From Samoëns to Aix les Bains, the mountains along the water

OUR TRIP: 5 days on site, from 14 to 18 June 2021

WHERE ? In the Alps between Savoie and Haute Savoie

GETTING AROUND: We advise you to rent a car so that you are free to move around and stop wherever you like 

WHY GO THERE? For the waterfalls, the strength of the rivers, the beauty of the lakes just before summer and the majesty of Mont Blanc

ACCESSIBILITY : Find all our addresses on our map Mapstr !

At the beginning of summer, the snow on the summits dwindles, filling the rivers that cascade down the Alpine slopes to end their wild ride in the tranquility of the turquoise lakes.

On land and on water, the magical setting of the Alps offers the ideal backdrop for intense adventures and unforgettable sensations.

It will take us five days to cover the 150 kilometres that separate Samoëns from Aix-les-Bains, along the course of this multi-faceted water.

A unique experience... And open to all.

Our route in the Alps

Day 1: Follow the Giffre


Samoëns is one of those villages where you can come in summer or winter. In winter, you are in a few minutes in the heart of the Grand Massif domain linking 4 other resorts and its 270 km of runs. In summer, it reveals unsuspected natural wonders. The needle of Criou overhangs the houses and the surrounding fields reminding the valley of the park of Yosemite. 

To start our stay, we discover for the first time rafting. This sport does not seem accessible at first sight and when we wanted to do it during our previous adventures, we were each time discouraged by the organisms. But theEcolorado Rafting team is not to be trusted: if I get into the boat, I have to do what the others do: paddle!

We put on our wetsuits, the water is "only" 8 degrees, vests and helmets, without forgetting our paddles and it is left! Sylvain, our coxswain, gives us the safety instructions and indicates us how to settle down. Sitting between two paddles, Myriam at the front, we paddle with all our strength to take the raft in the right direction. A flood, literally, of emotions invades us... What a happiness to run down this river at full speed!

Barely dry, we set off for the Joux Plane pass where a new activity awaits us. We meet Michel and Xavier from the Samoëns Handi-Glisse association. Summer and winter, they allow people with disabilities to experience strong sensations in the mountains. It is thanks to them that we have rediscovered the joys of skiing in 2019

We climb for the first time in an FTT... an All Terrain Wheelchair: 4 wheels, suspensions, handlebars, brakes (it can always be used!). This all-purpose model is made for downhill only and nothing stops it, not even the biggest rock. You go down the trail at full speed, you can hear the wood cracking under the wheels, the rocks rubbing under the seat... The FTT is the best machine for rediscovering the pleasure of riding in the forest without wondering about the practicality of the terrain! Once you're down, you only want to go back up and do it again and again!

At sunset, the Criou is decked out in pink and gold colours to our great delight. In the distance, the Giffre, which rises not far from there in the Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval in Sixt, rumbles.


For those of you who are early risers, Xavier from Handi-Glisse showed us an incredible spot on the road to the Joux Plane pass for sunrise. The view over the valley and the Mont Blanc range is simply amazing. You will tell us about it!


To the east of Samoëns, the road takes you to Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. From the town centre, there are two possibilities:

    • The Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval: Here the mountains tower over you and waterfalls gush out everywhere! It's quite possible that you'll have a stiff neck at the end of the day looking up so you don't miss a thing! You have the feeling that the world stops here and it's a good thing because the Fond de la Combe trail leads you to the end of the world!
    • The Rouget waterfall: When the snow melts at its peak, this waterfall breaks a few metres from the road in a thick cloud of rain! Impressive!

Gîte Le Clos des Cimes: Christelle and Xavier Davergne offer two studios that can accommodate six people each. They are ideally located a few minutes from the town centre and the ski lifts in winter! Prices : Varies between 400 and 680€ per week depending on the season. Accessibility: The two studio flats are completely flat. There is a grab bar next to the WC. There is also one in the shower and a folding seat.

Le monde à l'envers: A few steps from the market square, the perfect place to eat a fondue even in the middle of summer! The terrace offers a superb view of the Criou. Prices: about 10€ for starters and between 16 and 24€ for main courses. Accessibility: fully accessible to people with reduced mobility.

