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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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).
Stay in Haute-Savoie
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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 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.
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.
Chamonix and the Mont-Blanc massif
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.
Lake Geneva (French side)
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.
The Aravis Mountain range
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.
The Cirque du Fer à Cheval
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.
The Chablais Mountains
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.
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.
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