Lake Annecy: Places to Visit and Things to Do

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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. We’ve been lucky to make it our home base and, when we lived in the Tarentaise Valley, to drive along its banks very often. Each time this lake amazed us. And I hope it will do the same impression on you!

What is Lake Annecy – a little description

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 Map

Lake Annecy is one of France’s largest lakes although smaller than the neighbouring Lake Geneva and Bourget.

It is at its widest between Veyrier and Sévrier (3,350m) and at its narrowest between Duingt and the Roc de Chère (800m).

Lake Annecy © French Moments

Lake Annecy © French Moments

The lake’s dimensions

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.

Lake Annecy from Talloires © French Moments

The Bay of Talloires © French Moments

Lake Annecy’s two lakes!

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.

On the contrary, the shores of the Grand Lac are wide enough to support villages and cultivation.

Lake Annecy and Talloires from Ermitage de Saint-Germain © French Moments

Talloires and the Duingt peninsula © French Moments

One of Europe’s purest lakes

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.


Where to stay in the region of Annecy?

This affiliate link will direct you to a list of accommodation in the region of Lake Annecy.

You can also navigate through the following map – zoom in/zoom out/go left and right to make the accommodation appear.



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Main Sights in the region 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, the Venice of the Alps

The old town of Annecy © French Moments

The old town of Annecy © French Moments

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 the Alps” are historic buildings and churches such as the fortress of Palais de l’Île, Notre-Dame de Liesse and the St. Claire Gate.

Ste Claire Gate, Annecy © French Moments

Ste Claire Gate, Annecy © French Moments

The Jardins de l’Europe and the lawns of the Pâquier offer magnificent views over the crystal clear lake and the surrounding mountains.

Lake Annecy © French Moments

The lakefront in Annecy © French Moments

Find out more about Annecy

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.

Veyrier-du-Lac
Veyrier seen from Lake Annecy © French Moments

The village of Veyrier-le-Lac seen from the lake © French Moments

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.

Menthon-Saint-Bernard
The castle of Menthon © French Moments

The castle of Menthon © French Moments

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.

Roc de Chère
The Roc de Chère seen from Saint-Jorioz © French Moments

The Roc de Chère seen from Saint-Jorioz © French Moments

Between Menthon and Talloires, the rocky hill of Roc de Chère is covered by 200 hectares of forest, offering fabulous views over the lake.

The "Petit Lac" seen from Roc de Chère © French Moments

The “Petit Lac” seen from Roc de Chère © French Moments

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.

Roc de Chère - Lake Annecy © French Moments

Roc de Chère – Lake Annecy © French Moments

A marked path links Talloires to Menthon through the reserve.

Talloires

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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.

The village is overtopped by the shrine of St. Germain (Ermitage Saint-Germain). The church terrace commands stunning views of the Bay of Talloires and the castle of Duingt.

View from the St. Germain shrine, Lake Annecy © French Moments

View from the St. Germain shrine © French Moments

Find out more about Talloires.

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.

Sévrier

"Sévrier,

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.

Saint-Jorioz
The Sentiers des Roselières in Saint-Jorioz © French Moments

The Sentiers des Roselières in Saint-Jorioz © French Moments

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.

Duingt
Duingt in Autumn © French Moments

Castle of Duingt, Lake Annecy © French Moments

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.

Le Bout-du-Lac
Bout du Lac from Col de la Forclaz © French Moments

Bout du Lac seen from Col de la Forclaz © French Moments

Situated at the southern end of Lake Annecy, the locality of “Bout-du-Lac” (end of the lake) belongs to the commune of Lathuile. You’ll find a camping site and a very popular beach in the summer months.

In the territory of Doussard, the marshlands are a protected natural reserve. This is one of our favourite sites. All year round, you can explore this part of the lake by walking on marked paths. From the top of an old watchtower, a magnificent view of the lake awaits… 

The view from Bout du Lac (Natural Reserve) © French Moments

The view from Bout du Lac (Natural Reserve) © French Moments


Annecy Mountains aka the Prealps of Annecy

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

Mount Semnoz from Talloires © French Moments

Mount Semnoz from Talloires © French Moments

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’.

Autumn in the Semnoz © French Moments

Autumn walk in the Semnoz forest © French Moments

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’.

Mount Baret, Mount Veyrier and Mount Baron seen from Saint-Jorioz © French Moments

Mount Baret, Mount Veyrier and Mount Baron seen from Saint-Jorioz © French Moments

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.

The view from Mont Veyrier © French Moments

The view from Mont Veyrier © French Moments

Col de la Forclaz

Lake Annecy seen from the Col de la Forclaz © French Moments

Lake Annecy seen from the Col de la Forclaz © French Moments

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. Spectacular is the word!

The Angon Waterfalls

The Angon Waterfalls © French Moments

The Angon Waterfalls © French Moments

In the heights of Talloires, the lofty 60 m tall waterfalls of Angon are a hidden gem. You need to park your car at the hamlet of Verel (between Talloires and Col de la Forclaz). A word of caution though: children need to be observed closely when walking near the waterfall as it is really slippery.

Just above the waterfalls is the mysterious Pont des Fées (Fairies Bridge).

The Tournette

La Tournette seen from Lake Annecy © French Moments

La Tournette seen from Lake Annecy © French Moments

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. This is one of the rare mountains I haven’t climbed (yet)… as I suffer from vertigo!

La Tournette in Spring © French Moments

La Tournette in Spring © French Moments


Activities in Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy is the base for a wide range of sporting activities and cruises across the lake.

Here’s a selection of activities and sightseeings by our partner Get Your Guide:

 

Water Sports

Lakeshore of Talloires © French Moments

Lakeshore near the Chère Mountain © French Moments

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).

Cycling

The cycling path around Lake Annecy © French Moments

The cycling path around Lake Annecy © French Moments

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.

Find out more about cycling around the lake.

Mountain Sports

Col de la Forclaz © French Moments

Handgliding at the Forclaz © French Moments

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.

You can reach Col de la Forclaz to see the fantastic launch of paragliders. And maybe you’ll be tempted to try it too!

Lake Cruises

Cruise on Lake Annecy © French Moments

Cruise on Lake Annecy © French Moments

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.


English-French Vocabulary

The bay of Talloires © French Moments

The bay and chemin des moines, Talloires © French Moments

(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)
  • 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 skiing = ski nautique (m)
  • water sport = sport aquatique (m)
Annecy seen from the Parmelan summit © French Moments

Annecy seen from the Parmelan summit © French Moments


Annecy and Haute-Savoie on the blog

Here’s a little list of articles on Annecy + Region to find out more about places to see:

And, finally, visit the Annecy Tourist Office website for more practical information about Lake Annecy.

Liked what you read? Pin it for later:

Visit Lake Annecy © French Moments


Some of the links above are affiliates so if you’re planning a trip, using these links helps me keep things running. There’s no extra cost to you. All you have to do is click the link and any booking you make is automatically tracked.


 

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About 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.

4 Comments

  1. Pierre, your photos are stunning; what a beautiful area! This and your other articles have made me eager to visit Annecy. I’m so sad that I have to cancel a planned visit to France at the end of this year, but I hope to be able to visit next year and Annecy will be on my itinerary! Merci!

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