France, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, is famous for its fine cuisine, elegant cities, Mediterranean beaches and lavender fields. But did you know that France is also home to some amazing lakes?
From spectacular alpine lakes formed by glaciers to artificial ones created by man, there are so many beautiful lakes in France that foreign travelers often tend to overlook. Some of the lakes offer incredible unspoiled nature and a sense of tranquility whereas others are known for their picturesque lakeside towns.
With their crystal clear waters and serene landscapes, the lakes of France are also an excellent alternative to visiting the French Riviera, which is known to get uncomfortably crowded (and ridiculously expensive) in the summer months.
For this post, I’ve teamed up with my fellow travel bloggers to bring you a list of the best lakes in France. Their recommendations have definitely inspired me to explore more of France’s fantastic nature and I’m sure they will do the same for you!
At the end of the article, I’ve also included a map with all the French lakes listed in this post so you can have an easy overview of where each of them is located.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links from which I may make a commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase.
Best lakes in France
1) Lake Annecy
Recommended by me
The postcard-perfect Lake Annecy (or Lac d’Annecy in French) is one of the most famous lakes in France. Situated in the Haute-Savoie region in the Alps, this place looks like something out of a dream.
With its majestic mountains, verdant shores and water so blue that it could be the Caribbean, Lake Annecy quickly became my favorite lake in Europe (though Lake Bled is also a strong contender for this title!).
Fed by mountain springs, this alpine lake is known for its crystal clear water and is regarded as Europe’s cleanest lake. It is the perfect playground for water sports enthusiasts who go there for kayaking, sailing, paddleboarding, swimming and more. Because of the excellent water clarity, Lake Annecy is also one of the best lakes in France for freshwater snorkeling and diving.
Along its shores and in the surrounding mountains, nature lovers can enjoy various outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking and paragliding. And if you’d rather just relax in the sun, head to one of the lake’s fabulous beaches.
A must-visit spot here is the gorgeous medieval town of Annecy. Characterized by cobblestone alleys, pastel-colored buildings and canals crossing its historic center, Annecy has been dubbed the Venice of the Alps. A fun way to get to know the town is to take a guided segway tour that takes you to all the main attractions.
The town of Annecy offers lots of accommodation options and is a perfect base for exploring the lake. A wonderful place to stay here is Le Pelican Hotel which features chic rooms, an outdoor pool and views of the lake.
2) Lac du Bourget
Recommended by Leyla from Offbeat France
The Lac du Bourget is France’s deepest lake, and possibly its largest glacial lake, depending on the time of year you take the measurements. It sits at the very tip of the Jura Mountains and is part of the department of Savoie, or Savoy, a part of France which was an independent duchy for eight centuries before becoming part of France.
The lake’s main city is Aix-les-Bains, which has France’s largest freshwater port and a history to match. A well-loved thermal center, Aix, as the locals call it, was made hugely popular by Queen Victoria during the 19th century, when any number of crowned heads could be seen taking the waters, enjoying the elegant lakeshore, or frequenting the gilded casino.
Those things still happen. In summer, the lake is a hive of activity: paragliders float above the nearby mountains, divers search its waters for ruins, and visitors enjoy the sun’s rays on the beaches that dot the shore. It is a boating paradise, and kayaks and canoes can easily be rented for a day of discovery.
A wonderful excursion can be taken by car or boat to the Abbaye de Hautecombe, an 11th-century Cistercian monastery that served as the traditional burial place of the Dukes of Savoy.
In winter, everyone goes snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the surrounding mountains. This is an all-season lake, one which can be enjoyed year-round.
3) Lac de Sainte-Croix
Recommended by me
Lac de Sainte-Croix lies in the Provence region and is one of the most beautiful artificial lakes in France. It was created in 1973 when a dam was built across the Verdon river and now provides drinking water for a large part of Provence.
