The forts of Esseillon

The forts of Esseillon are made of 5 forts of the XIXth century built on a natural rocky barrier between Aussois and Avrieux. A must-see heritage of Aussois.

The 5 forts constitute "La Barrière de l'Esseillon" whose purpose was to protect the Kingdom of Piedmont Sardinia against French invasions. It is now a site not to be missed with treasure hunts for the whole family, via-ferrata routes, exhibition areas, restaurants and accommodation.

The Esseillon forts were built between 1815 and 1830 at the time of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia to block the passage of French armies. The glacial lock of the Esseillon (ladder in Piedmontese) lent itself perfectly to these forts designed to defend each other by crossfire.

These buildings bear the first names of the sovereigns of the royal family: Victor Emmanuel and Marie-Thérèse, Charles-Félix and Marie-Christine, Charles-Albert. They locked the access to the main passage between France and Piedmont, thus controlling the royal road of Mont Cenis. The Barrier seemed impassable but... a few years after its construction was completed, Savoy became French and the forts lost all defensive utility.

This military place was not the place of combat but it remains nevertheless charged with history and is classified "Historic Monuments".


Access to the forts from Aussois

The forts can be visited all year round (free or guided tours). Pedestrian path from the village or access by car to the Victor-Emmanuel fort parking lot. In winter, access on foot or with snowshoes from Aussois (the road is closed).

Fort Marie-Christine

Restaurant and gite in an unusual setting

The fort closest to the village (Fort Marie-Christine) has been completely restored and now houses a gîte and a restaurant. The fort can be visited (free access), which allows you to discover a model of the whole site of Esseillon, a very beautiful frame and a presentation of the Vanoise National Park.

Below, the Charles Félix fort is in ruins and its access is dangerous and not recommended. It is the only ruined fort of the Esseillon Barrier. In fact, when Savoy became French in 1860, the French undertook to destroy the Esseillon forts. To prove their good faith to the Italians, they started with the Charles Félix fort. Then... they stopped there and even occupied the remaining forts militarily for decades...

Fort Victor-Emmanuel

Games course, via-ferrata and museum

In the biggest fort of l'Esseillon(the Victor Emmanuel fort), a treasure hunt offers children and families a scripted visit. Children can put themselves in the shoes of a 19th century French spy to try to find out more about this fort built by the Kingdom of Piedmont Sardinia. Clue after clue, game after game, they can discover the mysteries of the Esseillon. The Victor Emmanuel fort also houses a new museum space dedicated to the rock engravings found around Aussois and in Haute Maurienne Vanoise.

The Victor-Emmanuel fort is also the starting point of the magnificent via-ferrata of the Devil. With its seven sections of different levels, it is a must for your stay in Aussois.


La Redoute Marie-Thérèse

Museum, escape-game and accrobranche

To learn more about the history of the forts, the Marie-Thérèse Redoubt, with its amazing "horseshoe" architecture on the left bank of the Arc (pedestrian access from Aussois via the superb "Pont du Diable") houses a Fortified Heritage Interpretation Center. A museum that allows you to know everything about the origin of the forts, their construction, their use... Treasure hunts and escape games are also offered by the Redoubt.

Just next door, a large accrobranche park offers large tree courses for the whole family as well as vertiginous tyroliennes that allow you to "fly" over the Arc gorges.