For decades, we have loved coming to Savoie Mont Blanc, a breathtakingly beautiful region in the French Alps. Many people’s first thought is of the fantastic ski resorts in this part of the Alps. Understandably so, because with no fewer than 18 interconnected ski resorts, the region is the largest ski area in the world! But Savoie Mont Blanc is – with good reason – one of France’s top tourist destinations in summer, too. In the wonderful, generally sunny summer months, hikers, cyclists, water sports enthusiasts and golfers find plenty to enjoy. But also those who just want to enjoy nature, the unprecedented views and the delicious Savoyard cuisine. In this blog we outline why.
Savoie Mont Blanc in a nutshell
Savoie Mont Blanc is a region in eastern France the size of Devon and Cornwall combined. It includes the departments of Savoie and Haute-Savoie. The region has a varied landscape, ranging from high peaks and crystal-clear mountain lakes to lush valleys and idyllic alpine meadows.
Most people know the Savoie department mainly for its winter sports. But to the inveterate hiker, Savoie is mainly known for Parc National de la Vanoise: France’s more than beautiful and oldest national park. The Haute-Savoie department is dominated by the imposing Mont Blanc massif. Here you will find not only Western Europe’s highest mountain, but also some of the most spectacular alpine landscapes in the world. Apart from Mont Blanc and winter sports areas, Haute-Savoie is known for the charming, medieval town of Annecy.
Besides stunning landscapes, Savoie Mont Blanc is steeped in history and heritage. A crucial change in the region’s history took place in the Middle Ages. The House of Savoy, a noble family from Turin in Italy, settled here. The House of Savoy grew into a powerful dynasty that conquered large parts of the region. During the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period, the borders of Europe were constantly redrawn. In the late 18th century, France annexed the Duchy of Savoy. In the mid-19th century, most of the region, including present-day Savoie Mont Blanc, was officially ceded to France. The rich mix of French and Italian influences, stemming from its eventful history, has led to a unique culture and gastronomy of its own.
Outdoor paradise Savoie Mont Blanc in summer
The Savoie Mont Blanc region is an area where we can often be found in both winter and summer. Last summer, for instance, we revisited the hiking area around Chamonix. We also explored the beautiful national park of Vanoise on foot and by bike. These are all areas you can completely lose your heart to as an outdoor enthusiast. We’ll list some of the many summer outdoor activities you can do in Savoie Mont Blanc below.
One of the most popular outdoor activities in Savoie Mont Blanc is hiking. There are hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails winding through the region. The hiking options range from relaxed day trips through alpine meadows to challenging treks to mountain peaks. Whether you are a seasoned mountain hiker or just want to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains, Savoie Mont Blanc has something for everyone. Some of the most outstanding hiking routes and destinations in this region are:
Mont Blanc massif
The Mont Blanc massif is the crown jewel of the French Alps and offers some of the most spectacular hiking routes in the region. One of the most famous routes is the Tour du Mont Blanc. During this famous, relatively easy hiking route, you will hike through France, Italy and Switzerland. On the route, you’ll get breathtaking views of Europe’s highest mountain. The great thing is that almost anyone in reasonable shape can do this multi-day hike though you should take your time as it requires seven to nine days.
Another stunning hiking area can be found at Aiguille du Midi. This 3842-metre peak has been accessible by cable car since 1955. From the intermediate station of the cable car, there are some great short and some great longer day hikes. Whichever hike you take there, the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains are unrivalled. From the highest terrace, you also have a perfect view of Mont Blanc.
Mer de Glace is different class, the second longest glacier in the Alps after the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. On this glacier, you can do some beautiful glacier walks. We did this last summer accompanied by a guide. What a hike to remember! By the way, you can also do the most beautiful hut hikes in the valley carved by the glacier near Montenvers.
National Park Vanoise
Parc National de la Vanoise is France’s oldest national park. There is a wealth of hiking opportunities in beautiful mountainous surroundings. One of the most iconic hiking trails in the park is the Tour de l’Aiguille de la Vanoise. This scenic circular walk takes you past mountain meadows and waterfalls to the idyllic Lac des Vaches, surrounded by impressive peaks. Some hikers start this walk from the picturesque village of Pralognan-la-Venoise. But since the first part is not the most interesting, you can also take the ski lift first like we did.
Another, multi-day hiking trail in the park is the Tour des Glaciers de la Vanoise. This route is for the truly adventurous hikers among us. It is a perfect way to explore the glaciers of the Vanoise. You spend the night in “refuges” (mountain huts), which are a lot more comfortable these days with more privacy.
Annecy and surroundings
The city of Annecy and the surrounding region also offer great hiking opportunities, with beautiful lakes and mountains. Consider these routes:
- Lac d’Annecy Promenade: a leisurely yet long walk around the beautiful Lac d’Annecy. Enjoy views of the lake’s strikingly bright blue waters and surrounding mountains.
- Semnoz: on this hike, you climb the Semnoz for panoramic views of Lake Annecy. It is a fairly challenging hike. However, there are several hiking trails to choose from at Semnoz, which are suitable for all levels.
The massif of les Bauges
The Les Bauges massif, located between Albertville, Annecy and Chambéry, is a lesser-known but beautiful hiking area. The massif is rightly listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. One of the recommended hikes in the regional natural park is the long-distance hike Traversée des Bauges (the GR96). The route offers breathtaking views and a variety of landscapes. Another well-known, beautiful route is La Dent de Rossanaz. But because of the many altimeters you cover, this hike is more suitable for the very experienced hiker.
