Please sign in to post.

Chamonix visit

My husband and I will be staying in Annecy for several days. Is Chamonix a must visit for those of us who do not ski.
Are there things to do in Chamonix (all seasons consisdered) which would make this visit worthwhile? If not, which other small towns would you recommend to visit (we will have a car). Thank you!

Posted by
6377 posts

We were there on the Eastern France tour in 2019. There are a couple of interesting museums, including a great geology exhibit, if that interests you. I googled it, and here's a link, but the photo doesn't look like the place we went. https://www.chamonix.net/english/leisure/museums/alpine

We also took a lovely long walk outside of town; well, it would have been lovely if it hadn't been cold and pouring down rain. We still enjoyed it, though.

Some people in our group went up to Mt Blanc and surrounding sites. Evidently there's an ice cave in the glacier? Someone else is bound to post with more details.

Posted by
5059 posts

...went up to Mt Blanc...ice cave in the glacier...

The cable car visit to Mt Blanc was great! Yes, there is an ice cave / tunnel one can go through to a look out point in addition to the viewing area at the very top. Try to go first thing in the morning. Outstanding views and we highly recommend going there. Also the walk on the trail that runs by the river is very nice.

Posted by
594 posts

A must while in Chamonix is the trip up to the Aguille du Midi on Mt Blanc. The views are amazing and if you have time, the ride over to Helbronner almost takes your breath away. Plenty to see and do in Chamonix! Even a walk around town is pretty.

Posted by
1076 posts

Chamonix is amazing! Just a nice town with an alpine river rushing through it. We stayed at the Hotel Vallée Blanche which has rooms right (and I mean right) on the river. Very cool.

For us the highlight was the cable car to Aiguille du Midi, then on to Ponte Hellbronner (the peak that marks the French-Italian border) and down into Italy (actually we did it the other way). There are three different cable cars and you can go as far as you want. We started the day in Italy and took the cable car as our transport to Chamonix, but there's no reason you couldn't do a return trip as a daytrip from Chamonix.

Chamonix is famous for its hikes, but we didn't get to do much of that.

Posted by
427 posts

I don't know your level of physical fitness nor your interest in science, but Chamonix is a far more interesting place to visit, in my opinion, than Annecy. So -- I would definitely go to Chamonix and perhaps stay overnight there. That way you can catch an early morning gondola (téléphérique) up to Aiguille du Midi, a spectacular Alpine location with tremendous views of the peaks around Mt. Blanc. If it is open, the adjoining téléphérique to Helbronner in Italy is not to be missed. You will see amazing Alpine glaciers and glacial landforms that are impossible to see elsewhere without going through the trouble of donning mountaineering gear and undergoing extreme exertion at high altitudes and taking on substantial personal risk.

If the skies are clear enough, you can see the Matterhorn from Helbronner. It's an unforgettable experience for anyone with interest in geology or geography, or just an appreciation for mountain views. You cannot see the kinds of things you can see on that trip with a similar or lesser amount of effort anywhere else in the world.

I'm serious.

The "ice cave" mentioned in other comments is a manmade feature in Mer de Glace, formerly a very large glacier (its name means Sea of Ice in French) but what is now a much smaller glacier a long ways down within a classic U-shaped glacial valley. It's still a spectacular visit where you can see and touch ancient ice from within a glacier (the cave is excavated for touristic visits each year) -- again, an experience unlikely or impossible to be found elsewhere. Plus, the descent down the stairs to the cave entrance, where you pass many signs posted to indicate the height of the glacier in years past, gives one a visceral understanding of how alpine glaciers like Mer de Glace are shrinking and at risk of disappearing under changing climate conditions.

If you can do it, go to Chamonix and go up into the mountains. You won't forget it.

Posted by
179 posts

I was in Chamonix for three nights but my only priority was to get up in the mountains and do what’s been described above. If parasailing is your thing that’s there, and rafting and the town is fine. I’d think the mountains are the main reason you’d go.

Posted by
32268 posts

One caveat to mention regarding a trip up the mountain to the Aguille du Midi. The building is at an altitude of about 12,600 feet, and the altitude may present a problem for some people. If you think that might be a problem, it would be a good idea to have a chat with your family doctor.

Posted by
427 posts

One caveat to mention regarding a trip up the mountain to the Aguille du Midi. The building is at an altitude of about 12,600 feet, and the altitude may present a problem for some people. If you think that might be a problem, it would be a good idea to have a chat with your family doctor.

Ken, you post this or similar comments on almost every post that appears on this forum about visiting Chamonix. I think I understand your concern, but from what I've read, negative physiological effects to high altitude typically occur after 12 to 24 hours of exposure to high altitude/low oxygen conditions.

A day trip to Aiguille du Midi and Helbronner would not require such a duration of visit.

I get what you are saying -- when I was in college I had go through geology field camp. The base elevation where the cabins were was at about 8,000 feet and most of the field sites we mapped were 2 to 3 thousand feet above that. And I was coming from where I lived at the time, which was at an elevation of around 1,200 feet. So, a few days after arriving, I had a bout of nausea and vomiting.

But I have not seen accounts of people having such effects after just a few hours of exposure to such conditions, such as might occur on a typical visit to these sights in the Alps. There must be some reason why you repeatedly post the same warning -- could you share your information that even quite short exposures to high altitudes, such as one might experience during a day trip to these sights, would elicit such a response?

Posted by
32268 posts

Sammy,

"but from what I've read, negative physiological effects to high altitude typically occur after 12 to 24 hours of exposure to high altitude/low oxygen conditions. A day trip to Aiguille du Midi and Helbronner would not require such a duration of visit."

I believe it's important to mention the altitude aspect to travellers that are considering a visit to the Aguille du Midi or other high altitude facilities, especially if the travellers are "older" (as I am). Older people (especially those with specific medical conditions) may be affected at high elevations sooner than "12 to 24 hours". It could also affect younger travellers who have underlying conditions, so again I feel it's prudent to mention it.

As far as I knew, I didn't have any medical conditions that would have been affected by altitude (and still don't
AFAIK) when I visited the Aguille du Midi and Helbronner. However after several hours I was significantly affected by the altitude so my comments are based on very clear personal experience. I really don't remember how long I was at the two places but it may have been as long as six hours. I was fine all day but when I returned to the Aguille from Helbronner, it hit me suddenly. I was able to get to the cable car with some difficulty, and after arrival back at Chamonix I felt much better.

I didn't have any problems at the Jungfraujoch which is at a similar altitude, although I was moving more slowly than usual and stairs were a real effort. It could be that I wasn't there long enough to feel the effects.

In mentioning this in several posts, I believe it's important that people are at least informed of the possible risks of being at higher elevations. At least then they can make decisions based on their personal situation.

Posted by
427 posts

Thanks Ken.

It's interesting to read of your personal experience, especially since it's inconsistent with the information that I've read on the symptoms of altitude sickness. Evidently some folks such as yourself are particularly or unusually susceptible to the effects of altitude.

Well, after being crammed into the bus sized lift and crammed into another claustrophobic lift, altitude affected me slightly and others much more.