Sea - Test

What is it like to drive at the Lake Geneva?

„Bon Appétit!“ The further we are away from the highway, the more beautiful becomes the route! We discover the first curves of the wonderful ridge “Crex de Révigny” in the South of “Lons-le-Saunier”. And they are just perfect to warm-up our tires and senses – or, as I prefer to say, the Aperitif. Would you like to have a little more? Okay, then there is also the “Pic de l'Aigle” in the Menu. It has a fantastic panorama. Our Entrée are the more than 1000 metres high curves to “les Rousses”, the lively summer and winter sports village in the middle of the High Jura. The highlight of our “Menu de Voyage” is the “Col de la Faucille”: over a length of more than twenty kilometers, curve to curve is lining up. “C’est formidable!” We are driving down the High Jura, enjoying every bend and curve in this beautiful landscape. Our dessert is the lakeside. Somewhere between Bellevue and the coastline of Geneva we reach the Lake Geneva. We park our motorcycle and enjoy the sound of the waves, the sun in our faces and the fantastic view over the water and the mountains beyond.

Then we drive the last few kilometres to Geneva. It’s getting dark and Kiki and I need an accommodation for the night. The search appears to be astonishing easy: the prices of the sophisticated hotels in the architectural style of the Belle Époque at the lakeside are incredibly high and so we decide to use our tent and the sleeping bags which we have brought with us. A few minutes later, we arrive at a nice campground near “Vésenaz”. From there, it is not far to the town centre and the service of the campground's own restaurant is fantastic and the food is really delicious.

The next morning we decide to drive the “Lac Léman” route. “Lac Léman” is the French name of the Lake Geneva and “Lemanus” was the Latin name of Europe's water richest lake. It is 582 square kilometers large and the lakeside road is about 170 km long. After a few kilometers, we arrive in Geneva. It is quite strenuous to drive a motorcycle here. The streets are narrow and the traffic is dense. The real problem are not the cars but all the riders of bikes, scooters and motorcycles which are driving criss-cross, ignoring every traffic regulations and don’t pay attention to any other traffic participants. If you are not used to that way of driving, you have exactly two options: either you stay passive and in one line with the cars or you drive the same way. I decide to drive like the other two-wheelers, which works just fine until I nearly collide with a Porsche. Okay, I guess it would be better to slow down and enjoy the nice cityscape of Geneva.

After a few kilometers along the northern shore, we have left the city bustle behind and reach the little village “Versoix”, which has a big harbor. The boats are driving on the lake and we take a seat in a café and enjoy the picturesque view. It was not always that quiet here. A few hundred years ago, the trade flourished from here over the whole lake. Today, there are many vineyards along the lakeshore. Stately houses are surrounded by dense, shade providing deciduous trees. At their feet are long, straight rows of vines. And in between, the Winemakers and assistants cut and tie the vines with an eye for the fantastic quality of the vines. This excellent and sunny location is called “La Côte“.

“Nyon”, the former Romans and fishing village, welcomes us with a huge floral splendor. We spend some time near the fountain and enjoy the tranquility and contemplation of the lake shore. Once a year, the tranquility is over. At the end of July, the annual Paléo Festival is taking place here and more than 200.000 visitors are coming to enjoy for three days many top Rock und Pop bands, like the Kaiser Chiefs and Placebo as well as Chanson and Folk artists.

We drive through “Nyon” and are looking for the road to the castle. After a few curves, we reach the huge market place in front of the historic building. We talk a walk around it and are overwhelmed by the fantastic view over the Lake. Ochre-coloured tiled roofs, studded with countless oriels, dormers and turrets are extending to our feet. There are also many narrow alleys and streets. A narrow strip of grassland with spherical deciduous trees that sway in the constant sea breeze separates “Nyon” from the huge, seemingly endless, glittering water surface of Lake Geneva. Many ships and boats are swimming on the lake and in the distance, just across “Nyon”, we could recognize the “Mont Blanc” if the clouds wouldn’t obstruct the view.

