Amazing summer activities in Chamonix
The town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc nestles in the valley below Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps at 4,810m. It is the perfect place to visit if, like me, you love the mountains. In winter, of course, it is a popular ski resort. But you shouldn’t discount the idea of visiting in summer – there are a wealth of summer activities in Chamonix.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc has a strong history of alpine climbing and attracts climbers from all over the world. However, you don’t have to be a climber to be able to appreciate the stunning mountain landscape and numerous outdoor activities on offer. Here are my own favourites
Get a bird’s eye view of Mont Blanc on the Aiguille du Midi cable car
The Aiguille du Midi cable car takes you up the mountain from the valley in two stages to a height of 3,842m. There are numerous viewing platforms at the top of this cable car giving you the opportunity to get close to Mont Blanc with amazing views of the surrounding peaks. From the platforms, you can see the mountaineers slowly working their way up to the summit of Mont Blanc and can appreciate how tough this must be. If you like a thrill you can visit the “Step into the Void” which is a free attraction at the top of the Aiguille du Midi; this glass room, the walls, ceiling panels and floor are all made of glass, gives you the feeling that you are standing in the air. I tried it – certainly a unique and breathtaking experience.
Try a tandem paraglide for a unique view of Chamonix:
We stayed at Inghams Hotel la Sapiniere, a comfortable chalet hotel, a short walk away from the town centre. The Hotel looks out over a large green field where paragliders land. If you look up when the weather conditions are good you can see a host of paragliders floating in the air above before circling down to land.
I’ve always wanted to try tandem paragliding but never had the chance before. This summer I had the perfect opportunity to have a go – this has to be one of the top summer activities in Chamonix. We went up in the Brévent gondola to a ridge above the valley and were strapped into harnesses by our instructors from Evolution 2. At this point I was a bit nervous as the thought of running off a mountain into the air was scary, to say the least. I shouldn’t have worried as we were almost instantly airborne and soaring up to the ridge above us. The harness feels a little like sitting in a camping chair so you do seem ultra secure. We slowly gained height and flew along the ridge until we could see high peaks reaching out in every direction. As we gently floated towards a point directly above the valley, Mont Blanc emerged out of the cloud into the sunshine, looking dazzlingly white against the blue sky.
After about 30 minutes in the air, we gradually lost height before circling over the town to land. Landing was easy despite my fears about making it back down to the ground again. I was thrilled to have tried paragliding, the highlight of my stay in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc and something I would definitely recommend that everyone tries for themselves. And, given half a chance, I’d jump at the chance to do this particular summer activity in Chamonix again.
Visit the Mer de Glace – the longest glacier in France:
I’ve always been a bit of a geography geek – in another life, I might have been a geography teacher, so a trip by rack train to view the Mer de Glace, (sea of ice), the longest glacier in France, was a must for me. The Chemin de Fer du Montenvers takes you up the mountain from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc to an elevation of 1913m. The view is spectacular with the Mer de Glace beneath you, the Drus and Grandes Jorasses mountains rising majestically into the sky.
From the train station, we visited the Refuge du Montenvers, the highest mountain hotel in the world. Built in 1880, this mountain refuge has been recently renovated to a high standard, with much of the original interior restored. The rooms are named after famous past visitors, including alpinists; Mary Shelley, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Lord Byron and Alexandre Dumas to name a few. The cost to stay overnight, including dinner and breakfast, is very reasonable. In keeping with its background, there is a bunk room for climbers, this is very light and scandi, with cosy pine bed recesses below, the original beams above. Staying at the Refuge du Montenvers would definitely be a special experience, I would love to spend the night there and have breakfast on the terrace with the spectacular mountain scenery and the Mer de Glace below.
From the train station, there is a short lift ride down and then a metal staircase winding down to the valley floor below and the Mer de Glace glacier. There are 500 steps to and from the lift, but you can take your time and appreciate the views. Along the way, the different levels of the glacier over the years are recorded in signs, showing that it has been dramatically receding. When you reach the bottom of the stairs you can visit the ice grotto. This takes you into the heart of the glacier itself and is much cooler than the outside temperature. The cave was hewn out by hand with picks, the ice walls are clear and blue. I’ve seen glaciers from the outside before but never been inside one – it was amazing and another one of those summer activities in Chamonix I’d recommend.
Try White Water Rafting in Chamonix down L’Arveyon:
Another thing I had a go at during our stay in Chamonix was white water rafting, a first for me. I really didn’t know what to expect but was ready to give it a try despite not being a strong swimmer. We were kitted out in wetsuits, shoes and helmets all provided by Evolution 2 and set off in a van up-river.
After a safety demonstration and instructions, we lifted the raft down into the water ready to get started. I thought that we would be seated in the raft but in fact, we were perched on the sides of the raft, paddles in our hands. The water is white as it is carrying the sediment from the glaciers and is a very cold 4 degrees – hence the need for wetsuits. It was a truly exhilarating experience, with stretches of quiet water, rapids and sudden waves which came crashing over you. We progressed down the L’Arveyon river which then ran into the Arve river at what seemed like a fast rate, the scenery changed, we passed under the bridges of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, to the amusement of onlookers, before heading further along the valley to a place where we safely landed.
If you are looking for an outdoor activity in Chamonix that will give you a real adrenaline rush then do have a go at white water rafting.
I’ve picked my own personal favourites – unique outdoor summer activities in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, but there are numerous other things to do during the summer – hiking, cycling and climbing for example. While I love skiing and am drawn to the mountains in winter, there’s just as much reason to be there in summer.
Are you thinking of visiting Chamonix? Why not pin this post for later!
We were guests of Inghams staying at the Inghams run Hotel la Sapiniere. Whitewater rafting photograph courtesy of Amandine Elie.
Inghams has launched a NEW range of excursions this summer, to introduce guests to the top summer activities in Chamonix. These must be pre-booked and include:
- Overnight Glacier Experience from £105 per person – spend an unforgettable night in the newly renovated Refuge du Montenvers, with a three-course dinner included
- Mountain Magic from £121 per person – enjoy three half days of adventure including white-water rafting, gentle hiking and guided biking
- Ice, Air & Rapids from £260 per person – experience big thrills with white-water rafting in Italy, tandem paragliding and a Mer de Glace glacier hike (during two and a half days)
Inghams offers a seven-night stay on a catered basis (including buffet breakfasts, packed lunches, afternoon tea and cake and evening meals with complimentary wine for six days) at the three-diamond Hotel La Sapinière in Chamonix, France, from £470 per person in August / September 2018. Price includes return flights and airport transfers. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/lakes-mountains-holidays or call 01483 791 116.
For more information on the full range of summer activities in Chamonix, visit: www.chamonix.com.