"Soak up the sun on pine scented beaches and bathe in turquoise waters”
Between June and September, Europe's 3rd largest artificial lake and the largest lake in France offers visitors a haven for relaxation and tranquility. It is set amongst spectacular alpine scenery and surrounded by well maintained shingle beaches and lined with lawns and Corsican pine woodland.
The Durance Valley suffered damage from several floods in the 1850s and so it was decided to dam the valley, providing electricity and water supply for the region. The Dam was completed in 1961, creating the Serre Poncon lake which is now a major tourist attraction. Have a look at our blog for more detailed history of the lake.
With clear, calm waters and gentle thermal winds in the afternoon, Serre Poncon is paradise for water sports addicts. By July, the water temperature is usually a comfortable 24°C and feels like swimming in 'Evian', supplied by the pure alpine rivers. The conditions are perfect for a range of activities including: swimming, kayaking, windsurfing, stand-up paddle boarding, wakeboarding, waterskiing and tubing and more.
There are life guards on the more commercial beaches of St Michel, Embrun and Crots. However, the unsupervised areas of the lake all have calm, clear water and beaches with average steepness, offering access to the water for visitors wanting to swim.
Every 15th August, thousands of athletes come to the Serre Poncon Lake to compete in the second hardest iron man triathlon in the world, the Embrunman. The race starts with 3,800m of open lake swimming across the lake in the early hours, followed by the toughest iron man bike circuit in the world - 187km long with 5000m of ascent taking in some of the famous Tour de France Cols! If that isn't enough to have you hobbling into bed for a long sleep, the race finishes with a marathon (42km run) and of course as we are in the Alps, it isn't flat!
The ironman is a huge event and even for non-sporty people, it's an amazing spectacle to come and watch.
An afternoon spent sunbathing on a Serre Ponçon beach and cooling off in the crystal water is the perfect way to unwind and regenerate between your busy activity days. There's no better way to finish your day at the lake, than by spending the evening with your friends and family over a BBQ on the beach. Watching the mountains and sky fade to rich orange, as the sun sets and the brilliant night sky opens up. Cicadas start their nightly chorus and you are left virtually alone, enjoying the warm, scented, summer night over a few 'lake chilled' beers.
Serre Poncon is a special and unique place for both locals and visitors. It is our 'Sea in the Mountains.' If you have time, it is a thoroughly recommended destination, especially the quieter, secluded beaches around the bays of Lionnets, Chanteloube and L'eau douce/Crots.
There are great cafes and snack bars on many of the beaches. The funkiest and most lively being the 'bus anglais' found at the windsurf and sailing school on the l'eau douce beach just past Savines. A red London double decker bus converted into a cafe/bar opens late, serves great burgers, salads and cocktails etc, sometimes accompanied by live music.
With around 2000 inhabitants, this quaint medieval town was once the old capital of the Hautes-Alpes. It has some attractive shops, restaurants and bars and is well-known for the lively Wednesday night markets and the busy Sunday morning markets. It provides all the amenities and services for tourists staying at the many campsites around the lake. It's proximity to the city of Gap, Serre Ponçon lake, Réallon ski resort and the National Parc des Ecrins, make it a very popular town for locals and tourists.
This modern lakeside town of 1300 inhabitants is a true summer tourist resort. It's main attraction is the lake and it's numerous water-based activities. There are several beaches within walking distance of the town, including a lovely sandy beach on the South side of the bridge. There are numerous shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation options, providing all the amenities for the tourists staying in this popular town.
One of the most popular and beautiful towns in the Hautes-Alpes is definitely worth a visit, even in the busy peak season. This ancient medieval town of 7000 inhabitants is built on the cliff top banks of the Durance river and has something to offer for every visitor. Cultural tourists will enjoy exploring the old streets and cobbled alley ways, browsing the lovely shops and stopping at the main square's cafes and bars to people watch. This lively town has a weekly Tuesday night market similar to Chorges and often holds medieval re-enactment festivals and street theatre.
Families with young children will love the nearby plan d'eau area, on the outskirts of Embrun. Here you will find a beautiful park with a large, shallow artificial swimming lake. This popular area includes water sports centres, several playgrounds and inflatable play areas, cafes, an inflatable Aqua Park on the lake, an outdoor swimming pool with flumes, petanque areas and large and well kept sunbathing lawns. The area is very clean and well managed and the lake is safe and shallow, with life guard surveillance. The swimming lake is surrounded by a beautiful scenic trail, ideal for cycling, running or a leisurely stroll. The lake is popular with families with young children, as the water is warmer and shallower than Serre Ponçon lake and it is lined with fine grey pebbles making it more comfortable and safer to paddle for non-swimmers.