When we looked for a destination for our French Alps summer holidays, we were impressed by all the things to do in the Serre-Poncon Lake region and how beautiful it is. Whether you’re an avid adventurer or a family with young children, or older people with reduced accessibility, you’ll find exciting activities for everyone to enjoy. Here’s an overview of what to do in the Serre-Poncon Lake region during your summer holidays.
Why choose Serre-Poncon Lake for your French summer holidays
Surrounded by beautiful mountains, Serre-Poncon Lake is very scenic and inviting. There is an incredible range of activities in the area suitable for all the family.
We only had one week in the region and would have needed one month to do all the things we put on our wish list. From hiking to wine tasting, from mountain activities to water-based activities, you’re sure to find something you like near Serre-Poncon Lake. It’s a region with delicious cheese and food specialties too and, of course, charming villages.
Plus, they claim to have an exceptional rate of sunny days (sometimes up to 300 days per year), so no need to worry about the weather!
How to come to Serre-Poncon Lake
You will need a car to enjoy the activities around Serre-Poncon Lake. We came on the high-speed train to Lyon, where we hired a car to go to the Serre-Poncon Lake region. If you’re coming from Paris or Marseille, some trains go all the way to Grenoble in the Alps. If you want to get as close as possible to Serre-Poncon Lake, check the trains going to Embrun, Chorges (night train), Gap or Briancon.
Summer activities in the Serre-Poncon Lake region
The numbers refer to the map at the end of the article to help you locate these things to do near Serre-Poncon Lake.
Water-based activities at Serre-Poncon Lake
There are many ways to explore Serre-Poncon Lake (1). It is quite a large lake (more than 28km2; slightly bigger than the more popular Annecy Lake). With its 80km of coastline, some describe Serre-Poncon Lake as a true sea in the mountains.
Kayaking is my favourite water-based activity at Serre-Poncon Lake. But you could also hire a SUP if you prefer. We hired kayaks for the day from Savines-Le-Lac (near the main bridge) and paddled 17km on the lake at a slow pace with many breaks. However, it was slightly harder than we expected after the wind picked up in the afternoon.
Are you thinking of buying an inflatable kayak? We love how we can now explore more places easily since we got one. Check out my tips on how to choose an inflatable kayak and the most important questions to answer first.
Hire a boat
You don’t need a permit to hire a small boat to cruise Serre-Poncon Lake. We hired a boat at the same time as kayaks so that our family could stay all together, including those who weren’t fit for kayaking. We found a few boats to choose from and almost hired an electric boat as we love eco-friendly options (and it’s super quiet!). However, accessibility wasn’t the best, and the flat Family boat from Sud Escapade with its comfortable seats in the shade was better suited for our group.
Try a pedal boat or a sea-bike
We saw many different types of vessels on Serre-Poncon Lake, including some that surely caught our attention! Serre-Poncon Lake seems to be a great place to try new things. Have you ever seen an electric sea-scooter or a sea-bike?
Learn about the lake during a guided cruise
You can board the sightseeing boat La Carline at Savine-le-lac. It will take you around the lake for a 1.5-hour cruise with commentary to learn more about the history of the lakes and the natural surroundings. If you don’t speak French, you can grab an English brochure at the reception before starting the cruise.
Enjoy the beach
You’ll find several beaches around Serre-Poncon Lake in Savines-le-lac, Chorges, Embrun, Crots, and Rousset. Unfortunately, when the water level of the lake is low, access to the water may be a lot harder. So if you’re visiting Serre-Poncon Lake during a year of drought, it’s better to research the situation with the water level before choosing a beach.
A few beaches are patrolled in summer. Many would argue Saint Michel beach, with the chapel in front of it and Morgon peak in the background is the most beautiful one. There are many facilities there, including a big car park. The smaller Trémouilles beach in Chanteloube is less popular as it’s a pebble beach, but still offers stunning views of Morgon peak.
If you want to stay close to shops and accommodations, your best choice may be Savines-le-Lac (Combettes beach and Savin’plage).
Learn how to sail
There are multiple sailing schools operating on Serre-Poncon Lake. It’s a great opportunity to learn how to sail or to hire a sailing boat to explore the lake. I recommend hiring a sailing boat in the afternoon as the wind was a lot lower in the morning during our trip.
Go wake surfing
When it’s not flat, the waves created by the wind on Serre-Poncon Lake are rather small. So I was surprised to find out that wake surfing is a very popular activity on Serre-Poncon Lake. They use powerful boats to create a wave behind them for surfers to play with.
