|What to See in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc|
|The obvious thing to see is the beautiful Mont Blanc—but there's lots more!|
The two major peaks visible from Chamonix, Mont Blanc (4,810 meters/15,774 feet) and the Aiguille du Midi (3,842 meters/12,605 feet), are stunning. As you spend time watching them, the light changes throughout the day, creating an ever-changing spectacle.
Sometimes they're hidden in fog, sometimes they glow in the sun, sometimes the reflect the setting sun. Whatever the time of day, whatever the season, they offer stunning views. Here's a lovely late afternoon view of Mont Blanc:
People associate Chamonix-Mont-Blanc with skiing, and it certainly is an important ski resort. But it's also a lovely and interesting place to visit throughout the year.
One of the most fun things to do is to go up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi. The Aiguille (or needle) is a sharply pointed peak near Mont Blanc. You can safely ascend by taking two cable cars, the first to the Platform du Midi (elevation 2,317 meters/7,602 feet) and the second to the Aiguille (3,842 meters/12,605 feet). Viewing platforms and tunnels through the ice provide you with plenty of opportunities to enjoy views of the mountains and of Chamonix, below in the valley. The only danger is you'll take way too many pictures, because there are so many great opportunities!
In the Chamonix Valley there are other cable cars and trains that can take you up different peaks, including the Mer de Glace via the Montenvers Railway, or the Le Brévent cable car. They don't operate year round, so check with the Tourist Office to see what the options are during your visit.
For those interested in hiking, there are a variety of trails at all levels. Well marked trails leave right from the town of Chamonix for various nearby sites. At the Platform du Midi there are a series of hikes, ranging from as short as half a mile to more ambitious treks. More...
Another popular sport in the area is paragliding. I had no desire to go up myself, but I loved watching the gliders as they drifted around the mountains. There are usually a group of them near the Platform du Midi, and in the town of Chamonix you'll find several outfits that will take up intrepid tourists.
The town of Chamonix is also fun to explore. In season there are many flower bedecked buildings, and lots of interesting Alpine architecture. A small stream runs through the town and it's easy to walk from place to place.
There's even a ski lift right in town that you can walk to from the center. And don't miss the small Église St-Michel, right in the center of town. How many other churches do you know that feature skiers and sledders in their stained glass windows?
Chamonix has some small museums, including the Musée Alpin, documenting folk life in the area, and the Espace Tairraz, with its collection of gems.
There are many shopping opportunities, most focused on winter clothing, ski equipment, and other forms of sport. And of course there are plenty of souvenirs.
Chamonix offers a variety of hotels. We chose to stay at the Héliopic in South Chamonix, right next to the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Our tiny balcony had great views of Mont Blanc and the Aiguille. More...
If you're hungry, you'll find a range of restaurants in the town center. You'll have lots of opportunities to eat fondue or raclette, local specialties.
Outside of town are many opportunities to explore nature and hike. Many of the small villages in the area, such as Argentière or Le Tour, have marked hiking trails.
The Aiguilles-Rouges Nature Reserve, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Chamonix, is a great place to hike. The Association des Réserves Naturelles des Aiguilles Rouges operates a small visitors' center and sells a guide to a short ecology trail that leaves from the center. More...
Although it's deep in the Alps and borders Italy, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is easily accessible. Just 82 kilometers (51 miles) from Geneva, Chamonix is about an hour's drive from that city. The lovely town and lake of Annecy are a bit farther, about 105 kilometers (65 miles), a drive of about an hour and a half.