It looked like a dream mountain environment to explore. By the time we arrived in France, the train was rolling through a few beautiful mountain towns like Vallorcine, where you changed trains to finish the ride to Chamonix. The Chamonix valley itself was gorgeous. Mont Blanc, which towers above the Chamonix valley on the south is the tallest mountain in Europe excluding Russia.
Once we arrived in Chamonix, we had a few blocks to walk to our hotel, which gave us a good sense of the beautiful town. We explored the hotel a little, and found they had a small rock climbing wall in their workout area.
Chamonix: France’s premier – and almost Swiss – mountain capital
There was also a beautiful patio area next to the river with great views of Aiguille du Midi. Once we had explored our hotel, we decided to walk through town and find some lunch. We happened upon an outdoor cafe, called Cafe Valentino. We spent a the rest of the afternoon wandering the shops a little bit and just walking up and down some of the streets. The best memory I have of Chamonix was when I ventured out on my own to explore the valley.
In the evening, I took a walk towards the northeast in the Chamonix valley. It was in this evening that I fell in love with Chamonix.
Mont Blanc guide - Chamonix
I walked along the Arve River, crossing bridges, through forests, shooting some photos and just generally enjoying an amazing evening in the quiet of this place. On a few occasions I talked to a local or two who was also out for a stroll. I was still in awe of how deep this valley was compared to the massive Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc is around feet, whereas the valley floor is around feet.
Even Colorado, where I often visit, struggles to compare to this. And even those 14ers rarely nestle themselves right next to a town. So the grand scale of everything in Chamonix was impressive to say the least.
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Add in a beautiful evening and the sound of the glacier water roaring along the Arve River, and it made for a fantastic walk in the valley. Even as someone who is obsessed with taking photos of my travels, it was far more about the experience than the photos on this evening. I awoke early though a little later than I had planned , with hopes of getting a nice sunrise shot of Mont Blanc somewhere in the valley. I set up shop in a open area near the Alpine Museum of Chamonix to shoot the beautiful sunrise unfolding above Bossons Glacier and Mont Blanc.
There were many different types of breads and jams, local cheese, fruits and more. While we enjoyed this great food, we discussed what we wanted to do for the day. As we only had one full day in Chamonix, we had to decide how we were going to spend it. Many options were impossible.
The original plan was to take the Aiguille du Midi cable car and then the cable car from there across the Mont Blanc massif to the Italian side at Courmayeur. However, after contacting them, they informed me they were closed on the dates we were there for the off-season. This was a letdown, because the hotel and the entire area on the Italian side of Mont Blanc looked awesome. Unfortunately, a number of things completely ended our hope to even make it to the Italian side of Mont Blanc. While the Aiguille du Midi cable car was running, the cable car running from there, across the border to Italy was in the off-season still.
In addition, the weather looked a little sketchy with rain in the forecast, so we opted for taking the Montenvers train up to see the Mer de Glace instead of going up to Aiguille du Midi. This option proved to be pretty amazing. We walked to the station that would take us from Chamonix up to the Montenvers rail station. The train that took us up here originally began operating in and the Grand Hotel in Montenvers has been open since We got off the train after a large group of French mountaineers with full gear, who immediately set off down the path and ladders that lead to the glacier to begin crossing it.
In a few of the large stitched images I took of the glacier, this group of 20 or so mountaineers look like tiny ants on a giant sea of ice. We followed them down towards the glacier, stopping at the point where railings became sketchy without proper gear, admiring the beauty of Mer de Glace.
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As we went back to the train station, we found out about the Ice Cave. A cable car or hike with another walk down some bolted in metal stairs could take you down to the base of the glacier where you can enter the ice grotto. The Mer de Glace Ice Grotto was filled with many ice sculptures and beautiful caves.
We explored these caves, reading about the history of the glacier and admiring the ice sculptures. From the outside, the church is perfectly framed against the backdrop of the impressive peaks of the French Alps making for a perfect postcard pic for back home. Southwest of the Aiguille du Midi, the Col du Midi is another popular outdoor winter hiking opportunity in the French Alps. The area receives less traffic than the busy infrastructure centers present in both Chamonix and other tourist hot spots.
Nevertheless, it's natural beauty and challenging terrain make it a great choice for visitors who like off-the-beaten-track adventures. The hike between Aiguille du Midi and Col du Midi takes about 2 hours, including steep slopes, ice walls, and deep valleys. Due to the unpredictable climate, this area is better suited for Autumn and Spring hiking.
The ski season typically begins in November and reaches full swing in mid-December.
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There is a partial closing in April, with some slopes available until the beginning of May. When the ski season ends, the summer outdoor adventure season begins. Winter temperatures average below 30 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with lows dropping to 5 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Summers are quite warm, with average temperatures ranging between about 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A taxi to Chamonix will cost you about EUR Remember that Geneva is in Switzerland and you will have to have the necessary travel documentation for both Switzerland and France. Chamonix connects to Geneva via the Autoroute Blanche or A40 highway. As you'll be driving briefly in Switzerland, you will need what is called a "Swiss vignette" or a sticker that is applied to your windshield. It costs CHF Several private bus companies run service from various centers, including Paris, Geneva, London, and Milan, to Chamonix.
As a popular resort, the Chamonix-Mont Blanc bus station, in the center, is a busy destination year round. Chamonix Village - this is where you'll find many of the area's hotels, along with shops and entertainment options.
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Be sure to check out the many boutiques, including Lucie F. Les Houches - this skiing resort, part of the Chamonix commune or township, is preserved as a historic mountain village. Located at an elevation of 3, feet at the foot of Mont Blanc, there is a traditional farming and alpine culture to explore, with its own ski area.
There is a free bus service that runs through the center of the town called Le Mulet or simply Chamonix Bus. There is also a municipal bus system with stops at the major ski resorts. The flat fare is EUR2. You can get up to the heights year round with the Mont-Blanc Tramway. Consisting of a small railway car, it goes from Saint-Gervais-les-Bains to the Eagle's Nest Nid d'Aigle with breathtaking views of the glaciers below. A return lift pass starts at EUR There are several taxi companies to choose from in Chamonix, and it's a good way to get around town when you don't want to walk.
Average fares around town run about EUR Many of the village's hotels offer free parking, and the town itself is small in distance and easily walkable.
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