I’ve known about the return from the Alpine pastures for a long time. I had heard of great festivals happening in Austria, Switzerland and Bavaria, but only recently did I find out that Annecy in Haute-Savoie organises a similar event. The festival celebrates the start of the Autumn season with a fun cattle parade through the streets of the old town. There is also folklore music and entertainment across the city. I was fortunate enough to attend the 2017 festival in Annecy and experience the authentic atmosphere, which was full of life. It was also lovely to see people coming together and celebrating life in the Alps!
What is the return from the Alpine pastures?
Basically, it’s all about cows and sheep being herded back down to the valley in October. They’ve been grazing for around four months, and it is time for the cattle to return from the pastures before winter’s rough and cold season begins.
This traditional practice is called Alpine transhumance. The Annecy event is known in French as “Le retour des alpages” and sometimes as “La descente des alpages” or “La fête de l’alpage”.
To get an idea, nothing better than a video to discover the event as if you were there. As a matter of fact, I made two videos on youtube!
Here is the one from 2017:
And the most recent video from the 8th of October 2022:
The Return from the Alpine Pastures Festival
Annecy celebrates this event with a great public festival where traditional activities are highlighted.
Craft events and demonstrations of old manual trades:
Without forgetting the tasting of local produce from the historic province of Savoie:
If you look carefully, you’ll see the flag of Savoie proudly flying in numerous places.
As well as cowbells on display by the St. François de Sales church.
The parade of Alpine herds
The day’s highlight is the parade of Alpine herds, which takes place along an itinerary meandering through the picturesque centre of Annecy. The colourful cattle parade is a feast for the eye. Cows are adorned with flowers and ribbons, and you can hear them approaching by the sound of cowbells attached to their heavy leather collars.
Cows are not the only cattle parading, other farm animals also participate in the procession: goats, sheep, donkeys, mountain dogs…
The farmers and their beautiful costumes
Many farmers from the Savoie region (and beyond!) participate in the parade. It was such a great moment to see Alpine farmers proudly and happily wearing traditional costumes.
There were many people parading with music:
Some were walking, others were sitting on a horse-drawn cart:
Others prefer to put on their skis:
The 2022 edition of the Alpine festival
Here are some photos taken during the parade on 8 October 2022.
The weather was not as sunny as in 2017, but fortunately, the rain stopped just before the parade started. To take these photos, we stood on the rue du Collège Chapuisien and then on the bridge in the rue de la gare.
The procession consisted of the country folk groups and the animals.
The country folk groups
The last part of the procession included mountain dogs, sheep, goats and cows (Montbéliardes, Abondances, Tarines).
You can also watch my video on YouTube by clicking here.
Where to stay in Annecy?
It is best to organise accommodation in advance to avoid disappointment. Click on this affiliate link to our partner booking.com or search for your accommodation on the map below:
Plan your visit to the Alpine festival in Annecy
- As you’ll probably guess, the festival is perfect for children, but you must be aware that the crowds can be overwhelming.
- The cattle parade across the old town generally departs at 2.30 pm, and it takes 1hr to 1.5hrs to complete the set itinerary.
- My favourite spots to attend the cattle parade are the picturesque and narrow streets of rue J.J. Rousseau and rue Grenette. People start positioning themselves 45-60 minutes before the departure of the parade. Head to rue de la gare to enjoy the parade with more space.
- The Alpine festival attracts many people from 9 am to 6 pm, and you may find it hard to park your car. Either arrive early (before 9 am), park your car outside the town centre… or like us, arrive by train!
Here is the itinerary followed on 8 October 2022:
Blogs and Websites for more info!
- To find out more about the return from the Alpine pastures in Annecy, check out the Annecy Traditions website [in French only]. It will give you a map and more information before each annual festival which takes place on the second Saturday of October.
- Check out the blog for more articles about Annecy!
- For more practical information about the city of Annecy (hotels, restaurants, other activities and festivals), check out the Tourist Board website.
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I'm so glad you were able to see this wonderful festival in person, especially with Aimée – what a treat! Your pictures gave me mixed emotions. On one hand I felt as though I was at the festival and on the other hand, it made me want to visit Annecy even more! Continue to enjoy your visit to France!
Merci beaucoup Ellen, being finally here in the French Alps is a real treat and we’re making the most of it! A bientôt! 👋
Have been to the Transhumance Fetes in Appenzell, Switzerland and Reith Im Alpbachtal, Austria.
Thank you Donald, these events in Switzerland must have been just as magnificent.