Chamonix is actually named Chamonix-Mont-Blanc and is situated in France’s Rhône-Alps region. The town has the distinction of being the site of the very first winter Olympics. It is the highest commune in the country and is one of the world’s most popular ski resorts. As Mont-Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe the region is also popular with climbers and hikers. Chamonix is not a purpose-built resort though and it is ideal for skiers of all abilities. The valley covers a stretch of 20 km but there are plenty of transportation systems to help all visitors get around.
The nearest airport to Chamonix is Geneva and the route from there is easy although it is more than 80 km. There is a mini-bus option for those travelling from the airport to the resort although car hire is generally the most popular option.
Accommodation and entertainment
There are plenty of bars in Chamonix where tourists can while away a few hours in the evening and some have live music on regularly. Visitors will also be spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants and some of these specialise in the local cuisine, although the range of cuisines in the town ensures that nobody will be disappointed. There are some nightclubs in the area although this
The town and the surrounding areas are not short of accommodation. These range from campsites (not a great option in winter!) to luxury hotels, so there is something available in every price range. Most people, especially those who are travelling with children, prefer to be centrally located in order to ensure that they are close to all the amenities. Many are in the style of Alpine chalets, particularly the newer hotels and many have additional amenities such as swimming pools and spa facilities. However, the self-catering option is becoming more popular and there are plenty of gîtes for rent in the region.
The resort has a famous cable car which can take visitors up to the Aiguille du Midi at a height of nearly 4000 metres. This dates back to the mid 1950s and used to be the highest of its kind in the world. The skiing season runs from November to May and there are more than 150 km of ski runs. The resort has plenty of facilities for beginners as well as those who are more advanced.
There are nursery slopes in the La Vormaine and Le Savoy sections as well as Les Planards and there are also plenty of instructors available for those who need a helping hand. Those with a little more experience can try areas such as Grands Montets which is a little more challenging and there are guided trips available in the Vallée Blanche, which is considered to be one of the best descents in the area. There is a natural half-pipe to be found at Le Tour for those who want to have a go at snowboarding or freestyle skiing.
Those who have a great deal of skiing experience will find plenty of slopes at Chamonix which are challenging. Those who want to ski off-piste should enlist the help of a guide as this is the best way to see the highlights of the terrain. Freestyle snowboarders should head for one of the terrain parks – Argentière is recommended.
During the summer months it is possible for visitor to get right across the Mont Blanc massif by means of cable car. In addition to the Aiguille du Midi car there is also a system which goes up to Pointe Helbronner. The whole area is great for those who like mountain biking. There are a number of cycling trails and freeriding is popular in the area. However, the times when the trails can be used are limited to the summer months. Mountain bikes and other equipment can be rented from one of the outlets in the town.
Families with very young children can take advantage of the many childcare facilities that are available including kids clubs and babysitting services. Those who want time away from the slopes can find any number of other activities to keep them busy. Ice skating and dog sledding are popular activities with visitors and there is an Alpine Museum for those who want to learn more about the history of the region. One of the fastest ways to take a tour of the area is to book a helicopter tour and these are great for all the family although not for those on a low budget.
The crystals museum has a great collection of crystals, most of which have been collected in the vicinity of Chamonix, although there are some from other areas in the Alps and the rest of the world. This is an unusual place which is a must-see for those who like their tourist attractions on the quirky side.