What wildlife can I see in Vanoise National Park, France?

France's first national park, Vanoise was created in 1963 to protect the declining population of ibex after hunting became more widespread.

Vanoise_Illustration_Final_Flat

Home to popular ski resorts such as Val d’lsère and Tignes, Vanoise is also threaded with hiking paths and ideal for wildlife watching. Located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Vanoise borders Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park, and the French and Italian parks twinned in 1972. Covering 1,250km2 they constitute the largest protected site in western Europe.

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Alpine ibex Capra ibex

© DieterMeyrl/Getty
An Alpine ibex in the Alps. © DieterMeyrl/Getty

Vanoise is home to abut 2,000 alpine Ibex – the largest population of the species in France. For the best chance of admiring the horns of this emblem of the park, head out in early morning or late afternoon when the mammals are most active.

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Alpine marmot Marmota marmota

Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) on rock, in the French Alps, Savoie department at La Plagne
Alpine marmot in the Alps. © Musat/Getty

These herbivores reside in meadows and high-altitude pastures, usually on south-facing slopes from 1,200–3,000m. They live in colonies and do not stray far from their deep burrow system. Listen out for their high-pitched whistling sound. 

Other highlights

Apollo butterfly resting on a daisy. © Andyworks/Getty
Apollo butterfly resting on a daisy. © Andyworks/Getty
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Visit meadows and pastures in the summer to see the Apollo butterfly Parnassius apollo and an abundance of wildflowers. For the alpine favourite edelweiss Leontopodium nivale, choose rocky places above 2,000m and scan the sky above the craggy peaks for soaring golden eagles Aquila chrysaetos. 

Key facts

  • Area: 528km2
  • Highest peak: 3,855m
  • Hiking trail coverage: 600km

When to go 

Late June is a great time to visit for amazing wildflower spectacles, a profusion of butterfly species, emerging marmot pups and rutting ibex.

Go there with

  • Naturetrek
  • High Point Holidays
  • Simply Savoie

Pralognan-la-Vanoise © kylianp/Getty