Travel Guides

Chamonix | Adventure Destination Guide

Sat at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix is the ultimate destination for adventure sports enthusiasts

Chamonix is a town steeped in history, with year-round activities both in the valley and high in the alpine as well as some fantastic places to stay and eat. Whether you’re a hardcore gravity-focused adrenaline junkie or someone who prefers to keep their feet firmly planted on terra firma, there’s something here for you to love.

Chamonix sits right at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in western Europe (Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe). For this reason, it was first made famous during the golden age of alpinism (all the way back in the 1700s) where wealthy Europeans would visit the once small farming village to hire local guides in an effort to be the first to climb nearby Mont Blanc. Whilst this legacy has stayed true to the core of Chamonix, the town has also evolved into one of the most exciting mountain towns out there.

How To Get There

Pictured: As far as train stations go, this view tops the lot.

The beauty of Chamonix for those of us travelling from pretty much anywhere in Europe is that the town is nestled in the heart of the European Alps, with some fantastic train, plane and car access from almost all sides of the valley. Given that you’re coming to marvel at the stunning natural scenery that surrounds it, we’d urge you to do your bit to protect these environments and look to travel to the town via the more environmentally friendly methods of transport – le train.

This way of travelling not only keeps your environmental conscience clean, but it is also a fantastic way to free yourself from the stress of airport security and long driving hours. You’ll be able to take in much of the beautiful scenery as the train winds its way up to St Gervais, before changing to reach Chamonix centre.

Although, if you are looking to come for a literal flying visit, then you’ll be glad to know that Chamonix is a short (hour max) transfer from Geneva airport, both during the summer and winter months, with competition keeping prices cheap and transfers frequent – winner.

Things To Do In Chamonix

Pictured: Chamonix is a high alpine adventure playground. Photos: Jordan Tiernan

If you’re a frequent visitor to this action-packed website, then there’s no real reason as to why you shouldn’t plan a visit to Chamonix some time in your life; the place is a real mecca for adventure sports. One of the largest reasons for this reverence is due to the accessibility it offers to the high alpine environment.

It’s hard to say whether Chamonix is better for winter or summer sports – it’s a real treat for anyone who’s into raising their heart rate in stunning surroundings (pretty much everyone, no?); climbing, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, trail-running and mountain biking. It’s got the lot.

Not only do you have accessibility to high alpine granite accessible from the Aiguille du Midi (more on this puppy later), but you’re also surrounded by many other five star climbing locations spanning the length of the valley; you’ve got friction climbing down on the Mer du Glace, compact Gneiss over in Brevent and even easy single pitch down at Gaillands.

Pictured: A variety of rock types throughout the valley keeps things interesting. Photos: Holly Burns

From this wealth of quality climbing, you can expect a high concentration of mountain guides to be populating the town. Climbers and mountaineers new to the area would do themselves a favour in hiring a mountain guide who knows the region better than your grandad knows his way down to the local. If a mountain guide is a little out of your price range, then you can also grab yourself some of the extremely detailed Chamonix rock, ice or alpine climbing guidebooks for the local beta.

Imagine skiing from central London to Croydon all whilst descending the height of three Burj Khalifas”

Given this close proximity to high alpine mountaineering, you’ll soon learn that the skiing and snowboarding in the valley is quite obviously well catered towards backcountry aficionados. Some might say it’s the best place in the world for it. Must-do descents in the region have to be the stunning 20 km Vallee Blanche that winds its way down for 2700 vertical metres the Mer du Glace. Imagine skiing from central London to Croydon all whilst descending the height of three Burj Khalifas and you’ve got yourself the scale of the Vallee Blanche.

Even if you’re not an out-and-out gravity sports junkie, you’ll still be able to get yourself up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi téléphérique – a cable car with the highest vertical ascent in the world – taking you from 1035 metres in Chamonix centre to the 3842 metre summit of the Aiguille du Midi. It’s up on this wild stance where you’ll be spoilt with a 360 degree panorama of the Mont Blanc massif and peer down the icy slopes and rock faces that drop away below.

Where To Stay

Pictured: Chamonix Town is at the centre of the action

Although it could be easy to assume that Chamonix town is the only place to stay in the region, Chamonix valley actually hosts five different towns and villages, each of which have their own plus points, depending on the type of accommodation you’re after. All of the towns and villages listed below are connected to one another via frequent bus and train links through summer and winter.

By far the most popular choice for those looking to stay in Chamonix is the town centre itself. Chamonix centre has almost everything on offer; bouncing après, an abundance of restaurants (from 2x Michelin Star Albert Premier all the way to the -1 Michelin starred McDonalds) and enough gear stores to keep you window shopping during the rainiest of days.

It’s even got an 18 hole golf course for all of you looking to ruin a nice walk”

Right next to Chamonix centre is La Praz. Just a short (25 minute) walk from Chamonix centre, La Praz hosts La Flegiere ski area during the winter months which also gives fantastic access to the Aiguilles Rouge by simply taking a couple chairlifts – perfect for easily accessible summer climbing trips. It’s even got an 18 hole golf course for all of you looking to ruin a nice walk.

Pictured: The Aiguille du Midi sits at a height of 3842 metres

You’ve then got Argentiere towards the upper end of the valley. Home to the famous Grands Montets ski area, Argentiere can be a great choice to escape the crowds whilst keeping yourself connected to the action. If you’re looking to grab yourself a slice of picturesque French alpine town vibes, then the quaint chalets and churches of Argentiere might just tickle your fancy.

If you’ve got less experienced members in your group, then you might want to shack up in Les Houches, where you’ll find relaxed pistes that cruise their way through the trees. Due to the slightly more easy-going nature of this town, Les Houches is a family favourite spot.

Right at the tip of the valley is Le Tour. This tiny village serves the ski resort of Domaine de Balme, which is also connected to Vallorcine over the Col des Montets – head over to Le Tour if you’re really looking to escape the crowds and are happy with the longer travel time to reach Chamonix centre.

Access to high altitude skiing makes Chamonix a backcountry skiing and snowboarding playground

Eating And Drinking

If you’ve not yet tried it then you’ll have to get yourself down to one of Chamonix’s many Savoyard style restaurants and get a taste for the local delicacies – no amount or type of food can beat eating your bodyweight in bread, cheese and potatoes after a hard day on the mountains. Saying that, there’s not much luck for vegans with this stuff so if you’re more on the plant based diet then head over to Poco Loco where you can get yourself one of their banging Vegan Burgers. 

Check out our other adventure travel destinations for 2020.

This destination guide was brought to you in association with outdoor fashion retailer Blackleaf.

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