If you you see fearless souls wrapped in wing suits ready for base jumping, or adventurers walking a slack line set on high cliffs over empty voids, all in the backdrop of stunning snow covered peaks in France you can be sure you are not far from the town of Chamonix. Nestled in the French alps this pretty town on the banks of river Arve is a mountaineering Mecca. Here, Michelin starred restaurants and famous adventure brand stores thrive next to each other fighting for attention of the visitors while Mont Blanc silently looms in the background.
Legends like Kilian Jornet can be found running up and down the spires of the French Alps and clocking insane completion times that can put the Ibex on adjacent Aiguille range in the backstage. Vivian, an extreme skier who invented extreme dry skiing call this town home. While most of these feats might be out of reach for the ordinary, here is our pick of favorite things to do in Chamonix with the right mix of some adrenaline and some soul stirring experiences.
|Lenticular clouds obscuring the summit of Mont Blanc|
|The town of Chamonix, all studded with rows upon of rows of flowers.|
One cable car many wonders, Aiguille du mudi
The top of Aiguille du Mudi is hard to miss from the town of Chamonix. The formidable obeservatory on the summit feels so unreal and impervious. But a cable car shuttles visitors everyday from the valley to an elevation of over 3800mts. Its a modern wonder that had us gushing throughout, particularly when the stone face of the mountain emerged as the car ascended up. Once you get off the cable car, explore the views from behind the glass walls of the observatory.
You can then walk the bridge to the other side to get to the actual top. Oh, and please refrain from looking down to the side while on the bridge unless of course you like the feeling of being so high up and the realization that the nearest possible footing is many a vertical feet down doesn’t fright you off. Crossing the bridge you arrive at an incredible museum at this height. The museum of alpinism about extreme climbing and skiing provides a glimpse into the extreme alpine sports and the life of some of the legendary adventurers. It brings guests up close with the crazy and zealot adventurers that Chamonix is known for.
|Spot a climber?|
|View over the bridge connecting to the Piton|
An elevator takes you to the actual top and the terrace of Piton central at 3842mts. Get to the observation deck and make sure you warm yourself sipping some fresh french coffee. You will also see lot of climbers huffing and puffing their way to the top, while radiating a victory grin as they make their way up to the top from the other side. You can instead try our adventurous side at the ‘step in the void‘ which a great match between being safe and extreme at the same time. Its a small glasss enclosure jutting straight out of the rocky face of Piton. Once inside there is just a glass separating you and several feets of void below. Stepping in it is really thrilling beyond words.
|We stepped into the void 😉|
After a fine dining experience at the cafe serving great french food and drinks at this height, you can take the panoramic gondola Glacier Du Geant that starts from Auguile du mudi, over glaciers and ends on the other side of Mont Blanc in Italy. Alternately, you can go back on the same cable car that brought you up.
|Cable car to Aiguille Du Mudi|
Try skiing down to Vallee Blanche. There is a small tunnel once you cross the bridge, its a start point of a steep hike down along the ridge while having your skis in tow. At the end of the ridge you can ski down all the way to Chamonix. For an expert skier taking no breaks, it will take about 90 mins to scale the entire way to the valley. This route can challenge even the toughest with its almost vertical stone faces which can be devoid of snow even in peak winters.
On rails to ice caves, Montenvers
A train ride from the center of Chamonix delivered us right at the mouth of a glacier that had ice caves carved in it. This old railway line built in 1909 meanders its way through forest surrounded by impressive mountains. As you step out of the train you can witness the drama between the grand rocky mountains and the white snow covered peaks. A glacier gracefully carves its way is in the middle. The Mer de Glace is one of the largest glaciers in France. Every year a cave is etched in snow and visitors have the opportunity to get down over a series of ladders precariously bolted to the rock walls to get to the entrance. The inside of the cave is a work of art with lots of sculptures etched directly in ice.
All along the year you can put on the crampons and try glacier walking. Treading the way carefully while watching out for the deep crevasses can be unnerving and can keep anyone thoroughly engrossed all the time. The fact that ground below you or rather the ice is continuously shifting only makes things exciting. Take a guided tour unless you have done lot of glacier walking.
