With its clear blue waters and striking mountain backdrops Lake Annecy is simply breathtaking. Whether it’s a romantic weekend break or a family holiday this region offers spectacular views, mountains as well as a lake, loads of sunshine, a myriad of outdoor pursuits and a city that has been dubbed the Venice of the Alps.
I have been fortunate enough to holiday here on a few occasions but I fell in love with the place even more on my last visit. So let’s discover what is so special about this lakeside gem…
Getting to Lake Annecy
Lake Annecy is about 40mins from Geneva airport and flights there are relatively cheap. Easyjet often offers the best prices, book ahead and you can pick up some great deals. I left it to the last minute and missed the bargains but paid £95 for return flights. Various airlines fly to Geneva from all the major airports, including London City, which is handy for the weekend escape. It is worth noting that some airlines only fly there during the winter months.
Alternatively load the car up with the bikes and holiday baggage, relieving the stress of excess luggage, and jump on the Chunnel. It is a pretty easy run down to Lake Annecy and from London takes about 10 hours (including the time difference) – Cornwall can take that long on a bad day!
Where is it?
Lake Annecy is one of the largest lakes in France located at the foot of the Alps in the Haute-Savoie region. It is located half an hour south of Geneva and if you’ve driven to Meribel or Val D’isere skiing then you’ll have virtually touched it as you drove past.
What’s there to do?
Boredom is not an option in this region. If you are outdoorsy people then the lake and the surrounding mountain areas offer a plethora of activities to amuse. For culture vultures there are museums, art exhibitions and a stunning castle. If you are seeking sunloungers and a sandy beach then this might not be the best option. There are plenty of sunbathing opportunities but they tend to centre around the waterside hotels or on a haphazard basis around the lake.
Annecy town is found on the northern shores of the lake. It’s dubbed the Venice of the Alps due to its winding cobblestone streets and meandering canals lined by pastel houses and bright flower boxes. Palais de l’Isle, the local museum is worth a visit; it was once a prison, mint, courthouse and Lord’s residence and is one of France’s most photographed attractions.
The city also plays host to an impressive selection of boutique shops, bars and restaurants so offers opportunities to relax in a pavement café culture.
The lake offers endless opportunities to have fun on the water. Waterskiing, paddleboarding, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and pedalos are all available to hire at various locations around the lake.
- Annecy centre: annecy-location-velo.com and http://www.locationbateauxannecy.com
- Veyrier, west of the lake: veyrierclubnautique.fr
- Talloires, south west of the lake: talloires-lac-annecy.com
- Doussard, south of the lake: en.lac-annecy.com
If you’re not keen on the strenuous activities then the water taxis and ferries will get you round the lake without breaking into a sweat.
The lake has numerous beaches to enjoy (some are free and others you have to pay for), though don’t expect large expanses of sand – a shoreline is more accurate a description. Many have cordoned off safe swimming areas, jetties and diving boards. They do get very busy in the summer time so if you prefer low occupancy then head there in the morning or late afternoon.
The Imperial Beach Club, close to the city centre, offers a small private white sandy beach with facilities to keep everyone amused: beach volleyball, pétanque, badminton, or table tennis. For children, there’s a bouncy castle, trampolines, crazy golf, games and a large paddling pool. In the summer you won’t escape the crowds but with a cocktail bar and restaurant you can easily while away a few hours and at night the place lights up as it turns into a night club.
The lakeside is stunning but how could one ignore the wooded and snowcapped mountains that rise up around the lake. Cycling is big in this area, whether you attempt to cycle the 26 miles around the lake or head up into the mountains to enjoy more arduous terrain. Bikes can be hired and delivered to your holiday property by Roul’ Ma Poule or alps-bike-rental and if you’re prepared to drive for about 30 minutes into the ski resort of La Clusaz, there are heaps of mountain bike tracks to enjoy. Le Domaine is situated at the heart of the mountain forests and offers 110km of signposted paths to enjoy.
