Hautes-Alpes (05200) Population: 455 Altitude: 1460 m
In the mountains southeast of Embrun, and the Serre-Ponçon lake is the tiny village of Les Orres. It's a compact little village with a few houses, a stone church and ruins of an ancient Medieval wall, all ringed around by tall mountains.
It's a very picturesque little village, but there's no commerce, cafés or "rest facilities". On a much earlier visit (1998) we found one small fresh-fruit stand that's there only on Sundays, and one elderly lady who sells baskets, dried "chadrons" and some wood carvings from the front of her old farmhouse. The village houses have steep roofs, often of pale slate, and many with open-air wooden attics with long wooden balconies.
The village itself is a collection of farm houses and some newer villas of the same mountain style. A few large chalet villas and farms dot the hillsides just around.
Les Orres Church
The Eglise St Marie Madeleine is from the early 16th century -- the Gothic doorway is dated 1501.
It's quite grand church for such a small village, and is in the style of the Réal cathedral of Embrun.
We especially liked the lion on the corner wall, the sculpted face and the ancient sculpted owl on the church wall.
Les Orres Ski Station
Les Orres has a very popular ski station, located across the valley to the south of the main village, on the far slopes in this photo viewed from the village center. Les Orres ski station first opened in 1970, has grown steadily, and now (2016) has 100 km of downhill trails with 37 downhill ski runs and 19 ski lifts.
For "Nordique" skiing, Les Orres has a 6-km cross-country trail and a12-km cross-country trail as well as a 6-km snowshoeing trail. All the Noridique skiing at Les Orres is free.
Les Orres Sundials
There's this one nice old sundial on the side of a house in the tiny village of Les Orres. In the hamlet of Le Mélezet, just to the south, there's a 19th-century "Zabula" sundial on the back of the old church.
History of Les Orres
Prehistoric: Several Bronze-age burial tombs were discovered at Mélezet, 1 km to the south.
Celto-Ligurian: An annual procession to the source of the fontaine de Jérusalem is very ancient, and based on Gauloise superstitions.
The commune was aquired in the 13th century by the Hospitaliers de St-Jean-de-Jérusalem. Until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Les Orres was a frontier village in the Valley of Barcelonnette, ruled by the Counts of Provence or the Dukes of Savoy. The Col de Orres was a passage between Embrun and Barcelonnette, and armies frequently passed through. In 1388, the Duke of Savoy captured Barcelonnette, and the Embrunais reacted by building a fortress here, of which these are the remains [photo].
The entire region suffered greatly during the Wars of Religion. In 1595, the Duke of Savoy dragged cannons up onto the Col des Orres and rained fire down onto the village, destroying it. A century later, in 1692, during another war, many nearby villages and castles were burnt, and Les Orres was pillaged, but the region became French.
• GPS: 44.513946, 6.549292
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #10 "Queyras Pays du Viso"
Les Orres Station, a couple of km south of the old village, is set up for summer and winter sports, with 2000-bed accomondations. The highest ski lifts go up to 2600 m.
Transportation Les Orres
Department 05, Haute-Alpes Buses
- See Beyond's Haute-Alpes (05) Bus Schedules for downloading Haute-Alpes bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).