Through this article, discover our selection of the 10 most beautiful lakes in France. The French territory is full of thousands of natural or artificial lakes. They beg to be explored.
As the world goes through many changes, our view of travel has evolved. All confined, we slowly rediscover the magic of exploring destinations near and far, and realize that connecting with nature and water remains a priority.
As the old Georgian proverb says: “When you are thirsty, water is worth wine”. Fortunately, France has thousands of lakes, so many ways to enjoy them. Here are ten French water sources, special destinations for different types of activities. Whether it’s going for a hike with friends for a great view, planning a family outing, having a peaceful swim, or honing your water sports skills, there is something for everyone. tastes in France.
Depending on your point of departure, either of these lakes in France will probably be accessible by car. The “road trip” is a fantastic way to discover different parts of the country, and to make the trip part of your life, at your own pace.
The lakes of France selected for swimmers
Because of this period of confinement, most of our contact with water was limited to showers, baths, and (almost constant) hand washing. Now that French public water sources are accessible again, let’s go discover them to revitalize our senses. What better way to fight boredom and free our minds?
1. Lake of Sainte Croix, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Created in 1973 by EDF, the artificial lake of Sainte-Croix comes from a dam. Measuring 2200 ha or 22 km², it is one of the three largest lakes in France. It is known for its swimming, its turquoise color, and its large beaches. Lake Sainte-Croix is a must-see in the Var.
This lake in France is a real nest of freshness. In addition, it is highly coveted by swimmers, as motorboats are prohibited there. So you can dive into this giant pool with your eyes closed. In the middle of summer, the temperature of the lake can even rise to 27 degrees.
If you want to discover the landscapes of the Verdon, many hikes remain accessible to the greatest number. We recommend a walk around the lake to peacefully enjoy its turquoise waters.
2. Lac du Salagou, Hérault
Created in the 1960s, Lac du Salagou is known for its fabulous palette of colors. Between the “ruffes” (red rock), the black volcanic basalt, and the different blues, you will be amazed!
This 750 ha lake offers a range of activities which include, but are not limited to, swimming, SUP (Stand-Up Paddle), canoeing, and even sailing. Lake Salagou, a classified site, has seen very little tourist development. This helps to preserve biodiversity and maintain purity and freshwater. On the off chance that you have ever asked yourself the inquiry: “what are the most delightful lakes in France?” Lake Salagou is one of the answers.
Moreover, this one is slightly tinted in red. If it’s transparent water you’re looking for, opt for secluded coves over beaches. Do not forget to bring a sweater or a small jacket, because this place remains windy. Finally, suitable shoes will be necessary to discover this wild terrain.
The lakes in France to discover with the family
For family fun, what do you think of spending a day (or more) by a lake? In France, you will be served. Picnics, swimming, water sports, hikes, bike rides, and boat trips will be on the program at these friendly French destinations.
3. Lac de Serre-Ponçon, Hautes-Alpes
Lake Serre-Ponçon is one of the most emblematic sites in the Southern Alps. Located in the Hautes-Alpes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence departments, it represents the largest artificial lake in France. It is equivalent to 320,000 Olympic swimming pools of turquoise blue.
This mythical place offers spectacular landscapes, but also some surprises. Indeed, photographers will take pleasure in capturing the Saint-Michel chapel, a must-see monument nestled in the middle of the Serre-Ponçon lake.
It is an ideal destination for families keen on water sports, swimming and sunbathing, a lake in France to see without hesitation! In this mountainous environment, you will find various equipped beaches, wild coves, and nearly 80 kilometers of shores to stretch your legs. These 300 days of annual sunshine make it a dream destination for the whole family.
4. Lac de Guerlédan, Côtes-d’Armor et Morbihan
Lake Guerlédan the largest artificial lake in Brittany. A stretch of freshwater nestled in a mountain-like valley, the Blavet valley. This sumptuous body of water, born from the construction of a hydroelectric dam, is located in the Quénécan forest, a paradise for ecotourism enthusiasts!
A haven of peace for those who love calm and serenity, Lake Guerlédan is a great place for activities that you can discover as a family. Fishing, water skiing, climbing, mountain biking, hiking, or horseback riding …
For large families, the Beau Rivage cove offers one of the largest developed beaches on Lake Guerlédan. On-site, don’t forget to board the “Duc de Guerlédan”, and discover the lake in complete safety.
5. Lake Annecy, Haute-Savoie
Welcome to the second largest lake in France. It is known to have the cleanest water in Europe, a unique quality due to the strict environmental measures put in place in the 1960s. These changes have had a profound positive impact on this glacial basin. The water is so pure that it meets drinking water standards, and the lake supplies the city’s entire water system.
Annecy lives up to its reputation. It is an active and sporty destination, ideal for the family looking to burn off some energy. Whether you want to cycle, canoe, picnic, swim or work on your water skier, wake surfing, or monoskiing skills via one of the specialized pontoons, Annecy offers multiple opportunities.
