Cogne and its two magnificent valleys at the foot of the Gran Paradiso (Valle d’Aosta) are a must-see for a holiday in contact with nature, to the discovery of one of the best examples of Sustainable Mobility in the Alps.
In the heart of a narrow, winding valley, you will find the cozy Alpine Pearl of Cogne, the gateway to the Gran Paradiso park. Typically alpine, this town offers everything you need for your relax in nature or for outdoor activities, both in summer and in winter, all in the name of sustainable mobility. The village is part of the Alpine Pearls association, which brings together 25 tourist areas in the Alps to promote green holidays and innovative mobility solutions to protect the environment. Cogne is surrounded by impressive snow-capped peaks, drawing two almost parallel valleys, Valleile and Valnontey at the foot of the Gran Paradiso massif. Adventure and exploration awaits you: here are 15 things to do and see in Cogne and in the wonderful Gran Paradiso Park.
1. Exploring the ancient mines
Magnetite mines have marked Cogne’s history for many centuries. The Old Village of Miners is the beautiful testimony that remains of that life. There was a dormitory of miners, some offices, a shop, a library, and even a movie theater. It is now home to Fondation Grand Paradis, hosting the Visitor Center of the Gran Paradiso Park and the Alpinart exhibition center dedicated to alpine culture.
2. A walk through the alleys of Cogne
Cogne is a charming alpine village definitely worth a visit! Stop at the church of Sant’Orso, with its simple lines and the insides covered with frescoes. The church welcomes you at the entrance of the village with its bell tower. Among huts made of stone and wood and curious shops, you can admire traditional “tombolo” lace or taste local dishes.
3. Lillaz Waterfalls
In Valleile, not far from Cogne, you will reach the pretty village of Lillaz. Here you can admire the magnificent Urtier stream waterfalls, with its three jumps, a popular local attraction. The waterfall is about 150m high and can be seen entirely following a path in the forest running along the water with bridges crossing it.
4. The villages surrounding Cogne
The small and cozy towns of the valley are absolutely worth visiting, to fully breathe the alpine lifestyle of its inhabitants. At Lillaz you can stroll among churches and streams, in Valnontey you can enjoy a warm dish of the tradition, while from Epinel you can start your hiking in the Valley of Arpisson.
5. Among the scents of the botanical garden
In Valnontey, a small hamlet in the heart of the Gran Paradiso Park, you can visit the Alpine Botanical Garden Paradisia, which takes its name from the alpine magnificent lilies blooming in the meadows. Located at 1700m of altitude, the garden covers about 10,000 square meters. The best time for a visit is between mid-June and mid-July during flowering. It is always possible to book guided tours.
6. Walking in the Gran Paradiso Park
Start from Cogne and go hiking through the territory of the oldest National Park in Italy: admire the Gran Paradiso and its white peaks lifting up to deep blue skies! There are many paths, easy but also difficult ones, allowing you to enjoy unique landscapes, through flowering meadows, streams, lakes and waterfalls. For example, you can discover Lake Dres or go along the Valnonte-Valmianaz-Pont de l’Erfaulet trail in Cogne Valley.
7. An eco-friendly stay in Cogne
In the Alpine Pearl of Cogne you will find an elegant yet casual hotel. Notre Maison is open since 1979 and has since been run by the Celesia family. A typical restaurant, a beautiful wellness center, a great love for nature and an immense garden with an incredible view and with an alpine pond are the essential elements of this eco-friendly and welcoming accommodation where you can live a dream coming true.
8. With axes on the ice
During winter the Valley of Cogne turns into an ice paradise and becomes a very popular destination for ice-fall lovers, especially alpinists! They come here from all over Europe to climb up wonderful ice-falls with axes and crampons! If you are curious about this activity, you will find expert mountain guides ready to bring you into this fascinating new adventure!
9. See an ibex in the Gran Paradiso Park
Ibex is the species symbol of the Gran Paradiso Park, that covers an area of more than 70,000 hectares. To see it is not simple, but surely it is a unique emotion. The alpine ibex risked extinction at the end of the nineteenth century and is right among the valleys and rock walls of the park that has been saved. The best time to try to see this majestic animal close up is in the early winter, when, after the first snow, they drop to the lowest altitude to feed on the last grass.
10. Into the woods with cross-country ski
The Pearl of Cogne offers a paradise for cross-country skiing: 80km of trails winding through woods, streams, meadows and villages, with magnificent views on the peaks all around: Mount Grivola and Gran Pardaiso. The fun is guaranteed for beginners and advanced!
11. Tasting the local food
During your visit to the Gran Paradiso Park, do not forget to taste food from the local cuisine: they will conquer you with their variety of scents and flavors. Start with delicious cheeses such as fontina, or with polenta dishes, accompanied by the excellent local red wine. Do not miss the “Seupetta de Cogne”, a country tradition, make with bread, rice, butter, fontina cheese and meat broth. Among the desserts try “Mecoulin”, the delicious local version of a panettone, cooked exclusively in wood-burning ovens!
12. Walk through the meadows of Sant’Orso
The symbol of the Alpine Pearl of Cogne is without a doubt the beautiful meadows of Sant’Orso, an immense green expanse that surround it. It is a prairie at 1500 meters altitude, a green sea, a plain surrounded by peaks that turns into a natural playground for children and an oasis of relaxation for the adults!
13. Discover Deveteya festival
Deveteya is the traditional Cogne festival that celebrates the end of summer with the descent of the herds from high alpine alpites. This is a 2 day feast during which the livestock runs through the country’s streets, adorned with beautiful flowers among the horns. Flavors, music and tradition to breathe the life of these places, surrounded by the early colors of the autumn of the woods of the Gran Paradiso Park.
14. Ruisseling in Cogne
Have you ever heard about ruisseling? Here in the Pearl of Cogne it is another way to experience the magic of the mountain in winter! A trip on the ice, walking through enchanted landscapes, among waterfalls and ice slides, in the valleys surrounding the town.
15. The Pond of Les Fontaines and its hike trail
Between the villages of Buthier and Epinel, in the Gran Paradiso Park, there is a well-equipped, educational path, easily accessible to everyone, of about 3,7 kilometers that give you the possibility to explore two very different habitats that coexist side by side: pseudo-steppe, rich in rare plant species in the alpine arch, and a humid area.
Cover image: picture by Alessandro Ginotta via Flickr