Better known for its winter sports activities in resorts such as La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand or Manigod, the Annecy region of France is the ideal spring or summer bolthole for active British travellers. It is an accessible 45-minute drive from Geneva and boasts some of the most majestic and varied scenery I’ve ever encountered. Last month I took a trip to Annecy to get involved in some eco-friendly activities amidst the lake and mountains.
I travelled with Adventures in the Alps, a travel company established three years ago by marketing expert Pip Watkins, who wanted to offer guests the opportunity to experience her favourite destinations. She’s certainly got her hands full: there are a lot of environmentally friendly activities to do here from paragliding, canyoning and white water rafting to the various rope courses and zip wires at Parcours Adventure and the spine-chilling Via Ferrata (meaning “Iron Way”), a series of protected routes developed by the Italian army as they crossed the Alps during the Second World War.
If you’re after something a little tamer, you won’t be disappointed either. Pretty much anything you can think of can be added on to your agenda, including kayaking, open-water swimming, sailing and horse riding. Adventures in the Alps offers pilates, yoga and walking weeks as well as their tougher counterparts: trail running, “running well” and alpine cycling. During my time there on the Fitness Week, I tried a small trail running through the forest and a gentle cycle from Doussard to Annecy town, where we sipped coffee, bought local cheeses and undid all our good work with a multi-flavoured ice cream. The accommodation wasn’t bad either; some 1,200m above the lake, Domaine du Paron boasts luxury en-suite bedrooms, panoramic views and some fresh-smelling alpine air, not to mention a hot tub looking out and down over the Lake.
With such a huge amount going on, it’s a surprise that the streets of Annecy, or the mountains beyond, aren’t more awash with tourists. This is changing: Lake Annecy Ski Resorts reported a 10% increase in spring / summer visitors over the past three years, with events such as the all-new Roc Des Alpes – a big mountain biking event in June which attracts younger, more adventurous types – and L’Etape du Tour, the only stage of the Tour de France in which the public can take part, attracting non-professional, serious road cyclists.
Adventures in the Alps’ next Fitness Week is 7-14 September. For more information, click here.