Ecolorado Rafting: A great team ready to make you experience new sensations on the Giffre. Prices: from 38€ for 2h30 of rafting. Accessibility: The team can give you a hand to enter the shop. The cloakroom is large but does not have any special equipment to help you hold on. To get to the starting point, you have to get on a bus, again the team will help you to get on board. Once in the raft you will be given a paddle to participate and if you can't, enjoy the view!

Samoëns Handi-Glisse: Michel Veisy is an institution in the region. He knows all the equipment, both summer and winter, and will be delighted to show you around his mountains. Accessibility : Don't hesitate to contact the association to ask for advice on equipment or the most suitable trail for you.

Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval: If you have an invalid parking card, you can park as close as possible. Depending on your equipment, several paths are possible, choose the one that suits you best.

DAY 2: Climbing Mont Blanc

We leave Samoëns in the direction of Chamonix on the border with Switzerland and Italy. The snowy peaks and the Bossons glacier overhang the road. You can't take your eyes off these mythical peaks: the Grandes Jorasses, the Dent du Géant, the Dôme du Goûter and of course the Mont Blanc!

A city steeped in history

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Compagnie des Guides, one of the first members of which was Jacques Balmat who made the first ascent of Mont Blanc in 1786. Today, there are more than 280 of them and every day they accompany and pass on their knowledge to hikers of all levels from all over the world.

Who has never dreamed of stepping on the roof of Europe? Its rounded shape gives it a certain softness, but its ascent should not be taken lightly; it is better to train before tackling it. Recently, its ascent has been limited to 255 people per day to preserve it as much as possible. The Compagnie des Guides will be able to give you all the information you need to organise your ascent.

On both sides of the valley, numerous paths allow you to take full advantage of the view. The cable cars of la Flégère and the Brévent are perfect starting points for accessing various high altitude lakes and why not come face to face with an ibex.

Wanting to touch the stars

Not far from the town centre, a technical feat awaits you. A cable car, opened in 1955, takes you to an altitude of 3,842 metres in just a few minutes... to the Aiguille du Midi! On board the cable car, tourists and mountaineers rub shoulders. Some with their cameras, others with ropes, carabiners and crampons. Two worlds that seem so far apart, but driven by the same passion: the mountains. 

After a first section flying over the forest, the second climbs vertically along the rock for almost 1,400 metres... the view is breathtaking! The doors open and it only takes a few steps to feel the lack of oxygen. This lack, if you adapt your movements well, is not a problem. It even allows us to take full advantage of every moment to feel the majesty of this unique place.

Several areas allow you to learn more about the first men and women to attempt to reach the summit of Mont Blanc, first in summer and then in winter. A 35-metre long tunnel, designed to withstand extreme temperatures, connects the two sides of the needle.

At the top of the aiguille, you can see climbers finishing their preparation before accessing the ridge leading to the Vallée Blanche. If you continue on your way, several terraces offer a view of more than 180° and if you keep your eyes open, you will see ropes scattered all over the snow!

In the heart of the rock, an elevator takes you to the last terrace where, if you dare, the "Step into the void"awaits you... A glass cage suspended above nearly 1,000 meters of void!

We simply did not see the time pass. Every detail makes you think deeply, and who knows, maybe one day you'll be the one making your way through the Vallée Blanche!

Plan B: A hotel, a place to live and a restaurant at the same time. Ideally located at the bus station, this hotel has just opened and offers great facilities. You can choose between a room or a flat and you are almost sure to have a view of the Aiguilles or the Mont Blanc! The restaurant is a good place for a quick bite to eat. Prices: from 95€ per night for 2 people. Count between 12 and 23€ for a dish in the restaurant. Accessibility: Several accessible rooms are available. All common areas of the hotel are accessible as well as the underground parking.

La Télécabine : Right next to the casino, this restaurant offers a stunning view of the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc. Prices: from 16€ for starters and 24€ for main courses. Accessibility: fully accessible for people with reduced mobility. 