Go windsurfing or kitesurfing
The wind picked up every afternoon during our time in the Serre-Poncon Lake region. It’s reputed for its excellent upper air and climatic conditions. The lake then becomes a perfect place to go windsurfing or kitesurfing.
If there’s no wind, thrill-seekers can also want to have fun waterskiing or on a towed buoy.
Whitewater rafting and canyoning
Water-based sports in the Hautes Alpes don’t just happen on the lake. Of the many rivers in the region, 500 of them are suitable for white water sports (when it’s not a period of drought). The Durance River feeds Serre-Poncon Lake.
We were in Serre-Poncon Lake region for family holidays, so we didn’t try any extreme activities during our French Alps summer holidays. But I read about local canyoning sites in summer (le Canyon and la Marmite des Gourniers in Reallon and le Canyon du Couleau between Châteauroux les Alpes et St Clément).
Towns and villages to visit near Serre-Poncon Lake
You’ll find many picturesque villages with beautiful old churches and fortified places in the region. Here’s a selection of the ones I particularly found interesting (and why!). You’ll find even more inspiration in this brochure.
Wander in the medieval town centre of Embrun (2)
Embrun has a charming medieval town centre worth visiting. It’s very lively in summer, especially during the Medieval Festival, which will make you feel like you went back in time.
The most remarkable monument in Crots is the Boscodon Abbey, built in the 12th century at 1,150m above sea level. If you want to spend more time visiting Crots, the tourist office sells a circuit brochure for 3 euros.
Go shopping in Gap (4)
Gap is the biggest city in the region. I much prefer visiting smaller villages, but those who want to go shopping are likely to find their favourite shops in Gap. It also hosts a market in the town centre on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
Take the postcard-perfect picture in Chorges (5)
We always went to the supermarket and bakery in Chorges as they were open later than many other places in the region and on our way back to our accommodation when leaving the lake. The village isn’t very special, but I loved how the mountain behind the church tower would light up at the end of the afternoon.
Learn about Vauban at Mont Dauphin Fortress (6)
The Mont Dauphin fortress, built by the talented Vauban in 1693, is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It’s a well-preserved example of a fortified town surrounded by stunning mountains.
Stunning lookouts and viewpoints near Serre-Poncon Lake
Take the Reallon chairlifts (7)
You don’t need to make a lot of effort to get to stunning viewpoints on Serre-Poncon Lake and the surrounding mountains. The Reallon chairlifts are open in summer. The views from the chairlifts are stunning, and they will take you to a fantastic panorama. Make sure you listen to the marmots whistling!
View the mountains from above
Can you imagine flying low in the mountains? The views are unbelievable. You’ll find a few different experiences to see the Serre-Poncon Lake region from above: a hot air balloon ride at sunrise, a paragliding flight or simply by plane.
Admire the Demoiselles Coiffees
While you explore Serre-Poncon Lake, you may notice rock formations with a funny shape far away on the slopes of some hills. These are called Demoiselle Coiffees (literally Ladies with Hats, referring to columns with a large rock balancing at the top). There are multiple spots to see them near Serre-Poncon Lake: Pontis, Theus, Remollon…
Access isn’t always easy. If you go from Remollon, you’ll be able to see the Demoiselles Coiffees from very close after a short walk (8). Unfortunately, the road to see the lookout in Theus was closed during our visit.
Stop at lookouts on the lake edge
As you drive from Chorges to Savines-le-lac, you will find a few lookouts on the edge of the lake. My favourite was near Saint Michel Chapel (9). Even if the lake’s water level was low when we visited, the chapel on its hill still looked stunning.
Summer holidays in the French Alps are a good opportunity to hike mountains that are not accessible the rest of the year. You’ll find different lengths and levels of difficulty. Make sure you check the weather forecast before going hiking as it can quickly change in the mountains.
We were travelling with our family and had to find short walks without too many steep sections. Some tracks marked easy weren’t as easy as we expected, so make sure you allow plenty of time to complete the walks if you’re not an experienced or fit hiker. We managed to do these ones:
- Sentier Panoramique in Reallon – we went to the picnic tables near viewpoint number 7 and returned the same way, approx. 5 km (7).
- Puy de Manse in Ancelle – the first part goes up slowly to the top of a hill with lovely views; however, the end to the summit is steeper and more exposed to the wind (10). Keep an eye on the birds of prey gliding along the slopes.