We continue our route along the lakeside road. We are sharing the road with Swiss and French motorcyclists and we overtake two drivers from the Netherlands before we are overtaken by some Italian bikers. The audience is international and the lake route is very popular with the two-wheeler fraction. Not really surprising, regarding the numerous, beautiful highlights like, for example, in “Rolle”, the former capital of the canton Waadt. Along the Grand Rue are many houses with small shops and bistros and beautiful facades, where the windows are protected with countless folding shutters against the sun. In the historic centre are numerous Patrician houses from the 17th to the 19th century. But the most beautiful place of “Rolle” is located at the lake shore. The Earls of Savoy erected the “Castle of Rolle” there. It was burnt down by the Confederates, rebuilt in the 15th and 16th Century and is now certainly the most beautiful workplace in the region: it is the hosting of the municipal services.

Only twenty kilometers separate the idyllic “Rolle” from “Lausanne” which is Waadt’s today’s capital. “Lausanne” is the fifth largest city in Switzerland and according is the bustle. But we enjoy it to walk through the streets and discover many interesting shops with colorful store windows. Illustrious people who live the motto of "seeing and being seen" are populating the cafes and we also see plenty of limousines and sports cars that apparently just came out the showrooms of the most expensive car dealerships. We drive to “Ouchy”, which is the main harbor of “Lausanne”, we park our bike and walk through the streets to discover the vivacious city life. The regional capital is full of museums and culture, sights and contrasts. Only a few meters away from the hustle invite the promenades and green areas to relaxation and recreation. Before we leave, we buy some delicacies for a picnic.

We leave “Lausanne” and take the „Route de Vin“. The landscape of the “Lavaux” is unique and definitely the most beautiful area of the Lake Geneva and it is also the beginning of the “Corniche de Lavaux”, the beautiful road, which leads through vine terraces to Switzerland’s most famous vine region. If we wouldn't know it better, we could believe that we are at the Cote d'Azur. The road is winding up and down and to the left and to the right and reveals a wonderful panoramic view, just like the Corniches in Nizza does. We decide to have our picnic here. Once you have tasted the fresh bread and the delicious cheese, the hearty ham and the tasty grapes in front of the incomparable view over the lake and the mountains with the silence, the sun and the air, you are already infected with the “Lac Léman Virus”.

Understandably, that Kiki and I have some difficulties to leave this great scenery. But finally, we still had no dessert and so we are now driving to “Vevey”. In ancient times it was an important trading place and today it is a significant center of the chocolate industry. Switzerland’s first chocolate factory was established there and the first milk chocolate was manufactured. Henri Nestlé developed the method of producing milk powder. And so it is not surprising that there are many chocolate factories located in “Vevey” and that we can admire numerous sweet delicacies in the shops.

“Montreux” is the absolute opposite and normally, we didn’t want to visit the city of music and festivals. But we change our opinion and decide to visit it at our next lake tour. There is still one point on our to-do-list: to pay our respect to our musical hero Farrokh Bulsara, formally known as Freddy Mercury, the front man of the band Queen and outstanding musical talent. He spent his last years in “Montreux” and at the lake shore of the city stands an impressive statue of him which is larger than life and in a well known pose, just as his fans loved him.

We finish our city stroll and continue our trip around the Lake Geneva with direction Geneva. Near “Chessel” we cross the Rhône which disembogues in the lake here. Some scientist have calculated that it takes about 11,5 years until the water that flows in here reaches the natural outlet in Geneva. The French part of the lake shore begins near “St. Gingolph” and a few years ago, travellers had to pass the border control there. But fortunately, this is no longer necessary because Switzerland has acceded to the Schengen Agreement in 2009. This means, most of the time, free movement of persons. But since there does not exist a customs union between the EU and Switzerland it is still possible, to be randomly checked. We are lucky and enter the French side.

