Département of Haute-Savoie - Mont-Blanc from Lintre (Sallanches) © French Moments
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Last Updated: 20 April 2023

Did you know? 74 is the two-digit number allocated to the French département of Haute-Savoie. Famous for its ski resorts, mountain cheese and breathtaking landscape, the département includes the pristine waters of Lake Annecy and Europe’s highest summit, Mont-Blanc. The département is famous for its spectacular alpine scenery, picturesque villages, crystal-clear lakes and world-famous ski resorts. Haute-Savoie is a popular tourist destination for nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, families and food lovers.

 

 

The French département of Haute-Savoie

Map of the Département of Haute-Savoie and Département of Savoie
Map of Savoie © French Moments

The département of Haute-Savoie holds the number 74 in the alphabetical list of French départements, between 73 (Savoie) and 75 (Paris, formerly Seine). Its name is translated into English by Upper Savoy.

The département is part of the historical province of Savoy. It shares with the south département of Savoie the same history and culture.

The département of Haute-Savoie is located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France (formerly Rhône-Alpes until the 1st of January 2016).

 

A mountainous region

Département of Haute-Savoie - Glieres Plateau departement of Haute-Savoie
The Plateau des Glières in spring © French Moments

Most of Haute-Savoie is situated in the French Alps and borders Switzerland and Italy. The region extends from Lake Geneva to the north to the Bauges Mountains to the South and from the Jura Mountains to the west to the Mont-Blanc massif to the east.

Haute-Savoie has the most extensive range of elevations of all the French départements. The lowest point is 250 m at the Rhône by Seyssel, and the highest is 4,810 m at Mont-Blanc (Western Europe’s highest mountain).

The French Alps offer breathtaking views of mountains, valleys and lakes. Apart from the Mont-Blanc massif, the département of Haute-Savoie is also home to other mountain ranges, such as the Aravis, Chablais, Bauges and Bornes, offering a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, climbing and paragliding.

 

The lakes of Haute-Savoie

The crystal clear lakes of the Haute-Savoie are another major attraction.  The département includes two of the three great lakes of Savoie: Lake Geneva (shared with Switzerland, also known as Lac Léman in French) and Lake Annecy. The whole region is found within the watershed of the Rhône.

Département of Haute-Savoie - Lake Annecy © French Moments
Lake Annecy © French Moments

Lake Annecy, known for its beauty and purity, is the largest lake in the region and offers a variety of water activities such as kayaking, paddle-boarding and swimming.

Lake Geneva, shared with Switzerland, is also an excellent place for water activities and visiting picturesque villages such as Yvoire and Evian-les-Bains.

 

World-class ski resorts

Haute-Savoie is also famous for its world-class ski resorts, such as Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Les Gets, Morzine and Avoriaz, offering a variety of runs for all levels of skiing and snowboarding. The resorts also provide a variety of après-ski activities such as spas, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Département of Haute-Savoie - Aiguille du Midi © French Moments
Skiers at the Aiguille du Midi © French Moments

 

Cultural and historical heritage

Haute-Savoie also offers a wealth of cultural and historical heritage, with medieval towns such as Annecy, Thonon-les-Bains and La Roche-sur-Foron offering preserved historic buildings, museums and local markets.

Cheese of Savoie © French Moments
Cheese of Savoie © French Moments

Finally, Haute-Savoie is famous for its gastronomy, offering a variety of traditional dishes such as Savoyard fondue, raclette, tartiflette and croziflette, as well as local cheeses such as Abondance, Reblochon and Tomme de Savoie.

 

A fast-growing population

The population of the département is of 783,000 people in 2014 (called Haut-Savoyards) compared to 494,505 in 1982. The population has been growing by 11,000 people each year since 2005.

The capital city is Annecy (pop. of 160,000), and other major towns include Annemasse (160,000), Cluses (84,000), Thonon-les-Bains (72,000), Sallanches (44,000) and Rumilly (15,000).

Département of Haute-Savoie - Annecy seen from the Parmelan summit © French Moments
Annecy from the Parmelan summit © French Moments

 

Stay in Haute-Savoie

Click here to find your accommodation in the département of Haute-Savoie or browse the map below:



Booking.com

 

Activities in Haute-Savoie

Check out the many activities offered in the département of Haute-Savoie:

 

 

Must-see sites in the département of Haute-Savoie

Haute-Savoie has some of the world’s most renowned ski resorts: Chamonix, Morzine-Avoriaz, Megève and La Clusaz.

Haute-Savoie is a very dynamic region and includes many touristic sites, some of the world fame:

 

Annecy

Annecy © French Moments
The old town of Annecy © French Moments

Annecy is a picturesque town located in the centre of the Haute-Savoie département. Nestled in the French Alps, it is surrounded by majestic mountains, crystal clear lakes and beautiful natural scenery.

The old town of Annecy, located on the shores of Lake Annecy, is an architectural gem with medieval stone houses, cobbled streets and canals that have earned it the nickname “Venice of the Alps”. The Thiou canals run through the old town and feed the many mills that dot the area.

