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Best driving route from Versailles/Paris to South of France?

Next week (early October), we're going to be driving from Versailles/Paris to Cannes, and we'd like to take a scenic route but not run a high danger of getting into snow in the Alps. Any recommendations? We're from New England so we know how to drive in snow but would rather avoid it on this trip.

It looks like the route from Paris to Geneva would be no problem, but from there I'm concerned.

If you don't know the routes but can suggest a way to look up temperatures and road conditions for early October, that would be helpful too! We had originally planned another route, through the middle of France, but my husband now thinks that would be too boring, and he's not been to Switzerland (though I have).

Thank you!

Posted by
8889 posts

Not quite the question you asked, but. The high passes over the Alps in Switzerland usually close each year in November, and open again in late May. So in early October (next week) they should all be open.

This website shows which passes are currently open or closed: https://www.alpen-paesse.ch/en/

This is a page from the TCS (Swiss Automobile Association) which shows road conditions and traffic jams ("Stau" in German) throughout Switzerland. It is only available in the 3 Swiss languages (German, French, Italian): https://www.tcs.ch/de/tools/verkehrsinfo-verkehrslage/aktuelle-lage.php
Click on "Pässe"/"Cols" (German/French) to show the passes on the map, and click on each one to show status.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
408 posts

I wonder what route(s) you're considering for this trip from Geneva to Cannes.

Knowing that might help readers to provide relevant advice.

Posted by
27359 posts

If you go to ViaMichelin.com and zoom way in on a map of France, the especially scenic roads will be highlighted in green.

Posted by
4132 posts

Hi Marcia,

If you have a few days and like to drive you could see some great stuff, but honestly I would suggest using the train to get to your first overnight stop. It's faster.

Highlights for me on such a trip might be a few nights in Lyon and as much time as possible in Provence. Geneva would really be quite out of the way, but if you had the time you could detour through Burgundy.

Nothing boring about that.

Posted by
381 posts

Taking the train is not an option. We are already touring in a paid-for, leased car.

Posted by
698 posts

Do you plan to overnight in Switzerland? If you've been to Geneve, you know you are away from the main Swiss Alps. You can get a view point from the top of La Saleve but for the most part you are in a valley. How far out of the route are you willing to go? The fastest route from Paris will take you essentially down through Macon, mostly in lowlands. However there is a route through the Jura, down past Lausanne and through Martigny, over the pass to Chamonix. This is a wide detour but will get you over a true mountain pass. There are a bunch of lift and cog wheel trains that can get you to elevation for better views, from any number of towns.

How much time do you have for that next leg? Some people then go south past Geneve and Annecy (make the side trip in) and Chambery to Grenoble and up through Gap, and down to the Cote d'Azur following the Route de Napoleon (there is a quicker variant on this that cuts down through Aix verus going through Dignes les Bains). The fastest route, and by far the least scenic (unremarkable), is the main autoroute A7/A8.

Another option is the Routes des Grandes Alpes. This is quite famous but it takes a long time and snow may impact the route in October. It passes through both French and Italian Alps, routing through Briancon. (There is a faster variant that follows the route from Geneve, to Chambery and then joins the route through Briancon).

Posted by
381 posts

I'm not sure whether this link will show up for you the way it shows up for me, but let's try:

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Geneva,+Switzerland/Nice/@45.035576,8.7771641,8z/data=!4m15!4m14!1m5!1m1!1s0x478c64435163cde5:0x100ff884018d880!2m2!1d6.1216925!2d46.2180073!1m5!1m1!1s0x12cdd0106a852d31:0x40819a5fd979a70!2m2!1d7.2619532!2d43.7101728!3e0!5i1

This possible route goes through Chamonix and then in Italy through Aoste, Ivree, Alexandree, Savona, then down the coast of Italy to Nice.

We have three days allotted for going from Paris to Nice, and Google says it adds up to an 11-hour journey.

Posted by
8889 posts

Marcia, That route goes through the Mont Blanc tunnel between Chamonix and Aosta, not over the Alps.
And, why are you starting from Geneva? that is not somewhere I would include in a drive through the Alps.

I would suggest a variation (see your map):
From Geneva (don't stop), go round the north side of Lac Léman (aka Lake Geneva), past Lausanne, then south on the A9 (marked on map) to Martigny, then south to Aosta. This takes you over the St Bernard Pass from Switzerland to Italy.
This route would also require you to buy a Swiss autoroute Vignette (CHF 40) to cover your tolls on the A9 and any other autoroutes.

Posted by
381 posts

I would suggest a variation (see your map):
From Geneva (don't stop), go round the north side of Lac Léman (aka Lake Geneva), past Lausanne, then south on the A9 (marked on map) to Martigny, then south to Aosta. This takes you over the St Bernard Pass from Switzerland to Italy.

Thanks so much for this suggestion! Looking at the map, I'd like to amend it to going around the south side of Lac Léman, through Martigny, then south to Aosta.

Any reason not to go that way? Looks more scenic on the Michelin map.

Posted by
381 posts

This route would also require you to buy a Swiss autoroute Vignette (CHF 40) to cover your tolls on the A9 and any other autoroutes.

P.S. Where or how to get this vignette?

Posted by
33130 posts

If you go back to your original idea of the Mt Blanc tunnel know that it is capacity controlled and comes with a very high toll. I haven't looked it up but memory say around €45 per vehicle per journey.

The vineyards along the north side of Lake Geneva are quite scenic, and they may be in colour. My memory of driving around the south side - I've only done it once - is that it isn't particularly fast and it isn't particularly scenic.

Posted by
2005 posts

Even it’s three decades ago I still can remember Route Napoleon (major part N85) between Grenoble and Cannes as scenic, just an idea. You can make a detour to Gorges du Verdon.

Posted by
698 posts

A vignette generally will be included in any rental car booked in Geneve, I think even on the French side. Or you can buy a vignette at major borders, gas stations, post offices, and I think even online.

I used to live in Lausanne and have taken the route to Aosta over the Great St. Bernard Pass many times (it's been some time since the last journey). The route over to Aosta is a narrow, relative high pass (8000 ft) -- perfectly fine in the day, in bad weather but you may need to take a different route. The southern route via the tunnel is mostly lowland and is not nearly as scenic.

There is the other alternative, the route down through the French Alps, after taking the shorter (5000ft) Forclaz pass between Martigny and Chamonix.

Posted by
381 posts

We drove over the Alps, and it was spectacular!

For anyone finding this thread later, let me specify that the route we took is the Grand St. Bernard pass, and at a crucial juncture, you have a choice between taking a tunnel and going over the pass ("Col"). We chose the Col.

As one of the posters here said, it is a narrow, two-lane road that winds high above the tree line and up into the clouds. We'd checked the weather report first, and we had sunny weather that never got below 6 degrees.

Definitely one of our most scenic and adventurous drives (and we've had many).

Thanks again for all the advice earlier!

P.S. We bought the "vignette" for Switzerland right at the border. It was easy.

Posted by
33130 posts

sounds good.... I think you made the right choice. Yay.

Posted by
8889 posts

Marcia, Glad you enjoyed yourself. And thanks for coming back with the report, that will be good info for others.