The Most Beautiful Lakes in France

With the variety of natural settings that lakes offer, including forests, mountains, and rivers, they seem to offer more options for watersports adventures than the seaside! Then, there is something about that cool, fresh water that is so very enticing. It sounds like a lakeside holiday is the very thing that everyone needs this summer, so here is our breakdown of the most beautiful lakes in France and our favourite activities to experience while you are there!

There is something undeniably enchanting about a lake. Whether it is sparkling in the summer sun, a peaceful hideaway surrounded by mountains and forest, bustling with activity, small, big, alpine, or otherwise, a lake has much to offer! If it is serenity you seek, or even some fresh water fun among friends or family, a lakeside holiday calls to you!

Being that France is absolutely full of lakes of all kinds, it can be overwhelming to choose which lakes to visit. But not anymore! Here is our list of the most beautiful lakes in France along with some ideas of what to do while you visit them.

1. Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy
Stand Up Annecy

Lake Annecy is often cited as one of France’s most beautiful lakes, and for good reason! Situated in France’s Haute-Savoie region, not far from Switzerland and Italy, Lake Annecy’s 28 km2 of sparkling waters are nestled amongst forest covered mountains. The lake’s bright blue waters are so clear, you might even mistake its beaches for those found along the Cote d’Azur or the Caribbean! To the North of the lake, the city of Annecy bustles with mediaeval charm and is part of what makes Lake Annecy and its surroundings such a coveted destination!

Lake Annecy is also one of Europe’s cleanest lakes, which makes swimming in it such a pleasure! The usual swimming and sunbathing aside, there are so many incredible activities to do when visiting Lake Annecy! For a breathtaking view of the entire lake, try a tandem paragliding flight over Annecy! For something equally thrilling but closer to the water, you might like to discover wakeboarding on the lake. For a relaxing day on the water with your friends and family, you can even rent an electric boat without a licence and explore the lake at your own pace.

2. Lake Bourget

Lake Bourget

Not far from Lake Annecy, and equally as beautiful, Lake Bourget is the largest natural lake of glacial origin in France as well as the deepest, covering an area of 44.5 km2 and with a depth of 145 metres.

Situated in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alps and surrounded by the vast Bauges mountains, the incredible views from around Lake Bourget are known to have inspired poets throughout the ages! On the banks of Lake Bourget sits the popular spa town of Aix-les-Bains which offers healing thermal springs and an abundance of water sports and other fun outdoor activities!

For those who want to really get to know Lake Bourget and discover the quaint towns perched along its coast, you could try a gourmand e-bike tour around the lake! If you want to explore the lake itself, try snorkelling in Lake Bourget at Chindrieux, near Aix-les-Bains!

3. Lake Léman

Lake Léman, Lake Geneva

Located in France’s Haute-Savoie region and covering an enormous 581 km2, Lake Léman is the largest lake in Western Europe!

However, Lake Léman is often better known by its other name, Lake Geneva! The lake is shared between France and Switzerland and on the French side, it is best known as Lake Léman. Because the lake is split lengthwise between the two countries, it is easy to cross from the French villages of Thonon-les-Bains or Yvoire to the Swiss towns of Lausanne and Geneva for a multicultural lakeside experience!

Its vast reach and sandy beaches offer a Mediterranean air coupled with soaring mountain vistas, tree shaded banks, and freshwater. This lakeside region also gives you access to the lovely Rhône River that flows through Geneva before emptying into the lake, or the Dranse River, which meanders around Thonon-les-Bains before heading into Lake Léman.

If you want to enjoy the rushing river waters during your lakeside visit, you can opt to hydrospeed down the River Dranse or even raft down the Dranse in Thonon-les-Bains. For some lakeside fun, head over to the Swiss side and enjoy a stand up paddle (SUP) rental or kayak rental on the lake from Montreux to explore Lake Léman at your leisure!

4. Lake Serre-Ponçon

Lake Serre-Ponçon
Serre Ponçon Aloha

Situated in France’s Southern Alps region, Lake Serre-Ponçon is the country’s largest artificial lake with an area of 28 km2 and was created as a result of the Serre-Ponçon dam — one of the biggest dams in Europe!

With naturally low water levels during winter, the lake fills with snowmelt and rainfall during the spring, and by summertime its turquoise waters are full to the brim and ready for visitors to enjoy. The brilliant colour of the lake is completely natural and comes from the mineral rich waters of the Durance and Ubaye tributaries, creating an irresistible pull towards the lake. Indulge your whim and jump in!

Lake Serre Ponçon has so much to offer and from its 9 beaches and many nautical bases you can do any matter of water based activity! From sailing, kayaking, and jet-skiing, to a stand-up-paddle excursion on Lake Serre Ponçon, if you love being on the water you will never be bored when visiting this stunning lake!

For a superb view of the lake and its lush surroundings you could even try a hot air balloon flight above Lake Serre Ponçon for a truly unforgettable lake experience!

5. Lake Castillon and Lake Sainte-Croix

Lake Castillon
Buena Vista Rafting

Located in the heart of the Verdon Regional Nature Park on either end of the Verdon Gorge –the Grand Canyon of Europe– are Lakes Castillon and Sainte-Croix. Lake Castillon is around 5 km2 and the much bigger Lake Sainte-Croix covers 22 km2.

Though both lakes are not naturally occurring and are the result of dams, the Verdon Gorge is absolutely a natural wonder! While the lakes offer access to the Verdon Gorge itself, which is a must see, both Lake Castillon and Lake Sainte-Croix offer charming beaches, scintillating blue waters, and a breadth of activities to enjoy!

For an adventure on Lake Castillon, try a hiking and packrafting expedition that will immerse you in the verdant environs and shimmering waters of the lake. Also keep in mind that the lakes’ wider surroundings are also not to be missed! To see the iconic lavender fields and ancient villages of Provence whilst simultaneously enjoying lake views, try an electric scooter ride in Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon.

There are so many beautiful lakes in France worth discovering!

From the charming coastal villages, forests, mountains, and rivers beyond, to the cool, fresh waters of the lake itself, every lake has many unique merits to offer depending on its form and location. Whether you want to be by the lake, on the lake, in the depths of the lake, or observing it from a distance, there are a great many activities available to enjoy during a lakeside holiday in France!

If you want more lakeside inspiration, check out these articles for the best activities around Lake Geneva and the top 6 water sports at Lake Garda!