In summer, the French Alps ski region of Savoie Mont Blanc is transformed into a green paradise

French Alps

A French Alps holiday is a wonderful choice for the summer ©iStock

For pools with a view, it’s hard to top the Biotope de Combloux, an ecological swimming lake near the French Alpine resort of Megève.

Nestled in verdant meadows in the shadow of Mont Blanc, its emerald green waters are fringed by aquatic plants that act as a natural filter.

No head-down crawl for me – leisurely lengths mean you can soak up the spectacular mountain views.

And, when the daytime swimmers have gone, there’s no nicer place to dine than the terrace at Côté Lac to watch the snow on France’s highest peak turn pink in the setting sun.

Pastures green

If you’ve only been to the French Alps in winter, it may surprise you just how much the region of Savoie Mont Blanc has to offer when the pistes turn green.

And so close to home. Pick up a hire car in Geneva and it’s barely an hour to Combloux, making it the perfect short break.

Better still, enjoy the Alpine lakes and mountains on a touring holiday.

This is an area of two sharply contrasting tourist seasons. As the snow disappears, a different kind of holidaymaker arrives, lured by Alpine meadow walks, outdoor festivals, and local foods, crafts and traditions.

Get active

Walking is the most popular summer sport, with trails to suit everyone from families to long-
distance hikers.

But if you miss the adrenaline rush of skiing, there are plenty of ways to test your nerve. Try a tandem paragliding flight, go rafting on a mountain river, or climb on a fixed via ferrata, or ‘iron way’.

I stopped first at Cordon, a village of pretty wooden chalets ablaze with window boxes of geraniums.

Here, I stayed in the favourite room of actress Brigitte Bardot at the Hotel les Roches & Spa. A chairlift from neighbouring Combloux whisked me gently up to the marked trails above Megève
for a ramble through field and forest.

Chairlifts cost a fraction of winter rates in summer with the added bonus of no ski-season queues.

You can even take your bike up for a two-wheeled descent.

Or do as I did and get a taste of the Tour de France by hiring an electric bike – no Lycra or effort required.

For transport of a different kind, the historic Tramway du Mont Blanc offers a tranquil 75-minute climb to the cafe beneath the Bionnassay Glacier.

Lively resorts

But every corner of Savoie-Mont Blanc has its attractions and a touring holiday provides a wealth of contrasts. From Combloux, I drove north to the popular ski resort of Morzine.

There’s always something going on in summer – check online for details of outdoor concerts, firework spectaculars and sporting events.

The Tour de France hits Morzine on 23 July this year, but there are plenty of quieter options too.

See the neighbouring peaks and valleys via the network of chairlifts (making sure to return to base before the last lift of the day).

Drive up the hairpin bends to the resort of Avoriaz for family activities and golf, or go kayaking on nearby Lac de Montriond.

Lake land

If you can’t resist a mountain lake, build in a few days beside one of the four great lakes of the French Alps.

Lake Geneva, to the north, is shared with Switzerland, the other three being located
to the west of the high peaks.

With its picturesque old town bisected by canals, Annecy is a delight. Follow one of the colour-
coded walking routes to explore its stone arcades and historic buildings, lakeside gardens and flower-fringed bridges.

Catch a cruise excursion for an overview of lakeside villages like Talloires and Menthon Saint Bernard, where I slept in the historic tower of delightful B&B La Vallombreuse.

I also recommend the Gorges de Fier, 10km from Annecy, where a high-level walkway between sheer cliffs emerges beside tranquil woods and amazing rock formations.

Largest of the three western lakes is Lac du Bourget, overlooked on one steep shore by Hautecombe Abbey, burial place of the Dukes of Savoy.

On the opposite bank, Aix-les-Bains is a town of two halves – the historic centre around the thermal and wellbeing spa, and the lakeside community with its restaurants and excursion boats.

All four lakes offer summer swimming in designated areas, while the smallest – Aiguebelette – has banned all motorised craft.

Another idyllic Alpine spot to while away a summer’s day!

Great for food lovers Savoie Mont Blanc has 34 Michelin-starred restaurants, with 49 stars between them. Le Bourget du Lac boasts three starred establishments alone!

Great for culture vultures

Explore the castle of the Dukes of Savoy in historic Chambéry; enjoy Navig’Aix, a boat festival at Aix-les-Bains (above) or watch a concert at Annecy Classic Festival.

Great for spirited adventurers

Soar over the valleys and glaciers around Mont Blanc in a four-seater light aircraft operated by Aerocime from Megève altiport. Unforgettable!

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