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Water, water, everywhere! Three major features make up this aquatic itinerary. First of all, we discover Lake Annecy, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in France. Surrounded by high alpine peaks, it is also one of the cleanest lakes in the world. Our first day’s riding takes us on a tour of the lake, with impressive views of the surrounding mountains. Linking Lake Annecy and the Rhone River, we follow the River Fier as it winds its way westwards. Despite its passage through Lake Geneva, the Rhone is not yet the mighty river it becomes further downstream. Nevertheless it guides us as we make our way between the mountains of the Pre-Alps, with a stop in the beautiful medieval town of Pérouges. Our route then takes us past the marshy plains of the Dombes and on to our final destination: The Gaulois capital. Welcome to Lyon !
Itinerary start: The tour begins on day 1 at 10am at your hotel in Annecy (you will receive the address once your reservation is complete).
On request we can book the previous night’s accommodation for you in Annecy.
Rendezvous in the capital of the Haute-Savoie. Arguably the prettiest town in the Alps, Annecy's charm is to be found in its medieval streets and numerous canals. A characteristic that has earned Annecy the nickname of "Venice of the Alps". The lake and the Bauges and Aravis mountain ranges offer a picture postcard backdrop. We start the day with a tour of Lake Annecy. Beginning along the northern bank of the lake, we pass the village of Veyrier du Lac and the restaurant of famous chef Marc Veyrat, then on past the foot of the Roc du Chère, which overlooks the Baie de Talloires, perfect spot for a dip... On reaching the end of the lake, we take a cycle track back to Annecy, via the Château de Duingt. Once back in Annecy, we take the time to discover the old town through its labyrinth of small streets. Night in a hotel in Annecy.
Distance covered: approx. 40 km / ascent: approx. 300 m
This second day is the most physical day of the week. Not too difficult distance wise, but it's the day with the most amount of climbing. We head west out of Annecy: our aim is to join the Rhone River, which we will then follow all the way to the Gaul capital of Lyon. Once out of Annecy, we make a stop at the Gorges du Fier, one of the most remarkable natural sites in the northern Pre Alps. A small path and an impressive raised walkway lead down to the torrent at the bottom of the steep gorge. A short but steep climb leads us away from the Fier, before we continue our journey west on a mix of tracks and small back roads. One last obstacle before we reach the river: a superb road through the Val de Fier leads us to Seyssel, on the banks of the Rhone.
Distance covered: approx. 45 km / ascent: approx. 600 m
Seyssel, like many of the villages we visit on this journey, is split in two by the Rhone, one side in the Haute-Savoie, the other in the Ain department. From here we head south, the Rhone our guide for the next few days. We will also pass numerous lakes on our journey, many of which are ideal for swimming. Gradually, we enter the Chautagne, a major wine producing region of the Savoie. Nestled between the Lac du Bourget (the largest natural lake in France) and the mountains, the vineyards of Chautagne produce light, fruity wines. Our route takes us close to Ruffieux, where an excellent swimming lake and the Chautagne wine-growers cooperative make for an almost obligatory rest stop! Shortly afterwards, we join the official route of the Via Rhôna, which leads us towards one of the most beautiful villages we will see during the week: Chanaz. On the Savières Canal which connects the Rhone to the Lac du Bourget, Chanaz is a charming, peaceful village with plenty of interesting architecture, and cafés along the waterfront. The ideal place for a coffee stop! We continue along the Via Rhôna cycle route to join Belley, capital of the Bugey region, where we spend the night.
Distance covered: approx. 40 km / ascent: approx. 150 m
During the morning we visit the town of Brillat Savarin, which boasted a strategic position between France and the Savoie (today between the Ain and the Savoie departments), affording it a rich and turbulent history. We leave Belley, following the banks of the Rhone, then crossing over to the left bank, the Savoie side. Our route follows more or less the Rhone, but the next stretch can seem a bit disorientating, as we follow its many diversion canals, as well as the man-made route of the Rhone, diverted in order to harness its hydraulic energy. We end our day's riding early afternoon, in the village of Champagneux, overlooking the Rhone. Option of a half-day hike, in order to discover the history of a legendary local personality. Unknown outside the area, he was nevertheless behind an invention that revolutionised communication. The hike is roughly 10 km with 450m of climbing (approx. 3 h of walking).
Distance covered (not including hike): approx. 25 km / ascent: approx. 100 m
This is the longest day in terms of distance, but the terrain is relatively gentle with little climbing. We pass through Saint Genix sur Guiers during the morning, home of the famous cake of Saint Genix (a brioche with pralines). Our route then heads north, following the Rhone. We temporarily leave the official route of the Via Rhôna which, on this portion, uses a section of busy road. Our alternative route takes us along easy tracks, some of which follow the Rhone while others take us through pretty woodland sections. Midway through the stage, we stop at Port de Groslée and its country inn, considered one of the best restaurants in the area. We stop for the night at Lagnieu.
Distance covered: approx. 55 km / ascent: approx. 200 m
We ride to the medieval village of Pérouges, one of the most beautiful villages in France and contestant for the "Favourite village of the French" title. The oldest buildings in the village date from the 12th Century, whereas the majority of Pérouges as it stands today dates from the 14th Century. Incredibly well preserved and restored, the medieval village is full of charming small streets and lanes… the small shop front stalls are a clear reminder of what trade was like in the Middle Ages... Pérouges is also the gateway to the Dombes area, between the Bresse (to the north) and the Lyonnais. With over 1000 lakes and ponds, the Dombes has become renowned as a precious sanctuary for many bird species. The day's itinerary takes us on a tour of the Dombes, through its small villages, farms, and woodland that fills the little space left by the lakes. Unfortunately, some of the lakes have been drained for farmland irrigation. The day's itinerary can easily be replaced by a longer visit of Pérouges, or taken as an opportunity for a rest, as our night's lodgings are in Meximieux, located a few kilometres from Pérouges.
Distance covered: approx. 45 km / ascent: approx. 300 m
This morning, we once again join the Rhone River which leads us all the way to the capital of the Gauls, Lyon. Last stretch of true countryside between Meximieux and Jons, where we discover a hydroelectric dam built between the two world wars. We cross the Rhone once again, entering the department which bears the same name. We set off again along a long track that turns into a cycle path, following the river all the way to Lyon. Our route takes us through the Miribel Jonage Park (optional stop for a swim) before passing the Parc des Congrès de Lyon, through the famous Parc de la Tête d'Or, before arriving at the Place Bellecour, finish point of our trip. Registered as a Unesco World Heritage site, the centre of the city is full of superbly preserved monuments, rendered all the more charming by the waters of the Saone and the Rhone which meet here… An opportunity to visit Lyon and its "traboules" (ancient passageways originally used by merchants), the Notre Dame de Fourvière Cathedral, the Bellecour and Terreaux squares, the area of Croix Rousse... but also to sample the "Gastronomie Lyonnaise" in one of its famous "bouchons" (restaurant serving traditional local cuisine)...
Distance covered: approx. 45 km / ascent: approx. 300 m
Distances and altitude gain are an indication only and may vary.
Itinerary end : The trip ends on the last day in the centre of Lyon at around 4pm.
On request we can book the following night's accommodation for you in Lyon.
Return to Annecy at the end of the trip
The return trip to Annecy is not included in the price of the trip, leaving you the option to stay on for a day or two in Lyon (which we strongly recommend).
There is a regular train service between Lyon and Annecy (2 hour journey, trains every hour). The service uses TER trains which accept bicycles. A one way ticket costs approximately 27 €.