Five Ways to Enjoy Chamonix, France

France — By on June 1, 2011 at 9:00 am

By Edd Morris

Love the great outdoors? Then Chamonix could be your ideal holiday destination. This hilltop resort in the French Alps is a haven for skiers and snowboarders in the winter; and for hikers, bikers and mountaineers in the summer time. If you’ve a taste for adventure – or just wish to savor the fresh air blowing down from Mont Blanc – here are five unmissable activities for your next trip to Chamonix.

1. Shiver inside a glacier
Ride the Montenvers train to the Mer de Glace, and you’ll be in touching-distance of the largest glacier in France. This 7km sea of ice meanders down the mountainside at the rate of around 3 centimeters a day. Each year, a little ‘ice grotto’ is cut, allowing tourists to walk within the glacier itself. Visiting the glacier is breath-taking, but also sobering – ‘high tide’ markings point out just how much climate change has melted the glacier in recent years.

2. Hold your breath in the world’s highest vertical ascent cable-car…
Got vertigo? Then stop reading now, as ascending from 1,035m to 3,842m in twenty minutes is not for the faint hearted. However, the views at your destination, the needle-like peak of Aiguille du Midi, are stunning. The mountaintop offers a 360 degree panorama of the snow-capped Alps, and is the highest-point accessible by cable car. Take sunglasses, suncream and warm clothes: the air is thin and cold, and the sun is exceptionally strong.

3. …and glide past Mont Blanc en route to Italy
If it’s summertime, and the peak of Aiguille du Midi’s not enough for you, then it’s time to hold your breath and jump onto the Mont Blanc Telecabine. This three-mile line stretches from Aiguille du Midi to the peak of Helbronner in Italy, and affords once-in-a-lifetime views of Mont Blanc and the glaciers that dot the alps below. It’s a serene 40 minute trip, but do reserve ahead in peak-season, else you’ll be waiting in line for hours.

4. Paddle for your life on a white-water rafting experience
Paddling past rapids and plunging over waterfalls is an exhilarating experience, and the fast-flowing rivers surrounding Chamonix are ideal for white-water rafting. Many tour companies offer full-day or half-day packages, and different local rivers yield different experiences: L’Arve, Chamonix’s nearest, is best for beginners whereas La Dorea Baltea (across the Italian border) is ‘terror’ level. Safety standards are high, and you can expect hot showers on your return. Of course, you must be a confident swimmer in extremely cold water – these rivers are formed of snow-melt, after all!

5. Relax with traditional Alpine cuisine
Crave comfort food after long days outdoors? Perfect, because traditional Alpine food is certainly rich and hearty! The first dish that comes to anyone’s mind is fondue – and each Chamoix restaurant will have their own opinion on the best cheese and white wine combination to use – but why not try something a little bit more adventurous? Farcement is unique sweet and savory combination of prunes, cream, raisins and potatoes, all mushed up and set inside a bacon-lined mould. It’s tipped out, like a bacon-covered sandcastle, and served in slices. Tempted?

All in all, Chamonix is an unbeatable European destination for any active traveller. Go now and discover its alpine beauty for yourself.

Edd Morris has been a Londoner since 2005. That hasn’t cured his itchy feet – he still loves traveling the world in search of spicy food and someone to practice Spanish with.

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  • Rafael says:

    Wow, great article. This is my first visit to your blog. I’ve never thought much about going to France but you make me want to go. I love the idea from part 3 where you ride a cable car past Mont Blanc. Awesome. Thanks Edd, for your insights. I’ll be back.

  • Kim says:

    This is a different kind of high when in France. 🙂