Photo by © Alain Dujardin
If you’re a reader of our bimonthly MFCH Magazine, you know that our “Discovering Guides,” featuring a new place every issue, takes you all around France, uncovering the best places to stay and eat and all the top things to do and see. For our Jan/Feb 22 issue, we traveled to Annecy – an alpine town in southeastern France that enjoys a unique position at the tip of an impossibly picturesque aquamarine lake, overlooking the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
Known as the “pearl of the French Alps,” Annecy’s unique and versatile natural landscape offers up a plethora of activities in any season, from hiking and biking, to water sports to lake beach lounging. But arguably its star attraction is the Lac d’Annecy (Lake Annecy). A glacial lake (dubbed “the purest lake in Europe”) formed 15,000 years ago by melting ice from the Alps, it is instantly recognizable by its exceptional turquoise waters and breathtaking mountain panoramas. One of the largest in France, it is an internationally admired vacation and water sports destination and encircled by many magnificent hotels and resorts.
Below, we’ve pulled out a few ways to experience the enchanting Lake Annecy from our Jan/Feb 22 “Discovering Guide.” Check them out below!
Naturally, there is no shortage of water sports offered here, and if the place that you’re staying doesn’t offer a particular desired hobby, you are sure to find a local company that does. From sailing, rowing, fishing and scuba diving to water skiing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding and wakesurfing, there is an aquatic activity here to tickle anyone’s fancy. And if sun-basking is more your speed, you’ll be happy with the 11 beaches that circle Lac d’Annecy alone.
Col de la Forclaz de Montmin
Arguably the best view in the area. The Col de la Forclaz de Montmin is a twisting mountain pass that stretches nearly 4,000 feet, offering a truly spectacular panorama over the lake and the surrounding mountains. Whether you plan to travel it by car, bicycle or foot, there are a few differents routes that will get you to the top: on the north side, start from either Menthon-St-Bernard or Talloires (the latter of which offers an additional view of the beautiful Ruphy Castle on the Duingt Peninsula), or go for the more challenging southern slope that begins in Vesonne. Regardless of which way you choose, expect plenty of restaurants, souvenir shops and viewing terraces (keep an eye out for paragliders!).
Tour du Lac
With its idyllic terrain and well-charted network of car-free paths, Annecy is a cyclists’ dream. The Tour du Lac, a magnificent 25-mile track that wraps around the circumference of the lake, is the area’s most popular and is estimated to receive well over a million cyclists a year. Bike rentals are easy to find, and the ride is manageable, no matter your level of athleticism; it can take anywhere from an hour to two and a half, depending on your aim. The main path, called the Voie Verte, is a converted railway line that runs from the center of Annecy to the village of Doussard, at the southern tip of the lake. Start by heading along Annecy-le-Vieux through to Chavoire, Veyrier-du-Lac and Menthon-Saint-Bernard (home to the château that inspired the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty), then travel down the coast of Talloires to end up back where you started. Dotted with beautiful beaches, picnic areas and campsites, you’ll share this walkway with both hardcore bikers and leisurely passersby. Don’t be afraid to stop and take it all in along the way.
What better way to see such a spectacular region than from above? Achieve a bird’s eye view of the Alps with one of the many local companies that offer guided hot-air balloon flights or paragliding. From soaring over the peaks of Mont Blanc and the Aravis and Bauges mountain ranges to descending upon the glittering waters of Lake Annecy, Lake Aiguebelette and Lake Bourget, it is an extraordinary and unforgettable way to discover the Haute-Savoie.