Step into the legend and discover the birthplace of mountaineering and a hikers’ paradise: Chamonix is the destination of a lifetime.
In the 18th century, Chamonix still lived off agriculture. In 1741, two Englishmen, William Windham and Richard Pococke, set off to explore the valley. They discovered the Glacier des Bois. They were fascinated by the expanse of ice and gave it its present name, the Mer de Glace (or Sea of Ice).
They were enthralled by their expedition and when they returned to London they decided to write about their experiences which set off adventurers from all over the world to explore and hence the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc tourist industry was born.
In 1760, Horace Bénédict de Saussure (a scientist from Geneva) offered a reward to the first person to reach Mont Blanc. On 8 August 1786, Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard, both from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, made the first-ever ascent of the mountain. A year later, de Saussure himself reached the top of Mont Blanc with help from Jacques Balmat. The expeditions could naturally only take place in summer and local farmers became guides and hoteliers which was important for the locals in kicking off early tourism and providing much-needed income.
Chamonix is a fascinating traditional resort with a bustling atmosphere and is excellent for activities of all kinds. Chamonix offers a good range of attractions, over 100 shops, bars and restaurants, a casino, as well as an Olympic ice rink, a sports complex with swimming pool, water slides & fitness centre, 19 tennis courts, a climbing wall, bowling and a 3-screen cinema.
Describing all the activities that are available in Chamonix area would be long but with more than 46 different sports activities you will be spoilt for choice. There is even an incredibly scenic 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones senior.
Whether you are a beginner, an experienced hiker or somewhere in between, the Valley offers 430km of well-maintained and equipped hiking trails to suit all abilities.
Chamonix is the world's top trail running destination. Set in an exceptional natural environment, the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley offers a variety of spectacular trails for all abilities. Every summer the valley hosts major international competitions and attracts athletes from all over the world. Not to be missed: the now famous Mont-Blanc Marathon and the must-see UTMB®.
About its location
The Chamonix valley is situated in the north-westerly part of the Alps, just 15 km from the Swiss border via the Col des Montets and 15 km from Italy via the Mont-Blanc tunnel. This valley, comprising Servoz, Les Houches, Chamonix and Vallorcine, also contains Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak at 4,810.45m.
The valley is of glacial origin and measures 17km, from the Col des Montets at the northernmost point to the Taconnaz torrent. The town centre is situated at an altitude of 1035m.
Some recommendations for visits in Chamonix this summer
- Europe's highest cable car in Chamonix will take you to the fascinating Aiguille du Midi. The views from Europe’s highest cable car station (3842m) are literally breathtaking. It is the closest you can get to the Mont-Blanc without climbing training! From there you can walk back to the famous ‘Mer de Glace’ with ease and catch Montenvers train back to town
- The Montenvers romantic red train journey to the famous ‘Mer de Glace’ or ‘Sea of Ice’ is also captivating. Discover what a real glacier is: 7km long, 40sq km in area, 200 metres thick. Also available on site is a crystal gallery, a wildlife exhibition and the famous ice grotto
- Reach Italy by cable car with the Helbronner cable car, which flies over the glaciers for more than 5km from the Aiguille du Midi. The Mont-Blanc tramway is the highest rack & pinion train in France and takes you from Saint-Gervais to the Eagle’s Nest (‘Nid d’Aigle’) at 2372m.
For more inspiration read our blog about summer holiday experiences not to be missed in Chamonix!
Top summer activities to experience in Chamonix
Please note Peak Retreats do not book any activities and most activities are payable. For more information about pricing and availability, please contact the Chamonix Tourist Office on 0033 450 53 00 24 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org
Chamonix Valley hiking and lakes
The valley offers 350 km of superbly maintained hiking trails, with 170 different itineraries offering walks adapted to all. You don’t have to be a great walker to go and see the region’s loveliest lakes. The Mont Blanc area has numerous lakes at altitudes between 2,000 and 2,500m which are attractive destinations for hillwalking.
MultiPass Mont Blanc
You can book your Multipass online including mountain biking on the Mont Blanc Natural Resort website.
Aiguille du Midi
From the centre of Chamonix, a 20 minutes ride in the Aiguille du Midi cable car takes you to the gateway to the high Alps. From its height of 3,777m, the Aiguille du Midi and its laid-out terraces offer a 360° view of all the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. A lift brings you to the summit terrace at 3,842m, where you will have a clear view of Mont Blanc.
Step into the Void
Since 2013, the more fearless will take a step onto a 2.50m glass cage out over a 1000m precipice.
