"N6 from Susa (It) to Modane (Fr) by Mt Cenis pass" Lac du Mont Cenis by JLBG

Lac du Mont Cenis Travel Guide: 21 reviews and 24 photos

Mont Cenis pass between France and Italy (Cenisio in Italian) is one of the main passes across the Alps. The elevation is 2084 meters. As the connection between France (the Maurienne valley) and Italy (Susa) can be done yearlong by the Fréjus tunnel, the pass is closed during winter. When we passed it (2005 May 8th), back from the Valeggio sul Mincio first VT European meeting, it had just been open 3 days before and the two cafés opened for the first day.
Amazingly, the "official" pass is not the highest point. It used to be but the natural Lac du Mont Cenis has been increased by the construction of a dam about 20 years ago and the old road was flooded. A new one was drown on the shores of the lake and passes a little higher, at 2100 meters at a place called "le Plan des Fonatainettes".

Actually, this page should be under "Col du Mont Cenis" but this is not a destination in VT database. Luckily, there is a lake close to the pass and it is a destination !

The Romans had built roads across the Alps at Col du Petit Saint Bernard, Col du Mont Cenis and Col du Montgenèvre. There remain very few traces of these roads. During the middle Ages, the Mont Cenis became the most important of all three for trade (fairs of Lyon and of Geneva), pilgrims and armies. Napoleon order several roads to be built across the Alps but felt the Mont Cenis was the most important. Imperial road n°7 from Paris to Milan by the Mont Cenis was finished in 1811. This year, the traffic was already of 45,000 mules and 17,000 carriages.

The development of railways all over Europe was a new adventure. The railroad Paris-Lyon was open in 1854. In 1860, it reached Saint Michel de Maurienne. Further, mules and carriages were the only possible mean. The French and Italian governments decided to drill a 12 km tunnel between Modane and Bardonnechia, the Fréjus tunnel. The longest tunnel previously built was only 1380 meters. After 6 years, only 1646 m had been drilled, using only manpower, and many felt that it would be abandoned.

That is why a private company, Brassey & Co (see my tips) built a railroad that climbed on top of the pass, without any drilled tunnels but built tunnels to protect from the "congères" (snowdrifts). Some of them still exist. The railroad was open in 1868.

Unfortunately for them, the Fréjus received the help of the new technique of steam powered drilling and the Fréjus tunnel was open in 1871.

  • Last visit to Lac du Mont Cenis: May 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (21)

Comments (14)

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    May 26, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    What absolutely beautiful landscapes. It all looks so delightful. I especially like the Mont Cenis pyramid and museum. Those information plaques are wonderful. We will make a point to stop and read them. Learn so much from them. Nice page!

  • Jan 27, 2009 at 5:16 AM

    Excellent picture of: Lac du Mont Cenis

  • evaanna's Profile Photo
    Jan 2, 2009 at 3:44 AM

    Breathtaking scenery in your excellent pictures! It's great that you can actually see the panoramas from your car.

  • mvtouring's Profile Photo
    Mar 9, 2008 at 11:19 PM

    What a lovely page, your photo's are great ;-)

  • Kuznetsov_Sergey's Profile Photo
    Aug 14, 2007 at 10:18 AM

    Excellent page with beautiful mountain landscapes and flowers! I wish I would be there one day... Thanks for the virtual tour!

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Jul 3, 2006 at 6:52 AM

    Wonderful area, no wonder you like to come here often. Pointe Clairy is especially beautiful and I liked the pic of the lovely mountain village of Termignon. This area is "almost" as beautiful as our amazing Canadian Rockies. hehe

  • micas_pt's Profile Photo
    Sep 30, 2005 at 1:02 PM

    Wow, it is beautiful! Well done, great photos.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Aug 14, 2005 at 4:37 AM

    Thanks for these wonderful pictures - the alpine lakes and mountains and the lovely crocus spreading around in spring !

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo
    Jun 30, 2005 at 3:18 PM

    Amazing pictures of frozen nature... great historical info on those two railroads...

  • freya_heaven's Profile Photo
    Jun 22, 2005 at 3:48 AM

    Stunning photos especially of Fort de l'Esseillon & Mont Cenis Dam. Very intersting to learn about the railway, another beautiful area of France (~_~)

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