With hundreds of lakes nestled in its different mountain ranges, France is a treasure trove of stunning natural sites to visit. From natural glacial lakes, to crater lakes formed by volcanic activity, here are some of the most beautiful French mountain lakes to see.
Lac de Gentau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Set in the Ossau valley this glacial lake’s deep blue colour offers a beautiful contrast from its bright green shores. Located at 1,947m, it is ideal for hiking as there are many routes around the lake but the show-stopper view of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau is its real claim to fame.
Lac d’Oô, Haute-Garonne
We’re unsure how to pronounce it but this impressive lake is set at 1,500m in the Pyrénées at the end of an easy walking trail departing from Les Granges d’Astau. Surprisingly, it is actually an artificial lake but it boasts a spectacular cascade tumbling down from the Lac d’Espingo some 300m above.
Lac Blanc, Haute-Savoie
This iconic lake is nestled among the towering peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges opposite Mont Blanc and overlooking the Chamonix Valley. It’s often snow-covered and the picture-postcard view of the lake is always a reward for hikers who, if they turn around, will be treated to a jaw-dropping panorama of Mont Blanc itself.
Lac d’Allos, Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence
Located in the heart of the Mercantour national park, Lac d’Allos is the largest natural high altitude lake in Europe ( it’s at 2,230m). Its water comes mostly from melting snow coming from the peeks of the stunning cirque that surrounds it but it then trickles down a glacial stream to eventually feed the Verdon River. There are no direct roads to it but the walk from the Maison Forestière du Laus takes less than an hour.
Lac du Paladru, Isère
Though not located high up in the mountains, this gorgeous lake is nicknamed ‘le lac bleu’ by locals because its water is an astonishing light blue. It is a glacial lake, formed by the Rhône glacier though the water’s temperature can reach up to 25°C in the summer. There are several beaches to enjoy and a couple of voies vertes to cycle on while fascinating archaeological remains found in the shallow waters near the shore attract history buffs.
Lac Pavin, Puy-de-Dôme
Set in the heart of a dormant volcano, this beautiful crater lake can be found among the domes of the Massif du Sancy. It is a very deep lake (up to 92m deep) and, under stormy weather, the water is almost black which is probably why it is called Pavin, from the latin word paveo which meant to be terrified and created the French word épouvantable. The lake though, is far from terrible and offers numerous water-based activities.
Lac du Bourget, Savoie
Also known as the Lac Gris, Lac du Bourget is the largest natural lake in France but it is no less beautiful thanks to mountains encasing it a lovely green environment. On its shores you’ll find the famous spa town of Aix-les-Bains while there a many activities to enjoy including kayaking, boating, stand-up paddle, water ski, and scuba diving. The lake is also famous for its pure clean water and offers excellent fishing opportunities.
Lac de Bious Artigues, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Located on the edge of the Pyrénées national park, this pretty lake is at the foot of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau and is a fantastic site for a day out as it offers plenty of activities in a breathtaking setting. A road leads directly to it from May to October while many hiking routes depart from there.
Lac Vert, Haute-Savoie
With its astonishing colour and green spruce tree forest surrounding it, this lake certainly deserves its name! The jaw-dropping natural setting it is in earned the lake a site classé protection while the crystal-clear water allows you to easily observe the bottom of the lake and, some days, it also reflects Mont Blanc. You can get there by road from April to December.
Lac de Gaube, Hautes-Pyrénées
Located on the border between France and Spain, the Lac de Gaube lies in the shadow of some of the Pyrénées’ most impressive peaks, including its highest summit, the Pic du Vignemale (3,298m). With deep blue waters and a truly spectacular setting, this awe-inspiring lake is accessible by cable-car but it is very popular with hikers.
Lac Besson, Isère
Situated above the resort of Alpes d’Huez, this beautiful little lake is best seen at the end of the day when the sun is beginning to set over the surrounding peaks. You can scramble along the rocks around it and watch as the light turns its surface almost mirror-like. Just below is the Lac Noir which also boasts a still and velvety surface.
Lac de Pormenaz, Haute-Savoie
This pretty lake is set in the Aiguilles Rouge massif at 1,945m high. Its green shores dotted with impressive boulders give the site a wild feeling while the towering peaks of the mountains offer a breathtaking panorama. A little island pokes out from the middle of the lake and it is unspoilt by roads as you can only reach it on foot from the village of Servoz.
Lac des Souliers, Hautes-Alpes
Almost a perfect circle, this cute lake offers gorgeous panoramic views of the Queyras valley in the southern Alps. Because of its shape, it is nicknamed ‘the eye of the Queyras’ and is home to many wild animals which, if you arrive early in the morning, you can observe in their natural habitat.
Lac de Guéry, Puy-de-Dôme
This volcanic lake was formed after two lava flows obstructed a river running down the Puy Gros volcano some two million years ago. Its near-perfect oval shape makes it particularly picturesque. It’s the highest lake in Auvergne at 1,250m high and the water freezes over in the winter, though this doesn’t stop fishermen from practicing their sport by cutting holes in the ice.
Lac d’Annecy, Haute-Savoie
This beautiful lake is famous for its tropical-coloured clean water as it is fed by a number of mountain springs trickling down the alpine peaks that surround it. It is very popular in the summer when you will see plenty of boats, kayaks, pedalos and more bobbing on its surface while there are several trails you can take to walk round it. A visit to the lake can’t be done without a stroll in the historical streets of Annecy itself.
Lac du Goléon, Hautes-Alpes
Named after the eponymous summit, this lake is reachable after a beautiful hike in La Grave’s area. The awe-inspiring panorama from the lake includes la Meije and the surrounding glaciers, the Aiguilles d’Arves and the Aiguille de la Saussaz. Nearby is a sloping ledge with fascinating stone inscriptions.
Lac d’Aiguebelette, Savoie
A short drive from Chambéry lays the unspoilt natural Aiguebelette lake. It boasts a remarkable ecosystem which is protected under the Natura 2000 classification and has one of the warmest waters in France with temperatures rising up to 28°C in the summer! Motor boating is forbidden and swimming is allowed only at certain beaches making it a real oasis of calm.
Lac de Génos-Loudenvielle, Hautes-Pyrénées
Slightly busier than the other lakes mentioned here, this one offers a perfect reflection of the peaks of the Louron valley in the Pyrénées. It is very popular with families as the shores of the lake have a number of child-friendly beaches, easy walking trails that allow people to walk all the away around it and several activity centres for canoeing, fishing or even balneotherapy.