Here’s a seriously beautiful tour for serious cyclists! This tour links three of Europe's most magical lakes: Geneva, Bourget and Annecy. Follow in the tracks of your Tour de France heroes as you cycle thrilling mountain passes, take in stunning panoramas, and pass through picturesque Alpine villages.
Replenish your energy with some regional specialties — such as Beaufort cheese and Chartreuse, the intensely aromatic liqueur made by monks high up in the mountains. On your route up into said mountains, be sure to explore the many historic churches, museums and monuments you'll encounter. At a lower altitude, you’ll be in the heart of the Savoy wine region, through notable wine-growing villages such as Apremont and Abymes, famed for light, crisp whites that carry the delicate scent of Alpine flowers.
Day 1: Arrival into Geneva
Arrive in Geneva at your leisure. Take time to discover this international city and its alluring lake on your own. In the beautiful old town, you’ll find authentic Swiss restaurants; for international cuisine there are plenty of restaurants located in the Paquis district. Depending on the option you choose, you will lodge in downtown Geneva or across the border in a quiet French suburb.
Day 2: Geneva – Seyssel (via Le Col de Richemond and Le Col de La Biche)
In the morning, our staff will meet you at the hotel and provide you with all the necessary materials (our kit includes marked maps, detailed route notes, tourist information, and a pre-loaded GPS) for the next few days’ adventure. Start your cycling tour by riding through pretty Swiss villages such as Avully, Cartigny, Russin and Chancy before entering France through the Usses valley. Ride upward through the Jura Mountains and the passes of Col de Richemond – included in the 2012 Tour de France - and Col de la Biche. The stage ends in the charming town of Seyssel, which straddles the Rhône River.
Day 3: Seyssel – Aix-Les-Bains (via Le Grand Colombier)
From Seyssel, you cycle through the wine-growing region of Chautagne before riding through Culoz at the foot of the Col du Grand Colombier, one of France's most challenging mountain passes. Making its Tour de France début in 2012, Colombier's steepest section has a punishing gradient of 10.2% — but all that effort will be rewarded with spectacular views of the region. After visiting the pretty village of Chanaz, the route takes you to the shores of Lake Bourget, whose brilliant blue waters are home to more than 30 species of fish and various rare birds. As France's largest lake, it’s also a top destination for windsurfing, kayaking, water-skiing, diving and a range of other sports. The ride ends at the foot of the Alps in Aix-les-Bains, Bourget's most important town and a popular spa resort. Investigate Roman ruins or amble through lush gardens before heading to the town's historic center, where bustling cafés and first-rate restaurants exude Belle Époque charm.
Day 4: Aix-Les-Bains – Tournon or Saint-Pierre-d’Albigny (via Les Bauges)
Today’s ride will take you out of Aix-les-Bains and towards Sainte-Hélène-sur-Isère through the beautiful Bauges Mountains, one of France’s best-kept secret areas. Your GPS will take you on very quiet roads where you are bound to experience zen-like moments as you ride in total silence with views over the nearby Aravis, Chartreuse, and Belledone mountains. The big climb of the day is Mont-Revard, a 21 km/13-mile climb featured in The Tour 5 times. Your ride will end in either of the small villages of Sainte-Hélène-sur-Isère or Saint-Pierre-d’Albigny, depending on your hotel preference.
Day 5: Tournon or Saint-Pierre-d’Albigny – Annecy (via Col des Saisies and Col des Aravis)
The final ride of the tour takes you to Annecy initially via the Olympic town of Albertville, home of the 1992 Winter Games. On your way, you will ride two famous mountain passes. First up is the challenging Col des Saisies, with an ascent of around 15 km/9 miles and an average gradient of 6.4%. Next up is the Col des Aravis, featured in the Tour almost 40 times; it is a 12 km/7.5 miles with an average gradient of 5%. The ride ends by Lake Annecy, which hosted a time-trial in the 2009 Tour and was featured in the 2013 Tour de France. Canals crisscross the medieval town center – hence its “Venice of the Savoy” nom de plume — and a medieval castle dominates. For a truly relaxing end to your holiday, take a dip in Lake Annecy's turquoise waters or simply sunbathe on its shores.
Day 6: Departure
After breakfast, you’re free to depart at the time of your choice. Before you do, consider strolling through the old part of Annecy, one of France’s prettiest towns.
Photo credit: Don Ricker