The Mont Blanc area, at over 4810 metres, the highest mountain in Europe, is particularly popular with skiers, mountaineers but also hikers like ourselves. From the French side, the Chamonix valley, a famous ski resort at the foot of the mountain, is the place to explore the amazing surroundings in our opinion.
Main sights and hikes
Below we mention some locations where you can do very nice hikes. On the official Chamonix site, they are described in more detail. You will also find the degree of difficulty there, as well as how long they take, what the starting and maximum altitude is, etc. We were very pleased with the Plan de l’Aiguille-Montenvers mentioned below, and with our hike to Lac Cornu and Mer de Glace. But if you like hiking, then almost all the hikes on the Chamonix site are utterly worthwhile.
The many mountain lakes near Chamonix
You don’t have to be an experienced hiker to admire the beautiful lakes of the Mont Blanc area. They are situated at altitudes ranging between 2000 and 2500 metres. If you haven’t gotten used to the altitude (see also our blog about avoiding altitude sickness) then start these hikes before you go to the higher Aiguille du Midi for a hike.
Aiguille du Midi
The Aiguille du Midi is a 3842-metre-high mountain top that since 1955 has been accessible by cable car. You get an amazing 360-degree view over the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. From the highest terrace you also have a perfect view of Mont Blanc.
From the intermediate cable car station, there are some nice hikes to do. So, you can go to Lac Bleu in about 15 minutes or do the two-and-a-half-hour hike in Plan de l’Aiguille-Montenvers.
You can also continue from the station with the cable car. With the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car, you can go to the Pointe Helbronner (3462 metres) in Italy. During the ride you get a spectacular view of the Géant glacier.
Montenvers – Mer de Glace glacier
From Chamonix you can take the train via a cog railway to Montenvers at 1913 metres’ altitude. A beautiful five-kilometre-long train route! From Montenvers, you can hike to the Mer de Glace glacier of Mont Blanc.
Practical matters for a visit to Chamonix
Accommodation in Chamonix
Some nice towns and villages are in the valley where you can find plenty of accommodation outside of peak season. Think campsites, hotels, chalets, chalets with catering, even igloos.
The charming and cosy Chamonix is the most famous place for tourists to stay in the valley. The city calls itself the “world capital of mountaineering”. What makes “Cham” so special is that Mont Blanc looms everywhere and there is so much more to experience besides climbing.
We stayed in nearby Les Praz de Chamonix because you have a cable car there to Flégère, from where some great hikes lead to beautiful mountain lakes. The village (actually the lake is a suburb of Chamonix) is noticeably less touristic. You will generally find slightly more luxury accommodation for a little lower a price than in Chamonix.
Finding accommodation in Chamonix.
Les Houches is a ski resort about six kilometres from Chamonix. It is located in a beautiful area of forests and rolling alpine meadows. You have a good view of the Aiguilles. Les Houches is also the starting and finishing point of the popular Tour du Mont Blanc, a seven- to ten-day hike around the foot of the Mont Blanc mountain range in France, Italy and Switzerland. Search for accommodation in Les Houches.
Servoz is a mountain village in the heart of the Alps, particularly known to mountaineers. It lies at the foot of the beautiful Fiz mountains. You also have a beautiful view over Mont Blanc. Search for accommodation in Servoz.
Best travel time
The best months for hiking in the Chamonix area are from June to September with July and August as the warmest months. We were there in July and saw almost nothing but beautiful blue skies. It can cool down in the evening and sometimes rain heavily at night.