Panaroma Le fervent cable car
While taking the Aiguille du Mudi cable car brings you very close to Mont blanc itself, this cable car on the side of Aiguille rouges provides a view of the entire massif from Aiguille de Argentiere to Aiguille de Trelatete. Mont blanc can be seen in its full glory from this side of the valley. Another added advantage is there is more space at the top than at the crowded Auguil de Mudi. So remember to pack a picnic or pick a bite from the cafe and spend enough time to soak in the sights.
There are many activities that you can choose from on this side of the mountain bedecked with plenty of lakes. The chair lift to the top of Fervent is actually divided into two cable rides with a stop at Planparaz. You can get off here and take a walk to Lake Cornu or continue further to Lac Noirs. Keep your eye peeled, because you can spot the famous Chamonix on most days around here. Planparaz is also a favorite launch point for lot of paragliding enthusiasts. Indulge in the sport of paragliding yourself or just watch the skilled ones take off from sheer cliffs and disappear into the Arve valley below. The second cable car to the top actually runs between two cliffs and is a tad bit exhilarating on gusty wind days.
|A paraglider reeady to charge down, while the cable car to the top of Fervent makes its way up.|
Strap on a paragliding bag and charge down the hill over the Chamonix valley and enjoy staggering views over the Mont Blanc massif from an angle that not many get to see.
Slurp, slurp the Gastronomy scene
Although the town of Chamonix lies entirely in France, the borders of Swiss and Italy are just a few kilometers. This means one has access to great food from all these three regions when in Chamonix. Our foray into food ranged from having a Swiss fondue at Le Boccalatte, excellent Italian pasta at L’Impossible and delicious french pastries at Petits Gourmands Chamonix. The sweets were so hard to resist that we were lured into bringing back some treats home in our backpacks.
|Hard to say no to these french treats|
Boot up and Hike on
The better way to taste some of the mountain goodness is breathe the fresh air after a long hike, drink in the views that surround. If you have time for just one hike then make it to the Lac Blanc, its the best possible hike. The route to this stunning lake gushes with vistas of glaciers, soaring granite pinnacles, snow covered mountains and the massive Mont Blanc.
|View from Aiguille Rouges to the peaks on Mont Blanc massif|
Another great hike is to the Lake Cheserys that reflect mont blanc on calm days and gives panoramic views over the surrounding mountains and the valley below. Every turn provides breathtaking views and shouldn’t be missed in the summer months. The Aiguilles reserve is also brimming with wild life. The local hero Ibex, with their curving horns can be spotted very often.
|Stunning lakes, reflect the Mont Blanc massif peaks on clear calm days.|
|The Ibex are a charmer in the Rouges side of the mountain|
The tour du Mont Blanc is a 170km hike circling Mont Blanc and is considered one of the greatest walks. It offers tantalizing scenery and guarantees to leave you puffed by the end of the route.
De Bossons glacier
The Le Bossons chairlift is the fastest way to get to the Bossons glacier, getting of this chairlift can really get interesting sometimes. There is a cafe right as you get off the chairlift, next to which is a wreckage of an Air India flight that crashed here in 1966. A stark reminder of how technology can occasionally fail.
|Glacier de Bossons up close.|
|Glacier de Bossons and the summit of Aiguille du Mudi in a distance. The cascaded falls from the glacier go down to the Chamonix valley.|
Take a short scenic walk to the viewing platform and you will find yourself next to the impressive glacier and streams of glacier water dripping down into the valley.
Take an hour long hike to the Chalet de pyramids, this allows you to get you up close to the glacier and spot crevasses that are deep blue. Further up is the la Jonction, famous for breathtaking views of the Bossons and Taconnaz glacier and one of the route for the ascent of mont blanc.
We are a nature loving duo and Chamonix was a very special destination and we will hopefully come back for more adventures. Have we convinced you to visit this stunning place yet?