The castle of Annecy, built in the 12th century, overlooks the town and offers a breathtaking view of the red-tiled roofs of the old town. It now houses the Musée-Château d’Annecy, where visitors can learn about the history and culture of the region.

The Venice of the Alps - Annecy © French Moments
The Venice of the Alps – Annecy © French Moments
Pont des Amours, Annecy © French Moments
Pont des Amours, Annecy © French Moments
Annecy © French Moments
A view of the Little Venice of Annecy © French Moments

 

Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy (Duingt Castle) © French Moments
Lake Annecy (Duingt Castle) © French Moments

Lake Annecy is a natural gem in the French Alps. With an area of 27.8 km², it is one of the largest natural lakes in France and one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe.

The lake is famous for its crystal clear turquoise water, which reflects the surrounding mountains, creating a beautiful and picturesque landscape. This clear, pure water comes from the surrounding mountains, which feed the many streams and waterfalls that flow into the lake.

Lake Annecy is surrounded by hills and mountains, with stunning views of the French Alps. The shores of the lake are lined with white sandy beaches and marinas, offering visitors a variety of water activities, such as swimming, windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, water skiing and fishing.

The Annecy is also a favourite place for hiking and cycling. Walking and cycling trails run along the lake, offering spectacular views of the water and the surrounding mountains.

Finally, Lake Annecy is also famous for the many picturesque villages along its shores, such as Duingt, Talloires, Menthon-Saint-Bernard and Veyrier-du-Lac, each offering a different charm and atmosphere.

Lake Annecy seen from the Col de la Forclaz © French Moments
Lake Annecy seen from the Col de la Forclaz © French Moments
The bay of Talloires © French Moments
Talloires © French Moments
Lake Annecy and Talloires from Ermitage de Saint-Germain © French Moments
Talloires and Lake Annecy from Ermitage de Saint-Germain © French Moments

 

Chamonix and the Mont-Blanc massif

Salève mountain Mont-Blanc
Mont-Blanc see from Virage du Plan (1260 m) © French Moments

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is a mountain town surrounded by some of the most spectacular mountains in the Alps, including Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe.

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts, and the town also hosts several international sporting events.

In summer, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is a popular destination for outdoor activities, including mountaineering, hiking, mountain biking, paragliding and rock climbing. The hiking trails offer spectacular views of the mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and mountain lakes.

A trip to the Mer de Glace by the Montenvers train and the Aiguille du Midi by cable car is a must when in Chamonix.

Discover Chamonix-Mont-Blanc © French Moments
Discover Chamonix-Mont-Blanc © French Moments
Aiguille du Midi © French Moments
The cable car departing Plan de l’Aiguille to the Aiguille du Midi © French Moments
The Montenvers Train arriving at the Mer de Glace © French Moments
The Montenvers Train arriving at the Mer de Glace © French Moments

 

Lake Geneva (French side)

Yvoire on the shores of Lake Geneva © French Moments
Yvoire on the shores of Lake Geneva © French Moments

Lake Geneva, also known as Lac Léman, is a lake located on the border between France and Switzerland. The French part of Lake Geneva covers about 40% of the lake’s total area, making it the largest lake in France.

The lake is famous for its deep blue crystal clear water and spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, including the French and Swiss Alps. The shores of the lake are lined with picturesque towns, villages and marinas, offering a variety of water-based activities, such as swimming, windsurfing, sailing and fishing.

The area is also popular with hikers, with many walking trails along the lake shore and surrounding mountains. Walks along the lake offer spectacular views of the water and mountains, with picturesque stops in the villages along the lake.

Lake Geneva’s towns and villages also offer various cultural activities, including museums, art galleries, festivals and cultural events throughout the year. The resort of Evian-les-Bains, located on the shores of the lake, is famous for its thermal baths and mineral springs. Other places of interest include the medieval village of Yvoire and the historic town of Thonon-les-Bains.

Salève mountain Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva from the Salève mountain © French Moments
Thonon-les-Bains and Lake Geneva © French Moments
Thonon-les-Bains and Lake Geneva © French Moments
The harbour of Yvoire © French Moments
Port des Pêcheurs, the harbour of Yvoire © French Moments

 

The Aravis Mountain range

Col des Aravis © French Moments

The Aravis massif is a mountain range in the French Alps between the valleys of Haute-Savoie and Val d’Arly. Its highest peaks include Pointe Percée (2750m) and Mont Charvin (2409m).

The Aravis massif is a popular destination for outdoor activities all year round, with various cross-country skiing and hiking trails in winter and hiking, mountain biking and climbing trails in summer. The hiking trails offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.

The Aravis massif is also famous for its local gastronomy, with Savoyard specialities such as fondue, raclette and tartiflette, and local cheeses like Reblochon and Abondance. The mountain villages of the Aravis massif offer an authentic atmosphere and a variety of restaurants, cafés and shops.

