Our 3 best cycling climbs of the Alps

best cycling climbs of the alps - col du galibier 06

Discover the best cycling climbs of the Alps from our Alpine Cols of the Tour de France Cycling Holiday, a guided ride over the best cycling cols of the Tour de France with vehicle support – just like the pros!
Here are three of our favourite hors catégorie cycling climbs in the Alps whose names you will know from the Tour de France.

Cycling climbs of the Alps: The Col d’Izoard

Start point :Guillestre
Length :31.5 km
Elevation :1094 m
% Average :6.9%
% Max :12.0%

Starting from the village of Guillestre in the Queyras Park of the Hautes-Alpes, the Col d’Izoard starts out easily with a long gradual climb from Guillestre to the D947 intersection at around 16km. Then things heat up with passages at above 8% until Arvieux & Brunissard, where the hairpins begin and the climb gets more challenging until the summit at 2300m+, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Notable for the spectacular Casse Déserte rocky formations near the summit, the Izoard has featured in the Tour de France over 30 times since 1922.

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Cycling climbs of the Alps: The Col de Vars

Start point :Les Gleizolles
Length :14.10 km
Elevation :798 m
% Average :5.66%
% Max :10.6%

Not the hardest climb in the Alps, the Col de Vars is nevertheless close to our hearts as it’s one of our local climbs, situated in the Ubaye Valley not to far from our offices. A Catégorie 1 Col with almost 800m ascent in just over 14km, we climb the 2108m Col de Vars from les Gleizolles. The average gradient of 5.66% is deceptive, as the Col de Vars starts off gently before increasing to over 10% in sections in the final kilometres. Starting from les Gleizolles at the intersection to the Col de Larche, the first kilometres take the valley bottom by the spectacular Fort de Tournoux as far as Mélézan. From here the gradient increases, with a section of over 10% between kilometres 10 & 11, with good roads and spectacular views of the Ubaye. The bar at the summit provides a welcome refreshment! Col du Galibier profile on Colscyclisme.com

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Cycling climbs of the Alps: The Col du Galibier

Start point :Col du Lautaret
Length :8.5 km
Elevation :585 m
% Average :6.88%
% Max :12.1%

One of the climbs that features the most often in the tour de France, and one with some of the most spectacular views, it’s impossible to speak of the Col du Galibier without including the Col de Lautaret. On paper, it seems deceptively easy with “only” 8.5km at 6.88% average, however add in the challenge of the final kilometre as well as the fact that the ascenscion begins at over 200m, with the 27.7km climb of the Lautaret from Briançon that we do beforehand, and the Col du Galibier is truly a giant! From the Col du Lautaret, the ascent begins at around 5% before increasing to a steady +/- 7% with two easier passages. The views on the ascent of the Serre Chevalier Valley and surrounding peaks of the Ecrins National Park.

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2023 Cycling Holidays in the Alps and Pyrenees

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Activity level: Challenging Sat 29 Jun – Sat 6 Jul 2024: Close
Sat 14 – Sat 21 Sep 2024: Full


Activity level: Challenging Thu 30 May – Sun 02 June 2024: Open
Thu 26 – Sun 29 Sep 2024: Open

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Activity level group 1: Challenging
Activity level group 2: Moderate
Scheduled on demand
Fri 05 – Thu 11 July 2024: Open
Fri 13 Sept – Thu 19 Sept 2024: Open

Activity level: Challenging
Scheduled on demand
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Price: from €1050 excl Flights

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