Whether you and your friends are outdoorsy types who like the idea of skiing, boating, and abseiling down mountains, or your idea of being ‘outdoorsy’ means eating al fresco, there is a holiday activity in Rhône-Alpes that will be right up your street. This region’s irresistible combination of knock-out alpine scenery, outdoor adventures and world-class gastronomy makes it a crowd-pleasing destination, whatever your interests. So get your pals together, pick your perfect Rhône-Alpes villa and whet your appetite for this French beauty spot with our pick of the best group activities in the region.
1. Take a French cooking masterclass with Plum Lyon
Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France, so it should come as no surprise that the city’s main food market is an enormous event with some 400 traders. If that sounds completely overwhelming, fear not. To help you navigate the best of this exceptional bunch is Plum Lyon, a cooking school offering masterclasses in French cuisine. Their local experts will guide you through the market before taking you back to the Plum Lyon kitchen to create a classic French meal from the seasonal ingredients you have sourced. Classes are kept small for a more intimate experience and they cover French classics, specific techniques or, our personal favourite, the seasonal market class. Whichever one you sign up for, expect to leave with plenty of new inspiration for cooking at home.
2. Explore a glacier and ice cave with Compagnie du Mont Blanc
Taking in the stunning vistas from Montenvers-Mer de Glace is only part of the reason this imposing glacier is worth a visit. Reached by a vintage-style rack and pinion railway, even the journey up here is a treat. You’ll board a little red train in Chamonix and chug 1,913 metres up the forested mountainside, ducking through tunnels carved out of the rock as you go. The panorama over the Drus and the Grands Jorasses mountains open out before you as you hit the top, where you can then take in the views in all their glory. It is not just the outside of the glacier that is worth a look; the inside is pretty special too. You can experience the frosty beauty of the glacier up close by taking a walk inside its grotte de glace, an ice cave carved right into the heart of it.
3. Relax in a thermal spa with Valvital Thermes Chevalley Aix-les-Bains
Take a time-out from sightseeing your way around Rhône-Alpes with a soak in the thermal waters of Aix-les-Bains. Nestled between Mont Revard and the shores of glacial Lake Bourget, this pretty spa town is famous for its health-benefitting hot springs. Check into the town’s spa to swim in the famous thermal waters and indulge in the likes of hydrotherapy, mud massages and jet baths. And it is not just pampering sessions they offer here either; the healing powers of the water are used to target everything from arthritis to asthma.
4. Take a wine tour at Chateau de Chasselas
If you fancy yourself a bit of a wine buff, there is no better place to road-test some of the vinos of Rhône-Alpes than the grand Château de Chasselas estate. Straddling both the Burgundy and the Beaujolais wine regions, this historic site has 12 hectares of vines and produces a rich mix of reds, whites and roses. Tours of the estate reveal its long history and showcase the vaulted cellar where wine is made and aged in enormous vats. The tours conclude with a tasting of at least three of the estate’s home-grown wines in the reception suite, or for large groups, in the banqueting hall. You can carry on tasting in the on-site wine shop, where you can then stock up on any favourites you want to take home.
The qualified instructors behind Cîmes & Canyons aren’t interested in traditional mountain hikes. For this lot, the only way to really experience the beauty of the Ardèche mountains is on a high-adrenaline adventure. From zip-lining to abseiling, they have devised all manner of exciting ways to day-trip around this unspoilt natural beauty spot. Those with nerves of steel can teeter acrobat-style on aerial walkways that cross the waters between craggy cliff faces, or scramble up to lofty heights then abseil down the mountainsides. For those seeking marginally lower-key activities, the top picks include caving, where you will strap on a helmet and headlamp and head underground into the bowels of the mountain, or canyoning, which involves using the rushing mountain streams as natural waterslides.
6. Take a cruise with Compagnie des Bateaux du Lac du Bourget et du Haut Rhône
Pretty Lake Bourget, a place of inspiration for some of France’s greatest poets and artists, is a must-visit in Rhône-Alpes. Romantic port towns, historic architecture, beaches, vineyards and waterfront restaurants dot the 18 kilometres of shoreline surrounding the lake, but it’s actually best experienced away from dry land. Sign up for a boat cruise and you will see this deep, majestic glacial lake up-close and at its best. Compagnie des Bateaux, a long-established family boating and lake cruise business, offers a variety of ways to experience the lake, from hour-long circuits to lengthier dinner cruises.
If you are ready to start planning a group holiday in this beautiful corner of France, browse through our collection of luxury villas in Rhône-Alpes and discover more about the region by delving into our travel guide. If you want to discover where else in the country we offer luxurious villa accommodation, take a look at our full collection of villas in France.