Surrounded by scenic countryside and shrub-covered hills, the Lake of Sainte-Croix is a popular tourist attraction during the summer months and a mandatory stop on every southern France road trip. Its calm, vivid blue water is perfect for swimming and water sports such as pedal boating, windsurfing and kayaking.
Right next to the lake, you’ll find one of the most impressive natural wonders of Provence – the Verdon Gorge. Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of France, this river gorge features dramatic landscapes and unspoiled nature, which visitors can explore on a kayak, pedal boat or a road trip along the Route des Cretes.
Another must-visit place near the lake is Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. The village is situated below tall limestone cliffs and charms its visitors with medieval buildings, mountain views and a maze of cobbled streets.
If you’d like to spend a night in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, stay at the quirky boutique hotel La Ferme Rose, where every room is decorated with elegant antique furniture.
4) Lake Geneva (Lac Léman)
Recommended by Giorgy from G-Extreme Travel
Lake Geneva aka Lac Léman is one of the best lakes in France and one that you absolutely cannot miss. It is 582.4 km² and is therefore one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. Located on the north side of the Alps, this deep lake is shared between Switzerland and France.
This lake is pure magic! In fact, you always have a spectacular view of the snowy peaks of the Mont Blanc on the western end of the lake and on the other side the Grammont, Cornettes de Bise and Dent d’Oche peaks.
Not only is the view over the lake worth it, but a swim or a visit to the lake’s towns shouldn’t be missed either! Along the lake, you will encounter little rocky sandy beaches equipped with restaurants/bars and watersports activities.
Rejuvenate yourself in the silence of the medieval village of Yvoire, on the territory of France. It is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France thanks to its stone and wooden houses with geraniums on the walls. Visit also the beautiful towns of Thonon and Evian, a city known worldwide for its still water.
On the Swiss territory, you shouldn’t miss Lausanne and Geneva, the city that gives its name to the lake. Both are very popular thanks to their wonderful landscapes.
Since Switzerland is known to be quite expensive, finding accommodation on the French side would be a good and inexpensive idea. For instance, Thonon-Les-Bains has good cheap accommodation and is not far from the well-known Yvoire.
5) Lac d’Allos
Recommended by Imee from Journey to France
Located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Lac d’Allos reflects the towering peaks of Mont Pelat (3,052 m/10,013 ft). Situated close to the town of Allos, this lake is regarded as Europe’s largest natural high-mountain lake. It has a depth of 50 m (164 ft) and covers an area of 60 hectares.
The Mercantour National Park in the southern French Alps is home to the breathtaking Lac d’Allos. Getting to the lake and exploring the area around it is a pleasant and straightforward day trek. This trail is perfect for casual hikers and families. Daring souls can tackle more challenging hikes to see three additional lakes and take in spectacular vistas by following a loop trail.
A wide variety of animals, including chamois, ibex (mountain goats), marmots, and more, live in the area. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike up one of the region’s tallest peaks, Mont Pelat. With clear weather, you can see the island of Corsica from here, and the panorama of Provence is breathtaking.
Lac d’Allos is easily accessible from Nice by driving up the valley of the Var River. It’s around a 140 km (87 mi) drive to reach the beginning of the trail that will lead you to the lake.
Consider staying for the night at the Refuge du Lac d’Allos. All of the meals are delicious, the rooms are basic, and the location is ideal, as you will be sleeping just steps from the lake.
6) Lac Blanc
Recommended by me
Lac Blanc is a scenic glacial lake near the alpine resort town of Chamonix in the Haute-Savoie region. Nestled high up in the French Alps, it boasts bright turquoise water and breathtaking views of the Mont Blanc massif. Lac Blanc might be small in size but it’s surely one of the best lakes in France because of its outstanding beauty.
The lake is situated at an altitude of 2,352 m (7,716 ft) and can only be reached by hiking. Thankfully, the trek up to the lake is not too strenuous and is suitable even for beginners. Visiting Lac Blanc is one of the top things to do in Chamonix in the summer and a must-have experience for everyone who enjoys hiking.
