Hautes-Alpes (05350) Population: 274 Altitude: 2040 m
Saint Véran is a very picturesque mountain village in the Queyras regional park, composed of a series of tiny hamlets strung together along the south flank of a mountain side. The village is famous for its houses with high, wooden attic balconies, its ancient church and its many old sundials.
Saint Véran is one of the Most Beautiful Villages (Plus Beaux Villages) of France.
From Château Queyras village, the road goes northeast up the Guil valley 3 km to Chateau-Ville-Vieille (3 km). Southeast the D5 goes to Molines-en-Queyras (5 km from Ville-Vieille) and another 5 km to Saint Véran.
Another main draw for St Véran is its magnificent mountain and valley setting. Billed as the highest village* in Europe, St Véran sits out on an exposed grassy mountain flank above a beautiful river valley coming down from the southeast corner of the Queyras mountains. (* The highest town in Europe is Briançon.)
St Véran is a popular destination for tourists and hikers, but even with a fair number of souvenir shops and several cafés, restaurants, hotels and Gites, it's still very natural and authentic.
The village was once divided into 5 sub-villages, separated for fire protection because of the extensive wood construction. Each "division", or hamlet, had it's own name (Forannes, La Ville, Villard, Pierre-Belle and Les Raux), it's own wooden fountain, and it's own fire pump. Today the village is more unified, but if you explore the village well, you will clearly see the separate divisions. This photo shows the entry from the center of the village into Les Forannes hamlet, marked by its round wooden fountain.
There's still one principle wooden fountain for each division of St Véran, each unique.
The village was split into separated divisions in the beginning of the 19th century because of previous fires, and the fire pumps were first bought in 1874. Modern pressure hoses superseded the hand pumps, but when the modern equipment was frozen solid in December of 1967, the hand pumps worked well and put out the fire -- for the last time.
The small Office de Tourisme in the upper village has posted the weather forecast, very important if you're planning a day's hike. The weather of the moment could be completely different by the time you get out into the hills.
On our first visit to St Véran in 1998 we photographed 10 of the village sundials. We've been here a couple of times in the intervening years, and in our last visit, in the Autumn of 2015, we photographed 23 different sundials. Some of these were made since our first visit, but most have been here for a very long time.
History of Saint Véran
St Véran was the capital of Queyras, where there was war with the Vaudois in the 12th century. Even in this isolated mountainous area there was religious war; the Hugenots destroyed the church in the 16th century.
Prehistoric: There was a prehistoric presence here, even before the copper mines that have been in production, off-and-on, from the Bronze age through to modern times.
Celto-Ligurian: Gauloise burial tombs have been discovered in this region.
• GPS: 44.699823, 6.846088
IGN (1/25,000) #3637 OT "Mont Viso, St-Veran, Aiguilles"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #10 "Queyras Pays du Viso"
The center of St Véran, at 2040 meters, is on the slopes of the Montagne de Beauregard that gets up to 2989 m, and decends to the Aigue Blanche river at about 1800 m; walks near the village tend to be short, following the valleys, or rather steep.
The GR58 goes through the village. To the southeast, the GR58 follows the river valley as far as Chapelle de Clausis (about 6 km, 2340 m), then splits to climb the Col Agnel (2744 m) or the Col de St Véran (2844 m). To the southwest, the GR58 drops down to cross the river at the Pont du Molin (1849 m) and then climbs over the Col des Estronques (2651 m) and down to the village of Ceillac (1640 m). The GR58VT trail goes northwest down the river from St Véran and over the Col des Prés de Fromage (2146 m) a couple of km west of Moulines-en-Queyras.
In this very mountainous area, there are few loop hikes possible. The best ones marked on the map are northwest of St Véran and between Château-Queyras, Moulines-en-Queyras and Aiguilles.
There are several restaurant possibilities in the village.
We had lunch in a small café-bar-restaurant (and hotel), the "Coste-Belle". The salade de chevre chaud and the salade gesiers volailles we had for starters were very good, and a good-sized meal in themselves, as it turned out. Still, we managed to finish the Tourtons Champsaur: a variety of potato pastry with a sort of mashed potato stuffing.