France is a magical country renowned for its natural beauty. It’s characterized by a range of geological features, from flat plains to rolling hills and towering mountains. Among each of these landforms, you’ll find wildly enchanting lakes in France.
These lakes (or lac in French) possess outstanding beauty. Clear waters are surrounded by unspoiled landscapes; these scenes have a way of clearing your head and removing the worries of everyday life.
Along the lakes, you’ll also find small and charming European cities you might not know about. These make a wonderful addition to any lake visit.
Here are the 10 most beautiful lakes in France that will leave you spellbound.
10 Beautiful Lakes in France
1. Lac d’Annecy
Lac d’Annecy resides in the Haute-Savoie region of France. It’s often regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful lakes. Fed by mountain springs, it’s known for its clean, crystal clear water.
Backed by the majestic Alps, it has an atmosphere of pure tranquillity. This is the type of place made for holiday goers who can enjoy a range of activities, including swimming, fishing, rowing, and boating.
There are also paved paths along the shoreline that are perfect for a scenic stroll or bike ride.
The charming medieval city of Annecy looks out over the lake. It’s known for its attractive old town, which features cobbled streets outlined by pastel-coloured buildings.
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2. Lac de Serre-Ponçon
Set in southeast France, Lac de Serre-Ponçon is one of the largest artificial lakes in Western Europe. It was made in the 1960s as part of the area’s flood control management project.
The setting is dramatically beautiful. In some areas, you’ll find a rugged coastline where towering mountains drop directly into the clear blue water. In other areas, you’ll find rolling hills gently touching the accessible beach.
Visitors are allowed to camp along the lake. Aquatic activities like swimming, sailing, and windsurfing are also popular.
In the middle of the lake sits a small chapel, Chapelle Saint-Michel. It was originally built in the 12th century, but following its destruction by armed forces, it was rebuilt at the end of the 17th century.
The church and the small island that surrounds it can be reached on foot during winter and early spring, as the water levels are lower during this period.
3. Lake Geneva
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The pristine Lake Geneva is a crescent-shaped lake that slices through Switzerland and France. It’s one of the largest lakes in Western Europe and is as photogenic as they come. Surrounded by the Alps, it has an atmosphere of pure gaiety and offers many opportunities to enjoy nature.
There are plenty of opportunities for sailing, boating, rowing, sunbathing, swimming, and leisurely lakeside strolls.
The French town of Évian-les-Bains rests near the middle portion of the lake. This popular spa town is famous for its mineral water and wonderfully preserved 19th-century and early 20th-century buildings.
The city of Geneva sits at its southern tip. This is the second most populated city in Switzerland. It features beautiful mountain scenery, wonderful architecture, and countless chocolate shops.
⇒ Book a Geneva City Tour and Boat Cruise
4. Lac du Salagou
Located 30 minutes from Montpellier, you’ll find the artificial Lac du Salagou. It was created in the 1960s to irrigate the valley.
The soil has a reddish-brown colour which is caused by iron oxide in the sandstone rock. It’s quite a distinctive look, especially compared to other French lakes. The water is a turquoise blue which contrasts wonderfully with the surrounding.
The lake is an all-around wonderful place to explore the great outdoors. It’s a popular spot for swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing. With 27 kilometres of trails around the lake, it’s also a nice spot for hiking and mountain biking.
The tiny village of Celles rests on the north-western shore. It was abandoned when the lake was created, as the water level was predicted to drown the area.
However, the plans changed and the water never rose enough to submerge the buildings.
It looked like a ghost town for many years, but recently, new inhabits have moved to the village and have slowly started to rebuild.
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5. Lac de Sainte-Croix
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Lac de Sainte-Croix is a man-made lake that was built from 1971 to 1974. It was formed from the Sainte Croix dam crossing over the Verdun River. Smaller lakes are also connected to the larger body of water and it’s bordered by forests, hills, and beaches.
