollution caused by heavy traffic, tourism and the concentration of heavy industries (chemicals and metallurgy) has been a problem.
One of the most prettiest towns in the region is Annecy, capital of the Haute-Savoie, with its colonnaded streets and the tributaries of the Canal du Thiou with railings overflowing with geraniums. Next to Lac d'Annecy there are plenty of water sports and beaches to picnic and bathe. Annecy is surrounded by charming villages.
Not all the region is quite as dramatic as its eastern departments. The Beaujolais area north of Lyon is a land of pastures and forests. This area is mostly famous for its wines. The vineyards are found along on a 60km narrow strip of terraces on the right bank of the River Saône. Beaujolais also produces many oils - not just olive oil, but pecan nut, almond and pine kernel oil. The Parc Naturel du Pilat, south of Lyon, offers stunning panoramic views across the Rhône Valley. The less explored Ardèche department is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts, especially walkers, cyclists and canoeists. Here is a land of deep chestnut forests, where eagles nest in the cliffs of steep gorges sliced by the tributaries of the River Saône.
Unemployment in Rhône-Alpes is lower than the national average and average salaries rank in the top three highest paid regions. The Rhône Valley is France's highest producing nuclear energy region and there are five nuclear power stations along the banks of the river.
- Population: 5,645,407
- Pop.density (people per km2):129