RANDOLAND: L’Argentière-la-Bessée

RANDOLAND: L’Argentière-la-Bessée

History and architecture
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Follow in the footsteps of the miners and labourers of L'Argentière-la-Bessée!

Roam the streets of L'Argentière-la-Bessée to discover the many faces of this town. Along the way, you will see how its mining and industrial past have co-existed. A question sheet is available to download, to assist you with your heritage discoveries.


The trail starts at the chapel of Saint-Jean. Start by looking closely at the chapel, to answer the first riddle. 

  1. Take the Rue du Château which leads uphill behind the church, and carry on until you come to the museum. Go right and look closely at the garden with the vines. Go past the water fountain and carry on until you come to the bust of Gilbert Planche. Pass in front of the former seigneurial château (a media library today) and then between the boxwoods to go and look at the sundial on a tower in the park. Carry on along the same track, pass in front of the pigeon tower and go through the gateway. Carry straight on. 
  2. When you come to house numbers 4, 6 and 8 turn left and carry on until you reach the water fountain. 
  3. Continue left, go past the guest house ("Maison d'hôte") and then turn right onto the Chemin des Fouzes. Go past the bric-à-brac shop on the left and carry on until you come to the private burial chapel in the Rue du Serre Haut. Opposite the entrance to the chapel, continue right towards the Pic du Montbrison and the clock tower. 
  4. Take the second right and, further on, take the path leading off to the left, bringing you to the foot of the Tour des Hermes clock tower. Retrace your steps back to the road and turn left. 
  5. Turn right into the Chemin des Canaviers and then left again. Go past the cemetery and then turn right to the church. Retrace your steps and go down the Rue de la Croix which is edged with walnut trees. Continue straight ahead to go past the guest house again. At the house number 4,6 and 8, turn right and then continue left until you come to the Rue Saint-Jean. Turn left to return to the chapel car park.
  • Departure : Chapel of Saint-Jean, L’Argentière-la-Bessée
  • Arrival : Chapel of Saint-Jean, L’Argentière-la-Bessée
  • Towns crossed : L'Argentière-la-Bessée

6 points of interest

  • Vernacular heritage

    The chapel of Saint-Jean

    Built in the twelfth century and listed as a Historical Monument, the chapel of Saint-Jean is of Romanesque style. Tombs cut into the rock were discovered in recent archaeological excavations. 

  • History

    The mines of L'Argentière

    The municipality of L'Argentière owes its name to the silver mines exploited here. They were first worked in the early Medieval period and later abandoned before exploitation resumed again in the nineteenth century. They were finally closed in 1908. Since 1992, the site has been the subject of archaeological excavations, with major work to clear materials carried by the Fournel when in flood. They can be visited with a guide (by appointment), leaving the visitor in awe: how much ingenuity has been involved in extracting the silver-bearing galena! 

  • History

    Gilbert Planche

    In 1910, a 22-year-old engineer, Gilbert Planche arrived in L'Argentière-La Bessée to take advantage of the water here and open a large aluminium factory. Many workers were employed and workers' housing estates were built (now demolished). As the result of financial problems, the factories closed its doors in 1985 and the area gradually emptied. Today, derelict sites bear testimony to the town's industrial past.

  • Vernacular heritage

    The sundial

    The sundial is an eighteenth-century tradition widespread across the Southern Alps where the sun is ever-present. Artisan sundial makers produced these sundials, which were added as a decoration to house fronts, religious buildings or, as here, a tower. The sayings inscribed on them make some of these artistic works philosophical as well as decorative. 

  • Panorama

    The view over the Durance valley

    Protected from Atlantic influences by the Pelvoux massif, the upper Durance valley is subject to a very dry climate, with wide seasonal temperature fluctuations. It features grasslands very similar to the steppes of Central Europe, and which are rare in France. It is part of the Natura 2000 site, “Steppique durancien et queyrassien”.


  • History

    The clock of Hermes

    The Tour des Hermes is a clock tower built in 1922 by the Gilbert Planche company which used to run the aluminium factory in L'Argentière. It would chime to remind the factory workers of the time, and to make sure they arrived for work on time!


Altimetric profile


To download the Randoland clue sheets, visit the Office de Tourisme Intercommunal du Pays des Écrins website. 

Check weather conditions before setting off.

Rescue services contact details: Secours Montagne (Mountain Rescue): +33 (0)4 92 22 22 22 or 112 

Show consideration for the work of farmers, livestock keepers and owners

Close all gates behind you

Take your litter home

Do not take shortcuts across pastureland

Information desks

Vallouise Park house

, 05290 Vallouise

http://www.ecrins-parcnational.fr/vallouise@ecrins-parcnational.fr04 92 23 58 08

Information, documentation, models, exhibitions, screenings, product sales and works of the Park. Guided tours for school, reservation required. The new Park House opened in Vallouise since June 1, and offers visitors an interactive permanent exhibition inviting to explore the area and its heritage. A temporary exhibition space will allow a renewed offer. Finally, the device is completed by an audiovisual room to organize screenings and conferences Free admission. All animations of the Park are free unless otherwise stated.

Find out more

23 Avenue de la République, 05120 L'Argentière-La Bessée

https://www.paysdesecrins.com/contact@paysdesecrins.com+33(0)4 92 23 03 11


Public transport >> www.pacamobilite.fr

Consider car-sharing >> www.blablacar.fr

For more information, ask at the Tourist Information Office nearest to the trail starting point. 

Access and parking

16 km from Briançon, take the N94. 

Parking :

Chapel of Saint-Jean car park, L’Argentière-la-Bessée


Emergency number :114

More information


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