The Chamonix valley lies at the foot of Mont Blanc. Standing at an impressive 4810m (15,780ft), it is the highest mountain in Western Europe. The mountain has a number of glaciers among which the Glacier des Bossons and the Mer de Glace can be seen streaming down its flanks.
The Aiguille du Midi
It is the second most visited tourist attraction in France after the Eiffel Tower. Two linked cable cars take you from the valley floor to 3842m and a breathtaking panoramic view of the Chamonix valley and the Alps beyond. The ‘ice-cream’ bulge of the peak of Mont Blanc appears to be just a stone’s throw away. In the winter watch skiers hiking the arête which marks the start of their decent of the famous Vallée Blanche. In summer marvel at mountaineers heading up the surrounding slopes and peaks. Or watch the fearless wingsuiters and paragliders launching themselves off the mountain.
A traditional tram railway takes you from the centre of Chamonix to the base of the Mer de Glace glacier and its ice caves. It is a spectacular setting and was used by Mary Shelley for the momentous meeting of her character Frankenstein and his alienated creature.
It boasts awe-inspiring views of Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi. You can take the gondola up from the centre of town and enjoy a high altitude feast at the restaurant Le Panoramic at 2500m.
The Alpine Museum, great for all ages, provides an insight into the history and background of the valley. There is also the impressive Crystal Museum and numerous other museums and galleries in the valley.
Over the Borders
The Chamonix valley is flanked by Italy and Switzerland and you can be in either within half an hour.
You can take a scenic train ride on the Mont Blanc express from Chamonix to Switzerland’s Martigny. The second part is a spectacular trip on a funicular train from the border.
If you fancy a real Italian coffee then you can pop through the Mont Blanc tunnel. The architecture and terrain is very different and the town of Courmayeur offers great Italian food as well as the best in Italian fashion. It’s even possible to hire a fur coat for the day if you really want to look the part!
Chamonix centre grinds to a halt on Saturday morning to make way for a vibrant French market. It’s a superb opportunity to sample local produce at its freshest. Ask the Nomadic team about the rotisserie chicken (chicken man)… a Chamonix legend! We love to buy a chicken and loaf of bread on our way up to the mountain and then stop for a picnic lunch after a hard morning’s ski. They wrap the chickens in special foil so they are still warm several hours later. Mmmmm….