Savoie Mont Blanc is known as a paradise for mountain bikers in addition to its fantastic hiking and winter sports opportunities. And with the advent of the eMTB, mountain biking in the Alps is no longer the preserve of only the young heroes.
If, like us, you prefer to just go for a nice ride to enjoy the scenery, there are many trails to explore. The Savoie Mont Blanc region has an extensive network of easy trails that take you through picturesque villages and beautiful landscapes. One of the areas where this is excellent is in the Parc National de la Vanoise.
When you think of the French Alps, images of majestic mountains and snow-covered slopes probably come to mind first. But this region also has golfers of all levels to offer a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you are an experienced golfer or just want to enjoy a relaxing game of golf, here are some of the best options:
Golf Club des Gets (Les Gets)
Les Gets, a charming mountain village in the French Alps, is home to the Golf Club des Gets. This 18-hole golf course is set amid green meadows and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The course’s challenging layout is suitable for golfers of all levels. After golfing, you can relax in the atmospheric clubhouse and enjoy a drink on the terrace overlooking the course.
Golf Club d’Évian (Évian-les-Bains)
Just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Lake Geneva is the Golf Club d’Évian, home of the prestigious Evian Championship. Surrounded by lush forests, this 18-hole course offers a challenging golf experience with some of the best views of the lake. The clubhouse, with its elegant architecture, is a great place to relax after a day on the course.
Golf du Mont d’Arbois (Megève)
Megève is not only known for its winter sports, but also houses Domaine du Mont d’Arbois, a beautiful 18-hole golf course designed by legendary golfer Henry Cotton. Surrounded by the mountains and with a castle-like clubhouse, this course offers an unforgettable golfing experience.
Golf de Talloires (Talloires)
Tucked away on the shores of beautiful Lake Annecy is Golf de Talloires. This 18-hole golf course has a rich history and offers golfers a unique experience overlooking the lake and surrounding mountains. The rustic clubhouse exudes a cosy atmosphere, perfect for a post-golf meal while enjoying the mesmerising views.
Golf de Giez (Giez)
Also located near Lake Annecy, Golf de Giez offers a challenging 18-hole golf course amidst lush green hills. The layout of the course follows the natural terrain, making for an engaging round of golf. The clubhouse has a warm atmosphere and is perfect for post-course enjoyment. Also read our separate blog on golfing near Annecy.
Savoie Mont Blanc: the cultural highlights
It’s not only the many outdoor opportunities and overwhelming nature that make us visit this region regularly. The enchanting Savoie Mont Blanc region also has many cultural highlights to offer. From historic castles, charming mountain villages and towns, to the culinary experience of Savoyard cuisine.
Got some time to spare during your stay in Savoie Mont Blanc? Do you want to relax a bit after a marvellous hike? Then visit the beautiful 14th-century castle of Chambéry, the capital of the Savoie department. Or stroll through the cobbled streets of picturesque Annecy. In this “Venice of the Alps” you find picturesque canals, medieval architecture and pastel-coloured houses. Alternatively, visit one of the historic mountain villages and towns, such as Megève and Les Gets. They are lovely places still with their traditional architecture and peaceful atmosphere.
Practical tips about outdoor paradise Savoie Mont Blanc in summer
The Savoie Mont Blanc region is located in the French Alps. It covers much of the mountainous area between Geneva in Switzerland and Grenoble in France. The region borders Switzerland to the east and Italy to the southeast.
The fastest way to travel to the outdoor paradise of Savoie Mont Blanc is by plane. The best options are Geneva or Chambéry. Here you then take a hire car to get to your final destination. Another comfortable option - and better for the environment - is to take the train. From Paris, take the TGV towards Annecy or Chambéry. From there, you can take local trains or buses to your final destination. If you want the flexibility to explore the region at your own pace, travel to the French Alps in your own car.
Savoie Mont Blanc is an outdoor paradise because of the natural beauty and diverse outdoor activities the region has to offer. In Savoie Mont Blanc, you have countless hiking, winter sports, water sports and mountain biking opportunities. In addition, you have fantastic golf courses.
Savoyard cuisine is definitely a culinary feast for the taste buds. There no fewer than 36 Michelin-starred restaurants in Savoie Mont Blanc with good reason! This region is mainly about cheese, cheese and more cheese: tasty and creamy cheeses, the most iconic of which are Beaufort, Abondance, Reblochon and Tomme de Savoie. These cheeses are used in dishes such as the famous Tartiflette, a savoury casserole with potatoes, bacon, onion and Reblochon cheese. We ourselves are also partial to Savoyard cheese fondue and raclette. The difference? With fondue, melted cheese is served in which you can dip pieces of bread. Raclette, on the other hand, consists of melted cheese poured over potatoes, pickles and charcuterie (cold cuts). They are dishes that appeal to us in both winter and summer.
Another dish Savoyard cuisine is known for is Diots au Vin Blanc. Diots are small sausages simmered in white wine, often accompanied by onions and potatoes. This savoury meal is a favourite among not only locals. Another thing you will find on most menus are crepes. You have them with both sweet and savoury fillings.