UNESCO Geopark Chablais

The region south of Lake Geneva and up to the peaks of the Portes du Soleil is a remarkable area. Everything shows that the inhabitants are strongly connected to nature and that the life course of the people here is determined by the history of the country. Observe the traditional buildings, life in the Alpine meadows and interact with the beauty of the mountains. On top of this, the area is home to many stories and legends and has the natural resources of the mineral water springs of Evian and Thonen. This all makes it clear why UNESCO has designated this area as the UNESCO Geopark Chablais. The park is located in Haute-Savoie, includes more than 60 villages, 900 km2 and 140,000 inhabitants and is of international significance.

UNESCO park in the French Alps

UNESCO has established the “UNESCO Global Geopark ” quality mark. It is part of the IGGP : International Geosciences ans Geoparks Program. This program looks at links between the geological heritage of an area and its natural, cultural and intangible heritage. If this is of an exceptional level, a region can be recognized as a Global Geopark. To receive such a quality mark the region must have sites that are notable due to their rarity, beauty, educational value or archaeological, historical, cultural and natural interest.
A Georoute has been set up in the Chablais that passes special places of regional heritage. You can walk parts of this path. UNESCO is thus encouraging geotourism, a form of ecotourism. The tourist offices in the various villages have brochures and walking maps about the area. The hiking trails are often linked to a theme and go along mountain lakes, through valleys, nice villages, forests and beautiful nature reserves. It is also great fun for children, there are often playgrounds and rest areas with benches.

Geoparks in France

There are 147 Geoparks worldwide, 7 in France:

  • Chablais
  • Luberon
  • Bauges
  • Monts d'Arcèche
  • Reserve de Digne
  • Causses de Quercy
  • Beaujolais

Characteristic landscape of the Chablais

To be able to understand the current landscape between Thonon-les-Bains, Lake Geneva and the Col de Joux we have to go back in history. The formation of the Alps began a long time ago thanks to sediment deposits at the bottom of a tropical sea. When the continents collided, the earth's crust folded and the rock massifs of the Alps were created. The original glaciers, now gone, shaped the landscape of the Chablais and were the source of many mountain lakes including Lake Geneva. After the glaciers disappeared, the sediments that remained were infiltrated by rainwater. These minerals and other substances give the spring water of Evian and Thonon its characteristic composition.

Discover the heritage of Chablais during your holidays

The Chablais has built up its own culture, heritage and traditions. In addition to traditional villages, customs, dishes and dialect, they are also home to the following:

The strong bond with the Alpine pastures is evident from the great effort that must be made to herd the cows, sheep and goats. The mountain slopes are climbed with great love every day to allow the animals to graze. The milk produced by the animals has a special composition, which means that the cheeses made from it are of high quality. The varieties Abondance, Reblochon and Chevrotin have a protected status.

Viticulture has taken place in the Chablais for centuries, where mainly the Chasselas variety is produced. The Chablais AOC Chasselas is a wine with a typical character which has floral, fruity and mineral aromas with varieties such as Crépy, Marignan, Marin and Ripaille.

More than 50 professional fishermen fish in Lake Geneva and the Chablais rivers. Fish species such as perch, pike, trout and whitefish are caught every day and then processed. You can enjoy these fish in many restaurants.

In an area with so many lakes, mountains, snow during the winter and a wonderfully warm temperature during the summer, it is logical that many people like to spend their holidays here. During the summer, hiking and mountain biking are popular in the mountains, sports such as sailing, kite surfing and swimming are practiced on Lake Geneva and the real hard-core dare devils try canyoning and rafting on the Dranse River. During the winter, skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing are popular. The region is one of the largest contiguous winter sports regions .

A completely different aspect of Chablais's heritage is its literature. Many writers and poets regularly came to this area to gain inspiration such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Lord Byron, de Lamartine, Cocteau, Hugo and others.

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Special locations

Gorges du Pont du Diable
The long narrow gorge along the D902 between Thonon and Morzine is one of the most famous locations in the Chablais. You can visit this area with walkways, stairs and narrow passages. The Dranse de Morzine flows at the bottom of the gorge. At the top of the gorge you will see an impressive arch that connects the two rocks. According to legend, this arch is the Devil's Bridge, the Pont du Diable .

Cirque du Fer -à- Cheval
One of the most beautiful cirques of the Alps is located in the southern part of the Chablais. The cliffs have a height of 2,000 meters in some places. The impressive waterfalls can be seen from a great distance.

Tourist hotspots in the Chablais

Panorama in Champeillant
From this beautiful viewpoint you can enjoy a 360 degree panoramic view and see Lake Geneva, the Chablais, Mont Blanc and the Jura.

The Alpine meadows of Bise, is the perfect place to admire the Alpine meadows in all their beauty. Explore the rural farm life in its pure form and discover the history of the hidden lake.

Visit Yvoire, a medieval village whose origin dates back to the early 14th century. Yvoire is located on the shores of Lake Geneva and is also called the “pearl of the lake”. Yvoire is on the list of “plus beaux villages ”.

Several castles are located in the Chablais. Ripaille Castle, located on Lake Geneva, is a combination of medieval and 19th century architectural style. You can also visit the remains of the castle of Allinges, from where you have beautiful views of the surroundings.

Route of the Alps
In the 18th century, a special route was designed to connect the various Alpine valleys to stimulate trade and economy. This historic route starts in Thonon and runs to Nice on the Mediterranean Sea.

Abbey the Aulps is located in the Chablais mountains. This Cistercian abbey was built in the 11th century. Next to the abbey there is a museum about this order, the monks and how they lived in the Savoie.

Lake Vallon
The often smooth water of Lake Vallon does not show that a natural disaster occurred here in 1943, causing an entire village to be destroyed.

Discover the area in a completely different way: from the air. The Fantasticable is a huge cable car or zip line in Châtel. At speeds of 100 km/h and at a height of 240m you fly over the valley and the town of Plaine-Dranse. An exciting experience!

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