Pas du Loup : the view to the Aravis and Mont Blanc © French Moments
Pas du Loup : the view to the Aravis and Mont Blanc © French Moments
Aravis from Semnoz © French Moments
The Aravis chain seen from the Semnoz © French Moments
Around Annecy - Col des Aravis © French Moments
Mont Blanc from the Col des Aravis © French Moments

 

The Cirque du Fer à Cheval

Département of Haute-Savoie - Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval © French Moments
The cirque du Fer à Cheval © French Moments

The Cirque du Fer à Cheval is a spectacular natural site located in the Giffre Valley in the French Alps. It consists of a natural amphitheatre surrounded by sheer cliffs over 2,000 metres high and offers a breathtaking view of a series of waterfalls, streams and mountain lakes.

The Cirque du Fer à Cheval is a favourite spot for hikers, with many hiking trails offering spectacular views of the Cirque and surrounding mountains. The trails vary in difficulty, from easy walks along the river to more challenging hikes high in the mountains. Visitors can also go mountain biking or climbing on the surrounding cliffs.

The Fer à Cheval Cirque is also famous for its wildlife, with many animal and plant species inhabiting it. Visitors can see chamois, ibex, marmots, eagles, and alpine plants.

The mountain villages of the Giffre Valley also offer an authentic atmosphere and a variety of restaurants, cafés and shops. Worth a visit is the beautiful village of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval and, not far away, the small resort of Samoëns.

Département of Haute-Savoie - Cirque du Fer a Cheval © French Moments

Département of Haute-Savoie - The village of Sixt Fer à Cheval in Haute-Savoie © French Moments
The village of Sixt Fer à Cheval in Haute-Savoie © French Moments
Département of Haute-Savoie - The Rouget waterfall in Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval © French Moments
The Rouget waterfall in Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval © French Moments

 

The Chablais Mountains

Département of Haute-Savoie - Chablais Môle departement of Haute-Savoie
The mountains of Chablais in Haute-Savoie (seen from the Môle) © French Moments

The Chablais is a natural Haute-Savoie region between Lake Geneva and the French Alps. It is made up of valleys, mountains, lakes and rivers, offering a variety of spectacular natural landscapes.

The Chablais is a prime destination for mountain sports enthusiasts, with various downhill and cross-country ski runs in winter and hiking, mountain biking and climbing trails in summer. Hikers can discover multiple landscapes, such as snow-covered peaks, coniferous forests, alpine lakes and green alpine meadows.

The Chablais are also rich in cultural and historical heritage, with preserved medieval towns and villages such as Abondance, Morzine and Saint-Jean-d’Aulps. Visitors can discover churches, chapels and castles dating back to medieval times and museums that tell the region’s story.

Département of Haute-Savoie - The Alps seen from Yvoire © French Moments
The Dent d’Oche from Yvoire © French Moments
Département of Haute-Savoie - Samoëns © French Moments
Samoëns © French Moments

 

La Roche-sur-Foron

Département of Haute-Savoie - La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments
The ruined castle of La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

La Roche-sur-Foron is a charming medieval town in the Haute-Savoie region. It is situated at the foot of the mountains and surrounded by green mountains, offering spectacular natural scenery.

La Roche-sur-Foron is the second largest town in Haute-Savoie for its historical and cultural heritage. There are preserved medieval buildings such as the ruined castle of the Counts of Geneva, the castle of l’Echelle, the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste with its bulbous bell tower, and many noble houses from the 16th and 17th centuries built of stone.

La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments
The town-hall of La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments
La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments
Near the château de l’Echelle © French Moments
La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments
A view of La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

 

Have you visited the département of Haute-Savoie? Let us know where are your favourite sites by commenting below!

 

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Infographics Savoie Haute-Savoie

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About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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  1. Il est très beau ce bonhomme de neige!
    Quel environnement magnifique. Il y a bien longtemps que je ne suis pas allée à la montagne. Trop longtemps.
    Ce chocolat chaud, était bon dis moi?

  2. I have planned 1 week in this region for early September 2019. Can you recommend a location/village to stay in as a base for experiencing life in the mountains and French village life. My wife and I are amature photographers and so are looking to record our stay in this part of France.
    Lincoln

    1. Hi Lincoln, there are so many villages in the Savoie region to recommend! Here are a few ideas:
      – in the département of Haute-Savoie : Talloires-Montmin (Lake Annecy), Le Grand-Bornand, Cordon (with views of Mont Blanc), Samoëns, Châtel (near the Swiss border)
      – in the département of Savoie : Granier (Aime-la-Plagne), Bonneval-sur-Arc (Maurienne Valley), Pralognan-la-Vanoise, Hauteluce (Beaufortain).
      Hope that will help. Check these locations on Google Earth to have a better idea of the surroundings! Pierre

      1. Thanks Pierre.
        How do you think I will find the weather and access to this region at that time of the year? ie. early September. I will be driving from Geneva.

        1. Early September the weather should be fine – it will still be summer so it’s unlikely you’ll find snow in the mountain villages. Even though I have to say that sometimes the weather is unpredictable… 🙂

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