Green Traveller's Guide to Chamonix, France
Unique among resorts, Chamonix is a lively town right at the heart of European mountain life. With a population of 10,000, the town holds a special allure for mountain enthusiasts.
Hidden in the valley beneath Mont Blanc close to the Swiss and Italian border, Chamonix is a skier’s paradise, with some 47 lifts offering access to a wealth of slopes challenging beginners and experts alike. This isn’t a resort that closes in the Summer - when the snow melts and the skiers leave, the mountaineers, bikers and hikers move in. Bordered by the quiet satellite stations of Les Houches, Les Praz and Vallorcine, Chamonix is a hive of low impact, eco-friendly activity.
Did you know?
Mont Blanc, at a height of 4,810 metres, is the third most visited natural site in the world.
With an area of 245 square kilometres, Chamonix is the fourth largest commune in mainland France.
The Aiguille du Midi cable car is one of the highest in the world, climbing from 1035m to a dizzying 3810m.
Chamonix is credited with hosting the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924.
Where to stay
Huski Eco-Farm Dating back to the eighteenth century, this is an authentic farmhouse with a real commitment to the environment. Geo-thermal heating, a vegetable garden fed mainly off rain water, planitherm double glazing and fermace for insulation and even reusing the original building materials, turning them into bathroom cabinets, interior doors... Absolutely ideal for larger groups of discerning skiers, the farm’s peaceful location is conveniently close to the slopes. A mere two minutes walk to the ski lifts, the truly luxurious eco-farm boasts authentic wooden interior, 5 ensuite bedrooms, hot tub and sauna. For smaller groups, there are two eco-lodges on site. Address: 356 Rue De L'Esserts, Les Houches, 74310 Website: Huski eco-farm Isra eco-chalet A luxurious eco-chalet in the small village of Servoz, overlooking Les Houches in the Chamonix valley. Along with an annexed apartment it sleeps up to 12, so suits large groups that want to enjoy the snow without being overwhelmed by a big resort. The site has its own vegetable garden and the chalet comes complete with sauna, fully enclosed garden and private terrace. Summer activities include rafting, walking, climbing and tennis. Address: Le Mont, Servoz, 74310 Website: Isra eco-chalet Chalet Orée du Bois You can choose from bed and breakfast in the main house, or else rent an apartment in this simple mountain chalet close to Chamonix. Just 50m from Tacconaz train station and, if you pick up a carte d’hote from the chalet, you travel free on the local line. All rooms offer a view out over the Mont Blanc mountain range and the the in-house chef uses only locally-sourced, natural ingredients. Address: 49, chemin des Sablières, 74310 Website: Chalet Orée du Bois Morgane Hotel This contemporary, 4-star eco hotel offers the very best in ski-holiday accommodation. With a total of 56 rooms in four categories, all exemplify modern comfort while the junior suites offer private balconies backing onto stunning mountain views. The hotel's spa comes equipped with swimming pool, steam room and sauna and private treatment cubicles. Meanwhile, the Michelin-starred restaurant cooks up some truly sumptuous dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. Address: 145, avenue de l’Aiguille du Midi, 74400 Website: Morgane Hotel
Where to eat
L'Impossible L’impossible offers a cuisine that is neither sophisticated nor complicated. This cosy Savoyard farmhouse on the outskirts of Chamonix is the town’s first organic Italian restaurant with warming and filling dishes made of seasonal, fresh and organic ingridients. The friendly hosts and wooden interior give this place its own mountain buzz. Address: Route des Pelerins, Chamonix; t +33 (0)4 50 53 20 36 Website: L'Impossible Le Bistrot Un bistro unlike others. Here the fine and simple cuisine, served by the adventurous Mickey Bourdillat, turns fresh local produce into succulent, tasty and powerful flavours. A Michelin star restaurant in the mountains, le Bistro also has a wonderfully crafted winelist by its very own sommelier. Address: 151 avenue de l'Aiguill du Midi. Phone: +33 (0) 4 50 53 57 64 Website: Le Bistrot Café de l’Arve A fundamentally local affair, le café de l'Arve offers the regions’ gastronomic challenges using a selection of the best local suppliers. The result is a secret and enticing blend of styles to create tastes of mountain freshness and alpine warmth. Every day, the menu is set up in accordance with the availability of products on the local market and all are cooked by the excellent chefs in an ecologically responsible manner. Address: 60, impasse des Anémones Hôtel de l'Arve Chamonix 74400; Phone: +33 (0)4 50 53 58 57 Website: Café de l’Arve
Where to visit
