Savoie: tourism & sightseeing
Visit Savoie (Rhone-Alpes, France)
With Chambery and the Regional Natural Park of the Massif des Bauges to the west, and the exceptional mountain scenery of the Vanoise National Park and high quality ski resorts such as Val d'Isere to the east, the Savoie department has some of the most stunning scenery in France and is the ideal destination for enthusiasts of the great outdoors!
The Savoie department is part of the Rhone-Alpes region of eastern France, with Chambery as its 'capital'.
The department is usually associated with high mountains (and a large part of Savoie is mountainous, with the higher mountains being found to the east of the department) and the lakes and spa towns are also popular destinations with summer visitors.
Note that the Savoy Alps fall in two departments: Savoie (this travel guide) and also Haute-Savoie immediately north of here around Annecy and Lake Geneva. See Haute-Savoie for details.
To make your planning easier we have divided our guide to Savoie into two regions below: Vanoise National Park and the east, and the Massif des Bauges and the west.
Vanoise National Park and eastern Savoie
The Vanoise National Park covers a substantial part of the eastern Savoie department, including a great deal of magnificent scenery and the village of Bonneval, listed among the most beautiful villages in France.
Although we suggest that you explore on foot or by bike when possible it is also easy to access the beautiful scenery by car, with several mountain passes at altitudes greater than 2000 metres.
These include the Col du Galibier, the Col de la Croix-de-fer and the Col d'Iseran - names that you will recognise as regular mountain climbs during the Tour de France.
Savoie ski resorts
It is as the most important ski region in Europe that the Savoie is best known, and much of the department is a roll-call of famous ski resorts with names that you will recognise even if you have never visited the region.
These include Valmorel, Meribel, Courchevel and Val-Thorens , close together and centrally situated in the south of the savoie, and Les Arcs (with Bourg-Saint-Maurice), Tignes and Val d'Isere further to the east...and several others!
Overall more than 50% of annual visitors to French ski resorts are to the Savoie department.
Several of these ski resorts have formed into natural groups to further extend the options available to winter visitors, and you may be familiar with the large ski regions such as Les Trois Vallées, Paradiski and Espace Killy.
For those who prefer to avoid the crowds there are also numerous smaller resorts in the region.
Massif des Bauges, Chartreuse Regional Natural Park and western Savoie
The western part of the Savoie department includes a large part of the Regional Natural Park of the Massif des Bauges and the northern part of the Chartreuse Natural Regional Park, both protected natural areas.
The scenery of the Massif des Bauges is more high cliffs, steep valleys and extensive forests which are an interesting contrast to the more 'mountainous' scenery further east.
Further south in the Chartreuse Natural Regional Park the scenery is less dramatic but still very attractive with cliffs, fast-flowing streams and wooded valleys to enjoy and a very pleasant region to spend time exploring.
The most interesting town to visit in this part of the department is Chambery, a very pleasant and lively town with a cathedral and an interesting historic centre.
Although many of the famous ski resorts are further east in the department the resort of Albertville, which was host to the Winter Olympics in 1992, is in the eastern Massif des Bauges. From Albertville you should visit the nearby medieval village of Conflans which is among the most attractive in the region.
North-east of Albertville the town and resort of Beaufort (within the Arêches-Beaufort resort) is also a popular destination all year round, while the resort of Aillon-le-Jeune in the heart of the Massif des Bauges is particularly popular with locals because of its proximity to Aix-les-Bains and Chambery.
North of Chambery the Lac du Bourget provides an extensive range of water-based leisure opportunities and is very popular during the summer, especially in the belle-epoque spa town of Aix-les-Bains and Bourget-du-Lac. A boat trip across the lake makes for a very pleasant afternoon out.
The Savoie is well known for its spa towns. As well as Aix-les-Bains, others in the department include Challes-les-Eaux (to the west of Savoie) and also Brides-les-Bains, La Léchère and Salins-les-Thermes towards the centre of the department.
Map of Savoie and places nearby
See more places, tourist attractions and local markets at visiting Savoie
See an index of all Savoie communes
French version: Savoie (Francais)