Beautiful lakes and mountain scenery by rail
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Glorious lakes and mountains form the backdrop of this relaxing French retreat. We combine the picturesque scenery of Lake Annecy with the Alpine charm of bustling Chamonix, travelling into the mountains by rail and enjoying a leisurely cruise.
We depart our dedicated Departure Office in St Pancras International by Eurostar for Paris. As we travel in Standard Premier Class, a light meal and drinks are served at our seats. After crossing the city by coach, we continue by TGV, travelling eastwards into the Savoy Alps, with the scenery increasing in beauty as the train gently climbs.
Our destination is Annecy, a picturesque town located in this peaceful corner of France, with a delightful medieval heart, criss-crossed by a network of pretty canals, cobbled bridges and winding streets. The 'Venice of the Savoy' has at its centre a charming, unusual castle, which sits in the middle of the Canal du Thiou and is surrounded by the timber-framed houses on preserved medieval streets. In Annecy we stay for three nights at the 4-Star Novotel Annecy, close to the railway station and just a short walk from the charming Old Town and lake. We enjoy dinner together in our hotel tonight.
Today is one of the real highlights of our visit to Annecy, as we take a lake cruise on the crystal clear waters of Lake Annecy. The stunning lake rests at the foot of the Alps, surrounded by mountains.
It was created 18,000 years ago from thawing glaciers and covers 27 square kilometers. Lake Annecy is today famous as one of the cleanest lakes in the world and is home to a wide range of wildlife including twenty species of fish. The tranquil water reflects the vistas of the surrounding mountain scenery, providing us with incredible panoramas during our relaxing cruise on board the MS Libellule. Our cruise includes a three-course lunch with wine served on board, and there are comfortable lounges from which to admire the gentle Alpine scenery.
We arrive back in Annecy and the remainder of the day is at leisure. You are free to dine out in Annecy this evening.
Your day is free to spend at leisure, strolling alongside the lake or exploring the city, with its lovely historic buildings, gardens and fountains. You may wish to visit the Palais de I'lsle, a former prison, constructed in the 17th century which resembles a small château and is connected to Annecy by a bridge. The Château d'Annecy, which now houses the Art and History Conservatory, is also worth a visit. If you want to venture further afield, a short train ride will take you to Aix-les- Bains, a delightful spa town perched on the Lac du Bourget - France's largest natural lake.
Today we travel by coach from Annecy to the bustling mountain town of Chamonix- Mont-Blanc. The dramatic valley was first mentioned in 1091, when it belonged to a Benedictine Priory. Very little else is known about Chamonix's early history; in fact it only became more widely known in the 18th century, when scientific explorers Dr Richard Pococke and William Windham published an account of their time in the area, during which they explored the Mer de Glace glacier. A few years later, the first successful ascent of Mont Blanc - Europe's loftiest peak - was made from Chamonix.
The beauty of the area had not gone unnoticed by either of these parties, and as a result there was a great increase in the number of people that came to visit. Chamonix was soon a chic resort - and the town cemented its place in history by hosting the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924.
Today the pretty town remains as popular as ever, and with its historic core of baroque churches and idyllic chapels, along with a charming main street, it is easy to see why. Located high in the French Alps, it is renowned as a world-class ski resort and a year-round climbing destination. We enjoy incredible scenery as we edge ever closer to Mont Blanc, travelling via the Col des Aravis, a mountain pass from where you can admire truly stunning views. Chamonix is one of the most picturesque locations in Europe; majestic rock spires and huge tumbling glaciers hang above the town. Wandering through Chamonix, you will discover baroque churches and protestant chapels dating back several hundred years. The pedestrianised centre has a wide selection of attractive boutiques and plenty of street cafés, ideal for relaxing with a drink and watching the world pass by.
We stay for three nights in the Mercure Chamonix Centre Hotel, which has an excellent location close to the centre of Chamonix and within walking distance of the railway station, shops and restaurants.
We depart late morning for a journey on the Montenvers Mountain Railway, which climbs from the valley floor through the pine forests above Chamonix to Montenvers at 6,275 feet (1,913m). The train arrives at Montenvers station, which is surrounded by some of Europe's most majestic peaks and rock spires.
During your time at Montenvers you can also visit the fascinating Museum of Flora & Fauna. It may also be possible to descend by cable car to the glacier itself and visit the ice grottos inside the glacier's glimmering crevasses, where you will discover some amazing ice sculptures.
Today you are free to spend the day at leisure in Chamonix, or to explore the stunning region even further. A popular option for today is a journey on the Aiguille du Midi cable car, which traverses over the vast Les Pelerins glacier on a beautifully scenic journey to the north face of the Aiguille du Midi mountain, for stunning views across the Alps. This evening we dine together in a local restaurant, enjoying a farewell meal made up of specialties from the region.
We leave Chamonix this morning and head to Lake Geneva in Switzerland. We begin our journey in Standard Class on the fabulous Mont Blanc Express- a narrow-gauge railway built over 100 years ago as a tourist attraction, designed to make the most of the region's stunning views and mountain scenery.
As we glide serenely and effortlessly down the mountain on board the small electric train, we enjoy views of cascading waterfalls and flower-filled meadows, occasionally passing small villages and isolated chalets which cling to the slopes.
We cross the wild, rugged Trient Gorge, twisting and winding along rocky cliffs and through countless tunnels and avalanche shelters. We descend further through rich, dark-green forest, eventually reaching the gently rolling hillsides of the Rhône Valley. The final few minutes of our journey on the Mont Blanc Express takes us through endless, neatly laid out vineyards as we approach Martigny. We change trains in Martigny, descending further through Aigle to Lake Geneva.
After passing Montreux, we reach the Olympic city of Lausanne, where we spend the final night of the holiday.
Today we travel to Paris by high-speed rail, where we connect with the Eurostar to London.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour
Beautiful lakes and mountain scenery by rail