Merlet Animal Park No fences, no roads, just open wilderness with over 80 animals grazing in their natural habitat. Wander in along the beautiful tracks, both for families and the more experienced, while seeing the llamas, deers, marmots and goats grazing. It’s best to approach the animals respectfully, walking up to them slowly without scaring them off. A perfect opportunity to see wildlife up close, relaxed and friendly. Address: Parc Animalier de Merlet - 74310 LES HOUCHES Website: Merlet Animal Park Sea of Ice Train (Train de la Mer de Glace) Taking you through some of Europe's most stunning landscape, the Sea of Ice Train takes you from the centre of Chamonix, to the Montenvers rack and pinion railway to the foot of the Mer de Glace at 1913 meters of altitude. The Mer de Glace or Sea of Ice is an incredible natural formation: the longest glacier in France. See this and much more from the total comfort and safety of the train. There is also an ice grotto, reachable by gondola, which is carved out every year from the centre of the glacier. Address: 35 Place de la Mer de Glace - 74400 Chamonix Website: Sea of Ice Train (Train de la Mer de Glace) Aiguilles rouges Association A rare chance to intimately discover an enticing and stunning landscape. The Aiguille Rouge Association offers visitors the chance to see this area throughout all its colours, going on treks to see the flora and fauna, guided by locals who know and love the place well. There is also the possibility to take part in the scientific exploration of the Aiguilles Rouges with conferences, expositions and observation sessions. With a true respect for their surroundings, this association will share with you their passion for the Aiguilles Rouges. Address: Col des Montets Argentière 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Website: Aiguilles rouges Gorges de la Diosaz A wonder of nature, Les Gordes de la Diosaz offer a wild and natural site, a grandiose and unexpected spectacle. The tracks are easy and out of the sun, taking you right next to the rapid river with solid bridges taking you into the mysterious picturesque. An incredible area, available to all whatever the weather. Address: Gorges de la Diosaz 181 allée des Gorges 74 310 Les Houches Website: Gorges de la Diosaz
Things to do
Swim in the Combloux, ecological mountain lake Surrounded by Alpine pastures dotted with wooden chalets, the Combloux lake faces Mont Blanc and has a water fall, fountain and aquatic plants. The lake is lined with wooden decking and grass slopes, making it a perfect day out for all the family. Address: Plan-Perret Combloux - 74920. Phone: +33 (0) 450 58 60 49 Website: Swim in the Combloux, ecological mountain lake
Icicle With courses for all levels, a wealth of local expertise and offering the chance to see climb to the summit of Mont Blanc or of the Matterhorn, it’s easy to see why Icicle has climbed up to be the largest UK provider of specialist guided courses. Icicle is a highly specialist operator, focusing on helping you to achieve your goals whatever they may be, so that you can see the part of Chamonix that is best for you whether you’re interested in climbing, trekking or skiing. Highly competent and very friendly. Address: 90 Via d'Aoste 74400 Chamonix, France. Phone: 06 75 56 21 55 Website: Icicle
Tracks and Trails Based in Chamonix, this operator offers a range of adventurous activities on and around Mont Blanc, including cross-country skiing, walking and snowshoeing. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of reaching a summit, the wild terrain of some of the highest peaks in Europe, rolling green fields or the chance to sunbathe while surrounded by snow-clad peaks, Tracks and Trails offers a range of true alpine experiences that cater for singles and groups alike. Address: +44 (0)20 8144 6442 Website: Tracks and Trails
Ecorider Ski School Ecorider is the world's first zero carbon ski school. Commited to protecting the beautiful natural environment while getting the most out of it, not only is Ecorider undertaking the first ever bilan carbone (greenhouse gas emissions evaluation) in the industry, it is also offsetting its greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees and makes its ski instructors uniforms from eco-friendly, recycled textiles. A brilliant initiative that allows skiers to experience the joys of winter while protecting the delicate and stunning Chamonix ecosystem. Address: 432 Rue Joseph Vallot 74400 Chamonix, France Website: Ecorider Ski School
Travel by train to Chamonix
We recommend two ways of travelling to Chamonix: one that travels during the day, the other is overnight.
Day train (10h): Take the 9 am Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord then transfer to Paris Gare du Lyon. Take the 13.09 to Bellegarde, then St Gervais, changing here to Chamonix and arriving at 18.39.
Sleeper train (14h30): Take the 7pm Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord, then transfer to Paris Gare de Lyon in time to take the sleeper train to St Gervais at 11pm. Arrive bright and early at 8.45 then take the train to Chamonix at 9, arriving bright and early at 9.40.
>> See our guide to How to transfer between train stations in Paris
>> For our complete guide to taking the train to Chamonix, including prices, journey routes and station transfers, see our unique rail journey planner: Train from London to Chamonix