departement of Savoie Vanoise
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Last Updated: 8 January 2020

Did you know? 73 is the two-digit number allocated to the French departement of Savoie. Famous for its ski resorts, mountain cheese and breathtaking landscape, the departement includes the pristine waters of Lake Bourget, the touristy Tarentaise Valley and France’s first National Park, the Vanoise. If you like the mountains like me, then this departement should be in your bucket-list of places to visit in France!


The French departement of Savoie

Map of departement of Savoie and Haute-Savoie
Map of Savoie © French Moments

The departement of Savoie holds the number 73 in the alphabetical list of French départements, between 72 (Sarthe) and 74 (Haute-Savoie). Its name is sometimes translated in English by Savoy.

The departement is part of the historical province of Savoy. It shares with the north departement of Haute-Savoie the same history and culture.

Today it is part of a much larger region: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (formerly Rhône-Alpes until the 1st January 2016).

France’s most mountainous region

Vanoise departement of Savoie
In the Vanoise massif © French Moments

Most of Savoie is situated in the French Alps and borders Italy. The region extends from Lake Bourget to the north to the Belledonne range to the South, and from the Jura Mountains to the west to the Vanoise massif to the east.

Savoie is the most mountainous departement of France with 88.4% of its territory covered by mountains. Its average altitude is of 1,500 m above sea level and the departement’s culminating point is the Grande Casse in the Vanoise (3,855 m).

The departement includes some of France’s highest mountain passes: Madeleine Pass (1,993 m), Croix de Fer Pass (2,067 m), Galibier Pass (2,646 m), and between France and Italy: Mont Cenis Pass (2,084m) and Little-St. Bernard Pass (2,188 m). The Iseran Pass which connects the Tarentaise to the Maurienne valleys is Europe’s highest paved pass at 2,764 m.

The departement includes one of the three great lakes of the Pays de Savoie: Lake Bourget. Beyond the Mont du Chat, to the direction of Lyon lies the smaller Lake Aiguebelette. Other large artificial lakes include lac du Chevril, Lac du Mont-Cenis and Lac de Roselend. The whole region is found within the watershed of the Rhône.

A fast-growing population

departement of Savoie Moûtiers Tarentaise
The historic town of Moûtiers in the Tarentaise Valley © French Moments

The population of the departement is of 426,924 people in 2014 (called Savoyards) compared to 348,261 in 1990.

The capital city is Chambéry (pop. of 59,500) and other major towns include Aix-les-Bains (30,290), Albertville (19,000), Motte-Servolex (11,700), Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (7,900) and Bourg-Saint-Maurice (7,200).

A departement with world-famous sites

The departement of Savoie has some of the world’s most renown ski resorts: Courchevel, Val d’Isère, Les Arcs, Tignes, La Plagne, Méribel and Val Thorens to name a few.

Savoie is a very dynamic departement and includes many touristic sites, some of world fame:

Chambéry Savoie
Sainte-Chapelle, castle of Chambéry © French Moments
Aix-les-Bains and Lake Bourget
Lac du Bourget and Aix-les-Bains © French Moments
Aix-les-Bains and Lake Bourget © French Moments
Lake Aiguebelette
Lake Aiguebelette Savoie
Lake Aiguebelette © Jean-Pierre Couffinhal – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The Bauges Mountain range
Bauges Savoie
The Bauges mountains and the mountains of Savoie seen from the Semnoz © French Moments
Albertville and the medieval village of Conflans
Conflans © French Moments
The historic cité of Conflans above Albertville © French Moments
The Tarentaise Valley
The Upper Tarentaise from Montvalezan © French Moments
The Upper Tarentaise from Montvalezan © French Moments
The Beaufortain
Beaufortain in Autumn © French Moments
Beaufortain Mountains in Autumn (Savoie) © French Moments
The Vanoise National Park
Vanoise Savoie
Walking in the Vanoise National Park © French Moments

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


Infographics Savoie Haute-Savoie


Gems of Paris by French Moments
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 Discovery Courses and books about France.

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