Haute-Savoie: tourism & sightseeing
Visit Haute-Savoie, FranceCar Hire Villas
Stunning mountain scenery including Mont Blanc, the beautiful city of Annecy and the villages and scenery around Lake Geneva combine to make the Haute-Savoie one of the most stunning departments in France, for both summer and winter visitors
The Haute-Savoie department is situated in the Rhone-Alpes region of eastern France, with Annecy as its 'capital' (or prefecture) town, the border with Switzerland to the north and the border with Italy to the east.
The Haute-Savoie can perhaps best be seen as falling into three distinct regions with quite different characteristics:
- the southern shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) to the north;
- Annecy and the shores of Lake Annecy to the south-west;
- the mountainous region in the east and south-east of Haute-Savoie.
Our travel guides below approximately follow these three areas:
South-west: Annecy and region
A few kilometres west of Annecy the Gorges du Fier are also great fun to visit, with a path fixed to the cliff enabling you to penetrate deep into an otherwise inaccessible gorge.
To the south of Lake Annecy the steep forested slopes are within the northern part of the Natural Regional Park of the Massif des Bauges. Certainly less dramatic than the scenery further east in the department but still very attractive to explore!
The combination of Annecy itself, the lake and villages make this one of our favourite parts of France to visit.
North of here the town of La Roche-sur-Foron is one of the most interesting medieval towns in the department, and to the west of Lake Annecy at Alby-sur-Cheran there is also a pleasant historic centre to explore.
North: Lake Geneva and region
Towards the north of Haute-Savoie you will enjoy exploring the towns and villages along the southern shores of Lake Geneva (also known as Lac Leman).
Geneva itself is also a very nice city to spend the day, although not reviewed on this site because it isn't part of France!
Among the towns and villages along the shores of the lake be sure to visit Evian les Bains (rather famous for its 'Evian' bottled water), Thonon les Bains and the village of Yvoire, an exceptionally picturesque village which is classified among the 'most beautiful villages in France'.
In our opinion Yvoire is one of the very nicest of these 'classified' villages and not to be missed when you are in Haute-Savoie.
While exploring Lake Geneva we also suggest a trip to the south-east of Evian to see the alpine village at Abondance, both for the village itself, with an abbey dating in part from the 12th century, and for the picturesque scenery en route.
East and south of Haute-Savoie and the mountains
The centre, south and east of the Haute-Savoie are more mountainous, culminating in the Mont Blanc Massif.
With much of the most beautiful Alpine scenery to be found in France it is no surprise that the south-east Haute-Savoie attracts visitors all year round, both for ski and winter sports and for hiking, cycling and other sports in summer.
The scenic highlights include Mont Blanc itself, the stunning views from the Aiguille du Midi (the highlight of your visit to the Mont Blanc massif) and the glacier called the Mer de Glace.
This region also includes several famous ski resorts, such as Chamonix, close to Mont Blanc and the Italian border. Other popular winter resorts here include Avoriaz, Morzine, Megeve and Saint Gervais and La Clusaz.
The village of Sallanches is also well placed to enjoy the mountains and to set off on hikes to enjoy the lakes and Alpine scenery.
Another notable highlight is the village of Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval (east of Cluses) that is listed as a 'most beautiful French village' and close to one of the scenic spectacles of the region, the Cirque de Fer-à-Cheval (classified as a 'Grand Site of France').
Although better known for its scenery there are also some interesting historical monuments in the Haute-Savoie department, such as the Chartreuse du Reposoir, in a beautiful wooded valley setting to the south.
Other important castles include the medieval castle at Bonneville, the Chateau de Montrottier and the imposing castle that overlooks Menthon Saint Bernard.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Rhone-Alpes guide.
Map of Haute-Savoie and places nearby
See more places, tourist attractions and local markets at visiting Haute-Savoie
See an index of all Haute-Savoie communes
French version: Haute-Savoie (Francais)