We also had Saint Apollinaire Lake (11) on our list but didn’t have time to check it out.
The two of us also walked from the first chairlift in Reallon back to the station via the Cabane Font Reynarde and Sentier Panoramique (see this map with the walking tracks in orange). It looked fantastic, and we were lucky to spot marmots.
Responsible travel tip: It’s always a good initiative to pick up rubbish you find while hiking. But it’s even more important when you’re hiking in the mountains as waste decomposition is slower in altitude.
Cycling and mountain biking
Those who regularly follow the Tour de France will recognise many names while exploring the Hautes Alpes region. The number of cyclists tackling some winding, steep roads was impressive. But next to Serre-Poncon Lake in summer, you’ll mainly find mountain biking tracks. Reallon station (7) is quite famous for it. You can hang your bike at the back of the chairlift and ride it down the slopes. You can see the tracks on this map.
Food and wine
Serre-Poncon Lake region does not produce the most reputed wines in France. But it makes the visit even more interesting! There are approximately 11 wineries with 130ha of vines in the Hautes Alpes region, and a few are open to tourists for tasting opportunities.
We visited Domaine Allemand (12) in Theus and had the opportunity to learn more about their special grape variety that you won’t find anywhere else: the mollard. The grape variety was saved and reintroduced a few years ago only in the region. The grapes do better than others in drought and cold climates. When you’re used to the strong Australian shiraz, the mollard wines taste a bit shy. But they’re great as an appetizer with fresh food like melons. And for those who prefer stronger wines, they also mixed the mollard grapes with other grape varieties.
Try local food specialties
We had a lovely lunch at Le Balcon de Theus (13), where we tried a few delicious local dishes (including donkey ears, a local spinach!), enjoying the views of the mountains and live music from the chef. We also enjoyed our lunch break in Embrun, where you’ll find many restaurants with local specialities on the menu.
The markets are another great place to try local food.
Visit a goat farm
We didn’t have time to visit a goat farm during our stay, but it’s a great thing to do with the family. We loved it a lot when we did it near Alencon in Normandy. You may not get all the explanations if you don’t speak French. But in summer, you’ll find there local and fresh products and should be able to go around the place to see the machines and the animals. Check out Ferme du Baye (14) near Reallon or Ferme du Col (15) in the direction of Gap.
If you are curious about the construction of the dam, you’ll love the visual and audio tour at the Museoscope.
Destinations to consider further away (full day trips)
La Grave/La Meije glacier
La Meije is more of a winter destination, so it may not come first in mind when planning your French Alps summer holidays. But we all agreed it was worth the long drive from Serre-Poncon Lake!
It took us approximately two hours to drive to La Grave (16) on a stunning mountain road. We did a hike to admire the stunning La Meije glacier from below. Then we boarded cable cars to have lunch on the glacier at an altitude of 3,200m and visit an ice cave. It’s a bit far away from Serre-Poncon Lake (at least 2 hours driving) but well worth the drive. With the changing climate, glaciers are sadly becoming rarer.
Briancon is one of the biggest cities near Serre-Poncon Lake (with Gap). One of the most remarkable sites there is the fortress built by Vauban (17) and classed as World Heritage by UNESCO.
Queyras Regional Park
If the Serre-Poncon Lake region isn’t enough for you and you want to see another part of the French Alps during your summer holidays, you can also explore the Queyras Regional Park nearby (18). You’ll find more hikes and more villages to add to your to-do list. Saint Veran, for example, is known to be France’s highest village, and it’s also on the list of the most beautiful villages in France. It had some character with its lovely wooden chalets and fountains.
What are your favourite things to do near Serre-Poncon Lake during for French Alps summer holidays? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where to stay near Serre-Poncon Lake
I wouldn’t recommend staying in a basic small hotel room during your French Alps summer holidays. There are many accommodation options near Serre-Poncon Lake, so it’s a great opportunity to treat yourself to at least a room with a view. Have a look at La Fernande* or Logis Hotel Eden Lac* just near the lake, for example.
If you’re travelling as a group (family or friends), I recommend looking for a chalet. You’ll get more space for the same budget as a hotel room and panoramic views. Have a look at Les Tinons* or this chalet in Saint-Apollinaire*, for example. Alternatively, this apartment in Savines* is ideal for a small group to enjoy the lake.
Map of these things to do near Serre-Poncon Lake
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