The Lac Blanc hike starts at Flegere cable car station and takes you through picturesque alpine grasslands. Once you arrive at the lake, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of its shimmering blue water and the dramatic mountain scenery around it. There’s also a lakeside refuge serving drinks and simple meals.
Be aware that swimming in Lac Blanc is not allowed as it could disturb the delicate environmental balance of the lake.
In order to visit the lake, the best place to stay is Chamonix. The town offers a variety of beautiful hotels, including the charming Heliopic Hotel that’s housed in two mountain chalets and has a luxurious spa with hammams and saunas.
For more info and tips on how to do this hike, read my Lac Blanc hiking guide.
7) Lac de Gaube
Recommended by Laura from Gallivanting Laura
Lac de Gaube is a picturesque glacial mountain lake in the French Pyrenees and within the Pyrenees National Park. It is known for its breathtaking landscape views, hiking trails and crystal-clear waters.
Visitors can ride the cable car to the top of the mountains in the summer months from the Pont d’Espagne (Bridge of Spain). Upon exiting the cable car, take a right to enjoy the viewing platform through the valley. The walk from the cable car to Lac de Gaude is approximately 15 minutes.
Instead of taking the cable car, you can also follow a hiking trail, which forms part of the GR10, a route spanning the entire French Pyrenees Mountain range from coast to coast. Beginning at Pont d’Espagne, the 8 km (5 mi) loop trail has an elevation gain of 371 m (1,217 ft). It is a rocky trail through the forest filled with waterfalls and unique scenery.
Once lakeside, Lac de Gaube offers a bar and restaurant on the banks of the beachy shore. It is perfectly situated to enjoy the sweeping views the lake naturally provides. Relax, take a picnic and soak in the picturesque landscape.
Travel tip: Visit the Pont d’Espagne too. The bridge was once the medieval border crossing between France and Spain. Alongside the historical significance, it also has some spectacular waterfalls.
The closest town to Lac de Gaube is Cauterets, and it offers many accommodation types from hotels to chalets and campgrounds. The area is known for the best hiking and sights in the Pyrenees.
8) Lac de Serre-Ponçon
Recommended by Eloise from My Favourite Escapes
Serre-Ponçon Lake is located in the Hautes-Alpes region of France, not too far from the Italian border (75 km/47 mi). The most famous towns nearby are Gap, Embrun and Briancon.
The 28 km² lake is known to be a true sea in the heart of the mountains, so Serre-Ponçon is a popular French Alps summer holidays destination. Indeed, you’ll find many tourist activities in summer to enjoy the lake.
There are a few beaches to choose from and some are patrolled during the peak season. If you like water-based activities, it’s the perfect place for you. It’s easy to hire boats, kayaks, SUPs or more original vessels like a sea-bike to explore the lake. Try to spot the remarkable rock formations called Demoiselle Coiffees on the slopes of the hills around the lake.
There are also a couple of sailing schools to gain experience on sailing boats or to learn how to windsurf or kitesurf. Although there are no waves on the lake, it’s pretty popular to go surfing on the never-ending wave created by a boat. When planning your trip, keep in mind that the wind often picks up in the afternoon.
You’ll also find opportunities to view the lake from above in a hot-air balloon, a small plane or by paragliding. For much cheaper, you can also go with no effort to the top of one of the nearby mountains in Reallon using the chairlifts that are open in summer. It’s also a great spot for mountain biking and hiking.
9) Lac de Montriond
Recommended by Millie from Stay Wild Travels
Lac de Montriond is situated on the outskirts of the small and picturesque village of Montriond near the popular ski resort town Morzine. Its stunning emerald waters sparkle between the French Alps and when summer swings around, it attracts tourists and locals like a magnet.
