I spent 4 complete days in Chamonix. Absolutely worth it, a little different from the Swiss Alps, but not any less exciting. I did small hikes in the mountains around Chamonix. Here’s an account.
My favorite experiences in and around Chamonix:
- The Aigulle Du Midi, no doubts, especially the gondola ride across the glaciers to the Italian side, via the Hellbronner Express.
- The Col De Balme area, fabulous views of the Mont Blanc
- The convenient and varied hiking in the area: the hike to Lac Du Brevent, Lac Blanc
- The prices! Especially after Switzerland.
- Quiche for breakfast at different cafes, I had them at 3 different cafes, all were excellent.
- Panier 4 Seasons
- Le Bartavel
Other general comments and tips:
- Get the Chamonix Card, it’s absolutely worth it.
- Hiking is great, get a booklet and look for hikes in the area, hikes in the interior parts of the valley are great as well, while the popular ones are a little crowded.
- Try to stay at Lac Blanc for a great view of the sunrise and sunset(which I did not get unfortunately), although getting a booking is not easy.
- Go early to the Aigulle Du Midi, clouds usually build up after noon.
I reached Chamonix on a Friday evening. Started day 1 with breakfast at one of the cafes on the main street(unfortunately I don’t recall the name), the quiche and chocolate was great. The plan for the day was to hike around the Lac Blanc. I took the cable car upto La Flegere and walked up to the lake. The hike was around 2 hours, a slightly steep one, but not difficult at all. The views of the Mont Blanc were great all the way. I was absolutely unprepared for the grand panoramic views I was going to see. The sharp pointed peaks took me to the age of Lord of the Rings. Lac Blanc turned out to be a very crowded place(not so much actually, nut it wasn’t exactly quiet). The reflections of the Mont Blanc massifs into the lake were really good when the water used would become stable for a few moments occasionally. Had lunch at the cabin there, an omelette, soup and a dessert. Meanwhile the weather had become very stormy, clouds gathered above the Mont Blanc. I decided to take the route to the Index lift. This one tuned out to be one of my favorite hikes, mainly because of stormy weather, which made the Mont Blanc look even more imposing and surreal. Reached the Index in about 1.5-2 hours. Came down all the way and took a bus back to the town. Dinner was at Panier 4 Seasons. I had an appetizer of pureed peas, goat cheese ravioli in a fondue sauce, a brick pastry with vegetables, local cheese with berries. One of my best meals in Chamonix. The clouds cleared off later and colors over the Mont Blanc were beautiful at sunset.
The second day had wonderful sunny weather. So I decided to go up the Aigulle Du Midi. When you reach the top you know the slogan “the “real” top of the world” is justified. The views of the peaks, glaciers, the huge slopes, the mountain adventurers was staggering. As soon as I reached the top, I took a ticket for the Hellbronner Express, the gondola ride to the Italian side of the Mont Blanc. This turned out be an amazing experience. The pictures speak for itself. The views of the glaciers are wonderful as you pass over them. I would rate this ride as one of my top experiences in all of Europe so far. I had a polenta with mushrooms and a dessert at the Italian side (infact that is how I realized I was on the Italian side). While returning back, huge clouds passed by the gondolas, making the ride very eventful. You could see the snow trekkers being engulfed with those huge, fast moving clouds. Back at the Aigulle Du Midi, snow had started. And massive thunder, pretty scary actually, but I really enjoyed all of it. After a while, the clouds disappeared, and the views became supremely good, with the lingering clouds and soft sunlight. Finally, I descended down to Chamonix and decided to go to the Montenvers Glacier with the cog wheel train. The glacier itself wasn’t too exciting, I had seen much bigger glaciers in Switzerland by then, but you get really close to some of the sharp pointed peaks in the range. Again, a very Lord of the Rings place. As soon as I reached, we saw some really heavy rain, with very fast moving clouds and stormy weather. These storms only elevate the feel of the place. Soon after the storm passed by, we were blessed with the sight of a beautiful 180 degrees double rainbow. Impressive. Returned to Chamonix by the last train. Dinner was at Brasserie Restaurant, I had a melted cheese with vegetables, followed by a gelato.
It was time to move a little, the previous day had been spent going up and down on lifts and trains. I took a bus to the Le Argentiere, went up the first cable and walked up to the glacier, the walk was about an hour each way. The glacier was a great sight, massive and stunning, and very blue(a little muddy though). From there, I took a bus to Le Tour. I took the cable car and chair lift up to Les Autannes. The views of the Mont Blanc from here, all through the day were great. The hiking was mostly easy to moderate. I took the path to Col De Balme, had a lunch of cheese and omelette, followed by a brilliant walk/climb to Les Posttes. The views were outstanding from the peak. Finally I took the path back to Charmillion and descended back to Le Tour and came back by bus to Chamonix. A brilliant day, great views, good hiking and good weather, although it become a little stormy by the end. Dinner was at La Caleche, I got a french onion soup, crozets with mushroom and a meringue based dessert, all of it was good.
Finally, the last day. Woke up early, headed up the Brevent lift to the last stop and hiked down to the Lac Du Brevent. The site was a beautiful one, you can see the blue lake from a distance contrasting with the brown and green drier high altitude landscape. At a point I also saw a couple of Ibex. All this while, the views of the Mont Blanc were super, the range very closeby. I wish I could come here for sunset, but the lifts close so soon. The hike wasn’t too easy, it was very rocky and a little steep on several stretches. Lunch was at Le Bartavel, I got a pizza followed by a good gelato at one of the local shops. So it was time to go back, having enjoyed four great days in and around Chamonix.