FRANCE RHONE-ALPES HAUTE SAVOIE Thonon, rives vue du belvédère

Thonon-les-Bains (pop  30,700) sits on a bluff above the French side of Lac Lecman (aka Lake Geneva)- the largest freshwater lake in Western Europe. Currently part of the Haute-Savoie department, Thonon was once the capital of Chablais- a province of the old Duchy of Savoy. While the town seems dreary in winter, it is rather active during summertime, thanks to its numerous lake cruises and flourishing greenery that attracts many strollers.

A ride on the town’s historic funicular train is also a good way to sight the surrounding hills and waters, as you head down from the upper town to the marina.

Thonon is more than just a pretty face. Her beauty has a practical side as well, thanks to the mineral-enriched spring waters that flow in town. These spring waters, which have been known for having great nutritional value, have propelled Thonon into the spa and health industry, causing the entire place to morph into a spa town cum health resort. In fact, there a numerous spas and health/fitness centres that use the local spring water to treat a myriad of issues, most notably urinary problems and rheumatism.

The area’s mineral water gift is also shared by the neighbouring town of Évian-les-Bains (home to the world famous Évian mineral water). Here you can arrange a tour with the Évian factory to sight their premises while listening to interesting facts about the mineral water that flows from the Chablais Mountains. You can also dip into a tub full of Évian water at Les Thermes Évian [Place de la Libération +33 450750230]

Back in Thonon, 1km east of the quai de Ripaille, lies the turreted Château de Ripaille [+33 450266444 ad/ch € 6/3]. The current structure is a reconstructed 19th century version of its 15th century predecessor and it sits amongst vast natural beauty. It is surrounded by vineyards and a 53 hectare Arboreturm- a forested area that was used as a hunting ground by the old Counts and Dukes. The forest also hides a succession of rocky coves and pools which make for a good quick dip. For a more mainstream swimming experience, you can head to the end of the Ripaille quayside, to the municipal beach- which comes complete with pools, waterslides and a bar-restaurant.

If you head west of Thonon, you will find Yvoire- a pretty fortified village, lying on the shore of the Lake Lecman. This 700 year old village is quite sight, with its cluster of cob houses and geranium-lined streets. You can find out more about the village with a guided tour, arranged by the tourist office.


THONON-LES-BAINS STREET MAP:   1. Tourism Office  2. Train Station  3. Fenicular  4. Château de Ripaille  5.  Évian Tourism Office 

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