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4 Epic European BUCKET LIST Adventures + VanLife: Mont Saint Michel Pilgrimage + Lake Annecy + Lago di Garda + MORE!

Epic European Adventures, lake annecy la tournetteOh Europe. Our eyes have seen a lot of incredible sites and our feet have stepped on many incredible trails since embarking on our VanLife Europe adventures last year. We hiked, we biked, we swam, climbed and jumped but these 4 adventure destinations knocked our socks off in a way that we will NEVER FORGET… in fact we may have to go back one day to try and find those socks, it’s a good excuse at least 😉

mt st michel, mt st michel pilgrimage1.First up on our list we have BIKING TO AND WALKING THE PILGRIMAGE TO LE MONT SAINT MICHEL… THROUGH QUICKSAND!

mont saint michel, pilgrimage adventure to mont saint michelI had been here once as a little girl with my cousin and grandparents and felt so blessed that I was getting the chance to experience it again, and this time share it with Drew.

mt st michel, mont saint michel pilgrimageA few things had changed since being there nearly 20 years ago (ouch). For one, I had grown at least a couple inches taller, and more notably perhaps, they had built a 2,500 foot bridge to Le Mont Saint Michel, replacing the old road which had been there for nearly 40 years (cars were being swept away by the tides – great article about it here and crazy video here)! Oh and there is a shuttle bus now too:

mont saint michel bridge, bike to mont saint michel pilgrimageBack to the adventure! Upon arriving to the village of Mont Saint-Michel, Drew and I decided to first find a shower. Very important. We ended up at Camping Haliotis, which not only had awesomely hot water, but they were also situated right along the Greenway, a 10km bike path that lead straight to Le Mont Saint Michel!:

mont saint michel, biking to mont saint michel

mont saint michel, biking to mont saint michelTHEN we learned about the famous pilgrimage to Le Mont Saint Michel! You mean we were actually allowed to trek across miles and miles of mud/quicksand and arrive to Mont Saint Michel just moments before being swept away by the ferocious tide! YES. EXCITING! OMGoodness. We HAD to do it.

mont saint michel, pilgrimage adventure to mont saint michelBeing that this was our last day at Mont Saint Michel and it was already 11am, we had very little time to make this adventure happen. I went to the front desk at our campground and asked if they knew any guides who lead walks across the bay. That’s when they told us about Romain. I emailed him and he thankfully responded right away, inviting us to join his 1pm tour, so we did! Ideally we would have walked the traditional route from Saint Leonard to Mont Saint Michel, but that’s only offered on certain days, so instead we met Romain in front of Mont Saint Michel and prepared to venture out into the quicksand…

mont saint michel, pilgrimage adventure to mont saint michelWatch the video below for all the footage of our journey across the bay! It also features clips from all 4 destinations that we write about in this post + some classic VanLife scenes that you don’t want to miss 🙂

They say you come to Mont Saint Michel 3 times in your life: 1st with your parents/grandparents, 2nd with your lover and 3rd with your children ♥ Sounds like we’ll be back, one day…
mont saint michel, mont saint michel viewing bridge2. Next up we have HIKING, BIKING, SWIMMING AND PARAGLIDING EUROPE’S CLEANEST + MOST STUNNING LAKE, LAKE ANNECY:

lake annecy, parapenta lake annecyWhen we first arrived we were absolutely stunned by the sparkling turquoise waters (did you see the clips in our video above?!) STUNNED. Everyone was enjoying life, reading books, eating ice cream, swimming with their families and friends – there was nothing left for us to do but join in on all the fun and GET IN THE WATER!

lake annecy, mermaid girlWe spent one of the most beautiful weeks of VanLife here and then, after exploring Geneva, we decided to return to the glistening shores for a few more days before heading into Chamonix to hike the famed Tour du Mont Blanc (post here). Some of our favorite Lake Annecy adventures include: Biking 40km around the entire lake.

lake annecy adventures, bike around lake annecyJumping into the incredibly refreshing water + enjoying a picnic along the shore. Watch this video, all the clips between :29 seconds and 1:10 feature different moments enjoyed along the shores of Lake Annecy:

Hiking to the top of La Tournette, the highest peak in the Lake Annecy region of the mountainous Haute-Savoie! The view from the top was INCREDIBLE. Trail map here + cute story here.

la tournette, lake annecy hike

la tournette, lake annecy hikeWe parked near the Refuge de Pre Verel and walked up (about 20 minutes) to the Restaurant Le Chalet de l’Aulp where the trail to La Tournette begins (map here). It was a challenging hike with nearly 1k feet of elevation gain per mile, 9 miles total and it took us an ambitious (but also leisurely) 8 hours:
la tournette hike, lake annecy adventure

la tournette hike, lake annecy adventureNote: You do have to climb stairs and use chains to get to the very top! And, if you tread lightly, you will most likely meet some very beautiful wildlife along the way:

la tournette wild life, bird flying

la tournette wild life, hiking lake annecy

la tournette wild life, hiking lake annecyOne last thing to mention about adventuring in Lake Annecy is paragliding with Les Passagers du Vent! It was both of our 1st times and I don’t think we could have been given a more beautiful place to fly:

les passagers du vent, parapent lake annecy3.Moving on from France (though we could go on for days), our last 2 fave spots take us to Italy! First up, LAGO DI GARDA:

lago di garda, vanlife italy

malcesine, lago di garda adventuresWe went kite surfing in Campione:

kite surf campione, lago di garda adventuresWe hiked Monte Baldo in MalcesineWe were originally going to hike to the top but because we woke up a bit later than planned, we decided to take the Funivia to the summit and hiked the trails at the top instead. This adventure had a lot more potential but because we only knew so much, we ended up feeling like we could have done it better. Read our review on TripAdvisor so you know exactly what to do when planning your trip.

Monte baldo malcesine, lago di garda adventure

Monte baldo malcesine, lago di garda adventureWe camped right on the water at Camping Park Garda in Limone:

vanlife, camping coupleWe mountain biked the Old Ponale Road in Riva del Garda and discovered the natural hot springs + gigantic cones of gelato in Sirmione!

bike old ponale road, bike lago di garda

bike old ponale road, bike lago di garda

swimming in lago di garda, lago di garda adventures

giant ice cream, giant gelato 4.Rounding off our list is one of the most unforgettable adventures of them all, and not because it was particularly difficult, but because it provided a particularly unusual perspective of a particularly MAGNIFICENT city that not many people get to experience! KAYAKING THE VENICE CANALS with BV KAYAK:

bv kayak, kayak the venice canals in italy

bv kayak, kayak the venice canals in italyWe had no idea that we could even do this, in fact, we only discovered it because our AirBnB just happened to be across the canal from it! We’re pretty sure they don’t advertise much because of safety – the waterways function as serious highways here. Remember, the streets in Venice are for pedestrians only, so think school boats, ambulance boats, garbage boats, delivery boats, Police boats, etc. all speeding in and out of the intricate little canals! Plus the gondoliers’ business might suffer if kayaking tourists were crashing into them around every corner… you’re definitely going to want to watch the video of our experience below…

So there you have it, 4 of our favorite places to adventure in Europe! Each one uniquely amazing and unforgettable in their own adventurous way. With VanLife Europe Part 2 just weeks away, we can’t wait to explore Scandinavia and share some of our favorite discoveries with you! Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and, if there are any places you think we should check out, leave a comment below and let us know! Ciao Bella

bv kayak, kayak the venice canals in italy

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