On the Southern side of the Lake the lakeside road is directly located at the water. We drive to “Mellerie”, a romantic little village, where we find nice little cafés directly at the water. This is the perfect place for a little break and a cup of coffee. A few kilometres further the city “Évian-les-Bains“ presents another beverage. Since 1826, the world-famous Evian mineral water is bottled there. The Cachat source is located in the near of the lake and provides a lot of this tasty water. In 2003, the G8 summit took place in “Évian-les-Bains“ and an incredible security contingent of 20.000 Swiss and French policemen and soldiers guaranteed the safety of all participants and for a few days, the focus of the whole world was on this little city.

Between “Thonon-les-Bains“, “Évian-les-Bains“ and Geneva are many great road sections. But if you want to drive on them you have to leave the main road and follow direction “Yvoire”. This flower village is one of France most beautiful villages and is located at the top of the Léman-peninsula. The medieval flair, the incredible flower arrangements, the nice, little port and the beautiful castle attract many tourists, so that you are only alone in the early morning or out of the season.

We take the road to Geneva and return to our campground. After a shower and a little rest we drive to the centre of Geneva and walk along the shore and between the shops, restaurants and bars. Geneva is an international city and many important companies have their headquarters there. It is multicultural and diversified and you find people of every nationality and specialties from all over the world there. We buy a good bottle of vine from the Lavaux and enjoy it later at the lake shore next to our tent.

The next morning, we have to decide which route we are going to take that day. Shall drive to the Mont Blanc or the Jura? Shall we drive through the Rhone valley or to the “Vallée de Joux”?  This decision is not easy! Since we liked the “Col de la Faucille” so much, we decide to go there again. We drive with direction “Gex” and after the city “les Rousses” we turn to the valley of the river “Orbe” and discover the smaller routes on our map. These roads are called “Parcours pittoresque“ and they really deserve this name. We drive the whole day through the “Parc Naturel du Haut-Jura” and it is very interesting. At the foot of the “Crêt de la Neige“ we reach the “Rue de forêt”, which is asphalted at some parts and graveled at other parts. That does not diminish the fun, even if we would have preferred to go with an Enduro.

The next days we are also spoiled for the choice regarding the great options, but it could be worst.

General information

The Lake Geneva, which is called “Lac Léman” in the French-speaking area, is Europe’s second largest lake. Due to it’s depth of 310 metres, it is also the one with the most water. It is located in the Southwest of Switzerland, the Northern shore is Swiss and nearly the complete Southern shore is French. The lakeside road is about 170 kilometres long. Today, the fishery is now run only on a small scale but tourism and boat rips has gained in importance. A boat trip on the Lake Geneva is just like a small cruise and a special pleasure.

Best time for travelling:

The ideal travelling time is from spring to early autumn. You could also travel there at another time, but then it might be possible that the passes of the region might be closed and you would miss many fantastic side roads.

Route length / arrival / time required:

In Germany you normally have to drive along the river Rhine and near Basel you cross the boarder to Switzerland, where you need a vignette for the motorways. If you drive from Besancon through the Jura you could travel without using the motorway, which is a nice alternate for motorcyclists. When driving through Switzerland you should be careful since the penalties for traffic offenses are quite high. The length of your journey depends on you; anything between a few days or a few weeks is possible. We recommend booking an accommodation at the shore of the Lake and starting the round trips from there.


Beside the expensive and exclusive hotels at the shore of the Lake Geneva, there are also nice little pensions in the numerous villages along the shore available, which are much cheaper. Furthermore, there are also many nice campgrounds.

Literature / Maps:

Nearly every village at the Lake has it’s own tourist information. They will provide you with useful information. A good map ist he Paper 552 Switzerland South-West, 1:200 000 from Michelin, ISBN-13: 9782061008478. If you would like to have a map of the Jura, we would recommend the brand new map from Michelin No. 321, 1:150 000, French Jura, ISBN-13: 9782067134249. For trips to Geneva we recommend the guide “City-Trip Genf” for 8,90 Euro, ISBN-13: 9783831716876.


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