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The jewel of the Rhone-Alps Region, Lake Bourget is France's largest natural lake by volume and spans almost 11,000 acres. The attributes of Lake Bourget have been recognized since before recorded time; archaeological explorations have shown evidence of Bronze-Age settlement on the lake's shores. So popular was the lake and its attendant thermal springs that a canal was dug to connect the lake with the Rhone River during the time of the Caesars; legend records nearly every important historical figure in European history traveled the 10-mile waterway to Lake Bourget. A favorite of Queen Victoria, the lake draws large numbers of visitors still today. Holiday-makers still come to visit the resorts and thermal spas but also to sail, swim, dive, water ski, wakeboard and engage in rowing, canoeing and kayaking. Lake Bourget is no longer reserved as the playground for only the elite; vacationers can reserve a gite close to the shore and gaze upon the same mountain scenery enjoyed by Napoleon.
Formed about 19,000 years ago by the melting of the last glacier, Lake Bourget is perfectly located for visitors from Chambery, only seven miles to the south. An excellent spot to enjoy a weekend or an entire summer, Lake Bourget supports a large population of boating enthusiasts. The harbor at Aix-les-Bains holds 1500 berths and is a sailor's playground, with all water accommodations plus luxury lodgings and interesting sights in the town itself. Centuries after royalty took advantage of the healing hot baths to soothe their arthritis, modern visitors can still take the hot-bath treatments at local spas. Pensioners flock to the lake for state-funded treatment in the thermal baths. Holiday-makers can enjoy the casinos, take a sightseeing cruise on the lake, or simply stroll the boardwalk along the lakefront. The older parts of the town still offer the cobbled lanes and stepped alleys of centuries past, and grand buildings of the Belle Epoque give a hint of how the elite once vacationed. A sandy beach invites swimmers and sun bathers, while the more adventurous may choose to visit the Roman ruins with their attendant ancient baths. One can tour the hot spring cave where patients were once lowered down into the steaming pool. Nearby, a visit to the Aquarium-Lac du Bourget acquaints visitors with the many species of fish in the lake and natural features of the region.
Lake Bourget is a favorite among fishermen with a large variety of fish found in the deep clear waters. More than 30 species of fish are found in the lake, with arctic char, whitefish, zander, perch and pike most often caught. There are some trout in the lake, but it is not considered a major trout fishery. A number of commercial fishermen still net fish for sale from the lake on a regular basis. Guides are available to help those unfamiliar with the waters reel in the biggest fish. Boats are available for rental in several places around the lake, as are canoes and kayaks. The holiday homes and resorts around Lake Bourget are also popular as winter destinations from which to travel by day to ski areas in the nearby mountains.
A number of bicycling trails in the area provide the best way to enjoy the wildlife that call Lake Bourget home. A full 70% of the land in the immediate area is protected to provide nesting areas for the many waterfowl, habitat for animals, and safe preservation of native plants. More than 120 kinds of birds call the Lake Bourget area home. A circular drive around the lake provides many spectacular views of the Alps and Jura Mountains with the lake in the foreground. Both cyclists and boaters can easily access the other towns along the lakefront; Le Bourget-du-Lac, Conjux and Portout. Several camp and caravan areas around the lake are popular with nature lovers who sometimes spend a week or more cycling the many trails around the lake and in the Bois De Glaize protected woods. Several vineyards near the lakefront offer the opportunity for travelers to sample local Savoie wines. One point of interest on the western shore is the Abbey of Hautecombe. First built in the 12th century, the abbey has been rebuilt many times, and for several centuries was the burial place of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy.
No visit to Lake Bourget is complete without a cruise down the three-mile Canal de Savieres to where it meets the North and South Rhone at Chanaz. Once an important transportation route to the Rhone for shipping, the canal now serves pleasure boaters. Improved several times over the years, the last construction effort standardized the width and depth for better passage. A self-operated lock was added west of Chanaz to adjust differing water levels, making water transportation available to and from the Rhone year round. The picturesque canal is a favorite day cruise from Lake Bourget - the scenery varies from small villages and the harbor at Chanaz to sections flowing slowly thru woods and pasture.
Holidays at Lake Bourget need not mean leaving civilization behind. The larger towns along the shore offer a variety of restaurants and nightlife to keep visitors occupied. Those with a yen for brighter city lights can easily travel to Chambery and enjoy the many museums and Italianate architecture of the former House of Savoy. Convenient train service makes traveling between Chambery and Lake Bourget a simple matter.
Gites and vacation rentals may be found in all price ranges at Lake Bourget, from the extravagant to the budget-minded. The long history of tourism has ensured that a variety of villas, holiday apartments, inns and cottages are available with prior reservation. Hotels in Aix-les-Bains range from luxurious spa resorts to business class. Available real estate is rare but sometimes possible to find. One visit to Lake Bourget will convince you that there is no location more lovely and convenient to the city. Have the best of both worlds - come to Lake Bourget!
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