Even though it’s nice to get out and visit the famous sights and attractions when traveling somewhere new, sometimes we need to get away from the hustle-and-bustle and immerse ourselves in a peaceful atmosphere.
Part of France’s beauty lies in its numerous lakes that offer visitors (and citizens) a chance to take part in a variety of water-sports or simply relax by the crystal blue water. But the lakes of France provide much more entertainment and activities, which is why visiting one of these lakes is a must-do during your next visit to France.
Lake Geneva (or lac Léman in French) is the dolphin-shaped lake located between France and Switzerland. If you wish to explore the Swiss banks of Geneva, boat trips (usually about twenty Euro) are offered to Geneva and Lausanne. However, on the French banks, three towns will keep you occupied: Èvian-les-Bains, Yvoire, and Thonon-les-Bains.
Èvian-les-Bains is a France spa resort town made famous by its quality mineral water. Here, you have the opportunity to taste this water straight from the spring! Yvoire is a medieval village that attracts visitors through its lovely Jardin des Cinq Sens–a beautiful herb, vegetable, and flower garden in the city.
In Thonon-les-Bains, explore the fifteenth century Château de Ripaille, home of Amédée VIII the Bishop of Geneva. Attached to this castle (and included in the cost of the guided tour) is a vineyard that carries the region’s best wines. After exploring the region, make a reservation at Le Scampi restaurant (on 1 avenue du Léman) for Lake Geneva’s fresh catch-of-the-day.
Serre-Ponçon Lake is south of the French Alps and is the second largest man-made lake in Europe. The lake was formed by the Serre-Ponçon dam that was built on the Durance River. Definitely check out Muséoscope du Lac in the town of Roussett for a tutorial of how the dam was built and other historical facts. Roussett also offers horse-drawn carriage rides and street-arts festivals throughout the year.
Serre-Ponçon is loaded with activities in sea and on land including footpaths around the lake that display memorably striking views (don’t forget your camera!). If you’re on foot, take the walk to Demoiselles Coiffées (meaning “young ladies with nice hats” in French), which is a rock formation of columns with a large rock balanced on their tips to prevent erosion.
The village of Savines de Lac, located in the middle of the lake, is another town worth stopping at. Bring your sunglasses: this town is said to have pure sunshine 300 days out of the year!
Bourget Lake is the biggest natural lake (from glacier deposits) in France. It is surrounded by sailing and fishing ports: Aix-les-Bains and Bourget-du-Lac. Aix-les-Bains, another spa town, is the main town of the lake. From here, you can climb Le Mont Revard for a spectacular view.
Also on shore, near the Grand Port, is the Aquarium du Lac du Bourget, which displays the native species of Bourget. There are beautiful tree-lined paths along the shore providing the perfect setting for a romantic stroll. The Romantic Nights Festival is held in Aix-les-Bains. (Check the Rhone-tourism website: http://www.rhonealpes-tourisme.com for dates and details) Listening to the classical music will definitely help you unwind at the end of the day.
The largest man-made lake, Der-Chantecoq, is located in central France. This lake was created by leveling and flooding three villages. You can check out “Church Point” on the lake, which is a historical church that was moved piece by piece before the flooding of the villages. Birdwatchers and fishermen rave about this location for their leisurely hobbies, but it’s also a pleasant spot for scenic views of the lake.
Der-Chantecoq is the perfect destination for all types of water-sports and activities. Even if you don’t want to get wet, you can walk or cycle on the trails along the banks or relax on one of the six beaches on the lake. Der-Chantecoq also offers horse-back riding and has specific observations points for bird-lovers!
Lake Annecy is said to be Europe’s cleanest (and likely most well known) lake! If you visit, be sure to explore the village of Tallores, especially the restaurants that offer the regional specialties of Féra or Omble Chevalier. If you want to explore more of the region, book a ride with Cie des Bateaux du lac d’Annecy – a cruise that stops at different towns on the lake. It even includes a prepared lunch or dinner. Nature lovers can opt for a more ecological experience with Lake Annecy Ecotour.
This two-hour trip allows passengers to see the village ruins without getting wet! (The tour uses a bathoscope to display the ruins). The tour also takes passengers to nature reserves and inside caves! There never seems to be a dull moment around Lake Annecy with the numerous festivals and events that take place year-round ranging from street arts and film festivals to carnivals and concerts.
What’s your favorite pastime when visiting one of the lakes?