The steep wooded and snow-capped mountains rising majestically above the stunning yet peaceful turquoise waters of Lake Annecy provide an unforgettable view. With the historic town of Annecy, famous lakeshore villages such as Talloires and fairy-tale castles like Menthon and Duingt, Lake Annecy is one of France’s most spectacular settings.
Description of Lake Annecy
The lake is located at an altitude of 446 metres above sea level and is dominated by the Tournette mountain (2351 m) and the pointed needles of the Dents de Lanfon (1824m) to the east and the Semnoz Mountain (1699m) to the west.
Lake Annecy is one of France’s largest lakes although smaller than the neighbouring Lake Geneva and Lake Bourget. Lake Annecy is at its widest between Veyrier and Sévrier (3,350m) and at its narrowest between Duingt and the Roc de Chère (800m).
The lake is 15km long and a perimeter of 38km. Its area covers 27,59 km2, compared to 44,5 km2 for Lake Bourget and 581,3 km2 for Lake Geneva.
The lake is fed by seven main streams and by a powerful underwater spring known as the Boubioz, bubbling up from a depth of 80 metres near the shores of Annecy. The main outlet is the Thiou which flows through the historic old town of Annecy before reaching the Fier River in the town’s suburbs.
The lake comprises two different basins: the Grand Lac (great lake) and the Petit Lac (small lake), both linked at the strait of Duingt between the peninsula of Ruphy Castle and the steep hill of Roc de Chère near Talloires. The Petit Lac has a more austere look where its shores are bordered by steep, wooded mountains. The shores of the Grand Lac are wide enough to support villages and cultivation.
In the late 1950s, the lake suffered badly from pollution and faced the disappearance of its wildlife. The local authorities decided to take drastic steps to clean it up. This mission was successful and today Lake Annecy is one of Europe’s purest lakes and its bird-life and fish are back. The next challenge is to find the right balance between preserving the lake’s natural environment and the high level of tourism and housing development around its shores.
Main Sights of Lake Annecy
For the best experience of the lake, either take a cruise from Annecy or drive around the lake with stops at Veyrier, Menthon, Talloires, le Bout-du-Lac, Duingt, Saint-Jorioz and Sévrier.
Annecy is one of France’s most touristic cities with its flower-decked canals crossing the medieval old town. Clustered at the foot of its imposing castle, the “Venice of Savoy” are historic buildings and churches such as the fortress of Palais de l’Île, Notre-Dame de Liesse and the St. Claire Gate.
The Jardins de l’Europe and the lawns of the Pâquier offer magnificent views over the crystal clear lake and the surrounding mountains.
Find out more about Annecy here.
The West Side of the Lake
The eastern shore of Lake Annecy enjoys a lot of sunshine and stretches from Veyrier-du-Lac to the commune of Verthier. There are three villages of importance: Veyrier-du-Lac, Menthon-Saint-Bernard and Talloires, all situated at the foot of the towering mountains of the Prealps.
From a former wine-growing village, Veyrier-du-Lac has become a wealthy residential suburb of Annecy. Stretching for 5km along the D909 road, Veyrier-du-Lac is a popular tourist spot with gastronomic and accommodation facilities.
There are three sites to discover in the pretty village of Menthon-Saint-Bernard: the lakeshore with its harbour, beach and promenade, the old Savoyard village and the medieval castle of Menthon.
The 13th century castle is still owned by the Menthon dynasty who came from Burgundy in 1190.
Find out more about Menthon-Saint-Bernard here.
Roc de Chère
Between Menthon and Talloires, the rocky hill of Roc de Chère is covered by 200 hectares of forest, offering fabulous views over the lake. Due to a favourable climate, Mediterranean and mountain species of animals share the same home. This has led to the creation of a natural reserve where typical forest wild life (wild boar, deer, squirrels, woodpeckers, reptiles and butterflies) live. A marked path links Talloires to Menthon through the reserve.
The small lakeside village of Talloires is situated in a charming setting at the foot of the sharp rocky ridges of the Dents de Lanfon. Its little marina faces the romantic silhouette of Ruphy castle in Duingt. The village houses many celebrated hotels and restaurants and is accessible by boat from Annecy.
Find out more about Talloires here.
The East Side of the Lake
The eastern shore of Lake Annecy stretches from Sévrier to Le Bout-du-Lac (commune of Lathuile) and follows the slopes of the Semnoz Mountain and the Taillefer Ridge.
A residential suburb of Annecy, Sévrier is crossed by the cycling path linking Annecy to Faverges.
Located on Place de l’église, the Ecomuseum of Lake Annecy reveals an extensive collection of objects and old local customs with entertainment and re-enactments of everyday life in the 19th century.
The Paccard Museum, situated outside the village towards Saint-Jorioz, is dedicated to the amazing story of the Paccard Bell Foundry.