A recent addition is The Bike Park made up of three levels of trails (green, blue, red) interspersed with wooden ramps. This fun area has been created both for beginners who want to have fun while improving, and for experienced mountain bikers looking for trails offering the thrill of biking and balance. There are various bike hire options in La Clusaz offering everything from mountain bike hire to electric fat bike rentals.
- Summer toboggan and all terrain karting
The small resort of Semnoz, just 20mins from the lake offers fun for the family. A small ski resort in the winter, in the summer it offers tobogganing with an 850m run – trust me the kids will love it. They also offer The Black Mountain (children age 10 upwards) – an off road scooter that somehow gets towed up the mountain by the ski lift and you free-ride down and The Runix which is a motorised off-road go kart. We didn’t have a go on this one as we had run out of time but it looked great fun.
- Zipwire and paragliding
If you want to hang out like a monkey, and you’ve definitely got a head for heights, the zip wires at Acro’Adventures provide a challenge for all ages. Our 7 year olds completed the easier course but don’t be fooled this was still quite demanding The teenagers and adults were up in the treetops and from the shrieks that were heard they were having fun but this is flying high and is not for the faint-hearted.
For adrenaline junkies in search of even more then a tandem paragliding flight is located just next door and will literally give you a bird’s eye view of the lake. The landing location is back at Talloires so a nominated driver will need to volunteer to collect the paragliders from the lakeside.
Annecy Adventure is a great company to have in your little black book if you’re after a holiday adventure. They arrange outdoor activities throughout the year but in the summer can help you with canyoning, rafting, hydrospeed, scuba diving and catamaran sailing.
If you’re into history, castles or just love a good fairytale then a visit to Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard has to be on the itinerary. Rising out of the woodland and presiding over the shores of the lake this stunning 12thcentury castle, with its romantic and mysteries charm, inspired a certain Walt Disney, holidaying in the region to head home and create his famous castle in Sleeping Beauty.
Where to stay
Lake Annecy is geared towards holiday makers but it doesn’t have your here we go feel of a seaside resort. Whether you are plumping for the expense and luxury of a hotel, opting for self catering in a holiday house or considering nights under the stars there are plenty of options.
If you’re seeking glamor then the Impérial Palace lives up to its name with a gleaming white, six-storey stack of luxury rooms languishing right on the edge of the lake near Annecy town.
Le Palace de Menthon is an elegant hotel with luxury spa, attractive landscaped gardens, bijou beach and harbour on the eastern shore of Lake Annecy.
Head further south to the pretty village of Talloires and you’ll discover the Abbaye de Talloires, once a Benedictine Monastery and now a luxury hotel.
- Holiday Rentals
If the budget will stretch it’s worth getting a holiday rental with a pool. It gets hot in the summer and the beach areas get busy so to have the option to relax by a private pool is a luxury worth splashing out on. Savoielac and Annecy Lakeside Holidays have villas, many of which have poolside options.
You’ll find Camping du Lac Bleu at the southern part of the lake. It’s fairly large but offers a patisserie on site for morning croissants, a swimming pool and a shady beach.
Where to eat
Being in France you’d expect culinary credentials and you won’t be disappointed. Whether you want to opt for one of the cobbled streets in Annecy, a lakeside view or a dish in the mountains – options are plentiful. Here are my top picks for you:
Best for French ambience – Cafe De La Place, Talloires
Best lakeside view – Auberge du lac, Veyrier
Best local cuisine – Bistro l’Amandier, Annecy
Best mountain restaurant – Le Chalet du Lac, La Clusaz
Best for mooring a boat or other watercraft – Chez ma Cousine, Doussard
Lake Annecy offers great versatility for couples, a group of friends or a family vacation. I’m a huge fan of a beach holiday, flopping on a sun lounger all day with a glass of rose, but this holiday I’ve felt better for some outdoor activity but have also enjoyed relaxing by the lake with a good book. Annecy- I’ll be back!
Your Buy Time PA
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