While Annecy has enough things to do and quaint canalside houses to photograph to keep anyone busy for a few days, sometimes it’s nice to get out in nature and breathe the fresh Alpine air. Indeed, the Haute-Savoie department has plenty of worthwhile activities that will appeal to both leisurely and thrill-seeking visitors.
Here are suggestions of day trips from Annecy that are less than an hour’s drive from the old town.
Gorges du Fier
The Gorges du Fier are a spectacularly narrow canyon —25 metres high but just 5 metres wide— carved by the erosion of the powerful River Le Fier over millenniums. It’s one of France’s most underrated natural wonders, where visitors can admire boulders and mysterious rock formations from the dizzying footbridge overlooking the gorge and the limpid blue waters of the River Le Fier; on a sunny day, the light is simply magical as it dramatically embraces the gorge in a manner almost akin to the famous light beams over at Antelope Canyon in the United States.
At just 5 euros, this is one of the cheapest yet most breathtaking day trips from Annecy.
The Semnoz is one of the most famous mountains of the Bauges range in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes in eastern France; it reaches 1,699 meters high. The most popular place on Semnoz is a barren area called Crêt-du-Chatillon—a rarity on what is an otherwise heavily forested summit—which offers sprawling views of not just the permanently snow-capped mountain range but also the picturesque city of Annecy and its eponymous turquoise lake below.
The Semnoz summit is open year-round; it’s a very popular hiking destination in the warmer months (summer bobsleigh, via ferrata, mountain biking, and karting are also available); on the other hand, it morphs into a full-on Alpine skiing center come wintertime with four different stations catering to a diverse clientele, from thrilling downhill slopes to peaceful cross-country skiing trails – all of this, just 20 minutes from beautiful Annecy.
Château de Montrottier
Welcome to 13th-century Château de Montrottier! Located just 10 kilometres outside Annecy, this medieval estate dominates the Prealps valleys and, as such, offers sprawling views of the region. It’s a typical feudal fortress with massive ramparts, cylindric dungeons, and dizzying lookout towers flanked by modest but leafy French-style gardens. It was mostly used to watch passages on the nearby River Le Fier, one of the main trading routes between Chambéry and Geneva at the time.
Although it no longer serves defensive purposes, it now houses one of Haute-Savoie’s most peculiar curiosity cabinet and a vast collection of furniture and objects, well worth the detour from Annecy.
On the other side of the Lake Annecy (making this one of the most accessible day trips from Annecy) is this quaint little village, mostly known for its outstanding castle.
Sitting on a leafy 200-metres high rock, it has been looming over Lake Annecy for a thousand years and features an unmistakable “medieval fortress yet romantic” type of look (rumour has it that it was the inspiration behind the emblematic Sleeping Beauty castle….) with several soaring towers and strategically-placed windows and ramparts. The noble house served several vital purposes as it was strategically located on the profitable trading route between Geneva and Italy.
Menthon Saint-Bernard is actually one of the most important and largest castles in the Savoie region, with over 105 rooms and a library filled with 12,000 books. It’s now a registered national heritage site of France.