The small town of Saint-Jorioz (pop. 5,800) is one of the road accesses to the Regional Natural Park of the Bauges, which covers the Prealps massif between Annecy, Chambéry and Albertville. The crescent-shaped harbour is the lake’s biggest marina with 368 mooring rings.
Starting at the marina, the ‘Sentier des Roselières’ (Roselières footpath) follows the shore of the lake with spectacular views over the Dents de Lanfon and the Tournette. Extending over three kilometres, the path borders the lake’s largest reed beds that offer protection and shelter to many species of water birds. Many instructive panels describing the natural environment of the lake are dotted along the way. The reeds play an important natural cleaning function in the lake, hence contributing to the purity of the water.
The village of Duingt enjoys an idyllic setting, tucked away between Lake Annecy and the last slopes of the Taillefer mountain.
Duingt is a small place but has retained a number of typical Savoyard houses from the 17th and 18th centuries which can be found along the old and narrow streets. There are two private castles in the commune: the Dhéré and Ruphy castles.
Find out more about Duingt here.
Situated at the southern end of Lake Annecy, the locality of “Bout-du-Lac” (end of the lake) belongs to the commune of Lathuile and features a beach.
In the territory of Doussard, the marshlands are a protected natural reserve which can be explored on marked paths all year round.
Lake Annecy is surrounded by a number of iconic mountains which offers spectacular views over the lake and the surrounding summits of the French Alps.
The Semnoz (pronounce the ‘z’) is 16km long and rises to 1699 metres above sea-level at Crêt de Chatillon. The summit is accessible by car and offers breathtaking views over the French northern Alps from Mont-Blanc to the Vanoise and Écrins massifs. Only a very small part of Lake Annecy is visible (Duingt). For a better view of the lake, it is recommended to walk to the Belvédère de Bénévent, accessible on the way down to Annecy through a ‘route forestière’.
Mounts Veyrier and Baron
The two mountains rising above the village of Veyrier-du-Lac are linked by a ridge known as the ‘sentier des crêtes’.
The Mount Baron Belvedere (1254m) offers a beautiful panoramic view over the city of Annecy, the lake, the Bauges massif on one side and the Aravis and Mont-Blanc on the other. An orientation table shows the names of the surrounding mountains.
Col de la Forclaz
The Forclaz Pass or Col de la Forclaz (1150m) is situated between Talloires and Montmin on the D42 road. The view from the belvedere reveals the entire lake, as well as the Arcalod and the summits of the Bauges massif, the Dents de Lanfon, and the Tournette.
The Tournette mountain (2351m) is the highest summit of the mountains encircling Lake Annecy. With its shape resembling an armchair, it is visible from Annecy and the western shore.
Its summit is accessible by a steep and sometimes awkward path, the very top having metal stairs and a chain to hold on to. From the top, the spectacular view extends from the Semnoz to the Lake on one side and to the Aravis and Mont-Blanc on the other.
Activities in Lake Annecy
Lake Annecy is the base for a wide range of sporting activities and cruises across the lake.
Water sports such as bathing, sailing, water skiing and diving are popular in summer. The average water temperature is 6 °C in January and 22 °C in July. There are many public beaches around the lake. The most popular are in Annecy (Plage des Marquisats and Plage de l’Impérial).
Throughout the year, cycling is an activity enjoyed by the locals. A dedicated cycling path linking the old town of Annecy to Faverges runs alongside the western shore of the lake. 40 kms long, it follows the old railway line which used to link Annecy to Albertville.
In summer, hiking, mountain biking, via-ferrata and canyoning take place in the mountains around the lake.
Lake Annecy is reputed for its paragliding activity where winds are generally gentle and air conditions are perfect.
Several boat companies run cruises across the lake, from a one hour tour to a full day excursion.
The main embankment is located on Quai Napoléon III at the Jardins de l’Europe in Annecy.
Lake Annecy: English-French Vocabulary
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- Alps = Alpes (f,p)
- bathing = baignade (f)
- beach = plage (f)
- boat = bateau (m)
- castle = château (m)
- cruise = croisière (f)
- cycling path = piste cyclable (f)
- diving = plongée (f)
- embarkment = embarcadère (m)
- hiking = randonnée (f)
- lake = lac (m)
- Lake Annecy = Lac d’Annecy (m)
- Lake Bourget = Lac du Bourget (m)
- Lake Geneva = Lac Léman (m)
- marina = port de plaisance (m)
- mooring = amarrage (m)
- mountain = montagne (f)
- needle = aiguille (f)
- reed = roseau (m)
- sailing = voile (f)
- shore = berge, côte (f)
- village = village (m)
- water = eau (f)
- water skiing = ski nautique (m)
- water sport = sport aquatique (m)
Visit the Annecy Tourist Office website for more practical information about Lake Annecy.
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