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By Darin Heinz

Annecy, the Venice of the French Alps, is a can't miss

Tucked into the French Alps, only one hour from Mount Blanc and its base city Chamonix, is the
spectacular town of Annecy. Breathtaking mountains, the tranquil beauty of Lake Annecy and numerous recreational choices all make this Alpine town a must see.

There are many reasons to visit Annecy. While detailing them all would be difficult, the most outstanding could be summarized as 1) the mountains, 2) Lake Annecy and 3) the Old Town of Annecy.

The mountains
The Alps are one of the world's great mountain ranges. Stretching 1,200 kilometers, or 745 miles, the Alps pass through France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. They are the highest mountain range in Europe and one of the main reasons to visit Annecy.

The highest point of the Alps mountain range, Mount Blanc, is an easy day trip from Annecy and can be accessed by car, bus or train. In addition to world-class skiing in the winter, the Alps offer hiking, mountain biking, via ferrata (a type of protected climbing), canyoning and paragliding in the warmer months.

Lake Annecy
Annecy boasts an alpine lake unique as much for its beauty as for its purity. Lake Annecy sits 447 meters, or 1,467 feet, above sea level and is stunning in the richness of the blue-green shimmer of its waters encased by green hills that climax into snow-capped mountains at their peaks.

French authorities have worked hard to not only preserve the beauty of this idyllic lake but also to protect its ecology and purity. In 1957 the Intercity Syndicate for Lake Annecy (known by its French acronym SILA) was formed to restore the cleanliness and quality of the lake's water, thirty percent of which comes from an underground spring with the rest coming from mountain streams. The crystalline waters of Lake Annecy have been diverted into canals that flow through the old town of Annecy, leading some to call it the "Venice of the Alps."

The Old Town
Though the activities and beauty of Lake Annecy and the surrounding mountains could happily occupy all of your time during your visit to Annecy, the Old Town of Annecy is a gem not to be missed. Situated on the banks of the Thiou River and watched over by the castle Château d'Annecy on a nearby hill, Annecy is a cultural feast with its medieval buildings, outdoor markets and flower-filled balconies.

Wandering the narrow streets and alleys of Annecy will take you back in time to when it was a medieval capital. Today, in addition to the buildings and general architectural ambiance, there are numerous restaurants, bars, ice cream shops, kiosks and, of course since you are in France, bakeries.

Besides the attractions of Annecy it is worth remembering that you are only short drives from many other places of interest. Lake Geneva in Switzerland is only a forty-minute drive away; Turin and Milan, Italy are only three- and three-and-a-half-hour drives, respectively. These destinations can also all be reached by train. Annecy can easily become the base for exploring nearby natural and manmade wonders.

If you plan to visit the French Alps, be sure to visit Annecy with its majestic mountains, pristine lake and beautiful Old Town. You will quickly see why Annecy is known as one of the most beautiful towns in all of France.

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