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The Parc National des Écrins

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The Écrins national park is worth a trip for the sheer variety of sports that it offers in a much less crowded setting than Mont Blanc. The best base for exploring the area is the village of Vallouise, 19km southwest of Briançon on the D902. From Vallouise, there are several excellent shorter walks that take you into the heart of the Écrins or you can follow the GR54, which makes a circuit of the park and passes through the village.

Vallouise itself centres around the Romanesque church of St Etienne, which has a gorgeous, partly frescoed porch. The buildings lining the two or three streets fanning out from here are typical of the region; striking, three-storey farmhouses consisting of a vaulted ground floor (for livestock), a first-floor living quarter, and an upper floor which would have served as a granary.

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