If there is one place that we would recommend our guests visit on a day trip from La Giettaz, it’s Annecy. Spend a few hours in this delightful town and you’ll easily understand why its nickname of ‘The Pearl of the Alps’ is fully deserved. In fact, guests could easily spend a day in Annecy itself and more than one day exploring the lake of the same name. At just 45 minutes’ drive from the chalet, this is an unmissable stop on your next holiday in the French Alps.
The town of Annecy curves around the northwest corner of the lake. At its centre you’ll find the picturesque Vielle Ville, which is often described as ‘The Venice of the Alps’ for the collection of waterways (actually the Thiou river, rather than canals) that wind through the pretty medieval buildings. The majority of tourists are drawn to the old town and its multitude of restaurants and cafés, but it's worth taking a stroll northwards into the modern commercial centre of the town, which has a pleasantly relaxed, stylish feel, as well as some interesting shops and excellent food outlets.
In summer, life in Annecy spills out of the town centre to spread around the edge of the lake, where the parks and bathing areas become busy with tourists and locals alike. Boats can be hired from stalls around the lakeside, and swimming is possible along the northern edge of the lake, towards Annecy-le-Vieux (a not-quite-separate town in its own right, not to be confused with the Vielle Ville of Annecy itself).
Lake Annecy is truly one of the Alps’ most appealing attractions. Your first glimpse of the azure blue waters on a clear, sunny day, is breathtaking and simply demands further exploration. A selection of delightful villages dot the banks of the lake, from Veyrier-du-Lac, Menthon-St-Bernard and Talloires on the east side, down to Doussard at the southernmost point, and back up to Duingt, St-Jorioz and Sévrier on the west side. Each of these villages, particularly the eastern trio, is worth stopping at for at least a quick coffee, if not a leisurely lunch by the lakeside, and it's not hard to see why they boast some of the most expensive real estate in France. Generally speaking, the further south you travel around the lake, the quieter it gets, although in high summer the area is very busy everywhere.
A great way to explore the surrounds of Lake Annecy is via the superb piste cylable cycle path. At present, the immaculately-surfaced path extends the full length of the western side of the lake and part of the way down the east side, with work under way to complete the circuit by 2020. That said, it is still possible to ride the full distance around the lake (about 40km) without spending more than a few minutes on the main road. The circuit is completely flat apart from one small hill, at Talloires. There are a huge selection of cafés and restaurants and a seemingly never ending supply of enticing picnic locations with beautiful views across the lake. Bike hire is available at many points around the circuit. Top Tip: avoid the traffic around Annecy and the lakeside villages by parking to the south of the lake, in Doussard or Faverges, from where you can hire bikes and then cycle up either side of the lake toward Annecy itself.