The water is a stunning turquoise colour and there are several pleasant swimming areas with lifeguards on duty during the warmer months. Kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, and pedal boating are also commonly enjoyed by visitors.
The small village of Les Salles-sur-Verdon sits next to the lake. Although the land the village rests on was first developed in the Gallo-Roman era, it was destroyed when the lake was created in the 70s.
For this reason, the village is a bit more modernized but features wonderfully scenic views and tourist attractions, like restaurants and hotels.
6. Lac du Der-Chantecoq
Lac du Der-Chanteco is the largest artificial lake in France. It’s located in the Northeastern region of the country, in Champagne-Ardenne. The lake was built in 1974 to regulate the flow of the River Marne, which helps to prevent the flooding of the Seine River.
Lake Der-Chantecoq has six beaches made of fine sand, making it a popular area for water sports. Visitors can enjoy activities like windsurfing, rowing, sailing, jet-skiing, and fishing.
It’s also outlined by 77 kilometres of landscaped terrain that’s ideal for walking, running, and cycling.
Several observation points are dotted along the edges of the water that provide nature-lovers with a chance to admire the local wildlife. Various species of birds stopover on their migration here, including the common crane.
7. Lac de Gaube
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Lac de Gaube is located in the gorgeous French Pyrenees, near the town of Cauterets. It’s a place of stunning beauty, with clear blue water surrounded by sharp mountains.
To access the lake, a cable car runs from the Pont d’Espagne in Cauterets. Or, for more active travellers, you can take an hour-long hike through the forest.
The trail is absolutely magical and features captivating panoramic views. When you arrive, you can rest your feet in the cool water.
The small spa town of Cauterets is 12 kilometres (30-minute drive) from Gaube Lake. A scenic hiking path connects the lake with the village. It’s about a 1.5-hour hike. Alternatively, it can be reached by chairlift from the Pont d’Espagne.
8. Lac du Bourget
Located at the southern end of the Jura Mountains in Savoie, Lac du Bourget is a beautiful lake surrounded by a gorgeous landscape. It was formed by glacial action thousands of years ago and is the deepest lake in France, with a maximum depth of 145 metres.
The quiet coastline offers many water sports and seaside activities. It has an idyllic charm, with towering mountains on one side and quaint French villages on the other.
The luxurious spa town of Aix-les-Bains rests along the shoreline. Famed for its therapeutic hot springs, Roman ruins, shopping streets, and museums, it’s a wonderful place to plan a holiday.
9. Lac du Mont-Cenis
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Lac du Mont-Cenis is located in Southeastern France, in the Savoie. It resides on the plateau of the same name. It’s an artificial lake that was created in the 1960s after the construction of a hydroelectric dam.
The majestic landscape features turquoise water framed by wildflowers and tall mountain peaks. It’s a feast for the eyes with hundreds of colours on display.
Swimming and water sports are not permitted due to strong underwater currents. However, the setting is perfect for a picnic or a hike along the shores.
10. Lac de Castillon
Lac de Castillon is a reservoir in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. It was the first artificial lake to be built along the Verdon Valley and it sits in the centre of the Verdon National Park.
The beautiful stretch of emerald-coloured water is as smooth as glass in several areas and framed by tall mountains. It’s a popular swimming lake with lifeguards on duty at the beaches. For the sporty types, the lake offers canoeing, pedalling, paddle boarding, motor boating, and sailing.
The sleepy little village of Saint-Julien-du-Verdon has a water sports centre where you can rent out sporting equipment and boats. It also contains several scenic walking paths that boost incredible lake views.
Beautiful Lakes in France: Final Thoughts
If you’re travelling to France, a visit to any one of these beautiful lakes will provide a nice break from the cities. No matter the month, the scenery is always spectacular. Take a leisurely stroll next to the shore, glide over the water in a canoe or kayak, or have a go at an exciting water sport.
You’ll be able to connect with nature in the best possible way and discover a different side of France.
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