Why Visit Annecy, Gateway to the French Alps

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 7, 2024 14:30 PMNews
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Person standing on rock mountain during daytime
Person standing on rock mountain during daytime. Source: unsplash

Nestled in the Haute-Savoie region of southeastern France, Annecy serves as a picturesque gateway to the French Alps. Known for its stunning lake and charming town, Annecy offers visitors a perfect blend of water-based activities and mountain adventures. The area’s rich history and vibrant culture make it an ideal destination for those looking for an all-around Alpine getaway.

Day 1: Cycling and City Life

Morning

Start your day in Annecy with a cycling tour around Lake Annecy. Begin with a hearty breakfast at Le Bar Roux d’Heure, a retro-style café in the heart of the town. Once you’ve fueled up, pick up bikes from Roul’Ma Poule, a nearby rental shop conveniently located near the Voie Verte du lac d’Annecy, one of France's oldest greenways. The scenic 26-mile loop around the lake takes about three hours to complete, offering stunning views as you pedal between beaches, quaint villages, and vibrant gardens.

Afternoon

After completing your cycling tour, head to Jardins de L’Europe for a relaxing picnic lunch. This park, located at the water’s edge, is surrounded by charming boulangeries where you can pick up a delicious quiche. After lunch, join a guided tour of Annecy’s old town. The town’s medieval streets are lined with arcades and arches, and its canals and the River Thiou add to the fairytale atmosphere. The iconic Palais de l’Ile, situated on a rocky island, is one of the town’s most picturesque spots.

Evening

For dinner, book a private cruise with Annecy Lounge Boat and enjoy local charcuterie and cheese fondue as you sail into the sunset. This option is great for families or larger groups, as the boats can accommodate up to 12 people. Alternatively, take a water taxi to Doussard and dine at La Cuillère à Omble, a waterside bistro known for its fresh seafood sourced from Haute-Savoie’s lakes. The restaurant’s location by the Bout du Lac Nature Reserve ensures a tranquil dining experience.

Day 2: Mountain Drives and Peaks

Morning

After a day by the lake, venture into the mountains for a different perspective. Although buses are available, renting a car offers the flexibility to stop and admire the views. Start your journey with a stop in Manigod, where Lo Garâjo offers unbeatable views of the Aravis massif, along with a wine cellar, craft beers, and a boutique. From there, continue over the Col de la Croix Fry to La Clusaz, and then on to Le Grand-Bornand, enjoying the spectacular winding Alpine roads. Lunch at La Clé des Annes on the Col des Annes features Reblochon cheese and blackberry tart, made from ingredients sourced from the restaurant’s farm.

Afternoon

Walk off your lunch by exploring the surrounding Alpine meadow on marked footpaths. The area’s tranquility is punctuated only by the occasional ringing of a cow bell. For a gentle stroll, visit Les Terres Rouges restaurant and loop back via the Fenil farm. For a more challenging hike, try the six-mile round trip from the Col des Annes to the Gramusset refuge at the base of Pointe Percée, the highest peak in the Aravis range. Later, recharge at the Shed Cafe in Le Grand-Bonard, where you can enjoy coffee, homemade smoothies, and sweet treats.

Evening

Explore The Cow Trail in Le Grand-Bonard, a series of artistic works celebrating the town’s inhabitants and cows. For dinner, head to Confins des Sens, a stone-and-wood restaurant with a terrace facing the Aravis mountains. The chefs, Anthony Barrucand and Jean-Sébastien Faber, have been partners for over 20 years and offer gourmet mountain cuisine with a twist. The menu changes seasonally, but dishes like scallops with butternut squash, citrus, and honey, or veal with parsley sabayon and potatoes, are always a delight.

The Best Water Activities to Do in Annecy

  1. Freediving Freedive in Lake Annecy with Planète Apnée, which offers sessions for beginners and outings over a shipwreck.
  2. Toumo Yoga This Tibetan-inspired yoga class includes breathing techniques, visualization, and exposure to icy-cold water in mountain streams.
  3. Kayaking Glide in a see-through kayak around Lake Annecy with Gliss’cool, based in Angon.
  4. Canyoning Jump from waterfalls and abseil down rock faces in Angon canyon with guides tailoring the experience.
  5. Water Hiking A gentle form of canyoning ideal for children, involving river walks and sliding into pools.

Where to Stay Near Lake Annecy

  1. Là Haut This chic chalet in the Massif des Bauges Regional Nature Park offers a sauna and unique sleeping shelters.
  2. Refuge de la Pointe Percée A mountain refuge with shared dorms and communal dining, known for stunning sunsets.
  3. Chalet Sisar A renovated farm on the Beauregard plateau with trails at the doorstep, sleeping up to 12 guests.
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