Aiguille du Midi cable car: The departure is just a few minutes walk from the town centre of this extraordinary experience in the heart of the Vallée Blanche. Allow at least 2h30 to take your time on each terrace and in each area. Prices: The return trip costs 67€/adult and 57€/youth and senior. Accessibility: The departure station is fully accessible, the needle plan (the intermediate station) is only accessible for cabin transfers. Once at the top(plan), only a few terraces are accessible by stairs, otherwise everything else is accessible as well as the toilets.

All lifts and trains from Chamonix and the surrounding area are listed here. All prices and accessibility details are also given!

DAY 3 : In the heart of the mountain pastures

To get to Annecy, there are several options. We advise you to take the road along the Aravis mountain range.

Even without having been there, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Megève and La Clusaz are names you have probably heard. In summer, the cows take place in the mountain pastures and their bells ring in the fields. Those with a sweet tooth will be delighted to be able to taste the cheeses in the various cheese dairies scattered around. In Megève, make a diversion to Lake Javen. A haven of peace at the foot of the mountains and the perfect place for a picnic between two hikes. Just before La Clusaz, the Aravis pass marks the beginning of the descent to Annecy.

Annecy is a city that lives to the rhythm of the seasons. The colour of the lake and the trees change and create a unique spectacle each time. In summer, cyclists and walkers meet around the lake on the 40 km of cycle track. At the water's edge, there is no shortage of activities: paddle, water-skiing, pedalos... And that's not all, if you're more into hiking or aerial sensations, it's all there!

If you want to enjoy the old town, we advise you to go there in the early morning. The houses and café terraces come to life with the rhythm of the ducks going up the canal.

Au coeur des montagnes, les chemins de randonnée offrent le spectacle exceptionnel d’une nature encore préservée. Certains se parcourent à pied, d’autres requièrent un équipement spécifique lorsque l’on est en fauteuil… Après avoir découvert le FTT de descente, nous voulions renouveler l’expérience à plat. Différents équipements existent pour se déplacer sur des chemins comme la joëlette mais je ressens toujours une certaine frustration en ne participant pas à l’effort. 

This is where Activhandi comes in! Florian, who is behind this project, wants to create a link between accessible leisure activities in the region and people with disabilities. We told him what we wanted to do and we met him on the Semnoz, which overlooks Lake Annecy. Myriam gets on an electric mountain bike and I transfer to an electric FTT. I pull the trigger and off we go! In a fraction of a second, all the difficulties we had on a mountain trail disappear in one go. What a joy to be able to be there again, in the middle of nature, in this environment that we love so much. 

We reluctantly leave our cars to regain our strength at the Terrasses du Lac. This restaurant offers a unique view of the lake. As far as the food is concerned, we advise you not to miss the char fillet fished in the lake!


Annecy organises the International Animation Film Festival and this year it was the 60th anniversary. Connoisseurs speak of it as the Cannes Festival of animation! The Disney and Pixar studios come to present their films in previews. If you are lucky enough to be there on the same dates, take a look, you might find a nugget!

Concept Côte Ouest: An apartment hotel located by the lake. Karine pays particular attention to an eco-responsible approach to her establishment. She offers bicycles and paddles for hire to make the most of the lake. The organic breakfast is delivered to your room by the Beauregard hotel located just next door, a real treat! Rates: from €1,225 per week for the Azur garden flat. Accessibility: two studios are partially equipped. Do not hesitate to call them to specify your needs. A path, not necessarily adapted to all types of wheelchairs, allows access to the cycle track. It is also possible to get there by a wider path 100 metres away.

Le Cheval à Bascule : In the heart of the Haras d'Annecy, this short-lived restaurant offers simple, fresh and delicious dishes to enjoy with friends. Prices: from 12€. Accessibility: the tables are not necessarily adapted but there is room on the sides to pass your legs. The temporary toilets are equipped.

Les Terrasses du Lac: A breathtaking view of the lake while tasting a filet of char fished in the lake, a must! Prices: from 15€ for starters and 20€ for main courses. Accessibility: the access road from the car park is well loaded with gravel which can make it difficult to reach. It is easier to get around on two wheels or with a manual third wheel. The toilets are accessible and equipped.