The lake is made up of two sections: a large natural area and a small man-made area for children to play safely in. You’ll find the children’s section of the lake is monitored throughout the summer period by a lifeguard, however, the remainder of the lake is not. As such, only confident swimmers should take a dip here.
Around the lake, you’ll find multiple restaurants, miniature golf and a wealth of water sports activities such as kayaking and paddle boarding. For those looking for a more relaxed visit, there are plenty of spaces to sunbathe or read a book, as well as do yoga in the mornings. Lac de Montriond is also the starting point of the well-known hike to the Cascade d’Ardent waterfall.
The southern side of the lake is where you’ll find all the activities, as well as the main car park. If this is full, then you should not park on the road as you will get a parking fine. Instead, make your way to the north side of the lake where there are plenty more spaces available.
If you’re looking for a place to stay nearby, then Morzine is the major town in the area that’s less than 10 minutes away. Alternatively, Avoriaz is another great option, however, it’s just under 30 minutes away.
10) Quatre Lacs
Recommended by Caroline from Veggie Wayfarer
The region of the four lakes (Quatre Lacs) in the beautiful Jura department is a true hidden gem in Eastern France.
Much like the Jura itself, these four pristine lakes – Petit Maclu, Grand Maclu, Ilay and Narlay – see plenty of local visitors but rarely curious travelers from outside of the region itself. Many a French person will not have heard of the “little Scotland” of France as the Jurascians so fondly call the region of the four lakes.
To get a true sense of the spectacular nature and the vastness of the lakes, head over to the aptly named “Belvedere des 4 lacs”, located 900 m (2,953 ft) above sea level. In front of the lookout, you will find ample parking. The road leading up is pretty steep and not accessible in winter without proper winter tires (and even snow chains).
The lookout is also a great starting point for one of the many (very well) signposted hikes, which range from a moderate 4-kilometer (2.5 mi) to a glute-killing 25-kilometer (15 mi) loop around the various lakes. The hike will require proper hiking boots and make sure to bring a rain jacket as this part of France tends to see heavy rainfall.
As the area is protected, swimming and other watersports are forbidden and dogs need to be kept on the leash at all times.
11) Lake Flumet
Recommended by Emily from 2 Generation Travellers
Lake Flumet is a small lake located in the Haute Savoie region of the French Alps. Situated between Albertville and Mégève, it is the perfect family-friendly place for swimming and relaxation on a warm day. To add to the appeal, the lake offers a skatepark, a playground, a range of water-sport facilities, children’s play equipment and lifeguards from 12pm-6pm every day in July and August.
The lake is set in leafy surroundings at the base of the mountains which provides spectacular scenery to lay down a towel and relax. With plenty of trees surrounding the lake, finding shade will not be too difficult. The base of the lake is filled with pebbles, although you’ll find a small sandpit at one end of the water’s edge.
With several tables available, picnics are common at Lake Flumet. However, there is also a restaurant (Le Restaurant du Lac) and a snack bar (Snack Bar du Plan d’Eau) adjacent to the lake. The restaurant serves traditional French cuisine with indoor and outdoor terrace seating. There are also ice blocks available for purchase, perfect for a hot day.
Near Lake Flumet, set in amongst the trees is the Arrondine river, which is shallow enough for wading and worth a visit before leaving.
Map of the best lakes in France
On the map below, I’ve pinned the exact locations of the best lakes in France listed in this post. As you can see, they’re all situated either in the mountainous regions of eastern France or in the Pyrenees. For more details, click on the icon in the top left corner of the map.
Best lakes in France: Final thoughts
I hope this post sparked your curiosity to visit the beautiful lakes of France and explore the country beyond the tourist hotspots like Paris and Nice. Whether you want to reconnect with nature at one of the more tranquil lakes or experience the local culture and history at one of the livelier lakes, you are spoiled for choice in France!
It’s unlikely that you’ll get to visit all of these beautiful French lakes in one trip, but it’s the perfect excuse to come back!
Are there any other lakes you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments!
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