Adventurous families can also organize an introduction to paragliding, only if conditions are favorable. If you want to explore the city, take the opportunity to have lunch at the delicious Kamouraska Pool. Taste delicious ice cream at the glacier des Alpes, before visiting the Musée-Château d’Annecy and admiring the entire valley.
Then rent a license-free boat for a few hours and cross the lake quietly, from Annecy-le-Vieux to Talloires, and drop anchor wherever you want. Between June and mid-September, the water can reach up to 26 degrees. In high season, take advantage of the early morning hours (before 10 a.m.). During the day, the body of water tends to be agitated with the daily traffic of boats.
6. Lac du Mont-Cenis, Savoie
A natural reserve created by the construction of the dam in the 1960s, the Lac du Mont-Cenis covers an area of 6.68 km². It runs along the border between France and Italy. A full tour of the lake on foot will take around 5 hours. Every second is necessary to contemplate this magnificent site and the reflections of the Savoyard sun on the turquoise water. Its microclimate generates magic effects with flowers endemic to this alpine garden (more than 700 different plants). The pastures are maintained by the sheep and cows of local farmers and producers.
In the past, Mont-Cenis has known the presence of Hannibal, Charlemagne, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the soldiers of the Second World War. The fortifications such as Fort de Ronce, Fort de la Turra, and Fort de Varicella attest to the active life of this mythical place. Located at an altitude of 1,974 m, a trail is accessible to people with reduced mobility.
The lakes of France for hikers
The time has come to shake off the dust from your technical clothing! Organize your backpack, fill your reusable water bottle, then set off on new trails. Whether the lake is the destination or the starting point, a magnificent backdrop awaits you. No matter if you go in a group or alone, rediscover the virtues of clean air and natural waters. Let’s walk, let’s walk …
7. Lac de Gaube, Hautes-Pyrénées
Perched at an altitude of 1,725 meters, sits the Gaube lake. This French Pyrenean lake with an area of 19 hectares stretches out into the Gaube valley. 40 meters deep, the lake is surrounded by three mountain ranges. Breathtaking topography!
Famous for its panorama, Lake Gaube is easily accessible for hikers. Allow a good hour’s walk to reach it from the Pont d’Espagne, or simply take a chairlift to save your strength.
On-site, you can enjoy the shores of the lake. Otherwise, put on your hiking boots to explore the surrounding peaks. Indeed, Lake Gaube is the starting point for many hikes.
8. Lac d’Oô, Pyrénées & Haute-Garonne
Lake Oô is a must-see destination in Haute-Garonne. Located in the Astral Valley, the lake is 1 hour 30 minutes from Toulouse. Access to the lake must be earned, with an affordable walk of about six kilometers. The trail is signposted, and it is suitable for children if you plan to go there with the family.
The difference in height is only 365 meters, which is suitable for a large audience. Located at an altitude of 1,504 meters, the setting of Lake Oô is sublime. It includes a 275-meter waterfall from Espingo Lake. Sit down at the refuge and enjoy the beautiful views of the abundant nature of the Pyrenees.
For experienced hikers, Espingo lake (740 m drop) and Portillon lake (1420 m drop) await you. They are also much higher (remember to bring well-adapted equipment). A lake in France that has something to motivate you to put on your good walking shoes.
9. Lac de Capitello, Haute-Corse
How to talk about the beautiful French water bodies without heading towards Corsica? With about fifty natural and artificial lakes, this island presents an incomparable majesty through the seasons. The Capitello lake, located at an altitude of 1,930 m, is one of the most famous basins in Corsica. Framed by peaks at 2,230 m, snow is never far away – logical when you realize that this lake is frozen for almost two-thirds of the year.
Access to Lake Capitello is gained by hiking on a marked trail from the Restonica valley. Pay attention to the equipment, because the path is stony and the descent can be slippery. To avoid the high season crowds, complete your checklist the day before, and remember to leave early in the morning. After a walk of about 50 minutes, enjoy your picnic in the company of mountain jackdaws. They will work for crumbs while you enjoy the surroundings. The winter atmosphere offers a real sense of refreshment which will certainly be welcome!
10. Lac d’Allos, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
No, you’re not dreaming. Lake Allos is indeed the largest mountain lake in Europe. Culminating at an altitude of 2,200 meters, it rests in the heart of the Mercantour National Park, a protected, exotic, and silent site. It is definitely one of the most beautiful lakes in France.
Summer and winter, admire a flora and fauna of rare diversity. Butterflies, vultures, chamois, ibex, and marmots will be waiting for you. On the shores of the lake, let yourself be seduced by the graying and greenish reflections of the surrounding summits and the neighboring lawns. In the distance, even enjoy Mount Pelat.
Easily accessible, you just have to walk 45 minutes from the Laus car park to get there. On-site, enjoy the terrace of refuge (from September to June) or take a quick tour of the lake. For more experienced hikers, there are many other trails available to you.