It is possible to rent bicycles, paddles and boats along the lake. Many water activities such as accessible water skiing are also available.

Activihandi: This platform lists activities that are accessible according to your disability around Annecy. Contact them and Florian will be happy to help you.

DAY 4: Wellness stop

These three days went by at full speed, full of emotions and discoveries. It is not in our habits but we feel an immense need for relaxation. Aix les Bains Riviera des Alpes promises to be a restful stop at the end of our stay. Hot springs and a warm setting allow us to fill up with energy: a marvellous well-being break. 

We go to the Chevalley thermal baths on the heights. At the beginning of the 20th century, Queen Victoria contributed to the fame of the resort by coming here regularly. We glide through the heated thermal water in the outdoor pools where jets of varying strength are scattered along a pathway to allow you to relax different parts of the body. When I got out of the water, my arms and shoulders were supple again, but I had to get them going again to leave!

To complete this moment of relaxation, we meet Luc on the banks of the Lac du Bourget. It is at the edge of the largest natural lake in France that we participate in a meditation session. Eyes closed, hands turned towards the lake, we concentrate on our breathing. The surrounding sounds fade away, only the sound of the water remains. Luc's voice transports us, soothes us and lets our minds drift away to nothing. When we open our eyes, the sounds all come back at the same time as if nothing had happened. We continue this experience at the foot of the trees in the Vagabond Garden. It is not a question of simply hugging the trees but ofgetting in touch with them. Sylvotherapy is an ancestral technique based on the benefits that trees can bring us and vice versa. All living beings are connected, we must listen to them in order to better understand them and to gather in them the little extras they can give us.

We finish this day at the top of the Chambotte pass to contemplate the incredible view of the Lac du Bourget from the terrace of the Belvédère restaurant. From the car park, a path unfortunately inaccessible in wheelchair crosses the forest to reach the edge of the cliff... impressive!

Before we leave, we have two more iconic places to discover:

    • Hautecombe Abbey: Built 900 years ago, with its feet in the water, this abbey is a place full of history. The monastery is still inhabited today. The best way to see it is to take a boat trip from Aix les Bains.

Best Western Aquakub: It is located not far from the lake. Its terrace offers a pleasant view during breakfast. Rates: from 122€ per night for 2 people. Accessibility: Several accessible rooms are available. All public areas of the hotel are accessible.

Le Belvédère : At the top of the Col de la Chambotte, enjoy a fondue with a 180° view on the Lac du Bourget. Remember to book in advance and ask for the table in the corner of the room, you will have the impression of eating above the void! Prices: from 14€ for starters and 20€ for main courses. Accessibility: it is fully accessible for people with reduced mobility. 

Les Thermes Chevalley : Located on the heights of the town, enjoy 30° water and all types of jets to relax after a long day. Prices: 19€/person for access to the Aqua-détente area for 4 hours. Accessibility: There is a dedicated cabin for PRM. The lifeguards are trained to help you into the pools. There is a lift to access the sauna and hammam area.

Abbaye d'Hautecombe: On the opposite bank, this abbey overlooks the lake. Prices: 2.5€/p visit with a booklet, 4.5€/p with an audioguide (25 minutes visit). Accessibility: Access to the interior is from the side: a ramp has been installed for easier entry. It is possible to reach the riverbank by a tarmac path from the abbey's surroundings.

Meditation and sylvotherapy: Luc Lachenal allows you to refocus on yourself for 1 hour. Price: from 40€. Accessibility: each session is organised according to your needs.

These four days were of an intensity that we had not suspected. We saw the mountains in a new light: on all-terrain vehicles in Samoëns and Annecy, in a raft in the heart of the Giffre rapids, above the void in front of Mont Blanc and in meditation on the shores of Lac du Bourget.

This trip makes us realise that nothing is impossible. You don't have to go very far to see it all. France is full of wonderful places, starting with the Alps. Every turn hides a surprise and we can't wait to discover them!

This trip was part of the #JeRedécouvreLaFrance communication and relaunch campaign in partnership with Atout France. Find all the information about this campaign here.

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