A long steel gallery of 32m to make the full rotation of the central peak of the Aiguille du Midi.
A cafeteria and a souvenir shop are open all year round. In the summer, the "3842m" restaurant invites you to taste Savoie culinary specialities in a unique setting.
Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola
Once at the top, do not miss the gondola lift ride over the Glacier du Géant to the Pointe Helbronner in Italy.
Plan de l'Aiguille
The cable car ride between Chamonix and Aiguille du Midi is in two stages. At the intermediate stop, at a height of 2,310m, the Plan de l'Aiguille is the departure point for the Balcon Nord hike to the Montenvers site. Food and refreshments are available at lunchtime at the Refuge du Plan, 5 minutes’ walk away.
- Wear warm clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen
- Tour is forbidden for children under 3 years and not recommended under 5 years old
- Time of outward journey: 20 mins in 2 cable cars climbing 2700m, with a stop on the way at the Plan de l’Aiguille
- Duration of visit: including the journey, allow an average of 2 to 3hrs
Montenvers - Mer de Glace
Departing from Chamonix, this famous rack and pinion railway brings you to the Montenvers site at 1913m. An imposing panorama of the Mer de Glace glacier, the Drus and the Grands Jorasses. Stay in the hotel Refuge du Montenvers for a really special experience.
The tour of the “Grotte de glace” takes visitors into the very heart of the glacier. Re-sculpted every year, it describes the life of mountain people in the early 19th century. It can be accessed via a footpath taking 20 minutes or by gondola lift. Note: there are about 480 steps from the arrival of the gondola lift to the entrance to the cave.
Here the creation and evolution of the glaciers over the centuries are explained in detail in the exhibition centre.
The Temple of Nature
An innovative optical theatre takes visitors on a trip into the past where they will meet the likes of Forbes (the Scottish geologist), Chateaubriand, Louis Pasteur and Agutte the artist.
Note: the complete tour (including the cave and travelling time) takes an average of 2 to 3 hours. The time required for the tour may be doubled during peak periods.
Hill-walks include the hike from Montenvers to Plan de l'Aiguille via the Grand Balcon Nord hill-walking trail, and also the return descent down to Chamonix via Les Planards or Les Bois village.
There are 3 choices - either a Savoyard or traditional meal at the Restaurant du Refuge du Montenvers or lunch in the bistro with a view at Panoramique Mer de Glace or finally a quick snack at the Glacier Bar.
Hiking with Huskies
Dog-led walks consist of just that - being guided by a trained Husky dog, giving commands by voice and visual signal. The dog keeps contact with the walker, be it a child or an adult, via a harness and tether. With help from your four-legged navigator, it is possible to travel great distances without fatigue, at the same time creating a bond with your animal that opens one to a new way to experience nature’s pleasures along the journey.
Chamonix Valley Mountain biking
From the bottom of the Valley on waymarked routes to paths for experienced riders that are sometimes demanding and steep. Sites more particularly dedicated to downhill mountain-biking can be accessed by the ski lifts in Le Tour – Col de Balme, Le Brévent, Lognan, Bellevue and Le Prarion areas.
There are lots of shops in Chamonix where you can rent bikes.
Chamonix's granite attracts climbers from all over the world. Superb mountain routes, prestigious north faces or more accessible rock faces and boulders for amateur climbers and beginners.
There is also an indoor climbing wall at the Richard Bozon sports centre: 180 m2 climbing surface, 800 holds, height 3,60m.
Chamonix Richard Bozon Swimming pool
25m swimming pool, amusement pool with waterfall, river rapids, water jets and massages, 130m covered toboggan, solarium, solarium, hot tub, hammam, sauna.
During the summer season, opening of the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc outdoor swimming pools:
- A swimming pool of 50 m with 6 lines of water
- A fun pool of 141 m² with massaging jets
- A Pentagliss' (easy slide of small size) of 17 m with 3 different corridors for the children.
- Beach and snack bar
Chamonix Richard Bozon Indoor ice rink
All year-round, you can go ice skating on the 60 x 30 metres indoor Olympic rink. The skating rink now has a seating capacity of 1,700.
Chamonix Leisure Park
The Chamonix Amusement Park is an ideal place to spend a great day out with the family. For starters, there is the Chamonix Luge Alpine Coaster, a real Roller Coaster in the mountain! But there are also slides, toboggans, trampolines, a playground…Not forgetting the electric motorcycles, indoor and outdoor play areas, giant swing, flying boat, looping machine, a Tyrolean rope, 2 water pistols and more! All games and activities for children aged from just 3-year-old. The 4 seat chairlifts of Les Planards will bring you up to 4 000 ft!
