Chamonix: A Mountaineer’s Theme Park
You’re going to want to add this to your Euro-wish list
After experiencing a cold snap in South Africa and enviously watching Instagram stories of friends soaking up the European sun, here’s a Euro-trip to add to your wish list for when things finally open up.
Last European summer, Luke visited Chamonix, a French village at the foot of Mount Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe.
Or as Luke calls it, a mountaineer’s theme park.
As one of the most well-known summer destinations in the alps, you can hike up Mount Blanc, watch the sun set on the surrounding glaciers, swim in the turquoise dams, or sip coffee in the picturesque town of Chamonix.
“Every morning when you woke up, you looked around and saw people who had head to toe mountain climbing gear, with ice picks. And like, the next person was on a mountain bike. The next person was in trail running gear. Everyone was just heading out to go have fun in these mountains. It was like a theme park, basically.”
Things to do for the outdoorsman:
- ‘La Jonction’ Hike
Luke's friend, Tom, at 'La Jonction' point. Photo: Luke
Named after La Jonction, a junction that joins two glaciers, this hike isn’t for the faint hearted, taking between 5 - 8 hours, but it’s worth it.
“So you're hiking up this ridge, and you've got a glacier on either side, it’s really cool,” says Luke.
“I'd say my favourite moment was when I got to the top of the glacier, and everywhere around you, there's just mountains and glaciers and soaring peaks and this beautiful valley below you.
“And it's boiling hot and you're in the middle of these huge sheets of ice all around you, it feels super crazy and out of this world. Especially as a South African, it feels really novel to be like, under like these immense banks of ice that are so impossibly big, and you're halfway up the biggest mountain in Western Europe.”
- Lac Blanc Refuge
Near Lac Blanc Refuge, sunrise. Luke camped outdoors but recommends staying in a mountain refuge for convenience. Photo: Luke
If you’re an outdoors person and you’re in Chamonix, you’re going to want to hike sections of the Tour du Mont Blanc - a hiking trail that spans 180km and circles the Mont Blanc massif.
The trail passes many mountain huts along the way, which afford a convenient overnight stay during a multi-day hike.
Lac Blanc Refuge overlooks a lake and has panoramic views of the mountain range and the Mont Blanc peak itself.
It’s perfect for a lunch stop or an overnight stay - it is fully equipped with hot showers and bedding (and if you’re lucky you can get freshly baked tarts from foraged mountain berries!).
Tom paragliding over Chamonix. Photo: Tom Vidal
What better way to get views of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Europe and of the town below than from up in the air?
For an adrenaline rush, visit the canyons of Chamonix Valley where you can jump, abseil or toboggan down a waterfall.
Things to do if hiking isn’t for you:
Even if hiking isn’t your thing, Luke says Chamonix is very accessible to all age groups and abilities. You can catch a cable car up the mountain and do a flatter hike. The trails are well marked and safe so you don’t need to be an experienced hiker.
But along with gentle walks and enjoying the general beauty of the town, Luke suggests:
- Aiguille du Midi lift
Take one of the highest cable car lifts in Europe – a lift that takes you up the Aiguille du Midi at over 3,800m high.
- Take a drive to Annecy
Annecy Old Town. Photo: Luke
Annecy is a city in France near the border of Switzerland, the drive takes just over an hour.
Luke says Annecy is, “a beautiful old town, very Swiss feeling because you’re kind of on the Swiss border.
“And you can go swim in the lake – it has crystal clear water. There's lots of nice restaurants. I would definitely say that is a good one. I would recommend that for everyone, actually.”
- Train up to glacier (Mer de Glacé)
Luke standing in front of the view from the top of the train station. Photo: Luke
This famous little red cogwheel train takes you from Chamonix to the famous glacier. ‘Mer de Glacé.’
- Moody’s Cafe