You can enjoy lunch and snacks at the bar restaurant or bring your own and relax at one of the picnic spots.
Merlot Wildlife Park (Les Houches)
Situated at 1500m, in front of the Mont Blanc, the animal park of Merlet is a magnificent 50 acres park where ibex, chamois, marmots, stags, deers, hinds and llamas move around in freedom!
In just a few years, Chamonix Valley-Mont Blanc has become a favourite trail running destination.
Its history, the conquest of Mont Blanc, the way it is laid out — a choice of fast and exposed routes with a variety of total height differences — attract thousands of trail runners from all over the world during the summer season.
The first three holes of the Chamonix golf club were built in 1934. It was soon extended to a nine-hole golf course, and in 1982 Chamonix invited world-renowned golf course architect Robert Trent-Jones to design the last nine holes.
Tel: +33(0)4 50 53 06 28
Mont Blanc Forest (Les Houches)
2185 Route de Coupeau
74310 Les Houches
Travel from tree to tree, in a magnificent forest situated in front of the Mont Blanc massif. Sky-high thrills in complete safety: take zip-wires, rope bridges, tunnels, rope ladders and skywalks...
For adults: 7 circuits of various levels and 75 aerial challenges from tree to tree on a trail covering 3 hectares.
Introduction and accompaniment by a professional instructor for the 5 first activities. Technical equipment provided.
Minimum height 1m35 (4 ft 5).
For children: different circuits by height range including:
- Indiana Parc: 75 obstacles from tree to tree from 1.35m
- Indiana Kid: Secure in a splendid forest facing the Mont-Blanc child route (from 105 cm to 135 cm)
- Small Kid: From 105 cm. The route is completely secure
Other activity contact details
Restaurants and bars in Chamonix
Chamonix hosts a wide selection of typical cafes and tempting pastry shops along with around 20 bars, over 80 restaurants, 100 shops and a number of clubs.
Chamonix has very lively nightlife should you wish to endulge in this...
Chamonix’s pedestrian streets have a large choice of shops, with fabulous shop windows including some of the most prestigious brands. There are sports shops but also fashion, jewellery, bags, interior decoration, antiques, books telling the most extravagant stories of mountaineering... as well as the famous local produce for your evening meals!
You can also try your luck in the world famous Casino!
By Road (self drive options pre-bookable with Peak Retreats):
Driving distance from Calais to Chamonix 518 miles (8hrs)
From Calais, take A26 Motorway towards Reims and Troyes, then Dijon, Mâcon then ‘Autoroute Blanche’ Motorway (A40 Mâcon – Cluses) exit Chamonix.
By Rail (pre-bookable with Peak Retreats):
TGV to Saint-Gervais (35km transfer or regional train).
The Mont Blanc Express train line makes travelling between Saint-Gervais les Bains le Fayet and Vallorcine very easy, via the villages of Les Houches and Chamonix. It extends into Switzerland to the city of Martigny.
With an average of a train per hour and 18 stops, take a nice and easy ride along this beautiful valley.
Connecting TGV trains to Annecy and Geneva.
By Plane (not pre-bookable):
Geneva Airport is 82km from Chamonix (1 hour)
Chambery Airport is 132km from Chamonix (1 ½ hours)
Grenoble Airport is 219km from Chamonix (2 hours)
Lyon Saint-Exupery is 220km from Chamonix (2 ½ hours)
Regular bus transfers from GVA to Chamonix via SAT bus.
Chamonix Airport Transfer or Car Hire (pre-bookable with Peak Retreats):
Call our reservations team for details on 0844 576 0170 or email email@example.com for a quote and availability.
Getting around Chamonix and the Chamonix Valley
Mont Blanc Express - The SNCF line serves all the villages from Saint Gervais-le Fayet to Martigny (Switzerland), passing through Servoz, Les Houches, Chamonix and Vallorcine. One train approximately every hour. The SNCF line from Servoz to Vallorcine is free of charge for holders of the Carte d’Hôte pass, which is given to you on your arrival by your accommodation host.
Chamonix Bus - Regular urban transport serves all the Valley and it is free from Servoz to Le Tour for holders of the Carte d’Hôte pass.
Mulets - This free shuttle service enable you to to move freely around the Chamonix centre. Small buses, silent, disabled access and environmentally friendly, "Le Mulet" works all year long and stops by the main sites and parking lots.
Chamonix Valley news and events 2023
- Olympic Day Chamonix-Mont-Blanc welcomes the torch relay of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games - 23 June 2024.